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Friday, October 14, 2016

Ondo primaries:Bloody nose for the money bags

The Ondo All Progressives Congress (APC) primary election has come and gone but it has, to some extent, left sour taste in the mouth. By the way, the conduct of the election as shown in the open appeared free, fair and transparent; however, the clandestine wrangling and nocturnal intrigues that took place before the election is a throw-back to everything that democracy should be about. Sadly for the fixer- in-chief, the verdict did not favour their anointed candidate

Events preceding the primary election had shown the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, pitched against the eventual winner and his estranged godson, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), the former President of NBA. Tinubu threw his weight behind his chosen aspirant, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, but the man lost to a less favoured man despite ‘distributing’ mind-boggling amount of money to the almost 3,000 delegates. This is majorly the crux of this piece. However, the demystification of Tinubu is another side to the story. Dr. Abraham enjoyed the support of Tinubu, the state executives and majority of the delegates, while Akeredolu was said to have been endorsed by the presidency and some ministers like Babatunde Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi. And so it was that the tide was turned against the grandmaster’s favoured aspirant. What happened in Ondo state has set the stage for political turmoil, game and betrayals that are in the offing even in other states. The true test of aspirants’ popularity, acceptability and support base in any elections against anointment, inducement with money and endorsement will be unraveling in the coming months and years.

Talking about inducing delegates to sway votes, the delegates system of electing representatives has over the years entrenched corruption, so much that the winner is not necessarily the best or most popular but the one with the biggest war chest. In the case of Ondo, Dr. Abraham, the anointed candidate was alleged to have shared about N500,000 to delegates, Dr Olusola Oke gave N300,000, while Akeredolu gave out NI50,000 each. Multiply the amount by about 3,000 delegates and the cost of doing primaries alone runs into billions. In what is dubbed election scam on the social media, the people are now questioning APC’s spending spree via-a-vis their change mantra and the economic recession.

Although the most celebrated part of the Ono story is the defeat of the highest spender who was backed by the most colourful and powerful political grandmaster of the moment, the issue is beyond him. Our delegates system needs to be reviewed, scrutinised and amended. It has outlived its time and no longer sustainable. It is one of the remote causes of budget padding and corruption in the polity. Imagine spending over N1.5 billion to win a primary election as the god father’s candidate was set to do, or the eventual winner, Akeredolu who at N150,000 per delegate must have also spent about N450,000,000 in addition, to the cost of campaigns, renting of crowd and greasing of the palms of community/election victory influencers. When they are eventually elected, their first preoccupation in office is to recoup their expenditures.

The story is told of how one of the governors in the North Central emerged as a governorship candidate some years back. His predecessor who was still in government and wanted him as his successor expended as much as N600,000 on each delegate to outspend his closest rival who had disbursed about N500,000. So, the next four years was a crisis for the backwater state, the citizens and the governor who emerged through that money-guzzling process. He (the governor) was caught in the mix and confused about how to maximise the resources of the state, pay back the ex-godfather governor and deliver on good governance. Of course the crisis of prioritization snowballed into another controversial issue of patronage in government. And because the governor could not sustain the old system of doling out money and still do the needful, the citizens could not understand his predicament. The party men, leaders and delegates who had benefitted monetarily as delegates, wanted the largesse to continue and political appointees cried foul; it was complaints galore until the party was defeated at the polls. 

An indulging system that allows one man to control the levers of power and determines who gets/becomes what is anachronistic to democratic ethos. Therefore, what transpired in Ondo was like a revolt against cronyism and god- fatherism, and a lesson to would-be godfathers who are ready to spend billions on the election of one man with the hope of returns in form of contract kickbacks, while the state(s) and citizens remain tethered to the godfather’s apron strings without basic needs.

So while the APC godfather(s) got a bloody nose from the Ondo experiment, the final result was a vindication of the power of the people to decide who governs them; what Senator Alasoadura, himself a contender in the election, described as the triumph of the supremacy and sovereignty of the people.

Hopefully, this new narrative, coupled with the card reader, should ensure that the best candidate wins the gubernatorial election in Ondo state, just as we hope the same thinking manifests in the Edo election this weekend.

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