Political parties this week started their primaries for the nomination of candidates for the 2023 General Election, but there is tension in the two major parties in Ogun State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), over the processes.
The political parties must file the lists of their candidates with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by June 3 to be eligible to participate in the various elections.
As a result, they have only this week left to conduct their shadow elections to elect candidates for each position.
In Ogun, three governorship aspirants bought the nomination forms of the opposition PDP. They are Ladi Adebutu, Segun Sowunmi and Jimi Lawal.
Mr Adebutu is a former member of the House of Representatives for Remo, Sagamu and Ikenne Federal Constituency, Mr Sowunmi was the spokesperson of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, during the 2019 election while Mr Lawal recently resigned as the Special Adviser on Economic and Investment Promotion to the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, before leaving the APC to join the race for the governorship ticket of the PDP.
Aspirant heads to court
But the race has not been smooth-sailing in the party in the state, as one of the governorship aspirants wants the party to delay the primaries.
Mr Sowunmi recently approached the Court of Appeal after the state high court in Abeokuta struck out his suit seeking the dissolution of the state working committee of the PDP ahead of the party’s governorship primaries slated for Thursday, May 26.
Mr Sowunmi claimed that the party officials have been ‘pocketed’ by Mr Adebutu and can therefore not be expected to organise free and fair primaries.
Speaking to journalists in Abeokuta, Mr Sowunmi said the high court judge erred in law when he held that his suit was a pre-election matter and dismissed it for want of jurisdiction at the interlocutory stage, a decision he argued is contrary to the provisions of section 285 (8) of Nigeria’s1999 Constitution.
The aspirant, however, expressed hope that the party would direct the Ogun chapter to wait for the decision of the Court of Appeal before conducting the primaries.
However, the PDP National Working Committee has yet to interfere in the matter as of the time of this report.
The leadership of the party in the state is currently in the control of a faction loyal to Mr Adebutu, while the other faction is made up of old loyalists of the late controversial senator, Buruji Kashamu.
After Mr Buruji’s demise, both groups had agreed to work together, which led to the incorporation of some members of the Buruji camp into the executive committees.
The party seemed set as of Tuesday to conduct the governorship primary as scheduled, despite Mr Sowunmi’s appeal.
Five aspirants purchased the APC governorship nomination forms to challenge Governor Dapo at the party’s primary election.
The challengers are a former ace broadcaster, Modele Sarafa-Yusuf; Mr Amosun’s anointed candidate in 2019, Adekunle Akinlade; as well as Owodunni Opayemi and Biyi Otegbeye.
The ruling party in Ogun has been divided since 2018 when it had messy primaries, sparked by the anointment of one of the governorship aspirants by the then governor, Ibikunle Amosun.
Eventually, the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC handed the flag to the current governor, Dapo Abiodun, who was nominated at a parallel congress.
Mr Akinlade and other supporters of Mr Amosun who were denied the nomination in the APC, eventually moved to the APM to contest the 2019 elections but lost.
Messrs Amosun and Abiodun have since maintained their different lanes in the party in Ogun State.
Recently, a group accused the governor of perjury and declared that he is not qualified to contest for a second term.
The group, which called itself the Coalition of Ogun state Students and Youths (COSSY), alleged that Mr Abiodun had been arrested and jailed in the United State of America over fraud-related cases.
At a press briefing in Abeokuta, the group asked the party to disqualify the governor from the primary for allegedly concealing his alleged criminal records.
It alleged that Mr Abiodun committed several crimes, including credit card fraud, forgery and petty theft, in the US between 1986 and 1987.
Also, a member of the party in the state, Ayodele Oludiran, had in an April 12 petition alleged that the governor was “concealing criminal offences he allegedly committed in the USA in the 1980s.”
The governor’s supporters said Mr Amosun was behind the allegations, which the governor denied.
A statement by the Dapo Abiodun Campaign Organisation (DACO) accused Mr Amosun of sponsoring a smear campaign to malign the governor.
But in a swift response, Mr Amosun, through his media aide, Bola Adeyemi, challenged the governor to go to court if he has evidence that he was behind the allegations, stressing, however, that he had no hand in the petition.
The APC governorship primary is scheduled for Thursday, May 26.
Our correspondent reliably gathered that Governor Abiodun has been making frantic efforts to save himself from disqualification, especially as the party threatened to disqualify aspirants with criminal records and those having issues with their certificates.
The tension in the camp of the governor heightened with the news that the APC screening committee had disqualified Bassey Otu, the anointed candidate of the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, from contesting the 2023 governorship race.
Mr Otu was allegedly disqualified over his failure to present his secondary school leaving certificate.
The APC NWC is yet to speak on the fate of the Ogun governor, with respect to the allegations against him.
Adding to the anxiety is the politics relating to the presidential race in the party. Mr Abiodun, who is believed to have secured the APC governorship ticket in 2019 with the help of the national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, has declared his support for the presidential bid of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is from Ogun, over that of Mr Tinubu.
Four aspirants seek direct primaries
The four challenges of the governor have jointly sent a petition to the national secretariat of the party, calling for direct primaries.
The aspirants alleged that their supporters were not issued forms to contest for nomination as delegates, despite the presentation of payment tellers for the contest.
The petition was also signed by 34 aspirants for the House of Representatives and State Assembly seats.
Party sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the APC was yet to carry out some activities and preparations that usually precede primary elections in the state, fuelling fears that the exercise may not hold as scheduled.
There are also speculations that the state government is working on a consensus list for all the 40 elective positions in the state to ensure they all go to the supporters of Mr Abiodun.
The outcome of the primaries in the two parties will shape the general election in which the APC and PDP are expected to continue their rivalry in the state.
The PDP has governed the state for only eight years through the two terms of Gbenga Daniel, who has now defected to the APC. The APC, or parties that have now merged into it, has held control for the rest of the 23 years of the Fourth Republic with Mr Amosun serving two terms between 2011 and 2019.
Segun Osoba was the first governor, he was elected in 1999 but lost his reelection bid to Mr Daniel in 2003.
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