From Osagie Otabor, Akure
The crisis rocking the Unity Forum in the Ondo State branch of the All Progressives Congress (APC) worsened on Wednesday.
Former Deputy Governor and Chairman of the forum, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, implored members of the forum to accept Chief Olusola Oke as the forum’s consensus aspirant.
He (Oke) is to stand against Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu at the primaries.
Over 10 governorship aspirants of the forum on Tuesday opposed the emergence of Oke as a consensus aspirant.
But Olanusi said Oke was chosen because of his popularity, as they would contend against a governor, “who has all, except popularity, at his beck and call.”
He said that a meeting of a 52-man Special Purpose Committee to review the Screening Committee report could not hold in order not to violate the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC’s) COVID-19 pandemic rules.
Olanusi said that he consulted on the report that recommended Oke as the adopted candidate of the Unity Forum to avoid delay, considering the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) position with regards to date of the primary election.
He appealed to other aspirants to accept the decision of the Special Purpose Committee in good faith in the interest of the forum.
Said he: “You will please recall that all the stakeholders in the forum came together for the sole reason of salvaging the state from the despotic Aketi administration in the last three years.
“While all the aspirants are vibrant politicians, we will, however, perform better as a forum if we parade our best. The task ahead of us is a Herculean one. We are contending with an incumbent governor who has all, except popularity, at his beck and call. Remember that we have nothing to share in zero; but a lot to salvage if we work as a team.
“I believe that in this type of enterprise, there is no conqueror or vanquished. Let us therefore close ranks and join forces to salvage the state.
“I appeal to Chief Oke to put up the best acts as a mature politician so that together we can win the primaries and emerge victorious in the October governorship election. I thank you all for your time, while extending the ‘olive branch’ to our leaders at the various levels and assuring them of our loyalty to the cause of our great party, the APC, at all time.
“I also plead with our party members and the generality of our people in Ondo State to embrace our candidate. We assure you that Olusola Oke, SAN, is an astute politician and a game changer, who will apply the soothing balm to the wounds inflicted on us all in Ondo State, when given the chance.”
Information and Orientation Commissioner Donald Ojogo said Olanusi deserved pity for saying Governor Akeredolu was not popular.
“Even if he actually said so, we don’t want to add to his burden. He has enough to carry. The old man deserves the pity of all, rather than engaging him further to deepen his pains,” Ojogo added.
The Chairman of the seven-man Screening Committee of the Unity Forum, Senator Yele Omogunwa, has opened up on alleged inducement of the committee that made them pick Chief Olusola Oke as the forum’s consensus aspirant.
Omogunwa said the committee shared only N1.2million given to them by aspirants in the process of carrying out their duties.
Addressing reporters in Akure, Omogunwa denied allegations of collecting millions of naira for Oke to be picked as the consensus aspirant.
He said: “When we were holding meetings here, there was no water, no biscuit and we were working day and night. Segun Abraham came and gave us N100,000. It was in the open. Odimayo gave the committee N200,000. Another aspirant gave N500,000. Kazeem gave us N20,000 and Adelegan gave N50,000.
“The amount shared by the seven committee members was N1.2million. It was out of the money we booked hotel for the secretary for three days because he was coming from Ife.”
Explaining how the committee picked Oke, Omogunwa said the aspirants promised to accept anybody the committee used its wisdom to select.
He said the committee had interfaced with the aspirants for two days and all the aspirants agreed to support whoever that was chosen.
Omogunwa said the committee relocated to a church where a decision was reached to pick Oke.
He said the Secretary of the committee, Prof. Sola Ehindero, wanted a technocrat-governor, while the only woman in the committee picked Mrs. Jumoke Ajasin-Anifowose.
“All the aspirants are competent, but I agreed with the majority that picked Chief Oke. The secretary left without signing. The only woman in our midst also did not sign.
“The aspirants told us to do it the way it pleased us, noting that they would support whoever emerged.
“We followed the mind of the public. A politician should wait for his time,” Omogunwa added.
A chieftain of the APC in Ondo State and a member of the forum, Prince Solagbade Amodeni, has said that he cautioned the forum against going for a consensus aspirant.
Amodeni, who is also a member of the seven-man Screening Committee of the forum, said he also warned that the outcome of the committee screening would make the forum more disunited than before.
In a statement in Akure, Amodeni said he informed the forum that the committee had no capacity to determine many things to pick a particular aspirant as the consensus candidate.
He wondered why the report of the committee was not shown to the three members who did not append their signatures.