Not yet peace in Ondo APC, as stakeholders doubt Tinubu’s visit
It is not yet peace in Ondo State All Progressives Congress (APC), though the party’s national Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the state Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu appear to have forged a common front ahead of 2023 presidential election and Akeredolu’s reelection bid next year.
The sudden move to reconcile the two estranged leaders did not come without a price. Former Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande; former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi were at a closed-door meeting together with aggrieved party members and Akeredolu.
At the meeting, Chief Olusola Oke, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, Isaac Kekemeke, Dr. Segun Abraham, Bola Ilori and Akin Olowookere, who are jostling for the 2020 governorship election, represented aggrieved party members opposed to Akeredolu. They were there to table their demands.
To forge a joint front towards winning future elections, Bola Tinubu deemed it expedient to build a strong forte in the Southwest, without leaving adversaries out of the scheme.
Akeredolu had been in a supremacy battle with Tinubu for more than six years, especially after the latter supported one of his cronies, Dr. Abraham, for the 2016 governorship election. The incumbent Governor, however, defeated Abraham and his godfather, as he then enjoyed support of Abuja.
Interestingly, the same Abuja power bloc seems to have backed out of Akeredolu’s second term bid and is reportedly making frantic effort to stop Tinubu’s presidential ambition in 2023, thereby precipitating a reunion between the two sworn enemies. Expectedly, those who fell out with Akeredolu after the controversial September 3, 2016 governorship primary consolidated their strength on his estranged relationship with Tinubu to form strong opposition. Among other allegations, the incumbent Governor was accused of marginalising other party members by appointing only the ‘Aketi Team’ members into his cabinet.
The strongest of the charges against Akeredolu was that of anti-party activities leveled by the party executive, which they said led to the party’s poor performance in the last general elections. They clamoured for the dissolution of the state party executive. Some of them who expressed surprise and disappointment over the truce meeting in Akure last week Tuesday, felt Tinubu betrayed them for personal interest.
It was gathered from a reliable source that Akeredolu met Tinubu in Lagos a day before the stakeholders’ meeting, and was given some conditions, which included expansion of his cabinet and change of Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi. Tinubu had publicly declared: “The meeting is to promote the interest of APC. We discussed how we shall win the next election resoundingly. APC in Ondo is one now. We have asked all our leaders to go back and bring peace and unity to the state. We applied conflict resolution mechanism to smoothen the edges.
“We are leaving one thing behind: the charity that must begin at home. We want to win the next election in Ondo State and every other election. The solution is in your hands.”There were celebrations in Akeredolu’s camp that Tinubu and leaders in the Southwest had endorsed the embattled Governor for a second term.
They had no traces of anxiety, as they all came out of the closed-door meeting smiling to take a group photograph, but most members of the anti-Akeredolu faction were in a hurry to leave the venue. It was only Kekemeke, who conducted the controversial September 3 primary and ended his tenure in irreconcilable crisis with Akeredolu that waited behind to dispel the endorsement rumour as untrue. He said the meeting never deliberated on Akeredolu’s second term bid, adding that the discussion bordered on peace and how to find a “domestic solution to their domestic problems,” so as to win the next election.
Many aggrieved APC leaders, however, saw the move as a decoy on Tinubu’s part to sacrifice them for his personal ambition, despite their loyalty to his political leadership.
Just a few weeks ago, three commissioners in Akeredolu’s cabinet were sacked for alleged closeness to Tinubu. And one of them, Chief Amodeni was not allowed into last week meeting. As peaceful as the meeting seemed, many political observers have continued to question why the army of loyalists refused to follow Tinubu to the reception organised for him by the state government at the International Conference and Event Centre and the dinner at Government House.
Also very unusual, none of the factional leaders accompanied him on Sunday, when he paid a condolence visit to Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, whose 58-year-old daughter, Olufunke Olakunrin, was killed by unknown gunmen. Tinubu seems to be losing his popularity base by the day in the state, due to perceived betrayal, and the recent comment he made about Evans and the herdsmen, when he visited Pa Fasoranti.
Raising dust against the peace meeting, some aggrieved party members declared publicly that the stakeholders’ meeting did not address the real issues, accusing Tinubu and other leaders of coming to the state for personal reasons. A party leader, who craved anonymity said: “I don’t think Tinubu came to Ondo State to reconcile warring factions. Rather, he came to reconcile with the leaders he has problems with, but obviously not to settle the crisis in Ondo.
“At the meeting, Akeredolu was asked to expand his government to accommodate aggrieved members, as well as make the state party executive all-inclusive. What we want is for the state executive to be dissolved and a caretaker committee put in place. “If the two factions came up with certain terms for reconciliation but none of the terms was agreed upon at the meeting, what are they reconciling? If they say the state exco should be all-inclusive, I say how does this work?”
But a reliable source within Aketi’s camp noted that the peace meeting was more expedient for Tinubu, as he needed Akeredolu more than the latter needs him politically. He said: “The reconciliation is a preparation for the 2023 Presidential election. As things are going, the northern Mafias are closing borders to stop Tinubu from occupying Aso Rock. And to contend with them, he needs a united house in the Southwest…”
He added that the anti-Akeredolu faction was cajoled at the peace meeting because they know that the clamour to remove the party chairman, Engr. Ade Adetimehin was dead on arrival. Rising from a meeting last Thursday, the leader of APC’s Elders Forum and former Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Olanusi, said the peace talk was not for Akeredolu’s second term ambition.
Olanusi, who is a member of the APC Board of Trustees (BoT), decried “Akeredolu’s failure to honour his own part of the agreement more than one week after the meeting.” He said: “What we discussed was that our party must move ahead in unity and progress. The leaders agreed with us that for the party to achieve this, the state executive of the party should be dissolved and a caretaker committee be set up to run the party in the state, pending the time of a new congress.
“They never contested our position, and they said they would look into it. We are waiting for APC’s national headquarters to do the needful, because those leaders don’t have the power to dissolve party executive. “We told them we have lost confidence in the Ade Adetimehin-led state executive and they agreed with us. However, we want it on record that Tinubu, Baba Akande and others did not call the meeting for Akeredolu’s second term ambition. In fact, nobody discussed any political ambition, knowing full well the party is still in crisis.”
Ilori, a former Commissioner for Regional Integration in Osun State was not allowed into the meeting. He said the window of peace had been opened with the meeting, and that both parties must keep to the agreement. Despite the age-long acrimony between him and the Aketi Team, he said: “We must act as one political party. That is the only way our party can win. If we are divided, we will all lose together. Our intention is to retain power in Ondo State, and for us to do that, we must have unity of purpose.” He was the campaign director for Chief Oke, who ditched APC to contest the governorship election on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
Political analysts observed that the reconciliation between Akeredolu and Tinubu might even be to the detriment of APC, as Ondo people have a history of rejecting political imposition and godfatherism. Dappa Maharajah, the President of Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged (MOSUP), noted that the newly found relationship between the duo; if not well guided, will spell an automatic doom for the Governor’s reelection bid.
He said: “Akeredolu lost the 2012 election, when Tinubu imposed him as the automatic candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). There was a protest vote against him and Tinubu. But in 2016, when he stood his ground against imposition, he got the people’s sympathy votes.” Maharajah attributed the need to curry Tinubu’s support to the present administration’s disconnect from the people, who are the real power brokers that decide whosoever occupies Government House in Alagbaka.
“The rat race to Bourdillon and the new friendship will not do either Akeredolu or Tinubu any good, because Ondo State people are unique in their political style and judgment. It is better for Akeredolu to redefine his relationship with the people and take lessons from 2012 and 2016 to heart,” he said.