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A Legal Luminary’s Verdict on Ondo APC’s Primary and the Olusola Oke Factor

By Samuel Ogunsona

Samuel Ogunsona
Samuel Ogunsona

All roads lead to Ondo State tomorrow, Saturday, April 20, 2024, where the All Progressives Congress, APC, will hold its primary election to select its flag-bearer in the November 16, governorship election.

For the landmark event, 171,922 registered and validated members of the party, drawn from the 203 wards of the 18 local government areas in the state, will cast their votes to determine who, among the 16 aspirants, will fly the party’s flag in the crucial gubernatorial poll.

Those jostling to clinch the party’s ticket include incumbent Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa; Senator representing Ondo South, Jimoh Ibrahim; Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Olusola Oke; former President of Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Prof. Francis Faduyile; a renowned engineer, Dr. Funmi Waheed-Adekojo, and the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-West), Chief Isaacs Kekemeke.

Others are Dr. Soji Ehinlanwo, Akinfolarin Samuel, Okunjimi Odimayo, Adewale Akinterinwa, Olugbenga Edema, Gen. Ohunyeye Olamide, Morayo Lebi, Garvey Oladiran Iyanjan and Ifeoluwa Oyedele.

Gov. Lucky Aiyedatiwa
Gov. Lucky Aiyedatiwa

As the aspirants and their followers get soaked in a last ditch effort to win the ticket on Saturday, a Lagos-based legal luminary, who once represented Ondo State in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr. Benson Enikuomehin, has done a critical appraisal of the impending exercise, fingering Chief Olusola Oke as the most favoured to pick the ticket.

Dr. Benson Enikuomehin, a former board member of the Niger Delta Development Commission, is also a founding secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Ikorodu Branch, Lagos State, and served as Senior Special Assistant to the late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.

Dr. Benson Enikuomehin
Dr. Benson Enikuomehin

Though he spoke in parables on some of the issues raised, Enikuomehin, in this interview, advances reasons why Oke, a veteran of gubernatorial contests in Ondo State, should emerge tops tomorrow.

The popular Lagos lawyer said the APC would do itself a world of good by allowing a free and fair contest but posited that the emergence of a candidate from the South Senatorial District of the State, particularly Chief Olusola Oke, would serve the best interest of the party in the November 16, 2024 gubernatorial poll and beyond.

He dismissed the insinuation in some quarters that the fact that Oke is married to a “non-indigene” (his second wife) like the late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, may impede the aspirant’s chances. Enikuomehin described such thinking as warped and childish.

Below is the full interview, conducted by Samuel Ogunsona, a young but vibrant journalist racing to get his name etched in the noble profession’s hall of fame:

In your interactions, you seem to concentrate on Ilaje. Does that mean that the Ijaw minority doesn’t matter? Why?

I have never said they didn’t matter. And I am not underrating anyone.  I only said the six major ethnic groups should look in this direction. There are six major ethnic groups. When the Idanre speaks, the Ile-Oluji and Oke-Igba variation of language is different from Ondo. Then, the Odigbos too. But take note, Ese-Odo has 10 wards, Ilaje has 12. And I’m saying the six major ethnic groups that we should look in this direction. I am saying the Ijaws are not qualified to be there. The Ijaws are part of Ondo people; not the Ijaw in Bayelsa. Example is the Ese-Odo man who has been a deputy Governor of Ondo State (Hon. Agboola Ajayi). It’s not a statue of limitation for any person. 

A while ago, you said that going by the constitution, incumbent Governor Aiyedatiwa can only contest for one more term because he has been sworn in before when he took over from the late Governor Akeredolu. But there is a precedent; something similar happened when former President Jonathan took over from late President Musa Yar’adua. He was sworn in the first time, contested for another term, won and sworn in for the second term. Yet, he was able to contest for the third time again in 2015 against former President Muhammadu Buhari but lost. As a lawyer, could you please shed more light on this?

Remember, it was because of that same contest that the National Assembly amended the constitution. Once you take over from your principal, you can only contest for one more term. It was because of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s scenario that made the National Assembly amend the constitution.

There are concerns in Ondo State that the moneybags might hijack APC’s ticket considering the heavy volume of adverts some of them are running in newspapers and broadcast media. Don’t you think money would play a major role in this primary election? How would that affect the chances of your man, Chief Olusola Oke vis-à-vis his campaign: “It’s my turn”.

I have not said Chief Olusola Oke is campaigning that it’s his turn. I only said he can take a queue, haven contested three times for this particular position and also having a spread of the state. You may need to look at his campaign in Ondo State and see what happens. For me, I will go for the better choices. I have said this at the gathering of leaders that if I am to run for the Governor of Ondo State, I am very qualified. No issues. When I left the NDDC, the EFCC probed me and gave me a certificate of “Free, Go Home”, that was in the era of Ibrahim Lamorde, people wrote a lot of things. I said I didn’t mess up myself. They were setting up forensic and non-forensic something, it didn’t bother me. I am saying this to the press that I am EFCC compliant. I didn’t mess up. But, if I and Olusola Oke were to go into same contest, to be sincere with myself, I will step down for him.

Are you for Olusola Oke? 

You said so sir. But, unfortunately, I am not contesting. If I was contesting, I would have stepped down for him. We are talking about someone who has sold himself for the people, who has the temerity. Of all the aspirants, Olusola Oke is the only one who is not holding any government office. He is financing his projects well. Every other person has to fall back on the resources of the state to be able to do it.

Sir, you kept mentioning “We” in your statement. “We pleaded”. …We this, that”. Who are the “we” in this context? 

When I speak in Ondo State, there are people who believe in me; who trust my words. I said earlier that I am expecting people to come after me at the end of this interview. I absorb either insults or assault as the case may be. But, if there is a wound in your body and you want to get healed, the doctor must do the needful. No woman goes to the labour room and will not feel pain. So, there are people who hear me. They always hear what Dr. Benson Enikuomehin has said or has to say on the contest in Ondo State. That, in one way or the other, would influence their mind. Those are the “We” I am talking about.

Some persons came out last (upper) week to say the Aborigines adopted Lucky Aiyedatiwa and I asked myself who are these Aborigines? Where did they come from? I am aware that there are 45 Council of Elders, yet, none of the elders was in that meeting where the Aborigines were talking. Nimbe Faronkanmi is the Chairman, Council of Elders. But where were these leaders? There were not there in the meeting. I saw Mr. Ilori talking, he plays politics of Osun State more than Ondo State. That’s the truth. He was with Mr. Rauf Aregbesola. He was also in Lagos sometime in Alimosho Local Government Area, and he is from Ondo State. I already told you the game. So, we must speak out.

The “We” are the people who ordinarily will not have the courage or opportunity to see men of this nature but they want to hear Dr. Benson speak. When Professor Wole Soyinka speaks in Nigeria, we listen. We know he has the honour. I am not tainted by anything, not even by any position, So, I can speak the truth, it may be bitter but that’s the truth.

Are you aware if the late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu anointed any of these aspirants to be the next Governor of Ondo State? 

Well, Before Jesus died, he called Peter and said you are the rock upon which I will build my Church. We will need to check the will of the late Governor Akeredolu when he was leaving on the person anointed to take over from him.

However, I will say this for free: a year before Governor Akeredolu died, Chief Olusola Oke went to him in Ibadan and told him he was contesting for Governor. He also came to Akure and met the then Deputy Governor, who is now the incumbent Governor of Ondo State, Hon. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, to inform him. “My Brother, I am contesting for the office of the Governor.”

Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa never told him then that he was also interested. I am giving you this privileged information which can be reported. I know the date when the Governor went back to Chief Oke and said ‘I am also contesting’. The date was in March this year.

You said that there are two major political parties in Ondo State. What are the challenges confronting APC, the ruling party, right now that they must resolve to remain in power?

One of the ways APC could quickly trash away this beautiful baby they have been nursing for years is to say how to sub-change to the South. At least, someone has gotten power for one year, it’s enough. Dr. Olusegun Agagu was the one who opened us up. We were people who had been forgotten and not to be considered. But that man (Agagu) constructed the road from Igbokoda to Araromi (40km road), the Ofa bridge, Aboto bridge, the longest bridge in Ondo state that goes through Alape. He linked Okitipupa with Irele (that’s the second longest bridge in Ondo).

I talk with you this morning with sadness. Go to my village in Ilaje; there is no light; you can’t go by road; no (potable) water. So, we should look for someone who has the courage and ability to do things. Let’s remove sentiment, we need someone who can walk into any office, whatsoever, (and make things happen). If we need to plead, he will plead. If we need to persuade, he will persuade. If we need to talk, he will talk. We are looking for somebody who will do a good job. Olusola Oke will do a good job.

Chief Olusola Oke said he will introduce agriculture; he said “I am not going to do agriculture the way they are doing it.” He said: “When I open the road, I will build houses in those areas put solar lights. I will build barracks for Amotekun; that Amotekun has no business being in the town; they should be in our forest. Nobody has thought in that direction. 

Do you think people will accept Chief Oke, given his wife’s state of origin and also the alleged antecedents of former First Lady, Mrs. Betty Aleredolu?

I have known Chief Oke for close to 35 years. He is married to his first wife, Aunty Daisi, who is also from Ilaje. Aunty Daisi holds a Ph.D from the University of Ibadan. She is a retired principal in Ondo State. Among the children she has for Chief Oke, two are medical doctors and consultants, one is an engineer and the last is a lawyer. He has a second wife, Nkem, by name. If a man is able to manage his home well, manage his wives and they are not fighting, he can manage the state.

Those of us who are his brothers, we would say ‘don’t use the head to walk on the ground’. An error made by one man should not be generalized. That man is a man of discipline, I can’t go to his family discussion but when has it become a crime to marry from Akwa Ibom or Cross River, or marry an Igbo lady? One may not have done well, are there not Yoruba people who didn’t do well? So, it depends on the man in the saddle who will say ‘don’t go there’, and it will be obeyed. Oke is a family man. He knows what to do and he does it appropriately. And for those of us who are his junior, we’ve told him that sentiment may arrive in the state.

If Chief Oke Olusola doesn’t secure the ticket, will you give your support to Mr. Aiyedatiwa?

If you are looking for first class flight ticket and you don’t have first class ticket, but gladly enough you have your money and  there is the one for business class in the same plane… Even if you don’t have and the journey before you is very vital, you will go for economy. But when the first class ticket is available, why will you go for economy when you can afford it?

So, in this case is Mr. Aiyedatiwa the economy?

You said so! Therefore, if the preferable is not gotten, the available may be used but the consequences of it are yours. Hear me out, I bear no grudge against Governor Aiyedatiwa. Aiyedatiwa and I are from the same ward (Ibe Ward 4), but for a larger heart, I must put these things on the table.

People will ask: what did Dr. Ikuomehin say when he was there? They would say: he kept quiet because he was looking for patronage. Go and Google my name, when Aiyedatiwa was having issues about him being impeached, I was everywhere speaking for him. My colleague, who is a senior advocate, was in court; and I was in the media battling it, moving from one media house to another; from one radio station to another; from one television station to another; crisscrossing Ondo State. Because it was his turn, don’t short-change him. When we have now come to the pool of the animals with horns, the horns on the head of snail are not what we are requiring for.

Are you saying that for this forthcoming election, you are supporting APC and the candidacy of Chief Olusola Oke?

I was asked for my preference party for this coming election, if it’s APC, and I said YES. I was also asked: does that mean my choice is Chief Olusola Oke? And my answer is that: who out of the women that will see a man that is rich, humble, comes from a good background, has a good job, and he is caring, has good religious background, is very tolerant and knows what to do at the other room and still say No to that man? Therefore, the point is clear. Dr Benson and his team has spoken.

There are rumours that the wife of the late Governor Akeredolu is one of those sponsoring Chief Olusola Oke. Is this true? And what’s her is interest?

The wife of the late Governor has now been remarried to the younger brother by custom. The question is this: where did she register for this election? If she registers in Ondo State, she has the right to vote. My own wife is from Edo and she registered in Ondo State. In this election, she’s going to vote. If the wife of the former governor says I will support Chief Olusola Oke, one vote from her can mean a lot. Should Chief Olusola Oke say because she didn’t do well in the estimation of the people of the state, that her vote will not be required? Assuming she comes to say, ‘Olusola Oke, I like your pedigree and I am giving you 200million to support you.’ Can Olusola Oke carry the money and come to Lagos at the bar beach and through it away? So, at this point in time, any support from anywhere that will enhance the success of what we are talking about is welcome. But not to bury your head in shame, there is no how you wear a cap and use it to hold your anus. You can’t use the cap to cover your anus. It’s not done. The cap covers the head. So, any support from anyone is gathered. Some of us are also speaking to some of the aspirants. One of the aspirants called me after my appearance on Channels Television yesterday and he told me: ‘Dr. Benson, you spoke well. What you said is correct. If Chief Oke doesn’t pick it (the ticket), then I should.’ That’s a notable aspirant who is also contesting.


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