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Akeredolu faces fresh challenges as deputy ‘turns coat’

By Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure. 
23 June 2020   |   3:29 am
As the build-up to October 10, 2020, Ondo State gubernatorial poll gathers momentum, it is becoming clearer that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu

As the build-up to October 10, 2020, Ondo State gubernatorial poll gathers momentum, it is becoming clearer that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is in the centre of what promises to be a three-sided battle.

At a time the governor is warming up to seek a second term, his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, decided to seek a separate political future in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where, it is obvious that he would contend with the party’s 2016 standard bearer, Eyitayo Jegede, for the governorship ticket.

Not that alone, within the governing APC, the pioneer state chairman, Isaacs Kekemeke, has risen to challenge the incumbent for the party’s ticket.

Kekemeke, who is also a former Minority Leader of the state House of Assembly, told journalists that there is a vacancy in Agbabiaka House, noting that Akeredolu’s mandate was for four years without provision for automatic renewal.

He said that while Akeredolu has done his best, the time has come to focus attention on social welfare and human capital development, instead of just road construction.

The former APC chairman noted that the plethora of governorship aspirants seeking to succeed Akeredolu is evidence that a new politics that dwell on bettering a lot of the citizens is what the state needs at this critical period of its history.

The former lawmaker, who made the remarks at the APC National Headquarters in Abuja, shortly after buying the party’s nomination form, stated: “It is time to once again deliver free and compulsory primary and secondary education for the ultimate benefit of our state. It is high time we subsidized tertiary education and brought back scholarships for hardworking students. It is time again to provide quality and affordable health care.

“It is time to invest heavily in Agriculture as in the days of the Farm Settlements, through our innovative Civil-Farmer programme to ensure self-sufficiency in food production, earn meaningful income and provide the raw materials for our agro-based industries.”

Kekemeke, who is the pioneer chairman of National Examination Council (NECO), disclosed that prior to coming to pick the form, he engaged in “massive statewide consultation, sensitization and recruitment of volunteers to determine the viability or otherwise of my aspiration to the governor of Ondo State in February 2021.”

While indicating that the exercise took off in February 2019, the former Ondo State APC chairman declared: “The feedback from the exercise has been overwhelmingly inspiring. And so, today I return here with nostalgia to take the first formal step of a divinely orchestrated journey of commitment and selfless service to the people of Ondo State…

“The vision is clear. It is to work with all patriots to create a prosperous and peaceful Ondo State, where citizens are productively engaged to enable them to live meaningful, comfortable and decent lives.”

He said that having served as the pioneer APC chairman in Ondo State and membership of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) from 2014 through 2018, he understands the APC manifesto and the challenges of governing Ondo State.

“Basically, our resolve is to emplace an enabling/conducive environment for every able and willing Ondo State citizen to flourish.

“Our mission is like no other. It is to, with the aid of information, science and technology; maximally impact government revenue on the human capital and natural endowments of the state to create wealth,” he stated.

He assured that “while we aim to make government in Ondo State seeable, touchable and feelable, our objectives are to use the entire governmental powers to fight hunger, poverty, joblessness, insecurity and rescue of our decayed basic infrastructure.”

While Kekemeke’s ambition roils the APC platform, the rumble in the Government House, which saw the Deputy Governor divorce his principal and the governing party, reverberated in the entire state.

A test of popularity, influence
THE state Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, put all suspense on Sunday 21, 2020 when he finally dumped the governing APC and moved into the opposition APC.

The deputy governor did not just ditch APC, but he also exposed the determination to meet his principal, Governor Akeredolu at the polls.

Ajayi’s move is also raising some dust within the PDP, as all the governorship aspirants on the platform are closely marking him to guard against attempts to decorate his entry with an automatic governorship ticket. 

Rumours of the deputy governor’s plan to leave APC and join PDP had been making the round in the state since 2019. Many people had alleged that some northern PDP governors were sponsoring him. 

It would be recalled that Ajayi came to political limelight when he was made the PDP caretaker chairman of Ese-Odo Local Government, substantive chairman and member, House of Representatives in 2007 before he joined APC in 2016 on a joint ticket with Aketi for the last gubernatorial poll. 

Some commentators likened the deputy governor to a proverbial hen that has gone back home to roost, due to his political pedigree and antecedents. Ajayi’s clout is also helped by the fact that the South Senatorial District, where he hails from, has been PDP’s strongest base since 1999.

On the night preceding his exit from APC, his movement to his Apoi Ward 2 in Ese-Odo Council for preparation towards his eventual formal entry to PDP in Akure, was not without some drama. The Commissioner of Police, Bolaji Salami, mobilized policemen to stop him from moving away from his personal effects from the Government House. 

Also, Ajayi’s entry into PDP aroused a barrage of criticisms from some party leaders and governorship aspirants, who kicked against speculations that the PDP’s National Working Committee (NWC) had perfected plans to cede the governorship ticket to him. 

Feelers that the deputy governor had already manoeuvred his way to influence the nomination process, by nominating the chairman and members of the straw poll committee, heightened the anxiety among PDP faithful.

Words making the rounds in Akure suggested that the deputy governor chartered an aircraft to fly in members of the party’s NWC led by the chairman, Uche Secondus, to receive him today at the PDP state secretariat. 

Some distraught PDP chieftains claimed that the Ajayi/PDP NWC deal was programmed to have his men conduct the primary and deliver him after efforts to have all governorship aspirants cede the ticket to him failed.

Majority of the governorship aspirants, including Eyitayo Jegede, Eddy Olafeso, Banji Okunomo, Bamidele Akingboye among others, persistently opposed the idea of an automatic ticket for the Deputy Governor, insisting on a primary election. 

A PDP chieftain, Wale Koledoye, told The Guardian, however, that “it’s a welcome development that Ajayi was coming to our party; but one thing is clear, the NWC will have us to contend with if they accept his proposals on the primary committee and go-ahead to deliver him as they have plotted in Abuja.”

Koledoye stated: “Here is a man who was in charge of the politics of the government after the governor delegated undeserved privileges to him. To us in the PDP, the deputy governor is a treacherous politician in this state, because he has remained the most powerful man in that position. So, we can’t trust him. 

“How can he now come to our party and insist on running as the sole candidate to the extent of nominating the chairman and members of the primary committee. Or is it the reason he hired an aircraft for the NWC members that will come tomorrow to receive him. It’s the height of insults. 

“The real game will start soon after he joins, let’s wait and see as events unfold because we are not fools in this party.”

One of the aspirants, Jegede, denied the rumour being peddled to the effect that he (Jegede) had agreed to be Ajayi’s running mate. In a statement, the Eyitayo Jegede Campaign Organisation stated, “For the records, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede SAN has been a loyal PDP member, whose dedication to the party is without fault and does not intend, either now or in the future to become a deputy to Mr. Ajayi. 

“The aspiration of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede SAN predates the emergence of Mr. Ajayi as a deputy to the incumbent APC governor and is an aspiration that carries the spirit of every PDP member, who has remained loyal and laboured for the continuity of this party against the consequences of the actions of those who worked against our party’s victory in the last election.”

PDP National Chairman, Secondus, had disclosed some days ago when Jegede picked his expression of interest form that PDP would not adopt any zoning arrangement. 

Secondus, who was represented by the Deputy National Chairman (South), Yemi Akinwonmi, had declared, “It is not our responsibility here to talk about zoning. Not at all.”

While disclosing that the national secretariat’s assignment is to conduct an integrity-based primary, Akinwonmi added: “We are here to give level playing ground to all the aspirants. No more no less. It is not our responsibility here to talk about zoning.
“It is to conduct the primary as approved by the National Working Committee (NWC), National Executive Council (NEC), Board of Trustee (BoT) and Governors Forum of our party.” He assured all the aspirants of level playing ground.

A former Head of Service (HoS), Mr. Ajose Kudehinbu, while describing Ajayi as a treacherous politician, added that he is the least qualified to lead Ondo State, stressing that he lacks the intellectual capacity to govern. 

Kudehinbu recounted how Ajayi, as a former Ese-Odo chairman, lied against him, as Permanent Secretary (Cabinet) that he was behind the leaked classified documents to the political opponents during late Olusegun Agagu’s government. 

He said the most serious objection to Ajayi’s aspiration is his penchant to harm the political careers or interests of other people around him, adding: “We do our beloved state great harm when we promote the political ambition of anyone, for no other reason than blood relationship or ethnicity. You may be the next victim of his atrocities.

“However, those of us outside the immediate confines of government see and are able to identify his footprints, even in an uncharted environment that should attract his honest attention in the resolution of problems and conflicts, especially in his part of the state. I had made allusions to this in some of my previous posts.”

But, one of the Deputy Governor’s aides, Mr. Allen Sowore, reacting to the negative sentiments, said: “He is an envious old man, you are being sponsored to launch an attack on Ajayi. 

While describing Ajayi as “The Big Idea,” Sowore stated: “Surprisingly, I thought I had undermined the excruciating pains the picture of the diminutive Deputy Governor with gargantuan achievements can cause. 

“I had torpedoed the political tremor his “mere” picture can cause in the Sunshine State. So, they sent an elder after me to write epistle and attack the picture; a man who is envious of the achievements of younger ones.

“Politically, the Deputy Governor is like “Streambank Erosion. He’s facile and affable, but yet can move the mountain.”