Southwest, ACN and the Perils of Candidate imposition

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This piece is compelled by the largely pedantic and misleading article titled: ACN and the Politics of Candidate Selection in Ondo State written by Idowu Ajanaku and published in TheNation Newspaper of Saturday, 21, July, 2012. The said article which was a response to Niyi Akinnaso’s incisive and thoughtful discourse under the same caption in the Punch Newspaper Edition of Tuesday, July 16, 2012 was laced with sophistry arguments which clearly underbelly the grand deceits of selfish politicians masquerading as progressives in the Nigeria’s southwest geopolitical region. Without doubt, Ajanaku’s mission was to defend the anti-people and unpopular decision of the dominant clique within the ACN leadership which usurped the process of candidate selection for the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo state. The burden of defending ACN’s flawed selection process fell on Ajanaku who understandably was conscripted from the media team of Governor Fashola to coordinate publicity for the campaign of Rotimi Akeredolu, the ACN governorship candidate for Ondo state.

As the case with every odd assignment that leaves the messenger with pitiable showing at critical stage, Ajanaku ended up exposing the shenanigans of the leadership of the ACN when he concurs that ‘’no responsible party would go ahead to impose a candidate against the peoples’ wish. Yet he tried to also impress it upon readers that what the ACN did was to ‘‘abide by and enforce its rules’’ in a bid to ensure that the best candidate gets the nod for the party’s governorship ticket in Ondo State. By Ajanaku’s submission, we are confronted with the stark reality of the deceit of ACN’s leadership, in its chest-beating, self-defeatist arrogance to the effect that the party still prides itself as custodian of some rules to be abided with and enforced as requirement for democracy. But on the contrary, it is a common knowledge that a notable ACN leader is the rules to which party members must submit as a matter of some supposed democratic imperative! Unfortunately, Ajanaku failed to highlight which of the ACN’s rules the party leadership abided with and as well as proffer convincing argument in support of the legitimate mandate (no matter how visceral) that the ‘enforcers’ of the party exercised in carrying out the glaring rape of internal process with respect to the selection for Ondo state. All the same, we are to accept that once the ACN’s oracle has spoken, as the case has been in the past when governorship candidates forced down the throats of the people emerged victorious in the general election, nothing else can go wrong. Nothing can be more uncharitable, deceitful and reckless!

It therefore curious, if not laughable, that Ajanaku in spite of his contradictory submission still demonstrated glaring immodesty, in the face of giddying frustration of defending the indefensible, by accusing Akinnaso of playing ‘’into the hands of those who are desperately trying to paint the ACN as a political party lacking in internal cohesion and harmony and administered through the whims and caprices of a few’’. The plain truth remains that the habitual contempt already demonstrated for internal democracy by ACN leaders is fast becoming an established norm for which the perils of the party is being steadily navigated. Unfortunately, these are the same self-style progressives who would be most vociferous about any undemocratic tendency in the camp of the ruling democratic Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).

Convenient arguments proffered over time tend to justify that a political party should be at liberty to adopt process that best suits its purpose (even if manifestly undemocratic). This convenient posture is wantonly marshalled and deployed by party leaders and their handlers who bamboozle us with the unquestionable rights of leaders to shave the heads of hapless party followers in their absence. The point however remains that no credible party leadership, no matter how revered or dreaded could be allowed to foist a dictatorial, undemocratic and hawkish process on the party while falsely presenting such as democratic or civil by any means. At this age of democratic quest and regardless of how bad things may have become in our clime, it is strange that a so called democratic/progressive leader could display utter disdain for mutual respect and freedom of opinion in a process involving over 20 aspirants by simply making telephone calls to critical stakeholders to announce a choice for gubernatorial candidate of a political party. Even our revered sage, Obafemi Awolowo submitted to the wishes of the majority by allowing primaries rather than his hitherto preferred position that favoured blanket return tickets for Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) governors in 1983. This is precisely while it would be eternally futile to proffer convincing argument to justify such ridiculous and arrogant display of power in an enlightened environment like Ondo state in the 21st century. This is indeed a serious issue to discard giving the political history and democratic experience of the people of Ondo state which suggest preference for political party with more enduring internal democracy.

Way back in 1982/83, the UPN conducted primaries despite the nerve-wrecking politicking that threatened the fortune of the party at the general election. Party primaries were put into practice under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1991 and the party emerged victorious at the end. The Alliance for Democracy (AD) conducted its primaries in 1998 despite the avalanche of aspirants that jostled for the party’s ticket. Where then does the clique of enforcers within a supposed progressive and democratic party like ACN draws its history and under which relevant rules of the party did it derives such powers? One had thought that the ACN derives its legitimacy from membership of the party who faithfully believe in the slogan: democracy for justice! But where is democracy; where is justice when candidate selection is the exclusive preserve of ‘enforcers’ at the expense of party leadership and members in the immediate constituency who ordinarily should be well-suited to know and access the acceptability of aspirants and who would mostly be affected by whatever becomes of the fortune of whoever is selected as candidate in a free and open process? It was this backdrop that Mimiko earned popular support of the people of Ondo state ahead of the 2007 governorship election following the intrigues of the power that be which shut him out of the selection process of the then ruling PDP in Ondo state. It was with popular approbation that the Ondo state received Mimiko’s choice of contesting the governorship election under the Labour Party (LP).  The result of that election fully attested to the love of the people of Ondo state for fair-play, democracy and justice. The question today is whether Mimiko has lived up to the expectation of the people. The answer, undoubtedly, is in the affirmative as Mimiko’s work speaks for him.

The consequences of candidate imposition as witnessed within the ACN is too well known and can hardly be denied except by those whose inordinate ambition is to deepen the subjugation of the mass of our people by unduly exploiting their credulity. Lagos may have worked so far under Babatunde Fashola but that is not without the backlashes traceable to the selection process that resulted in the candidacy of the governor prior to his emergence in 2007. This is not the medium to elaborate on the well-known ‘privatisation’ of Lagos for which Fashola government has largely ‘struggled’ to discharge its electoral promises. However, there is no denying the fact that tales of backlashes arising from imposition of governorship candidates are common knowledge in other states of the southwest under the control of ACN.  It is therefore not out of place to worry about the integrity of Akeredolu on the account of the process that produced him. Before now, Akeredolu has stoutly denied involvement in the infamous Oyeruagbulem saga which led to the harassment of Chief Adekunle Ajasin in his private home in Owo in days of NADECO by military authority. Even if Akeredolu is free of complicity in the anti-progressive plot while serving as the Attorney General of Ondo state at the time, the electorate should ordinarily be concerned about the sanctity of their mandate as the people would not elect a governor that will reduce the state to an outpost of political and economic subjugation. Afterall the Yoruba would say ‘oju to ba ma bani kale ki n ti aaro se ipin’ (an eye worthy of investing a lifetime journey does not show signs of perennial ailment at the stage of infancy). This may be hard to chew for Akeredolu’s handlers, but the loyalty of ACN candidate remains an issue to which average electorate in Ondo state must address his or her mind.

Be that as it may, it is difficult for the ACN to acknowledge the modest but unprecedented achievements of Olusegun Mimiko’s Labour Party in Ondo state for obvious reasons. However, the average electorate in Ondo state would prefer a governor that will deepen the pace of current developmental agenda rather than toying with the prospects of a mission that remain largely unclear. It must be asserted that the performances of ACN governors put together in the southwest have not dwarfed the remarkable feats recorded by Mimiko-led government of the Labour Party in Ondo state. Whereas it is convenient for the ACN and its media establishments not to allude to this obvious fact, majority of Ondo state people appreciate the modest achievements of the man called Iroko and are convinced that another four year term would deliver more democratic dividends. Whereas it must be admitted that the people of Ondo state would on the long run benefit from keenly contested election as the eventual winner would become even more sensitive to the responsibilities of such mandate, it is however a common knowledge that ACN’s interest in Ondo state before now has little or nothing to do with whether Mimiko’s government has performed or not. The plot against Mimiko has been largely fired by the ego of a leader whose desire to assert total control over the southwest geopolitical zone has almost become an obsession. Mimiko has been approached and lobbied into dumping the LP for ACN. The desperation of the dominant clique within the leadership of the ACN to overrun the southwest is so rapacious that the wilful dismantling of an important democratic institution like a political party through undemocratic usurpation of the collective mandate of the people of Ondo state is never considered a threat to our political development. If the deal to buy Mimiko over and dismantle LP in the southwest had succeeded, Akeredolu’s governorship ambition would not be an issue today which further fuels genuine concern over the integrity of ACN leadership; the motive of its selection process; and the likelihood that the outcome of the grand plot against Mimiko and the LP may not be in the interest of the people of Ondo state afterall.

What could more important that the germane issues in Ondo state today bothers on rapid socio-economic development!  The critical issues in the forthcoming election go beyond the interest of an individual seeking the leadership of the southwest zone under the pretext of ill-conceived and largely superfluous regional integration. Indeed, the idea of regional integration is noble provided the interests of people are at the core of such proposal. As it stands today, regional integration for the southwest needs to be thoroughly debated and properly situated to ensure the participation of the broad-spectrum of the people. What hardliners within the ACN fail to appreciate is that integration is all about the people; the approximation of their social, economic and economic participation and not the narrow political interest of the leaders. There are ardent believers in integration of the southwest for mutual development within the LP and other political parties including the PDP. It is therefore important to assert that freedom of political association, expression and participation should not be suffocated or guillotined on an account of nebulous integration being touted by certain interest in the ACN.

What is left for the ACN and Akeredolu is to unfold its agenda for the sunshine state beyond displaying portraits of the six governors under the platform of ACN. To rely on bandwagon politicking as a dominant manifesto for the governorship of Ondo state is to demonstrate abysmal lack of appreciation of the developmental revolution already steered and consistently being driven by Olusegun Mimiko of the LP. By the special grace of GOD Almighty, the momentum of development in the Sunshine state is irreversible but can only be taken to greater heights!

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