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In nominating Alasoadura, Akeredolu gains strength for 2020

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The announcement of Senator Tayo Donald Alasoadura as Ministerial nominee to represent Ondo State by President Muhammadu Buhari has changed the political narratives ahead of the November 2020 governorship election.

It came as a rude shock to the opposition camp trying to build a strong political base to stop incumbent Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s second term bid. It was also a huge surprise to many.

Akeredolu’s camp has been celebrating since Alasoadura was listed. And the development has proved wrong insinuations that Akeredolu had been shut out of Abuja politics.

The ministerial ticket has been a factor in determining whether Akeredolu would find his bid for second term easy or not, as many of his political contenders were interested in the Federal Executive Council job.

A source close to one of the three commissioners recently sacked by Governor Akeredolu was said to have boasted openly that the political tempo would change drastically and turn against the state government, as soon as new minister emerged.

Since the return to democracy in 1999, the ministerial appointment has been used to unseat an incumbent governor in the state. Vying under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu used it to dislodge the then ruling Alliance for Democracy (AD) and government of late Chief Adebayo Adefarati in 2003.

Similarly, when the immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, eventually became a PDP Minister of Housing and Urban Development in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet, he was able to gather the political momentum that stopped Agagu’s reelection in 2007.

Although Mimiko, who later ditched PDP for Labour Party (LP) few months to election, did not retrieve his mandate until after a 22-month legal tussle, it has become a precedent that any governorship aspirant given ministerial appointment automatically becomes the candidate to beat.

As experienced by Governor Akeredolu and his supporters in the past few months, the rumours and events surrounding the ministerial ticket had given them sleepless nights and a huge concern.

According to a source within Akeredolu’s camp, they were particularly fidgety about two prominent party members from the state, namely Chief Olusola Oke, a two-term governorship candidate and Engr. Ife Oyedele, the Executive Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC).

The source said: “Our fear had been that if a minister would eventually be picked from the South Senatorial District, we don’t want it to be either Chief Olusola Oke or Oyedele. Either of these two would make the next guber poll very tough for Akeredolu.

“The slot may go to any other part of the state, as there are no big contenders, either from the north or central district, who could get the ministerial ticket and pose much threat to the governor.”

Initially, five prominent politicians were gunning for the Abuja job and their contributions to the success of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been remarkable.

Knowing the strategic importance of a minister, The Guardian, gathered that Governor Akeredolu had to step up his game to ensure that the slot did not go to the South, but given to one of his loyalists in the Central District, or better still, let the former minister retain the slot.

Instructively, this calculation excluded the North District, where Akeredolu hails from, leaving only the fittest and strongest between the South and central districts to clinch the job.

There are three strong politicians from the South Senatorial District, namely: Chief Oke, a former APC governorship aspirant in 2016, Dr. Isaac Kekemeke, the immediate state chairman of the party and Engr. Oyedele.

The two top contenders are Oke, who was the Southwest Campaign Director of President Buhari’s second term and Oyedele, who has close affinity with the Presidency and the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), though it was learned the last minister, Prof. Claudius Daramola, from the same district, also lobbied to retain the slot.

Oke is said to be the anointed candidate of the party’s National Leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, who recently tried to resolve all political logjams with the incumbent governor, and as noted by many, maybe a tactical endorsement of the latter in preparation for his 2023 Presidential ambition.

He hails from Ilaje Local Government Area, the oil-producing part that has neither produced a governor nor deputy since the state was created in 1976. He appears to be a good political horse to push for a winning stake.

It was learned that Bourdillon and the party’s political power bloc, which has a huge influence in the Southwest, was strongly behind Oke for the ministerial ticket, which could have caused more rumpus in the state ahead of the 2020 governorship election.

But there were speculations recently that Oke may have dropped both the ministerial bid and governorship ambition, as he is being considered Chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a position Ondo has never occupied.

Kekemeke, from the Ese-Odo council, another oil-producing area, is a former lawmaker, commissioner and Secretary to the State Government (SSG). He is renowned for delivering the state from the stronghold of a major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2016.

The former lawmaker is not in Akeredolu’s good book, but sources revealed that he was romancing Bourdillion for the position, as he lost out by a whisker to Prof. Daramola in the 2015 scramble for the ministerial tickets.

Oyedele is said to be a close political associate of President Buhari and the man who represented CPC in the APC merger talk and subsequently designed the party’s logo. He was standing close to Buhari when the latter lost and wept in the 2011 election. So, many felt the Presidency is solidly behind him.

Trusted for his unflinching support and loyalty, it was believed that the Abuja Mafia was pushing him for the ministerial ticket as a replacement for Akeredolu, whom many thoughts had lost favour with the Abuja power bloc for the 2020 guber.

However, his council, Okitipupa, may be an obstacle for 2020, because the Ikale people produced the late Dr. Agagu. And the agitations from the Ilaje people may put to rest his governorship ambition.

Aside from that, the NDPHC boss had earlier denied the 2020 governorship ambition, even recently; and as assessed by the people of the area, he is classified as “too gentle” and grossly inaccessible for the present-day politics. He was described as an Abuja politician who is devoid of grassroots tendencies.

Nonetheless, it was rumoured across the state that President Buhari had personally penned down his name and planned to give him one of the juiciest ministries, Power and Energy, if not for anything, as a technocrat to fix the five-year blackout in his district.

There were three prominent candidates for ministerial consideration in the Central District, namely: Ifedayo Abegunde, the incumbent SSG; the Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Public and Inter-governmental Relations, Mrs. Olubunmi Ademosu and Engr. Tunji Ariyomo-Light, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Utilities.

Abegunde, Ademosu, and Ariyomo-Light, who hails from Akure South council, were said to have been presented to Abuja for consideration to protect and thwart the conspiracy that might rear its head against Mr. Governor’s second term ambition from the South District.

But Akeredolu proved all speculations wrong on his choice from Akure, when he said no Akure indigene had been nominated since 1999, at the grand reception organised for Alasoadura as Senator representing Ondo Central District in the last dispensation.

Keeping his choice from the public glare, he canvassed support for the state capital, Akure, saying it should be given the opportunity to produce the minister that will represent the state in President Buhari’s next cabinet.

At the event, he chastised the people of the senatorial district for Alasoadura’s defeat in the last general election, despite his performance at the Eighth National Assembly. He said Alasoadura, who was the Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum (upstream), performed very well and deserved to be reelected.

Though the former senator hails from Akure North, all eyes were on Abegunde, Ademosu, and Ariyomo-Light.

However, a close source within Government House revealed that Ademosu was not among the contenders, but that Abegunde and Ariyomo-Light, who are Akeredolu’s appointees, lobbied for the position without informing the Governor.

Pushed by political adversaries from all sides, Akeredolu seems to be surmounting all hurdles towards 2020. First, he succeeded in reconciling with Tinubu and the Southwest power bloc; and now, he has schemed through the Abuja Mafia, which even dropped Oyedele for his choice.

An analyst said: “There is no doubt that Alasoadura’s appointment will significantly alter the political calculations and permutations in the state ahead of the 2020 gubernatorial poll.

“Being Akeredolu’s reliable political soul-mate, the appointment is an added advantage to the Governor. It is like taking the wind out of the sails of any conspiracy against Akeredolu.”

Political watchers in the state reaffirmed that if the state ministerial slot had been secured by an Akeredolu’s foe, the position would have been effectively deployed to whittle down his influence and probably chase him out of the Government House in 2020.

Though the Senator contested for APC governorship ticket against Akeredolu in 2016, after losing the shadow poll, he has been one of the strong pillars behind the Governor.

Reacting to the nomination, Akeredolu lauded President Buhari for choosing Alasoadura, describing it as a wise decision for the party’s unity and progress.

He, however, appealed to those who lost out to take Alasoadura’s emergence in good faith and see it as an opportunity for the party to be better, stronger and more united for the days ahead.


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