Akeredolu in stormy waters over handing over to deputy
‘Deputy governor more treacherous than Omoboriowo’
Amidst increasing cases of coronavirus infections in Ondo State, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, are enmeshed in political war on who controls the government now and next year. The cold relationship between the duo, who had enjoyed harmony before they came to power on February 24, 2017, started shortly after the last general election.
Things came to a head last week when Governor Akeredolu declared that he had tested positive to the Coronavirus, but that he would not hand over the reins of government to his deputy. He noted that his compulsory two weeks of isolation would not ground government activities.
Without mincing words, he affirmed that he was not in any form incapacitated and would still perform his constitutional duties from home. However, there is outcry that he should hand over to his deputy. The relationship between the governor and his deputy went sour, especially when Ajayi formally resigned his membership from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to join Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Aside the rift between Ajayi and Akeredolu, attempts have been made in some quarters to blackmail the governor on his second term bid. A blue label (Johnny Walker) brand of whisky, with the inscription of Ondo State official logo was seen circulating on social media. But Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Ojo Oyewamide dispelled the cheap publicity stunt, embossed with Aketi, with ‘t’ appearing as Mr. Governor’s signature.
According to him, “For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Governor does not require to produce customized drinks of that nature for his re-election. Neither has he commissioned any associate, friend or even aides to embark on such wasteful venture.
“Clearly, the motive is to create the impression that so much of state money has been spent to produce the Whisky. Aside this already deflated plot, more are expected from these political scavengers on an impossible mission. Mr. Governor, having been briefed of this devious act, has taken steps to unravel those behind it through lawful means.”
Less than four months to the October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state, Ajayi is poised to slug it out with Akeredolu. He recently obtained the nomination form of major opposition party, PDP. Ajayi is insisting that the governor must handover power to him as enshrined in the constitution, due to his coronavirus status, which also claimed the life of the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro, on Thursday.
The deputy governor lamented that he had expected the governor to treat the constitution of the country with sanctity as a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by handing over power to him.
“But surprisingly, the governor has chosen this perversion of justice, by allowing his media aides to go astray in a matter of constitutionality,” Ajayi lamented. “Section 190(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is apposite in this circumstance. On our part, we will continue to pray fervently for Mr. Governor’s quickest recovery.
“However, it should be noted that, Mr. Governor is at liberty to handover or not within 21 days after which the constitution becomes operational.”
He argued that the failure of the governor to handover the running of government to him while in self-isolation and temporarily incapacitated underscores his absolute disregard for the rule of law.
Ajayi’s Media Adviser, Allen Sowore, who was sacked by the state government, but immediately employed by Ajayi in personal capacity, added that the refusal of the governor is an effrontery against the people and his oath of office. Sowore described the insistence of the governor on not relinquishing power to the deputy as a deliberate attempt to truncate democracy and governance. He accused him playing lip-service against COVID-19.
According to Sowore, “Our candid advice is that the energy dissipated to pull down the office and person of the deputy governor should be channelled towards resolving the lingering crisis in the health sector, particularly the current strike embarked upon by medical practitioners in the state in the middle of this pandemic.
“Nobody will take us seriously when doctors are on strike and yet we pretend to be fighting a pandemic. It will only indicate that we’re taking the health of the people for granted.
“Nothing serves as threat to good governance than the current nepotism and lackadaisical attitude towards the prioritisation of people’s welfare.”
Sowore said the Akeredolu-led government was needlessly waging war against his boss, adding, “It’s imperative to inform the general public that Mr. Governor and members of his kitchen cabinet have deliberately barred the deputy governor from all government activities as all the daily itinerary and work schedules released from Chief of Protocols do not have allocation of any function or duty to the person or office of the deputy governor in recent time.
“The deputy governor empathises with the good people of Ondo State at this critical period of our statehood that Mr. Governor has decided to personalise administration and governance of our dear state.”
But the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, refuted insinuations that the governor was incapacitated due to his COVID-19 status. He described Ajayi as a threat to good governance in the state. Ojogo, who used to be a close ally of the deputy governor, pointed out that Ajayi could not be entrusted with the affairs of the state government, accusing him severally of undermining government’s efforts.
While reading the handwriting on the political walls some months ago, Ojogo had accused the deputy governor of abusing the trust reposed on him by Akeredolu, whom he said handed over politics and too much power to Ajayi. On the pressure to handover power to the embattled deputy, he noted that Governor Akeredolu was yet o breach any law and would not be blackmailed to handover to the estranged deputy governor.
“Mr. Governor will not be advised to hand over to his deputy,” Ojogo said, “it is not done because there is no reason for that. The deputy governor has since left our party and has since left governance, even though he has not left government.
“You cannot hand over government to someone who has left governance or handover the rein of government to someone who attempted to pull down government.”
Ojogo added that “those of us in government see the deputy governor as the greatest threat to good governance in Ondo State and you can’t attempt to handover to people like that. Agboola Ajayi is the greatest threat to this government.”
Historically, Ondo State has the record of deputy governors parting ways with their bosses. Recall the 1983 ‘Wetie’ political saga between the late Akin Omoboriowo and the late Michael Ajasin, who by co-incidence hails from same ancient Owo town with Akeredolu.
“I don’t know how we got into this,” Ojogo lamented. “What we witnessed in 1983, the level of treachery that was deployed against late Adekunle Ajasin… Except for those who have the opportunity to witness what we are seeing in Ondo State, one may be tempted to say that that was the height or nothing could surpass that level of treachery.
“But what we are seeing today represents the fact that what Omoboriowo did in 1983 was a child’s play compared to what Agboola Ajayi is doing now.”
He further stated, “You don’t rock a boat that has taken you across the ocean. So it is a non-issue and we are not even considering handing over to Agboola Ajayi and I know, as a matter of fact, that no one who believes in good governance in the state will even advise Akeredolu to hand over to his deputy.”
Ojogo, who hails from same council, Ese-Odo LGA, with the deputy governor, accused Ajayi of being too ambitious.
“What would be the compelling reason when governance is not grounded?” he asked. “He has created an unusual scenario upon which he wanted to climb to his next political ladder and we have already seen it as a misadventure. We cannot toy with what we have built over the years.
“We cannot risk it and attempt to hand over to someone who has exhibited mindless level of betrayal and an unquestionable level of treachery.”
Speaking on the health status of the governor, Ojogo declared that Akeredolu was not losing any ground on governance, “COVID-19 is not a death sentence and the governor is strong enough to work.
“This is not done and it is unthinkable; and if that is the reason he has been sponsoring write-ups to say there is likely to be vacuum, and that the governor must hand over to him, he’s only joking. It is not going to happen because the governor is hale and hearty.
“For the deputy to incite or instigate people to say that the governor should hand over to him confirms our fears in the last 10 months that Ajayi has been striving to take over power through the backdoor and God will not allow him.”
Meanwhile, the consensus candidate of Unity Forum, a splinter group within APC that is opposed to Akeredolu’s reelection, Chief Olusola Oke, said he had made political overtures to the governor to step down for him. With the apparent lack of unity within the Unity Forum, and many of the aspirants refused to support the emergence of Oke, the group still insists it would participate in APC’s governorship primary slated for July 20, 2020.
But Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr. Doyin Odebowale, described Oke as a jester, declaring his overtures to the governor as ludicrous.
“It is laughable to see a man, who rejoined the APC after suffering the most crushing defeat in the last gubernatorial election in the state, boast of his political stature necessitating exigent intervention.”
He recounted that the Unity Forum candidate, Oke, who would slug it out with Akeredolu in another APC primary election in the next three weeks, “flaunts some specious credentials of service won in two local government areas in 2012 and 2016.
“He had earlier attempted to be in the National Assembly twice and failed. While he was the Chairman of OSOPADEC and a member of the NDDC, he can hardly point to any project he executed in the state.”
The governor’s aide mocked the APC governorship aspirant on his past political achievements, saying he “brought nothing to the people even as every loss at the polls often provided an avenue to defect to another party.”