The Ondo State All Progressives Congress (APC) Primary Appeal Committee has recommended the cancellation of the disputed shadow poll that threw up Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the governorship candidate. The committee headed by Mrs. Hellen Bendega also recommended that a rerun primary should be held immediately to beat the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC).
The panel also suggested that the party’s national leadership should revert to the earlier delegates’ list, which was distributed to aspirants in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), shortly before the controversial primary. According to the committee, a final and properly harmonised list acceptable to all contenders should be compiled, adding that the delegates’ list should be released, not on the eve of the primary, but much earlier to give sufficient time for the take-off of elections and avoid being used in favour of any aspirant.
The panel pointed out that although there was substantial compliance with rules during the primary, “that consideration may not be sufficient reason to ignore such serious and weighty, identified irregularities”. “In view of the change mantra of this administration, it is pertinent that the party blazes the trail by refusing to condone a less than perfect exercise. We, therefore, formally submit our recommendations for the National Working Committee (NWC) to use its discretionary powers in line with the APC constitution and the Electoral Act to arrive at a final decision,” the committee said.
No fewer than 24 aspirants participated in the primary conducted at the Dome, Akure, the state capital on September 3. The exercise, which was widely condemned by party chieftains and observers, was supervised by Jigawa State Governor Abubakar Badaru.
The committee received six petitions. The complaints came from three aspirants; Chief Olusola Oke, Dr. Olusegun Abraham and Prof. Ajayi Boroffice; the Chairman of Ondo Central APC, Mr. Adegboyega Adedipe, his Ondo East counterpart, Mr. Akintunde Temitope, and Mrs. Toyin Ajinde, a delegate.
Oke, a lawyer who called for the nullification of the primary, alleged that the confusion started before the shadow poll when he received two delegates’ lists, adding that non-delegates were hired and financially induced to vote. Rejecting the results, Abraham called for a fresh poll, saying that 157 fake names were injected into the delegates’ list. He also alleged that some delegates voted twice because of lack of thumb printing ink after voting.
Boroffice said the primary was not credible because the delegates’ list was fraudulent, adding that the improper accreditation of delegates dented the process. He urged the committee to cancel the primary and order a fresh one. In his petition titled: “A call for the nullification of the fraud-ridden primary,’ Temitope alleged that 64 fake delegates from his zone voted. He said accreditation and voting should have taken place at the same venue to prevent fraud.
Ajinde, the Ondo South Women Leader, said it was unimaginable that her name was omitted on the delegates’ list, adding that she was prevented from voting. However, Akeredolu, who also appeared before the committee, said the delegates’ list was authentic. He also denied tampering with the accreditation, saying that he had no hand in the distribution of delegates tags.
The committee observed that the delegates’ list was a bone of contention, stressing that its content was disputed and its late distribution enraged many aspirants and party members. On the late release of the list, the committee said: “The late distribution, the aspirant claimed, didn’t afford them sufficient time to lobby delegates. The situation was further compounded by the appearance of strange names of persons they couldn’t easily locate.”
Faulting the accreditation process, the panel said the confession of non-delegates on the television that they were hired from the streets to rig for a particular candidate cast doubt on the credibility of the process. It added: “Equally disturbing is the public perception of the primary. there have been so many negative reports on this exercise all over the print, electronic and social media…A party founded on a platform of due process and which prides itself with zero tolerance for corruption and fraud, cannot be seen to condone illegality.”