Ondo Set To Join league of S’West ACN states
Ondo State, the Action Congress of Nigeria would have conferred on itself the title of a super power in the South-West Region, writes KUNLE FALAY. The Action Congress of Nigeria’s contest for the governorship seat in Ondo State has been with such vigour that was not seen during elections in the other states.
In the 2011 elections, the ACN had successfully taken over the seats of power in four South-West states. As Ondo people go to the polls today, the ACN’s wish is that its candidate emerges as the people’s choice; then, it would be properly conferred with the tag of a Super power in the region. Meanwhile, opposition parties say there could be more to ACN’s battle for the soul of the state. They say Ondo’s oil wealth, among other things, is the centre of attraction for the party.
But some ACN leaders had vehemently clarified the issues and allegations during their campaign. They insisted that they were purely being driven by concern about the proper utilisation of the state’s funds. However, that is now history; today is D-day, the day of decision. On the part of the ACN, the journey began with the emergence of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, whose legal career climaxed as the president of the Nigerian Bar Association.
The daunting challenge of bringing party members together will not go without a mention; they had to woo those who did not win the nomination stage. Akeredolu was actually chosen to become the party’s candidate from 30 aspirants. At the time, it was an issue that threatened to tear the party apart, some aspirants alleging that Akeredolu did not emerge in a democratic way.
But he insisted in an interview on Aug. 12 that he was chosen through a democratic arrangement.
He had said, “The ACN has a unique way of picking its candidates. This method worked in Lagos, Osun Ekiti and Oyo. There is room for consensus in a democratic setting. And all of us as aspirants agreed that whoever emerged shall be supported by all. The leaders in their wisdom decided to zone the governorship ticket to Ondo North and later zeroed on Owo, where I come from. I was adopted and subsequently elected at a congress in Akure.”
From there, the real business of convincing the people of the state that he was a better candidate to replace the incumbent and candidate of the Labour Party, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, began. He came under verbal fire from Mimiko’s camp at a time. He was called a “stranger” in the land. But his main campaign group – the Akeredolu Campaign Organisation– measured up to the challenge, as it was swift to defend him. It said it was wrong to call a person, who was once the Attorney-General of the state a stranger to the state politics.
At that time, the stage was Set for more war of words, which characterised the relationship between the ACN and LP. If Akeredolu was the war ‘General,’ the members of his campaign group were his foot soldiers, and their weapons – words. Many allegations, denials, claims and counter-claims characterised the campaigns of the three major parties in the governorship race – the ACN, LP and the Peoples Democratic Party. But the ACN played a major role in this direction.
An issue the ACN did not fail to hammer on during its campaign was the alleged relationship that existed between the ACN National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Mimiko, before the latter began his first term.
Tinubu insisted that he was instrumental to the victory of Mimiko at the election petition tribunal, which gave him the first term mandate in place of former Governor Olusegun Agagu. At one of the major rallies of the party held at Ikare-Akoko, Tinubu said, “I took him (Mimiko) as a brother when he came grovelling for support. We gave him our support, money and even gave him a bullet-proof car. But Mimiko betrayed us.”
However, Mimiko denied all of those claims during a recent visit to the palace of Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom.
Mimiko said, “I challenge him (Tinubu) to tell the whole world where and when he gave me money to contest the election in 2007 or to prosecute my legal battle to reclaim my mandate. “The only thing he did was that he brought in forensic experts, but I paid for all their services, including the cost of procuring all the materials they needed for their jobs and other logistics.”
The ACN had consistently accused the LP of planning to “import” thugs into the state to rig today’s election. This accusation had gone back and forth on both sides. The ACN insisted that it had discovered the houses and hotels where the alleged thugs were housed; the LP refuted the allegations and dished out in return a Set of allegations against the opposition party.
With every statement, every denial and allegation, the ACN proved it did not wish to give its opponent a “breathing space.” The party has sufficiently announced its presence in the race to the opposition.
The ACN held four major rallies – in Ikare Akoko, Ondo, Ore and Akure. The party tagged the last one as Redemption Rally.
The rally in Ondo proved to be important to the ACN as it was a testing ground for its candidate’s popularity, being Mimiko’s hometown. But if Akeredolu had any doubts about the reception he would get in his opponent’s home, such should have given way to profound confidence because of the huge crowd that turned up at the rally.
The party believes it can win this election if given “a level playing field.” This the reason it has consistently urged its members to “police” their votes at the polls.
“On Saturday, as you go to vote, take 10 people along with you, vote and ensure the votes are counted in your presence,” Lagos State governor, Raji Fashola, advised supporters of the party at the Akure rally.
However, in order to fortify its campaign and ensure that every angle was covered, the party ran two campaign teams – the Akeredolu Campaign Organisation, which works directly with Akeredolu and the Independent Campaign Network.
The Director of Media and Strategy of the ICN had explained during an interview with our correspondent that the network “fortifies” the activities of the ACO. He said, “The Akeredolu Campaign Organisation is an arm of the ACN working directly with the governorship candidate, while the role of our ICN is to fortify the activities of the ACO.
“ICN is like a mobile workshop for ACN. For example, in a single day, we have distributed more than 20,000 campaign T-shirts. ICN organised many workshops and sensitisation programmes on the election. We travelled to different local government areas and wards in the state to enlighten the people on what their rights are during the election. That is the kind of work the ICN does.”
The Director-General of ACO, Chief Tayo Alasoadura, in an interview with our correspondent, explained the importance of having two campaign groups and how the strategy had improved Akeredolu’s chances.
He said, “This strategy has been adopted and practised from the Alliance of Democracy, Action Congress and now, Action Congress of Nigeria. Asiwaju (Tinubu) did it in Lagos for his election and it worked. Both the ACO and ICN are working towards the same goal.
“As far as this election is concerned, Akeredolu is the next governor of Ondo. You can see for yourself in the three rallies held by ACN.” But all this is behind now. Today, Ondo will get a new governor. Today climaxes the months of rigorous campaign and a battle that will determine the way to go for the only oil producing state in the South-Wes
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