Deputy in alleged plot to oust Akeredolu as Ondo 2020 heats up
• No love lost between us, says deputy governor
Though a little more than 15 months to the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, the scramble to occupy Alagbaka, the seat of power, has taken a new dimension as the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, is said to be strategizing against the incumbent Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
If confirmed to be true, it would be a serious crack in the political block of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in his bid to secure a second term, especially now that a faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is poised to stop him from getting a return ticket of the party.
Unconfirmed reports say Ajayi would resign his position as the Deputy Governor by December and leave the ruling party for the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to slug it out with the incumbent governor at the poll. Also, Ajayi, who is a grassroots politician from the South Senatorial District and stronghold of PDP in the state, would pick the current House of Representatives member, Hon. Adedayo Omolafe, another political enigma from Ondo Central District as his running mate.
The Guardian gathered that Ajayi is being supported and sponsored mainly by his political associate and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was his colleague in the Federal House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011. Aside external influence, many APC members who are dissatisfied with Governor Akeredolu may pitch their political tent with Ajayi and return to PDP, the party where he had built his political career since 1999.
Among those willing to throw the spanner into the second term works of the governor who have identified with the deputy’s move include the immediate past Commissioners for Works, Infrastructure, Physical Planning, and Urban Development, Mr. Taofiq Abdulsalam and Solagbade Amodeni, who was recently sacked by Governor Akeredolu.
As political watchers in the state say, the deputy governor may be a touch challenge for Akeredolu as many of his political opponents, who felt disappointed at the peace meeting organised recently by the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, may see Ajayi as a rallying point against the governor in 2020. However, a close source within Akeredolu’s cabinet, who pleaded anonymity, revealed that there had been a lot of political cold wars between the governor and his deputy, attributing it to the growing popularity and influence of the latter.
According to the source, “As I talk to you, the governor makes every effort to ensure that Ajayi’s political strength is drastically reduced. There have been a series of warnings alerting the governor to the maverick tendencies of his deputy. “At a point, the PDP background of the deputy governor became an issue and the governor, without wasting much time, promptly took some measures to prune and cut to size the political wings and influence of the deputy.”
The warning is not farfetched as the six local government areas in the South Senatorial District, where Ajayi hails from. Ese-Odo LGA to be precise, have always been under the control of the PDP until Ajayi and some notable politicians moved en masse to APC before the November 26, 2016 governorship poll.
Ajayi had risen from the ranks and files first as a councilor, caretaker chairman, substantive chairman, and House of Representatives member for his constituency. He is believed to have a strong political charisma and clout that can make him weather any political storm.
While reflecting on the suspicion against the deputy, a chieftain of APC, who does not want his name in print, noted that since the present administration came to power in February 2017, Agboola has not been allowed to perform to his full capacity as Acting Governor whenever Akeredolu was away. He said the governor will soon proceed on another three weeks’ leave, probably starting today, but would as usual shut Ajayi out as against what is stipulated in the constitution by not handing over to him in acting capacity.
However, some political observers see the story of Ajayi’s 2020 ambition as a politically orchestrated plan to incriminate him and ease him out of the second term calculations of the present administration.According to an APC chieftain from the South District, Yusuf Ayeye, “Sometimes in politics, you give a dog a bad name so as to hang it and make it take the fall as the bad guy. This is not strange in politics anywhere in the world; it is one of the phenomena that characterise the game, especially here in Nigeria.
“It is too early to judge or conclude, but the unfolding of events from now till next year will clearly show the thrust of the rumour. But the governor must not forget that the deputy represents the entire South in his government. He is our wholesale stake in APC.”Ayeye further declared, “Anything against Ajayi is everything against the six local government areas of the South District, and we shall not leave our own no matter what happens. As the number two person in the state, he gives us a big sense of belonging in this present administration.”
Meanwhile, there were rumours before the peace meeting held early last month in Akure that one of the conditions given to settle the age-long rivalry between Akeredolu and the National Leader, Tinubu, was that Ajayi would be replaced as deputy for the 2020 poll. However, Ajayi had dispelled all the insinuations against him and declared that there was no rivalry or bad blood between him and the governor, adding that he never contemplated ditching the ruling party for PDP ahead of the 2020 poll.
In a statement issued yesterday by the new Deputy Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Babatope Okeowo, “The Deputy Governor is unperturbed by this sponsored story and the ones before it as these are the handiwork of attention- and job-seekers. “These funny characters are well known within the political circle in Ondo State. This is to say that this is a blatant falsehood as Agboola Ajayi remains a bonafide member of the APC and has no plan to dump the party for any rival political party.”
In reacting to allegations that Ajayi had held several meetings with the opposition party and other APC factions that want to stop Akeredolu’s second term bid, Okeowo said: “There is no place where the Deputy Governor has met with stalwarts of the PDP not to talk of dividing their party. The Deputy Governor also uses the medium to apologise to Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State whose name was dragged into the murky water of Ondo State’s politics as being the sponsor of alleged plan of Hon. Agboola Ajayi to contest on the PDP’s platform in Ondo State.”
Without mincing words, Okeowo stated that the story was the figment of their political adversaries’ imaginations and bid to cause disaffection between the governor and his deputy. In his words, “Agboola Ajayi also remains as the Deputy Governor and loyal to his boss, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. He was chosen as the Deputy Governor at the benevolent of his boss, Governor Akeredolu.
“This is to say emphatically that Agboola Ajayi has no intention to contest against his boss. We want to say that we know that the plan of the sponsors of the story is to cause serious rift between Governor Akeredolu and his Deputy Ajayi for their selfish reasons.”It must be noted that Agboola Ajayi is a seasoned politician who knows the limitations of his office as the Deputy Governor. He is not ready in anyway to rock the boat of progress of this administration.
“This is another grand plan by the busy-bodies and professional blackmailers to create division within the ranks of the ruling APC in Ondo State in order to create advantage which does not exist anywhere.”
Also refuting the political rift between them, he added, “Let us say for the umpteenth time that Agboola Ajayi has no problem with his boss as the governor who was elected as the governor of Ondo State and he is discharging that responsibilities to the best of his ability.
“The developments in all strata are feasible for the blind to see and it is well appreciated by the people of Ondo State. Let the busy-bodies and professional blackmailers find another job to do. The media should also not give space to all these noise-makers.Okeowo, however, added a caveat, “The seat of the deputy governor is an exalted seat, and let those who are interested in becoming the deputy in the next dispensation wait till when Arakunrin Akeredolu is ready to pick who will run with him in the next election for the further development of Ondo State. These people must know that Hon. Agboola Ajayi is not a desperate politician. It is God that gives position at his appointed time.”