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Ondo 2020: Akeredolu battles Amotekun backlash

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Since the official launch of the Western Security Network Amotekun in the Southwest, the politics of Ondo State 2020 governorship election has taken several twists and turns that threaten the reelection bid of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. 

Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, has been at the receiving end of the controversy over the security initiative, after the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, declared the outfit illegal. Amotekun, which became a child of necessity after the cold-blooded murder of the daughter of Afenifere Leader, the late Olufunke Olakunri, last year July, has generated a lot of debate across the country. 

For the first time in the history of the Southwest in several decades, the six Yoruba states are united, regardless of religion and political affiliations in their support of the governors on the security initiative. Some Northern groups have put up a strong opposition, warning that the security outfit will plunge the nation into crisis and decimate the country’s unity. But Akeredolu insisted there is no going back on Amotekun. 

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Some political readers in the state pointed out that Akeredolu’s stance might cost him his second term ticket under the APC platform; hinging their arguments on previous conflicts he had with the party’s national leadership.  It was gathered that the Governor’s estrangement from Northern caucuses started, when he pontificated against President Muhammadu Buhari during the former APC National Chairman, Dr. John Odigie-Oyegun’s tenure extension saga. 

According to a source in Abuja, “Akeredolu fell out of favour, when he stood up to talk after President Muhammadu Buhari had spoken on the need for Oyegun to go. The Northerners did not take it lightly with him, and since then, he has been shut out of the State House. “He has even been schemed out of the President’s foreign trips by the Abuja Mafia. They didn’t take the anti-party allegations against him lightly, which was why he was suspended by the party.”

Though the Governor reconciled with the party’s national Leader, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, his former political godfather, who sponsored his 2012 governorship campaign, he is still at loggerheads with state APC stalwarts.Current political crisis in the state stemmed from the controversial September 2016 primary election won by Akeredolu. Some APC bigwigs had accused him of not being magnanimous in victory, as he marginalised other factions after becoming governor. 

An army of APC stalwarts, under the aegis of the Elders’ Forum, led by a former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, are bent on ensuring that Akeredolu is not given second term ticket ahead the governorship election this year. Leaders who are not in support of Akeredolu include the party’s immediate past Chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, former aspirants like Chief Olusola Oke, Deputy Senate Leader and three-time Senator, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, Dr. Segun Abraham, Dr. Bukola Adetula and Engr. Ife Oyedele. 

Some ardent followers that abandoned the Governor include Banji Ayiloge, Jimi Odimayo, who reportedly contributed to his 2016 campaign, Taofeeq Abdulsalam and Sola Amodeni, who resigned from his cabinet as commissioners, among others. They leveled against Akeredolu allegations of marginalisation and anti-party activities, which led to the woeful performances of APC candidates in the last Presidential and National Assembly elections, lamenting that the party is near collapse across the 18 councils. 

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Feelers from the 203 wards in the state show that most APC members are fed up with the governance style of the present administration, decrying government’s attitude to funding party machinery. Some party members who spoke to The Guardian in Owo, Akeredolu’s hometown, said the only people that are empowered are in the inner caucus of Mr. Governor. 

They noted there is no difference between now that the party is in power and when it was in opposition, as “most appointees are starved of finance.”One of the Governor’s appointees, who spoke on anonymity, lamented that they could not visit their communities, due to inability to meet up with the people’s expectations.

Political analysts said opposition to Akeredolu’s second term ambition stemmed more from APC than from the opposition parties in the state. And it seems the last straw was the Amotekun issue. Taking the Federal Government and Abuja Mafia to the cleaners, Akeredolu had maintained that the region would not succumb to their pressure. 

But the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Donald Ojogo, said the governor was not perturbed by the implication on his reelection bid, warning that “Amotekun must not be misguidedly used as a platform to ventilate personal or group views, aimed at oiling primordial sentiments and grievances.”Declaring that Akeredolu was not perturbed by the possible consequences of leading the region’s governors in the formation of Amotekun, he said: “In particular, fears and apprehensions have been expressed in many quarters that his role in the formation of Amotekun could mar his second term chances. 

“This is far from the truth, as Governor Akeredolu is on the path of national cohesion through collaborative internal security. The decision taken in respect of Amotekun was in the interest of the entire nation, and not just the Southwest. “The political insinuations and blackmail are the required ingredients needed to make it credible. But such will not discourage the Governor in any manner.“Expectedly, there are possible political vultures waiting to reap from an imaginary scenario, especially as we approach the 2020 Ondo governorship primary of our great party. 

“For Governor Akeredolu, everything that is desirable must be blessed by God. 2020 is a year that will be decided by the people of Ondo State. It can only be directed by God, and His Will alone shall prevail.” The commissioner asserted that the Governor chose not to play with the life and property of the people of the region, which is under constant attacks by hoodlums and herdsmen. 

“For those who have chosen to impose deceitful contentment on themselves for the sake of political ambitions, especially towards Ondo 2020, the choice is free for them to make,” he continued. “The people are conscious and enlightened enough to discern the undercurrents. And more importantly, the consequences of those choices are lurking in the corner of our collective psyche, waiting to unleash on all of us…

“It is imperative to state here that, where true glory takes root and even spreads, all false and coloured characters, like flowers, shall wane and will be unable to stand the vagaries of societal test. Such, like counterfeits, do not last long.”

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Meanwhile, some political readers have adjudged the Governor’s decision to stand on Amotekun as a political ploy to curry the masses’ sympathy, ahead of the upcoming election. It is purposed to bridge the widening gap with the people. Chronicling tides of events in the party at the state and national levels, they pointed out that the party’s National leadership under Adams Oshiomhole would not favour Akeredolu’s second term. 

According to popular analysis in public domain, which suggests that the Governor may ditch the party for another party to realise his reelection, it is believed that Oshiomhole would not overlook the alleged roles Akeredolu played in support of his removal as APC National Chairman. The embattled Governor also pulled some controversial stunts recently, when he affirmed that some internal collaborators should be blamed for the Federal Government’s opposition to Amotekun.

As popular as the Amotekun campaign seems to have made Akeredolu among the people of the state, some opposition members don’t have kind words for him.The first female and immediate Speaker of the state Assembly, Jumoke Akindele, raised questions regarding the propriety of the trust and trustees of Amotekun.

“Tell me, how can a government, which engineered the beating up of members of the state House of Assembly by the super-thugs of the local NURTW just for carrying out their lawful duties be trusted not to have the Amotekun beat up dissenters in the state?“How can a Governor, who had 13 members of the state House of Assembly suspended (till the end of the legislative session), just for being in the opposition party or because they are perceived to have been close to his predecessor in office, be trusted not to use Amotekun to settle personal scores?“Indeed, how can a Governor, who casually threatened to level a terrain, just because he is ‘government’ be trusted not to do so, using the Amotekun as his weapon of destruction, when he is sufficiently angered?” Akindele asked of Gov. Akeredolu.Though Akindele, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, was among those who condemned Malami’s stance on Amotekun, she is nonetheless worried if the Governor wouldn’t use the security outfit against members of opposition.

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Meanwhile, Senator Boroffice, who is an old political rival of Akeredolu, had earlier declared that the Southwest Senate caucus was not carried along on the new security initiative by the governors, blaming them for the shoddy handling of Amotekun.He revealed that the six governors did not consult them before launching the project. “I read about it (Operation Amotekun) in the print media,” he said. “I am the Chairman, Senate Southwest Caucus.It was reliably gathered that political adversaries are shopping for a replacement among aspirants to wrest APC’s governorship ticket from the incumbent Governor. 

Last weekend, Senator Boroffice organised an empowerment programme for his constituents of Ondo North District, which is also Akeredolu’s district. All the major aspirants, including Oke, Oyedele and Odimayo, who are opposed to the Governor, were there. At the event, Oyedele, who is the Executive Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), declared publicly that Ondo State had lost touch with good governance under Akeredolu. 

He said the Governor had been running the state’s affairs like a family enterprise without recourse to members of his cabinet, and that the administration has lost focus and direction. On his part, Odimayo said: “Akeredolu is trying, but I don’t think he can do more than he is doing. You can’t give what you don’t have. That’s why there is need for a dynamic youth to come in and deliver the dividends of democracy to our people, where the development of the state will be reflecting in the lives of our people.”But responding, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Ojo Oyewamide, described his comment as “pedestrian outburst,” as he “appears to have been overwhelmed in the pool of fantasy to the extent that he forgot he had indicted himself. It means Oyedele has failed in his sojourn as a power expert at that level of engagement, if his division has not had power for years.”

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