ONDO 2016 – WHO BEARS THE APC FLAG? by Femi Roberts

It is no longer news that some 50 aspirants are jostling for the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) ticket to run for the governorship of the oil-rich Ondo State of Nigeria. Among these scores of contenders, four names top the list. They are: Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, Olusegun Abraham, Senator (Prof.) Ajayi Boroffice and Olusola Oke.
Every one of these four is a strong contender in his own right. Still, it may be worth the while to examine their credentials and their chances as the APC gubernatorial primaries scheduled to take place in August draw closer.

Rotimi Akeredolu SAN was the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2012 governorship election. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Aketi as he is fondly called by his supporters was the Attorney General of Ondo State from 1997-1999. At the 2012 polls, he came a distant third behind incumbent Olusegun Mimiko and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Olusola Oke. Many have attributed his lackluster performance in that contest to his lack of oratory prowess and personal charm as witnessed in the televised debates that preceded the election. It is also rumored that Akeredolu withheld some of the funds released by his party to prosecute that election for his personal use and for this reason, the leadership of the party does not trust him to deliver this time. Another factor which may work against Aketi is the claim that he doesn’t have a strong connection to the grassroots as he does not own property in his hometown of Owo. Despite having the opportunity to correct this perceived anomaly since he lost the election in 2012, Aketi has not done much in this regard. Rather he returned to his base in Ibadan and has only become more visible in Ondo state when it became expedient by reason of the forthcoming election.

Olusegun Abraham is from Ikare-Akoko in Ondo State. He contested for the ACN governorship ticket in 2012 but despite his rising popularity at that time, he displayed great loyalty to the party by accepting their decision to select Rotimi Akeredolu without any open primaries being conducted. A businessman of no mean repute, Abraham has made a name for himself as one of the few backers of the ACN in the state before it transmuted into APC and it is believed in political circles that he is one of the few with the financial muscle to give the PDP a run for their money in the forthcoming election. Also, Segun Abraham’s vast international connections and business acumen may be just what the state needs to revive it’s fast-sinking economy and return to the path of rapid industrialization.

Abraham has endeared himself to the hearts of the electorate through his philanthropy and empowerment programmes; giving scores of indigent students scholarships to further their academic pursuits even without holding any political office. While his unassuming nature is often construed as a sign of indecisiveness, Abraham’s success in business and boardroom politics has constantly proved the contrary. Although his oratory skills are yet to be tested in the public arena, the Ikare born politician has a strong network of faithful followers across the state and in diaspora. He also seems to be the only one with a clear vision of what needs to be done to turn the state’s economic fortunes around and thus far, much unlike other contestants, he hasn’t shied away from making far-reaching policy statements indicative of the path his administration will tread even long before the election.

In the last few weeks, much to the chargin of his co-aspirants, Segun Abraham has garnered a flurry of endorsements from a number of interest groups both within his native Akoko and all across the state. If these endorsements and his rock-solid relationship with the national leadership of the party is anything to go by, Olusegun Abraham stands a better chance of getting the party’s nod than any of the top four.

Ajayi Boroffice’s political clout and financial muscle is not in dispute. In his Akoko homeland, he is considered a leader of colossal stature. Senator Boroffice is an academician turned politician who has made his mark as an educationist, a scientist, an administrator and traditional leader. Although his emergence as the Asiwaju (Leader) of Akoko Land wasn’t completely devoid of controversy, he is believed to be extremely popular in his native Oka-Akoko.

Boroffice was the founding Director General of Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) – A post he occupied for 10 years. As the DG of NASDRA, he supervised the launching of Nigeria’s first space satellite which was followed by the communications satellite NigComSat-1 few years later. Unfortunately, NigComSat-1 was declared missing in orbit a short while later and Boroffice was immediately adjudged guilty in the court of public opinion. Even though the satellite was later declared to have failed due to electrical faults, many Nigerians still blame the Professor of Zoology for the loss of the N40Billion satellite. Some BBC analysts even alleged that the space programme was a white elephant project from the onset with the sole purpose of siphoning money from the government treasury. Others maintain that the failure of the satellite was not indicative of fraud on the part of Boroffice and his NASDRA team but accuse him instead of gross negligence, lack of due diligence and outright incompetence.

Another ugly incident that refuses to stop haunting Boroffice and his campaign is the case of a car accident in which his convoy was involved some years ago on Akure-Owo Road, the convoy of Senator Ajayi Boroffice had allegedly run into the car of a certain elderly lady, 58-year-old Mrs Florence Adunni Olusori.  The poor lady had closed from work and was driving home and actually avoided the siren-blaring convoy, only for one of the drivers who escort Boroffice to run her off the road and crush her.  It was rumored that the senator actually alighted and tried to help the woman, but when the crowd started noticing it was Boroffice, he got into his car and left, abandoning the poor woman, who bled for two hours before being rescued by the police.  She later gave up the ghost upon arriving at the hospital. The professor is really desperate to wipe this sad record off the memories of the voting public. So much so that just a few days ago he made a last ditch effort to win public sympathy to his side by taking part in the rescue operation at an accident site and having his media team plaster it on every possible news media. All in all, while Boroffice is definitely a strong contender for the governorship race, whether he will be able to muster the goodwill to pull it off is yet to be seen.

Olusola Oke was the candidate of the PDP in the 2012 gubernatorial election. In the televised debate before the election, Olusola Oke was adjudged winner by a vast majority of the viewers. According to popular youth activist and governorship hopeful, Tunji Light Ariyo, “in the second debate which featured only the three leading candidates, Olusola Oke appeared to be the indisputable winner. He exhibited candour, depth and came out smoking hot”. He was the runner up in that election.

Olusola Oke is perceived by many as a bridge-builder who has the potential to garner support across both major parties. This is because as a former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, he still has a very strong support base within the party. This however is also his albatross as many hardcore APC members believe he cannot be trusted. There is a strong belief among party faithfuls that Oke’s soul is still in PDP especially considering the fact that he only decamped to the ruling APC after the presidential election. No one can deny the nagging possibility that if Oke does not clinch the APC candidacy, he will leave the party, run on another platform and still have a good outing. What the man lacks in financial strength, he makes up for in passion, zeal and charisma. Whatever the case may be, the final decision rests in the hands of the party leadership and delegates who ultimately may not be in favour of Oke’s candidature.

So, who among these aspirants is most likely to get the nod to bear the party’s flag in the race for the coveted governorship stool? Your guess is as good as mine. At the moment, from all indications, none of the aspirants is willing to step down and a full blown congress may just be in the offing. The August 2016 Gubernatorial Primaries draw swiftly closer; the wait is almost over.

Femi Roberts is a public affairs analyst based in Akure, Ondo State.

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