Thirty-Three days to the governorship election in Ondo State, the lines seem to be falling in places politically for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate and governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, as the opposition base is contracting by the day. It was funfair last Saturday at the Akure Stadium, where the party flagged off the second term campaign of Akeredolu for the October 10, 2020 election.
APC leaders and members across the 3009 units and 18 councils of the state, alongside supporters from neighbouring states, massively thronged the campaign venue to express their support.
Eleven governors, who attended the event were Yobe State and Chairman, APC National Caretaker Committee, Mai Mala Buni, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State, Governor and Chairman, APC Governors Forum, and Chairman, Ondo APC National Campaign Council and Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwoolu. Others were Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, and Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AdulRasak.
Also present were Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, Sani Bello of Niger State, and the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Chief David Onoja. Ministers for Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, State for Petroleum, Timipre Silva, State for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Tayo Alasoadura and other notable leaders were also at the event.
Before the July 20, 2020 APC primary, Akeredolu was embattled on many fronts, including stalwarts of his party, who vowed to stop him from getting the party’s ticket for a re-election. Most prominent among them was the Unity Forum, a formidable pressure group within the party that had 11 governorship aspirants, but which failed to pick a consensus candidate against Akeredolu.
The 11 governorship aspirants who clamoured for direct primary option were Olayide Adelami, Ife Oyedele, Olusola Oke, Jimi Odimayo, Dapo Adelegan and Bukola Adetula. Others were Jumoke Anifowoshe, Sola Iji, Apata Awodeyi, Nathaniel Adojutelegan and Olusegun Abraham, while Isaac Kekemeke opted out of the group. These stalwarts enjoyed the tutelage of the former state deputy governor and APC Board of Trustees (BoT) member, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, alongside third term Senator representing Ondo North, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice.
More so, the governor did not have it smooth with the duo of former National Chairman of the party and the National Leader, Adams Oshiomhole and Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu respectively. However, the governor surprisingly surmounted all internal and external hurdles against his second term ambition and eventually won the primary election. And the exit of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as chairman of the party marked the beginning of his liberation.
Akeredolu’s reconciliation with Tinubu impressed it on all the major contenders the need to make a U-turn to declare unflinching support and commitment for Akeredolu’s re-election.
While speaking recently at a meeting in Akure, Kekemeke, who was the pioneer APC state Chairman and Secretary of the advisory council set up by Tinubu in July last year, said they all decided to work collectively for the success of the party. Present at the meeting were former APC National Vice Chairman, South West, Chief Pius Akinyelure, all the governorship aspirants, B.I Idowu, Chief Bode Summonu, Gen. Funso Oyeneyin, Bankole Oluwajana, and Tayo Oluwatuyi, amongst others.
According to Kekemeke, the party would deliver massive votes for Akeredolu’s re-election, stressing, “We have resolved that we have no other party than the APC. We have no other candidate than Akeredolu. We have decided to bury our differences and work for the victory of our party. What you are going to see from today is a bigger party, a reengineered APC.
“All internal cleavages in our party have been put to rest. It is our party and we have one candidate. We are ready. We are united and we have resolved it work together in unison.”
Also, the state APC Elders Committee, which is largely populated by core Tinubu loyalists, pledged their unalloyed support for Governor Akeredolu and urged him to sustain his closeness with the committee. Chairman of the committee, Senator Olorunnimbe Farukanmi, affirmed that “All APC elders in the 18 local government areas must continue to meet at the local government and state levels to work for the progress and development of the state. They will continue to mobilise the citizens to give the Ondo State government greater support.”
While inaugurating Ondo Revenue House on Saturday, as part of activities to mark the campaign flag-off, Tinubu recounted the roles he played to resolve the internal crises within the party in Ondo State. According to him, he intentionally avoided some APC leaders, who were leveraging his support base to fight Akeredolu and his second term bid.
“It is against this context that my actions regarding Ondo must be weighed,” Tinubu said. “The governor had shown that he wanted genuine reconciliation among party members in the state. As part of this trust-building process, the governor was asked to extend a hand of fellowship to those who felt aggrieved and to embrace all the leaders within the state chapter of the party so that our progressive front would again be solid and strong.
”Here, I must offer a confession. When some of our members sought to reach me before the primaries to raise questions regarding Governor Akeredolu, I made myself unavailable. I did not do this to hurt or insult anyone. Here I ask that none of you be offended. I did this because I know the depth of character and the high quality of the leaders of this state’s chapter.
“You are all my brothers in whom I repose greater confidence. Thus, I knew that you all would work things out among yourselves, and with a little nudging and encouragement from me and others, you would reach the point where reconciliation would begin.
“True to my high estimation of your principles and political astuteness, you all began to reach out to each other and work together toward a common and good cause: the continuance of progressive governance in Ondo under the banner of the APC.
“I thank God that such a number of excellent and wide leaders are in our party. As such, Governor Akeredolu is the first among equals, which means all of you must continue to dialogue and the door of consultation must remain open.”
Contrary to previous speculations, Tinubu enthused, “Today, we have a united All Progressives Congress in Ondo. United toward achieving victory in the governorship election. United in the developmental work that must be done after the election.
“I would be amiss if I fail to thank Baba Olanusi and other members of the now defunct Unity Forum for their commitment to the party and for so firmly believing in what we stand for.”
He lauded all the governorship aspirants like Oke, Kekemeke, Abraham, Oyedele, Adetula, Odimayo, Adelami and Iji, who buried their political hatchets to support Akeredolu. Tinubu also lauded the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Ifedayo Abegunde, who resigned to support Abraham for the primary but came back to support the governor. He noted that Mrs. Anifowose and Adojutelegan had indicated their readiness to withdraw their cases in court.
“We are in this battle together,” Tinubu intoned. “More importantly, we are on the same side of it. The fight is not only to ensure the re-election of Governor Akeredolu, but to establish a progressive government and we are capable of doing so.”
MEANWHILE, there were perceived disaffection among members of the state Assembly and Akeredolu about poor finances, dilapidated chamber, and lack of official vehicles. These came to the fore in the recent bid to impeach the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who first decamped to the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and later to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) to contest the forthcoming election.
Last Friday, Akeredolu presented 2020 Model of KIA Sportage SUV as official vehicles to 17 of the lawmakers, explaining that he was constrained to fulfill his promises despite dwindling resources.
“What matters to me is that when we make promises we keep them. It is not for political reasons. We have been on this car issue for a while and luckily, it came today, just before the flag-off. Nobody is doing it for political reason. This is an improvement on what we had last.”
But the embattled deputy governor, Ajayi, faulted the governor for marginalising the nine lawmakers, who refused to sign his impeachment notice, by not giving them official cars.
“Presenting official vehicles to only members of the Assembly, who are loyal to the governor, and leaving out nine, who refused to sign impeachment process of the deputy governor, is the lowest political strategy,” Ajayi said.