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Ondo 2020: Stakeholders predict surprises, more surprises

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Ondo State Governor, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu


So far, Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is doing well to surmount every hurdle on his way to winning the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in the run-up to the 2020 governorship. Since his inauguration February 24, 2017, some forces within and outside the party have been at work to truncate his administration; and ultimately, to stop his re-election bid. 

Since the controversial September 3, 2016 governorship primary, some players have remained irreconcilable. They say the winner-takes-all attitude of the Governor cannot take him too far. They said he monopolised his cabinet for his “Aketi Team.”

In trying to trace the source of the Governor’s issues, some point to a distant kerfuffle in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), when in defiance of elderly counsel Akeredolu expressed interest in the party’s office of National legal Adviser, whereas, Muiz Banire had been primed for the office. Added to the 2012 loss of the governorship election, the man was forced to learn first and stop waiting on a godfather.

Towards the 2016 governorship, Akeredolu reportedly forged alliances with Abuja, and found himself in the good books of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who was himself battling to retain the seat of National Chairman of the party. The partnership worked in his favour and he got the ticket of the party, but chief Odigie-Oyegun did not survive the onslaught.

In that encounter, a reliable source said the Governor pontificated against the larger position of the mainstream to let send Oyegun home. And now, the Abuja alliance is winning. The last straw was the defeat during the last Presidential and National Assembly elections when APC lost the Presidential poll, two senatorial and five out of nine House of Representative seats to the opposition parties. 

The national leadership of the party and Abuja attributed the loss to the anti-party activities of the Governor, who allegedly sponsored some candidates in an opposition party in defiance of the automatic tickets given to some serving National Assembly members by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. 

The state APC Elders’ Forum attributed the poor performance of APC candidates in the state to the anti-party activities of the Governor, who allegedly raised other candidates to contest on the platform of the Action Alliance (AA) party to spite the national leadership of his party. There were complaints that most of the party candidates did not enjoy support of Governor, all culminating in the loss.

Olusola Oke, who was the coordinator of Presidential Campaign Organisation in the Southwest was not without his own grudges; but he made attempts to mend the broken walls within the party, to no avail. Based on allegations of anti-party and divisive activities against Governor Akeredolu, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Lanre Issa-Onilu, on behalf of the national leadership issued a statement suspending the Governor. 

The national Chairman was quoted to have condemned the activities of the state government and party leadership, which greatly jeopardized the fortunes of the party and its candidates in the last general election. Though the state government denied the suspension, a member of the NWC, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed that Governor Akeredolu was suspended, alluding to similar offence and punishment meted on his Imo and Ogun states’ counterparts. 

He argued that since the party had earlier suspended Governor Rochas Okorocha, Ibikunle Amosun, Usani Uguru, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, for same offence, Ondo governor wouldn’t be an exception. 

The government, however, urged the people not to mix politics with the friendship between Akeredolu and Tunji Abayomi, who was the AA North Senatorial District candidate, but never resigned his appointment by the governor as the Chairman of Council, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA). 

In a bid to stop Akeredolu’s second term, the opposition camp within Ondo APC had planned to work with his adversaries in Lagos to stop him, but the recent reconciliation meeting with Tinubu seems to have dashed that hope. According to a source in Akeredolu’s government, the opposition camp is at a loss over the July peace accord as there are indications that Tinubu had endorsed the second term ticket of the Governor, though not without conditions that may cause some slight ripples along the way. 

The worry now is that Abuja could turn its back against Akeredolu for mending fences with Lagos. The reason for this is not far from permutations for 2023. A united Southwest will not be in the interest of power mongers in Abuja and Northwest. They are willing to raise more trouble for the Governor through his Deputy, Agboola Ajayi or other politicians with clout.

The announcement of Senator Alasoadura as minister rattled the opposing camp, while the appointment of Gbenga Edema, another Aketi Team loyalist and current Chairman of Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (OSOPADEC) on Tuesday, got the opposition gasping for breath. 

Meanwhile, fresh facts emerged from an insider in Akeredolu’s cabinet that Alasoadura, contrary to belief that the Governor supported his emergence, may be at loggerheads with Akeredolu for supporting Bunmi Ademosu for the ministerial ticket. 

It was alleged that Alasoadura, despite unflinching support for Akeredolu, single-handedly made moves to get the job due to his influence in Abuja, without much support at home. 

It was gathered too that the appointment of Edema has caused another crack within the party, as he got the job without the knowledge of the Governor, who had been away on two weeks vacation. The source disclosed that Akeredolu had preferred Lucky Aiyedatiwa for the NDDC job. 

According to him: “The governor has been very angry in the past few days and refused to talk to anyone: he snubbed all calls and has instructed his media team not to congratulate Edema because he sees his appointment as a betrayal.”

However, a source close to Abuja noted that the Cabal is only trying to remind the Governor not to forget the source his victories.  The source pointed out that the smart move by Edema might be an example of how vulnerable the Governor could be. “Akeredolu will be shocked at the political joker already laid out for him next year. They are playing erin wale o wa j’oba effect for him ahead of the 2020 political season. They seem to have more surprises in store for Ondo 2020.

 


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