By Samuel Ogundipe
Mr. Olujimi Agbaje, a career pharmacist with a deep-but-impoverished political history has been declared winner of the 2014 Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) gubernatorial primary elections in Lagos State on Monday, in a controversial circumstance that could plunge the party into further internal crisis.
The primary, which was held at Yard 158, Oregun, Lagos, had Senator Shehu Kumo as its chairman.
Agbaje was declared winner after scoring a total of 432 votes to beat his four other challengers in the persons of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro who came second with 343 votes, Mr. Tokunbo Kamson was in the third place with 46 votes and Mr. Adedeji Doherty and Babatunde Gbadamosi both occupied the last position with 21 votes each.
But a disparity in the number of delegates accredited (806) and number of votes cast (863) left Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and Babatunde Gbadamosi visibly angry.
While Senator Obanikoro walked out of the event following a whisper in his ears by his voting agent; Mr. Gbadamosi reacted by attempting to disrupt the counting of the votes, alleging a sinister conspiracy between the chairman and the leadership of the party in the state.
“This election is a sham. It is a slap on the face of democracy. This election had been concluded before it even began and we will resist all effort by fraudulent individuals to impose their sinister motive on us,” an exasperated Gbadamosi said.
Immediately, his supporters began shouting anti-PDP slogans while raining curses and summoning evil to visit the party leadership.
Obanikoro also reacted in an interaction with pressmen at his campaign office midnight. He alleged that “With the benefit of hindsight now, you could tell it was a predetermined situation.”
On his own, a gleeful Agbaje reacted to his victory by thanking the delegates who entrusted him with the party’s most consequential price, a governorship ticket. He also thanked the party’s leadership for a successful primary.
“I am happy to be the choice of my party. I thank the delegates for their trust in me. I also thank the leadership of the party for making this a success.”
It is not immediately known if any of the candidates will challenge the outcome at the court of law, but for now, Mr. Agbaje is set to face Akinwunmi Ambode, a former state budget director who secured the All Progressives Party (APC) ticket last week, in the contest for the position of governor in the gubernatorial election scheduled to hold February next year.
The chairman, Senator Kumo, refused to speak with newsmen following his announcement that the election had been concluded and Agbaje had won.
The primary was scheduled to begin by 10:30 a.m. but due to logistics and other delays, delegates were not fully accredited until 7:00 p.m. after which voting began.
The delay in the starting of the primary initially resulted in a vicious verbal exchange between the police and newsmen who complained about being abandoned in the scorching sun for too long, having being denied entry by the police.
By noon, a deadly fracas ensued between suspected political thugs and the police which left at least four individuals badly injured.
Amongst those injured was one Adeyemi Jamiu from Lagos Island Ward 1, Apogbon, who said he was targeted because he’s a known supporter of Obanikoro.
“I am a supporter of Obanikoro and they know me very well, that’s why they came to attack me with machete,” he said.
Chief Olabode George, a leader of the party in the state, blamed the mayhem on Obanikoro’s loyalists. But the senator strongly rejected the former NPA Chairman’s allegation and said: “Bode George brought some people to come and create that situation but police arrested it. It was definitely Bode George.”
Obanikoro and George had hardly been political compatriots for a long time, a situation exacerbated by the latter’s open endorsement of Jimi Agbaje, the primary victor who publicly joined the party barely four months ago.