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Akeredolu battles to explain APC’s failure in 2019

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[FILES] Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu. Photo/Twitter/GOVONDO


• As Party Contemplates Another Guber Candidate For 2021

Although the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) eventually captured Ondo State in 2016, the governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has been enmeshed in a web of crises that are threatening his second term bid.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the huge defeat APC suffered in the state in the last elections, when it lost the Presidential poll, two senatorial and five House of Representative seats to opposition parties. Some party members attributed this development to Akeredolu’s anti-party activities, as he was accused of allegedly sponsoring other candidates to contest on the platform of the Action Alliance (AA) to spite his party’s national leadership. 

Akeredolu came to limelight politically in the state through imposition by APC’s National Leader, Bola Tinubu, who sponsored him as the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2012 election. But reliable sources revealed that he fell out with Tinubu, who allegedly supported a different candidate, Dr. Muiz Banire, for the National Legal Adviser’s position, against Akeredolu during the party’s June 2013 National Congress. Akeredolu was said to have publicly abused the leader. 

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Not unexpected, Tinubu raised another candidate for the 2016 election in the state, but with the help of the Abuja mafia — Dr. Kayode Fayemi, now Ekiti State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai and others, Akeredolu won the election. As victorious as the governor appears to be, the faux pas committed during the last election continues to haunt him, especially now that Tinubu has regained his position and authority over the party at the national level, despite concerted efforts to whittle down his political influence. 

To cut Akeredolu to size, APC’s National Working Committee seemed to have demanded its pound of flesh by giving some National Assembly members automatic tickets for the 2019 elections to the governor’s chagrin, leading to his anti-party stance. 

For the Senate, only the Central District was conceded automatically to his camp and the candidate, Tayo Alasoadura lost the return ticket, while Ose/Owo and Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal constituencies were conceded to him but could only win the ticket for his candidate.Based on the convincing evidence of anti-party and divisive activities against Akeredolu, in a statement credited to APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu and the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, the governor was suspended. Oshiomhole was quoted to have condemned the governor’s partisan activities, which greatly jeopardised the party and its candidates’ fortunes in the state. 

A member of the NWC, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed that Governor Akeredolu was suspended penultimate Friday, alluding to similar offence and punishment meted on his Imo and Ogun counterparts.He said: “Yes, the NWC suspended the governor. He claimed not to have seen the query and we asked the National Vice Chairman from the Southwest to make a copy available to him.
 
“After election, we want to build and not destroy the house. But we want to do the needful. Since we suspended the Imo and Ogun States governors, we want to treat them equally. However, they need to defend themselves. It is like a query and a suspension. They have to advance reasons why they did what they did…”A faction of the party, an assembly of disgruntled leaders with large following, under the aegis of APC Elders Forum, had serially accused Akeredolu of activities that could undermine the party’s chances in the state, ahead of the last general elections.

Faulting the defence put up by the governor, they challenged him to identify with the party’s candidates, who were contesting for the National Assembly election, to clear himself of all accusations. They insisted Akeredolu must lead the campaigns of all the candidates, irrespective of the factions they belonged. Prominent among the elders were former Deputy Governor of the state and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Alhaji Ali Olanusi; former state Chairman of the party, Isaac Kekemeke, former Chairman of Alliance for Democracy (AD), Chief Makinde Oguntona and former Commissioner, Chief Bode Sunmonu.

Similarly, the Coordinator of Presidential Campaign Organisation in the Southwest and governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the 2016 election, Chief Olusola Oke, also made several efforts to mend broken walls to no avail. 

Oke, who was a governorship aspirant in the controversial 2016 primary, said: “Feelers received by the campaign council showed that the anti-party activities of these privileged individuals are already creating confusion in the minds of majority of the electorate.

“These individuals’ actions and anti-APC activities are capable of dividing the party’s strength in the zone, especially in Ondo and Ogun States, thereby capable of reducing its votes or give unmerited advantage to the oppositions who have almost conceded victory to APC.”The Campaign Director, who delivered his local government, one of PDP’s strongholds in the state since 1999 for Buhari, warned that, “These few privileged APC leaders should think about the danger and damage their actions may cause the party…”

Political analysts traced the crux of crises to the September 3, 2016 controversial governorship primaries that produced Akeredolu, which they said bred irreconcilable factions among party leaders, who accused the governor of winner-takes-it-all attitude in the composition of his “Aketi Team” cabinet.

However, the governor’s aides alongside party leadership in Akoko North West have often refuted the allegations against the governor.Denying the allegations, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, had urged the people not to misinterpret the friendship between Akeredolu and Tunji Abayomi, the AA North Senatorial District candidate. Olowolabi said the purported suspension by APC’s NWC was mere rumour, describing the ruffles with the party leadership as an internal affair that would be resolved amicably.

He said: “Our governor is a party man. Whatever has happened and whatever happens thereafter will all be resolved at party level. There is nothing to lose sleep about. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu remains a party member, a party leader. Nothing has changed.” Similarly, the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Segun Ajiboye, said the reports were not true, revealing that the party leadership in the state and Akeredolu had not received any formal letter to that effect. 

Ajiboye had earlier refuted the query purportedly issued to the governor on March 1 for the alleged anti-party activities during the last presidential and National Assembly polls.He stressed that the governor did not receive any query from the party at the national level questioning him of any anti-party activities.

But the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Issa-Onilu, said he was aware the query was issued to the governor by the National Executive Committee (NEC). He, however, added he was not aware that the governor had been suspended as claimed.

Shortly after the suspension, the Special Assistant to the Governor on News Media, Mr. Allen Sowore, wrote on his Facebook page, “Won fe ti ilekun mo omo onile,” meaning “they want to shut the house against a child of the house.”The Caretaker Chairman of Ilaje Local Government Area, Mr. Otito Atikase, blamed Adams Oshiomhole and Tinubu for Akeredolu’s suspension and attributed it to the 2020 governorship. He said: “Aketi is a principled man who does not play politics with ‘anything goes.’ He will not allow anything that is not right to be done. Tinubu and Oshiomhole should not ruin the party for their expansionist and narrow agenda. 

“All I can see is the aftermath of the defeat Tinubu suffered when he sponsored AD against Aketi in 2016. What disciplinary action did the party put in place? On the other hand, Oshiomhole wanted his candidate to be picked after him in Edo, but Aketi supported the man on seat, Obaseki. 

“Adams was very angry. So, he became the party Chairman to witch-hunt our governor. Aketi has put Ondo State on the right path of sustainable development and we can not afford to miss this opportunity.”
Atikase, a former member of the state Assembly, added “some political predators in Lagos are scared of Aketi’s bold step to unlock our economic potentials, which will invariably compete favourably with Lagos in the area of economic prosperity…”

In a fit of anger, people started reacting against the latest development in the state, though some still support the embattled governor.One Bola Akinruntan retorted that, “Aja to fe sonu koni gbo fere olode,” meaning “the dog that will get lost won’t heed the hunter’s advice.”

Akinruntan noted, “The problem with Aketi is that he is too rigid. I remember during his inauguration, the whole state was expecting him to be magnanimous in victory, but he declined. Rather, he started abusing every person, especially Jagaban.“He doesn’t understand that all APC’s political intelligentsias in the state are in the other group, while he surrounds himself with politicians full of questionable credentials.”He said he caused the problems in the party by foisting certain leaders on the people, adding that his leadership style would further cause more harm. 

“Why won’t he be suspended, when all the state political gladiators are not with him? Party will not lose anything by suspending him, after all, Boroffice humiliated him in the last election…”But to Nelson Wewe, a party member from the South District, “Nobody is indispensable. The party leadership should accept the fact that they caused the problems that led to all forms of litigation.

“The errors made by the party’s national leadership led to the inability to field candidates in some states during the last general election. If you blame Aketi in Ondo, who will you blame in Ogun, Zamfara and Rivers, among others.”

Nonetheless, the governor’s aspiration for a second term ticket on the platform of APC will be a very difficult task, though some insiders revealed that Akeredolu is making clandestine moves to get an alternative platform. Some analysts pointed out that Bourdillon has scaled up plans to substitute the governor with Oke, who was said to have paid his dues in the party, to the powers that be in the Southwest and as a two-term governorship candidate. 

The Executive Director of Engineering and Technical Services, Niger Delta Power Holding Company, Engineer Ife Oyedele, is said to be the anointed candidate favoured by the power brokers in Abuja to replace Akeredolu in 2021.But Oyedele, who hails from the South District, also renowned for designing the APC logo and standing beside President Muhammadu Buhari, when he wept before the 2011 elections, dismissed it as mere rumour. 

In the last election, Oyedele, who was a chieftain of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), was reported to have financially supported all APC candidates. Consequently, all calculations do not favour the incumbent governor, as he seems to have lost favour everywhere.

Besides, the only ticket at the Senate, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, is an arch political rival of Akeredolu, though they are both from the same north district; while the other two House of Representatives in the district were loyal to Boroffice and the only ticket from the south has his allegiance to the National level of the party. So, Akeredolu has only the member representing Owo/Ose Federal Constituency, Timilehin Adelegbe, loyal to his cause at the National Assembly. 

And though the Governor made frantic efforts to reverse the trend during the state Assembly poll by winning 23 out of 26 seats, the internal scramble for House leadership might turn the table against him. Several attempts were made to impeach the Speaker and his Deputy, Bamidele Oleyelogun and Ogundeji Iroju, whom the lawmakers accused of high-handedness and other gross misconducts that bordered on selling out cheaply to the executive. 

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Oloyelogun and Iroju got a return ticket to the Assembly, but there are surreptitious moves to stop them from emerging leaders of the 9th Assembly due to recurring allegations of dehumanisation by the executive arm. Aside this, some lawmakers might refuse to tread the path of working against the party’s national body by dumping Akeredolu, if eventually he pursues his second term bid on the platform of another party. 

It was gathered from reliable sources that some commissioners and appointees refused to work for AA candidates in the last election, bluntly telling the governor when queried, that they wouldn’t engage in anti-party activities. 
Flaunting his picture with President Muhammadu Buhari during his recent visit to Lagos State for the commissioning of projects, it was spread around that Akeredolu had led the state party leadership to beg the power brokers in Bourdillon. But will Bourdillon ever forgive Akeredolu? 

Interestingly, the governor has embarked on massive infrastructural development across the state, wooing investors to make Ondo an industrial hub and regularly paying workers salaries. But to many people, these achievements may not be enough to assuage the ‘enemies’ lined up against him. 

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