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Ondo ruling party divided on road to victory

By Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure. 
06 January 2019   |   2:03 am
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State is approaching the 2019 general elections in a somewhat confused manner as its members are polarised between the ruling party and the Action Alliance (AA).

Senator Roberts Ajayi Boroffice

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State is approaching the 2019 general elections in a somewhat confused manner as its members are polarised between the ruling party and the Action Alliance (AA). This political disorder is not only obvious among the ruling party’s membership, but is also significant within the cabinet of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, whose body language and affiliation leave some of his followers perplexed and at political crossroads, not knowing which candidate to support. 

Since the controversial primary elections last year, and the release of candidate lists by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), the ruling party in the state has become more divided as many of the governor’s preferred candidates were deprived of APC tickets.To Akeredolu’s chagrin, the three senators: Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, Tayo Alasoadura and Yele Omogunwa, representing north, central and south senatorial districts, were given automatic return tickets by the NWC. 

Among those affected were Tunji Abayomi, who ditched the party for AA to contest North Senatorial District seat; and though the state representative on the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa remained in APC, he refused to support Dr. Julius Felder, an ally to the governor, who deserted APC for AA to contest South Senatorial District. So, out of the nine House of Representatives candidates, the governor’s camp, which preened itself as the “Aketi Team,” only got three tickets namely: Donald Ojogo, (Ilaje/ Ese-Odo), Timehin Adelegbe (Ose/Owo) and Dr. Jibayo Adeyeye (Ondo East/West) to contest the 2019 poll. 

Akeredolu had rooted for one of his commissioners who resigned, Gboyega Adefarati to clinch Akoko South West/South East and a return ticket for Stephen Olemija for Akoko North West/North East, but the NWC favoured Ade Adeogun and Bunmi Tuni-Ojo. Afe Olowookere representing Akure North/South, Mayowa Akinfolarin (Odigbo/Ileoluji-Okeigbo) and Baderinwa Bamidele (Idanre/Ifedore) both outsmarted the governor to clinch a return ticket, while Albert Akintoye broke the rotational order to grasp the Irele/Okitipupa ticket to the disdain of Akeredolu and the state APC chairman, Ade Adetimehin. 

Two of the current Federal House of Representatives members: Olemija and Babatunde Kolawole (Akoko South West/South East), who is a staunch supporter of Boroffice and arch-rival of the governor, narrowly lost the bid to return to the Ninth Assembly.The development caused a lot of political infractions within the party, especially in the two senatorial seats, as the governor was said to have vowed never to work for Omogunwa and Boroffice, whose animosity with Akeredolu predates the September 3 controversial governorship election.  

Consequently, three of the governor’s loyalists: Abayomi, Felder and Victor Ategbole vie for Akoko South West/East Federal Constituency, and left the ruling party in the state for AA in circumstances indicating full support for the governor. Abayomi, a leading human rights activist, in an open letter to formally inform the governor of his political detour, clearly underlined the governor’s interest in AA, just like his counterparts in Imo and Ogun States after their candidates were deprived of party tickets. 

The AA senatorial candidate said: “I regret to inform you that the present leadership of APC at the national level has decided to take away your right to nominate candidates, as well as my right to be nominated by its unlawful “Automatic ticket” for all current senators from Ondo State.“The National Leadership has appointed its candidate, but now our people in the North Senatorial Zone must have a chance to choose their candidate against COMRADE Adams Oshiomhole’s appointed Candidates. 

“We are Ondo State people, and it is in our character to fight for our rights and insist on these rights. In keeping with long standing determination to fight for my right and your right, I will run for Senate in Ondo North Senatorial Zone on the platform of Action Alliance, since APC National Leadership under Adams Oshiomhole has unconstitutionally blocked my chance by forcing its candidates on us all.Political observers in the state noted that, “the governor cannot claim ignorance of Abayomi’s political move to AA, as though the hands reflect those of Jacob’s, but the voice clearly depicts the voice of Esau.”

In the South District, The Guardian learnt from a reliable source that the governor tossed the same bait at Aiyedatiwa, but he declined to work against the party’s interest, giving the multi-billionaire business mogul, Felder the opportunity to prove his loyalty to the governor by picking AA senatorial ticket. 

Polarising the cabinet like Eris, some notable appointees in the cabinet had chosen to stick to the party’s choice, while some who chose to bear with the governor in his grief and bid for vendetta are working for AA’s candidates at the expense of their party. From the South District, Omogunwa, who decamped to APC from PDP, received the blessings of the Budget and Planning Commissioner, Dr. Emmanuel Igbasan; the Deputy State Chairman of APC, Agaba Atili; Chairman of the State Oil Producing Communities Areas Development Commission, Gbenga Edema and Commissioner for Environment, Funso Esan.

Others are the Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa, his Culture and Tourism counterpart, Alhaji Ismaila Olurimisi; Chairman of the State Water Sanitation Board, Yetunde Adeyanju and Lucky Ayedatiwa. On the other hand, the Commissioner for Education, Mr. Femi Agagu, Special Adviser on Political Matters, Mr. Tunji Fabiyi and the chairman of the State Universal Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs. Oladunni Odu are supporting Dr. Felder to wreck the boat of the incumbent senator and NWC’s choice. 

Borrofice, the two-term senator representing the North District, who slugged out the governorship ticket with Akeredolu in 2016 and is eyeing the Ninth Assembly for a third term, enjoys the unflinching support of the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Solagbade Amodeni. While Abayomi, who was a governorship aspirant in 2016 but has been working against the imposition tendencies of the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, is supported by the Commissioner for Natural Resources, Alhaji Rasheed Badmus; his Works and Infrastructure counterpart, Abdusalaam Taofeek, opts to queue behind African Democratic Party’s (ADC) candidate, Mr. Jide Ipinsagba.

However, a source within the party revealed that these political affiliations caused some heated arguments between the governor and the party chairman, Adetimehin, who clearly distanced himself from undermining the NWC’s decision and the choice candidates. Giving a staunch defence for his boss, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, dismissed the allegations against Governor Akeredolu, declaring that he is fully committed to the cause of the ruling APC and its candidates at all levels. 

Olowolabi added Akeredolu’s support was openly demonstrated to the party recently, when he donated 18 buses for the reelection bid of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.He explained that Akeredolu’s preference for AA candidates was borne out of widespread political misconception, as a result of the friendship between his boss and Abayomi, who till date has not resigned his appointment as the Chairman of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) Governing Council. 

He said: “If there are some APC members pushing for AA’s arrangement, the governor is not part of them. The governor has said it repeatedly that he is a member of APC. At a meeting we held, a leader was trying to bring up the issue of AA and the governor shouted him down, saying he is a member of APC and not AA.

“Some people are just trying to use the governor’s name to push their personal agenda. But Akeredolu is not part of any arrangement that will support the candidates of other political parties.” Meanwhile, the South West Director of Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation, Chief Olusola Oke, dispelled all insinuations that the internal crises rocking the party nationwide would work against its chances in the general election. Oke, who had been among aggrieved party members in the state protesting against outright marginalisation by the governor and Aketi Team, said it was time to bury the hatchet and work for a common goal, which is winning the elections. 

Oke, who had been expressing his angst against the party leadership until he was appointed, declared: “Buhari is the real project. My primary work is to bring everybody together: the aggrieved and non-aggrieved to have a good showing. We need everybody, so we will appeal to whosoever is aggrieved. I am happy about one thing: I am going to work for our President. Mr. President is the real project, and APC has a way of finding solutions to its problems. So, that is not a problem. We will all work together.”

Oke, who was APC aspirant in the 2016 governorship election, but contested under the aegis of Alliance for Democracy (AD) out of protest, pledged to deliver the six states in the South West region for the APC next month.“We will do everything that is humanly and legally possible to ensure that South West takes its place of pride in the return of Mr. President to power in May 29, 2019,” he said.