Yesterday, at Oluyemi Kayode Stadium, Ado-Ekiti, about 2,618 delegates from across the 177 wards in the Ekiti State filed out to elect a flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress, APC, among the 33 contenders jostling for the ticket of the party ahead of the July 14 governorship election in the state.
The contenders had traversed the 133 communities where the 177 wards are situated, selling themselves to delegates.
For the delegates, it was believed in some quarters that it was harvest time as some of them were alleged to have raked in millions of naira from various aspirants who had been knocking on their doors over the past months day and night.
Beautiful brides Political watchers also described the period in the run up to the primary as one of suspense as the governorship aspirants had to spend sleepless nights seeing delegates and influential party leaders in the state while many delegates were said to have gone for the broke, extracting as much as the aspirants could offer, knowing that once is primary is done, they no longer mattered and the winner simply disappears into thin air till election time.
The delegates had to be courted, their ego massaged or else they dump uncooperative aspirants.
The highest bidder, sometimes, go to the extent of camping the delegates where other contestants cannot reach them, but feelers from the party secretariat showed that the leadership forbade the practice.
The race for the governorship ticket of the Ekiti APC was seen ahead by many as open, the outcome of which no one could predict in clear terms. But delegates and leaders of the party in the 16 local government areas of the state reeled out conditions delegates might consider before casting their votes.
Prominent among the conditions were the contenders’ (for the governorship ticket) consistency, loyalty, accessibility, presence and generosity. Findings also revealed that “journey just comers” among the aspirants had nowhere to go.
The race was predicted to be between those who had shown considerable presence in Ekiti in the past four years, those who had invested in the lives of the delegates, those responsible for the privileged positions those delegates had found themselves, those who had proved to be accessible, opening their purses and attending to the needs of party members.
No consensus A prominent aspirant told Sunday Vanguard yesterday that the idea of consensus or stepping down was too late in the day, because the 33 of them had bought the forms with each aspirant spending N8million and had also set up structures across the 16 local government areas of Ekiti, adding that it would be difficult for any of them to now consider stepping down or arriving at consensus candidacy.
Another aspirant said the least amount “you dole out when visiting a ward is N100, 000, aside the logistics”.
He added, “Once you visit a ward, be sure that you are parting with at least N100, 000, aside other expenses and you have to do that in all the 177 wards. You also have to maintain your structures in all the LGAs and this has to be consistent.
“You have to be on ground, party faithful have to see you as being on ground, consistent. These are some of the factors you need to convince the people that you are serious about your project”.
‘No preferred candidate’ As important as the Ekiti election is to the Presidency and the national leadership of the APC, both had impressed it on members that it had no preferred candidate among the 33 contenders.
The position of the party leadership was made known during the inauguration of the electoral committee.
The APC’s National Organising Secretary, Sen. Osita Izunaso, who, on behalf of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, inaugurated the Governor Umaru Al-Malkura led 5-member Primary Election Committee, told members of the committee, in clear terms, that nothing short of transparent primary was expected from them.
Interestingly, the tendency by any of the actors to manipulate delegates’ list was reduced as the list was released to the party secretariat in Ado-Ekiti a week before yesterday’s event.
The implication was that those vested with the role of electing the party’s flag bearer were aware of their responsibility and every member of the party knew them, their identities, their wards and where they resided.
“If we conduct a transparent primary, any aspirant that wins will surely become the next governor of Ekiti State… The party has no preferred candidate, there is no such thing in our lexicon. It does not exist. All aspirants are equal until after the election,” Izunaso stated.
The National Organising Secretary, who disclosed that the official delegates list has been given to all aspirants, said no petition had been received on the list.
He said all 33 aspirants had been cleared by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) to contest the primary. Izunaso urged the Primary Election Committee to convene a stakeholders; meeting with aspirants and party chieftains in the state to agree on modalities for the primary.
Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, the Chairman of the Primary Election Committee, promised “to ensure free and fair election, conform and adhere to all guidelines so that by the time the exercise is over, the party will become stronger and more cohesive.
This is the beginning of the assurance of our great party to reclaim the mandate in Ekiti State”.