Ondo, Edo guber race: APC needs reconciliation 

The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its gubernatorial candidates for the Ondo state November 14 governorship election and the Edo state September 21, 2024 governorship election have embarked on a challenging journey fraught with obstacles, triggered by the controversial April 20, 2024, Ondo APC gubernatorial primary election and February 17 and 22, 2024 Edo gubernatorial primary elections. 

The gubernatorial primary elections were marred by irregularities, controversies, and legal tussles; all the aspirants, apart from the declared winners, claimed that no election was held or they’re the lawful winners, while observers assert that the APC didn’t manage the two gubernatorial primary elections very well. 

The path to the September 21, 2024, and November 14, 2024, gubernatorial elections poses significant challenges for the APC and its gubernatorial candidates due to the influence held by some of the aggrieved aspirants within the party’s support base in both Edo and Ondo states. Without successful reconciliation, the APC will require something akin to miracles to secure victory in the two gubernatorial elections.

The prevailing sentiment in the political sphere is that if the APC were to conduct free and fair primaries in both Edo and Ondo states, the gubernatorial candidates who secure the party’s tickets would likely win the November 14 and September 21 gubernatorial elections, buoyed by the influence of President Bola Tinubu and the APC’s status as the ruling party at the center.

However, with the controversies and lawsuits surrounding the primary elections, the APC must strategise to overcome these obstacles. First, reconciliation efforts are paramount: earnestly seek reconciliation with the aggrieved aspirants. Second, integrate them into the campaign structure and rally their supporters. 

Third, consider reimbursing their incurred expenses. Fourth, Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa of Ondo state, the Edo APC critical stakeholders, and the governorship candidate should engage each of the aggrieved aspirants, leveraging their pedigree and political acumen to foster unity and collaboration for a successful outing during the off-cycle gubernatorial elections.

The APC must acknowledge grievances and actively promote mutual understanding and forgiveness among all aspirants in both Edo and Ondo states, a task that could be facilitated by presidential intervention. Meanwhile, Governor Aiyedatiwa and Senator Monday Okpebholo face a daunting challenge: Governor Aiyedatiwa is a candidate and a sitting governor seeking reelection, while Senator Monday Okpebholo is a serving senator seeking to be a governor. 

The two candidates’ reconciliation efforts must be genuinely inclusive to stand a chance of winning the November 14 and September 21 governorship elections. This entails healing party divisions, resolving conflicts, and fostering unity among various factions. For Ondo, the late Governor Akeredolu’s political group must be begged and persuaded. 

Bringing them into the fold poses one of the greatest challenges for Governor Aiyedatiwa, especially individuals like Adewale Olumuyiwa Akinterinwa, Chief Olusola Oke (SAN), and Senator Jimoh Ibrahim, who command significant grassroots support, political alliances, and a strong war chest. Winning over such influential figures, who also enjoy support from Rotimi Akeredolu’s base and other groups outside the APC, will require careful persuasion and acknowledgement of their importance and political grassroots influence.

While for Edo state, it will require a lot of dialogue and reconciliation. For example, an aggrieved aspirant like Anamero Dekeri, who enjoys statewide youth support and has a strong warchest capable of facing any challenge, must be factored into the equation if the APC wants a smooth run in Edo. Apart from strong support and an excellent warchest, Dekeri is seeking the court to compel INEC and the APC to recognise him as the lawful winner of the February 17, 2024, gubernatorial primary election.

During the primaries, Dekeri was declared the winner by the local government returning officers for the 2024 Edo APC governorship primary election. The LGA officer, Mr. Ojo Babatunde, who collated the authentic results from the polling units, declared Dekeri the winner with 25,384 votes to defeat his closest rival, Hon. Dennis Idahosa, who scored 14,127 votes.

The APC both at the headquarters and state levels should lay the groundwork for genuine reconciliation, accommodate all interest groups, and ‘beg’ the bigwigs, including reimbursing their incurred expenses. All efforts are essential if a win is to be achieved in both Edo and Ondo states off-cycle gubernatorial elections slated for September 21 and November 14, 2024, respectively.

Zayyad Muhammad writes from Abuja via 08036070980, [email protected]