Alagbaka house: For Aketi, Ondo APC readies Adelami as formidable rival
• Governor, Deputy Relationship Still On Ice
Like his Edo State counterpart, Governor Godwin Obaseki, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State is facing an uphill in his desire to secure a second term ticket from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) for the October 10, 2020 governorship poll in the state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, two months ago, announced the dates for the Edo and Ondo states’ gubernatorial polls, outlining that while Obaseki and Akeredolu’s first terms will end on November 12, 2020, and February 24, 2021, respectively, the commission decided to release the dates pursuant to provisions of Section 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 25(8) of the Electoral Act 2010.
Despite apprehensions in some quarters that the timetable for the two gubernatorial polls might be altered as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, both the Constitution and Electoral Act insists that “elections cannot hold earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of an incumbent governor.”
However, even with the lockdown and other containment measures in place, political actors have continued to strategise in readiness for the governorship elections which would most likely come with a very short notice to nominate standard-bearers.
Based on the formidable opposition they face in their respective states, both Obaseki and Akeredolu have been working behind the scene to see how a doctrine of the right of first refusal could give them automatic tickets for their possible re-election for a second term in office as governors.
Ondo, Awaiting History’s Encore
FOUR years ago, Ondo State chapter of APC nominated the former National President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Akeredolu, as its standard-bearer in a hotly contested and controversial primary.
A total of 23 aspirants took part in the governorship straw poll as the 24th aspirant, Dr. Paul Akintelure, withdrew shortly before the exercise. Also, the highpoint of the primary was the removal of the then state chairman, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, through a controversial impeachment by two-thirds majority members of the state executive committee, which accused him of hobnobbing with rival political tendencies.
The politics playing out within the Ondo APC, which saw to the exit of Kekemeke, was said to be the culmination of the antics of some Presidency insiders that did not want a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to have the final say on who flies the APC flag during the November 26, 2016 poll.
While it was believed that Tinubu was well disposed towards Dr. Segun Abraham, Akeredolu, who contested the governorship unsuccessfully in 2012, had the support of the then Minister of Mines, Solid Minerals and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Many issues was made of the delegates’ list. But, when the dust finally settled and ballots cast at the International Events Centre, Akure, Akeredolu was returned as the winner after receiving 669 votes.
Analysis of the vote tally by the aspirants, especially those in the Tinubu camp, showed that but for the insistence of Chief Olusola Oke (583) and Senator Ajayi Borofice (471) to go the whole hog, Abraham, who netted 635 votes would have beaten the former NBA President.
Having run away with that narrow victory (34 votes) against the established politicians, Akeredolu devoted his time in office to focus on gigantic development projects, believing that more than any other adventitious advantages, his record of performance would serve as his armour against the ambush of the powerful gladiators that battled him for the APC ticket in 2016.
Nonetheless, barely few weeks to another governorship primary, the political sky in Ondo is still bearing dark clouds in APC, suggesting a possible repeat of internal intrigues among the gladiators, who do not seem to have put their 2016 defeat behind them.
For instance, stung by the mistakes of the past, those that lost against Akeredolu in 2016 are said to have resolved to come together to correct the mistakes of the past by ensuring that they field a common candidate to slug it out with the incumbent during the primary expected to hold soon.
According to a major stakeholder in the ongoing gang-up against Akeredolu, Senator Borofice, who let the cat out of the bag, while distributing empowerment items to women in Ondo Central and South Districts of the state, the APC Unity Forum was founded to dislodge the incumbent from representing the party during the October 10 gubernatorial poll.
Borofice, who is also the current deputy senate majority leader, declared that the mistake of the past would not be allowed to repeat itself, as according to him, they have resolved to put forward just one candidate during the primary.
While assuring on the credibility of the candidate and ability to defeat Governor Akeredolu, the senator pointed to a shortlist that includes Abraham, Oke, Jimi Odimayo, Ife Oyedele and Bukola Adetula, from which the possible consensus candidate would emerge.
However, discreet checks by The Guardian has revealed that those who are pushing to replace Akeredolu on the APC ticket in Ondo State have readied a retired Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Chief Olayide Owolabi Adelami as the man to beat.
Sources privy to the plot to ambush Akeredolu with Adelami disclosed that apart from his sound leadership acumen and good name, he touched a lot of lives with his philanthropic activities in the state, particularly in Owo, from where the incumbent hails too.
Adelami, who is also a member of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC) of the party is also said to have insider presence in the Presidency that would neutralise Akeredolu’s advocacy for a right of first refusal instead of the governorship primary.
It would be recalled that the PSC was mandated to promote democracy, ensure peace and cohesion in all the states, by reconciling all warring groups of aggrieved APC members of the APC, as well as harmonisation of various support groups to achieve electoral victory for President Muhammadu Buhari prior to the 2019 general elections.
“As the coordinator for Ondo State, Adelami combined his leadership and managerial dexterity to warm himself to the hearts of the people. Stakeholders believe that with structures established across the 18 local government areas of the state by PSC, he is halfway through to becoming the governor.
“He is not a stranger to the yearnings and aspiration of the people, especially the level of disenchantment among our members over the way they have been alienated in the scheme of things these past four years,” the source disclosed.
In a recent interview with journalists, Adelami commented on the crisis within APC, pointing out that his involvement through the PSC opened his eyes to the fact that far too many members of the party feel aggrieved.
He stated: “There are people who feel they worked and were neglected without any compensation. There are also those who felt they were manipulated out of various primaries. Although I agree that there is no perfect system, but when such situations arise, the way out is to try to pacify the aggrieved and offer them a sense of belonging, not grandstanding. Simply, what the situation requires is ensuring justice, equity and fair play in conducting the party’s business.”
The former deputy clerk of NASS explained that the declining fortune from oil is an indication that the time has come, not only to elect prudent managers but also to ensure that persons elected as governors are those who can think out of the box and create wealth as well as allocate resources efficiently.
“I have managed money, materials and men. I did it very well to the best of my ability. So, if I was able to do that successfully, especially in a sensitive place like the National Assembly, which is a mini country on its own, I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that I will bring that experience to bear on the governorship of Ondo State.
“We need judicious management of resources. Our people are yearning for development. For a long time, the state has been tagged a civil servants’ state. We want to change that narrative. We want to leverage on our national and international exposure to bring all-round development to this state,” he stated, adding that Ondo State needs a selfless leader that will not make governance about his inner circles and family alone.
In spite of Adelami’s optimism, the fact that governor Akeredolu has performed creditably in the area of road construction and infrastructure uplift in the state leaves the impression that the contest for APC ticket is not going to be an easy one.
Yet Adelami, downplaying the exploits on road construction by the incumbent said, “We are talking about sustainable development. Most of those roads are city roads and not rural roads that can synergise the economic activities in the state. I will rather focus on rural roads and open up those rural communities so that farmers will be encouraged to increase their scale of farming since there will be roads to transport their produce.”
On paper, the plot to unleash Adelami against Akeredolu comes off as a grand strategy, especially given the fact that both hail from Owo, but a lot depends on the ability of his handlers to douse the perception that he is being thrown up to spoil things for the governor.
Adelami would not have any of that. He retorted: “It is not about the governor as a person, but about the state and the people. This is not just about Owo. There are many people from other parts of the state that believe they can do more than what he has done. We have to remove the attempt to reduce the serious issue to an Owo vs Owo affair. The people are wiser now, Ondo State citizens know what is good for them.”
Although Adelami was honoured by Owo people with the chieftaincy title of Amuwagboye of Owo in recognition of his philanthropic activities including providing succour to widows, orphans and vulnerable members of the town and beyond, his ideas and achievements would define the coming contest with his kinsman, Aketi.
Team Aketi’s Divided Partnership
THE challenges against Governor Akeredolu’s second term appears to be compounded by the perceived loss of camaraderie between him and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, a development that opens a huge crack within the government.
Recently, the social media was awash with comments on Facebook when the Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor on New Media, Allen Sowore, posted a short video of Ajayi, livened up with a song from the popular Juju Maestro, King Sunny Ade, boasting that the deputy has become too big a political fish to be cut by a child’s whip.
Stung by the hidden message, the Special Assistant to the governor on New Media, Mr. Bode Olatunde, shot back with a video on Facebook with songs by the late African Kennery Legend, Orlando Owoh, declaring that Akeredolu’s second term remains “God’s Project,” and would surmount all political obstacles, crushing its enemies.
Observers say the Deputy Governor stands the risk of being impeached before the next governorship election on October 10, 2020, or ultimately towards the end of their tenure on February 24, 2021.
The last straw that broke the Camelback, among deluge of allegations against Ajayi, was the alleged plot to ditch the ruling party to pick the PDP’s governorship ticket to slug it out with his principal, Akeredolu, as part of the bid to scuttle the incumbent’s chances at the main election.
The frigid relationship between Akeredolu and Ajayi apart, a source within the cabinet confided in The Guardian that the crux of the matter was that Governor Akeredolu reposed too much trust on his deputy by handing over the APC structure and entire South District to him.
The source disclosed that unknown to the governor, Ajayi, who was a former House of Representatives member on PDP platform, was never loyal to him (Akeredolu) but had been orchestrating plots to overthrow his boss.
Ajayi was also accused of making himself too powerful in the government, thereby influencing the appointment of a large number of PDP stalwarts into the cabinet. According to the source, the deputy governor sponsored an adversary political group (Unity Group) within APC led by a former deputy governor and APC Board of Trustee (BoT) member, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, to destabilise the Akeredolu administration from inception.
On what the deputy governor aims to achieve by that mischief, the source stressed that the imbroglio was ostensibly to clear the coast for Ajayi’s eventual emergence as APC candidate.
“Agboola Ajayi is the governor’s kinsman; his mother is from the same ethnic group and council with the Deputy. Governor Akeredolu over-trusted him that he put in place all the appointments in the South, all non-politicians so that he can have a very stronghold there. People expected strong politicians like Wale Omojuwa and Benson Enikuomehin but he schemed them out.
“He was taking advantage of this from beginning because he had planned to run against Akeredolu by installing 80 percent of the appointees to build his political structure. Whenever people went to the Governor for some requests in the South, he would direct them to meet the Deputy; unknown to him that he was undermining his powers.”
He, however, revealed that the last National Assembly politicking by the Deputy Governor exposed his antics to the Governor. He pointed out that the only enemy Akeredolu had wanted to stop was the third term senator representing Ondo North, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, while he wanted Lucky Aiyedatiwa to clinch the South Senatorial District ticket.
“For the first time in the history of the state, the Ijaw people, who are a minority in the South District were considered for the House of Representatives ticket. But the Deputy thought otherwise, he went to Abuja to single-handedly remove the name of Aiyedatiwa. He sold the idea of Action Alliance (AA) to the Governor and fielded Olatunji Felder to replace Aiyedatiwa for the election.”
According to him, Ajayi served as a liaison between Akeredolu and AA in the last election. The latter also used the means to blackmail his boss and it eventually led to his suspension by the national leadership of the party. He added that it was Ajayi who sponsored some people to promote the story on social media.
“Ajayi tried to weaken the APC in the state and paint Akeredolu in a bad light. The reason he didn’t like Aiyedatiwa was that he didn’t want any strong contender from the South. He also pushed the Governor against the national leadership of the party, and why Akeredolu was suspended. The Deputy went to Abuja to share money to the APC NWC members the week his boss was suspended.
“Even when the Tinubu-Aketi crisis was resolved, the Governor delegated Ajayi to Chief Pius Akinyelure for reconciliation, but he maligned the Governor by telling the elders that he cannot change. Akeredolu got to know about it but he denied the allegations.”
Speaking on the purported plan to impeach the Deputy Governor as rumoured in the state, the APC chieftain confirmed that the idea was actually mulled to the Governor but he discarded it forthrightly, appealing to them to ignore whatever political gimmicks attributed to him and allow him to finish the tenure together.
“He had brought Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi to prostrate before Aketi twice; the last one he did, he brought all the kings in Apoi to apologize with him and plead to the Governor on his behalf after his political skirmishes were detected,” he said.
The source also recounted that a prominent Ijaw Youth Leader planned to join and work for APC ahead of October poll but was discouraged by the Deputy Governor, who cajoled him to join forces with the PDP and promised to fund him.
“Till this moment, Ajayi has never called any meeting to discuss Aketi’s second term. He also moved for the sack of the Chief of Staff to the governor and wanted him to be replaced by a PDP person who is a close ally of his. He approached the Assembly members to take advantages of the Governor’s predicament with the National Leadership and ill-health last year but failed.”
But Ajayi dissociated himself from all allegations that he was planning to ditch the ruling party and undermine the second term chances of the incumbent Governor, saying all the indictments were plans by some persons to cause disaffection and disharmony within the party.
The Deputy Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Babatope Okeowo, affirmed that the Deputy Governor did not at any time sponsor any video clip suggesting a plan to be the governorship candidate of the PDP. Meanwhile, a video clip had gone viral with a campaign jingle of Ajayi declaring an intention to contest the governorship election in PDP.
But Okeowo noted that “This is to let the general public know that this video which was poorly done did not emanate from the Deputy Governor of Ondo State neither did it have his support. Let it be made known that the Deputy Governor is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and has not declared any governorship ambition.”
Similarly, a WhatsApp group titled “AgboolaAjayi 4 Sure 2020” was created last year by one Omobone Tunde to champion the governorship ambition of the Deputy Governor. But he added: “The man in question has denied having anything to do with the WhatsApp group. The Deputy Governor has also said these characters who see blackmail and propaganda as legitimate tools would paste his governorship posters.
“This is clearly the handiwork of some characters who are bent on creating disharmony in the political space of Ondo State. Once again, the Deputy Governor did not authorize the purported video or any poster that may emanate from these people.”
Keeping the public abreast of the political shenanigans in Alagbaka, the state seat of power, an APC Chieftain and lawyer, Tolu Babaleye, revealed that there are salient moves to oust the embattled Deputy Governor by all means, alleging that the plot is being forced down the throat of the Governor as a political necessity.
“Since the lid was blown off and it is now becoming obvious that the plot is real, I have decided to look at the whole episode, do some findings, made some calls and juxtapose the whole information available and as such, I came to the painful conclusion that it is not Aketi that wants the Deputy Governor removed but those the Deputy has helped in the past.”
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