YINKA OLADOYINBO writes on the preparations by political parties and their candidates for the bye-election to fill the vacant seat of Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal Constituency of Ondo State.
THE stage is gradually set for another epic battle in Ilaje/Ese-Odo federal constituency of Ondo State The major political parties in the state have picked their candidates for the bye-election to fill the vacant seat at the House of Representatives. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed April 5, 2014 for the election, which was necessitated by the death of the former occupier, Honourable Raphael Nomiye of the Labour Party (LP) in November 2013.
The date of the election has been a source of controversy in the area, as some sections of the riverside community had touted March 8 for the election. The argument of the people was that the provision of the 1999 Constitution as it affects by-election was that it should be held not later than 30 days after the INEC must have been officially informed about the vacant seat.
It was gathered that the commission received the letter informing it about the vacancy between February 10 and 12, 2014. However, some parties were said to have rejected the proposed date because it was too close and no meaningful preparations could be done.
But, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Mr. Akin Orebiyi, had dismissed the insinuation, saying that the commission had not fixed any date for the election. He explained that the commission would have to meet with the necessary stakeholders to jointly fix the date.
Indeed, a stakeholders’ forum was held and the commission, after exhaustive deliberations with the representatives of the parties in the state, agreed on the April 5 date and equally came up with a detailed time table for the election. Orebiyi said the two stakeholders’ meeting with the political parties were witnessed by the security agents and that they were convened by the INEC in Igbokoda in Ilaje local government area and Igbekebo in Es
Odo local government area of the state, where it was resolved that the bye election should hold on April 5, 2014. He said: “As a result of two stakeholders’ meeting of members of political parties witnessed by security agencies was convened by the Resident Electoral Commissioner at Igbokoda and Igbekebo. Upon an agreement at the said meeting that an enlarged stakeholders’ meeting involving members of the political parties in the two local government areas, as well as their state leaders be called in order to choose an auspicious date for the election.
“After exhaustive deliberations at the meeting, it was resolved and agreed upon that the bye election into the vacant seat of Ilaje/ Ese Odo federal constituency should hold on saturday, 5th April, 2014.” Subsequently, the state INEC released the time table and schedule of activities for the election fixing March 8, 2014, for the last day for the parties to conduct their primaries, while political campaigns will commence on the same day.
Going by the timetable, the collection of forms and submission of forms CF001 and CF002 at the INEC headquarters, as well as publication of personal particulars of candidates and last day for withdrawal by candidate replacement by parties, will hold between March 11 and 26.
Also, publication of official register of voters for the election will be released on the March25, 2014, while the last day for the submission of nomination forms by the parties is fixed for March 28. The commission stated that Section 45 of 2010 Electoral Act stipulated that the agents’ names should be submitted seven days before election.
It added that names of candidates will be published on March 31 ahead the April 5, 2014 election, while the last day for campaigns is April 4, as the INEC said the Electoral Act prohibited advertisement or broadcast of campaigns 24 hours to the day of election.
However, since the death of the federal lawmaker, the parties and indeed, politicians in the state have been making permutations and maneuvering to ensure that their parties field the best candidates who can win the election. However, the release of the time table and the election date had further spurred the politicians to action and make their moves public.
Leaders of the leading parties: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have, in the last three months, been crisscrossing the wards that make up the federal constituency for consultations on the best person that can win the election for them.
Messrs Kolade Akinjo, Gbenga Edema, Oyebo Aladetan and Abayomi Akinruntan were among those that showed interest in the ticket of the Labour Party. After much politicking , the party adopted Akinjo, who was an aide of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The candidate of the party, who is from Constituency II of the Ilaje Local Government Area, according to some analysts, is favoured to clinch the seat because of his age, experience and exposure.
The choice of Akinjo was, however, not without stiff opposition from some quarters in the party, particularly those party faithful from the Constituency I of the local government, who believed that they should have been allowed to complete the term of Nomiye. They claimed that the arrangement in the area presupposed that each of the local government areas would represent the constituency at a time and since Nomiye was from that part of the constituency, somebody from the area should be given the opportunity to complete his term.
However, the choice of Akinjo was said to have been determined by many other factors, which included the need to pacify the people of his constituency, who believed that they were allegedly marginalised by the state government on political appointments. They argued that the chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC); commissioner representing the state on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)and the member of the Local Content Board were all from the Ugbo kingdom in constituency I of the local government.
This was reportedly one of the major reasons the state leadership of the party conceded the slot of the party to the people of Mahin, Aheri and Etikan that are in Constituency II of the local government area.
However, while the LP was able to pick its candidate through consensus, the PDP and the APC had to conduct primaries for the contenders before they could eventually pick their standard bearers. At the end of the exercises, a former Commissioner in OSOPADEC, Adewale Kukute, emerged the candidate of the PDP, while another former chairman of the commission, Chief Adewale Omojuwa picked the APC ticket.
In choosing its candidate, the APC constituted an apparent electoral college comprising three persons from each of the 12 wards in Ilaje local government area. Therefore, a total of 36 members formed the body that elected the candidate of the party. The people from Ese-Odo were initially exempted from the exercise as the ticket was left for their counterparts from Ilaje local council area.
Two prominent members of the party from the area, Kukute and an Akure-based legal practitioner, who is also a prince of Ugbo kingdom, Idowu Mafimisebi, contested the primaries of the party. At the end of the first ballot, each of the contestants scored 18 votes and this made the leadership of the party to extend the exercise to Ese-Odo local government, following which Kukute emerged as the PDP candidate.
In the same vein, Omojuwa of the APC defeated six other aspirants to clinch the party’s ticket. It reportedly conducted a primary election in which five delegates from each of the 22 wards participated.The result of the primaries, which took place at Mobu House, Igbokoda, the headquaters of Ilaje local government area, showed that Omojuwa polled 83 votes to defeat his closest five, rivals, who is also a former chairman of Ilaje local government, Adebambo Odoro, who scored seven votes.
Apart from Odoro, the other contestants included Nimbe Tawose, who polled four votes; Soji Ehinlawo (four votes); Sola Jolomi [two votes], while Esamore Okadigbo and Desmond Iwajomo scored no votes.
The primaries involved five delegates from each of the 22 wards in the constituency. The result of the exercise, which took place at Mobu House, Igbokoda,headquarters of Ilaje local government area, indicated that Omojuwa polled 83 votes to defeat his closest rival, who is also a former chairman of Ilaje local government, Adebambo Odoro, who scored seven votes. The delegates were said to have been chosen from the registered members of the party with the exception of Mahin Ward 3 of Ilaje, as no delegate represented the ward.
Having beaten the March 8 deadline for the conduct of primaries to select their candidates, it is now clear that the main contest will be among three candidates from the same local government area: Kolade Akinjo of the LP, Adewale Kukute of the PDP and Adewale Omojuwa of the APC.
However, elections are sometimes not decided on the basis of political affiliations, especially now that all the candidates are from Ilajeland. The personality of the candidates and their backers could also go a long way in deciding who wins the contest.
Omojuwa and Kukute belong to the ‘old force,’ as they served together as commissioners in OSOPADEC before Omojuwa later became the chairman of the agency.
While Omojuwa hails from Ugbo axis of Ilaje, Kukute is from Mahin/Aheri/Etikan axis. Akinjo, on the other hand, is a vibrant young man, who also served as the Special Assistant to former President Obasanjo on Youth Matters for eight years. He equally hails from Mahin/Aheri/Etikan axis that has been clamouring for balance in the sharing of political offices in the area.