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OYELESE, AKINJIDE BLAST NWC OVER OYO PRIMARIES

By NBF News
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The last has evidently not been heard of the controversial Oyo State congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which produced Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala as the party's flag bearer for the April elections and daughter Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), Jumoke, as the Oyo Central Senatorial candidate.

The party's National Working Committee (NWC) at the weekend upheld the result of the state governorship primary election, but ordered a rerun of the exercise in the Oyo Central Senatorial District, which was also the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin's constituency, among others across the nation.

The decision was suspected to be move to pacify the Senate leader and check his defection from the party to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which had offered him its platform to slug it out with Akinjide.

But, Alao-Akala's opponent in the race for the party's endorsement, Elder Wole Oyelese, yesterday warned that the party was taking a great risk by fielding the governor, as the process that produced him was illegal and inconclusive and would readily be upturned by the law court and his nomination rejected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The implication, the PDP chieftain said was that, the party would lose the state to other opposition party, as it would not have a candidate in the poll. Also, Ms. Akinjide, in a letter dated January 24, and forwarded to the party secretariat in Abuja, alleged that the leadership cancelled the election in her district, to pave way for Folarin, the incumbent representative of the constituency at the National Assembly, who was in prison custody for alleged murder when the election was held on Tuesday, January 11.

She said the plan was unjust as there was no evidence that the Senate leader was an aspirant in the just concluded exercise, which could justify his participation in the proposed rerun, wondering how he got the ears of the NWC. The woman threatened to boycott the exercise, which had been fixed for tomorrow.

In a statement personally signed by the former minister yesterday, Oyelese said the latest decision of the NWC to cancel only Oyo Central Senatorial primary, leaving the governorship primary, which, he noted, was inconclusive.

The governorship aspirant deplored the decision of the NWC to omit the Oyo State governorship primary in the list of the state primaries cancelled at the weekend, saying there was no justification for retaining the outcome of the controversial exercise as, according to him, this would be 'an exercise in futility without resolving the delegates issue first.'

By turning a blind eye to the 'illegal' primaries, Oyelese declared that the PDP was back to square one, a situation of stalemate that forced the national body to order a rerun of the state congress, following INEC's non-recognition of the state executive, for allegedly being a product of similar illegality.

Claiming that Akala could not win the state for the PDP, the former minister alleged that the governor was merely desperate to seek second term to prevent his former boss, Rashidi Ladoja, from succeeding him for the fear of possible vendetta and his alleged misdeeds being exposed by the latter.

According to him, what he therefore, 'actually needs are strong assurances of a soft landing which I believe should be provided for him.'

He urged the PDP leadership to face the reality on ground and take appropriate action that will help the party hold on to Oyo State in the April election.

Akinjide, in a similar statement, condemned the action of the NWC. She said: 'As far as I know, there can be absolutely no legitimacy to Teslim Folarin's purported claim that he was a senatorial aspirant who now wishes to compete in a primary election. Surely, before claiming that he was an injured party there must be evidence that Senator Folarin was in a position to benefit from the primary election.

'He must prove that he purchased and submitted the appropriate PDP nomination forms for the office of Senator supported by 30 party nominees before the PDP's set deadline. Unless such proof is given publicly to Oyo State PDP and all other interested parties I am not willing to take part in a head-to-head primary election against Senator Folarin as proposed.

'Any rerun of the primary must be conducted in a free and fair manner and in full public glare. In addition, INEC officials must be present to observe any rerun of the primary'.

According to her, the decision was condemnable because neither the contestants nor the state chapter of the party was carried along in the process leading to the cancellation.

'As a patent attempt to advance the interests of one man, Senator Teslim Folarin, this action is contrary to the principle of natural justice: the right to a fair hearing. The NWC was petitioned by Senator Folarin, while all other interested parties, including myself, were denied their rightful hearing by the NWC,' she noted.

Disputing the Senate leaders' claim that he was shut out of the race through his remand in prison over a murder charge, Ms. Akinjide contended that. Folarin was never in the race.

'The deadline set forth by the PDP for the submission of nomination forms had already lapsed long before the time of his detention by the Oyo State Police. If he wished to be a contestant in the PDP primary for the Oyo Central Senatorial District, Senator Folarin clearly had ample opportunity to fulfill the necessary Party requirements long before the death of Alhaji Salako (Eleweomo).'