Ripples over Akeredolu’s choice of running mate in Ondo APC
The emergence of a former Ondo State representative on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, as the running mate of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in the coming governorship election has further polarised the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. There are feelers within the party that the choice of Aiyedatiwa did not go well with many chieftains of the party, even though the South Senatorial District, where Aiyedatiwa hails from, still holds the ace for the deputy governorship slot.
The race to source for a replacement from the same district began as soon as Ajayi ditched his boss and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over a month ago. Among the top contenders before the July 20 primary of APC were two-time former Commissioner for Education and current Chairman of Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs. Oladunni Odu and the governor’s running mate in 2012 election, Dr. Paul Akintelure.
A former caretaker chairman, Mrs. Morenike Alaka, the younger brother and former Chief of Staff to late Governor Segun Agagu, Mr. Femi Agagu, who is also the current Commissioner for Education, was also interested, making it four aspirants from Okitipupa council. However, Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Dr. Wunmi Ilawole, Aiyedatiwa and the Chairman of Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), Gbenga Edema, schemed to get the job from Ilaje Local Government Area.
In Ese-Odo, two persons, Mrs. Olamide Falana and the Deputy Chief of Staff, Jimi Kuforiji, showed interest, while the current Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Wale Akinterinwa and the Commissioner for Water Resources, Mrs. Yetunde Adeyanju also made a bid from Ileoluji/Okeigbo and Odigbo councils respectively.
However, the aftermath of the primary, won by Akeredolu, swelled the numbers as some of the aspirants from the district, who couldn’t get the party’s ticket, also lobbied for the number two position. Two governorship aspirants from Ikale ethnic group, Ifeoluwa Oyedele and Okunjimi Odimayo, joined the race from Okitipupa and Irele councils respectively, while it was said that the second runner-up and the governorship candidate from Ilaje, Chief Olusola Oke, also eyed the seat.
It was learnt that the party leadership reportedly warned Akeredolu against picking any of the governorship aspirants as running mate. Amongst other conditions, the party leaders insisted on having an APC aborigine as replacement for Ajayi, whose PDP background, they argued, gave him the impetus to jump ship. They also noted that such candidate could not be trusted.
This condition largely worked against the candidacy of Agagu, Adeyanju, Akinterinwa, Kuforiji, Falana, Edema, and Odu, although the latter has had close working relationship with the governor, as both of them were cabinet members in the military government of late Anthony Onyearugbulem. Odu, who is the Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), alongside Falana and Adeyanju, had better chances than the others due to their agitations for women inclusion in politics on the basis of 35 Per cent Affirmative Action.
But as at Wednesday morning, the party leadership was said to be in favour of the Otunba of Ikaleland, Akintelure, as a suitable candidate for the job. They had hinged their support on his aborigine status and consistency in the party. Many political readers also believed that his choice would unite all factions in the party. They pointed out that he would put an end to the frosty relationship between Akeredolu and the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
It was also their belief that picking Akintelure as the running mate would also pacify the Ikale people over the recent altercation the governor had with the Abodi of Ikaleland, Oba Gabriel Faduyile. Apart from that, the 2012 running mate to the governor under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Akintelure, was the most popular among the contenders for the job due to his exposure.
However, since Akeredolu announced Aiyedatiwa as his running mate, there have been misgivings about the appropriateness of the choice and how he would perform across the six councils in the district. Sources within the party, who spoke with our correspondent, revealed that the running mate is not popular amongst his people, especially in Ilaje council. They recalled that there were a lot of petitions against his nomination for the NDDC job two years ago.
They said it took special interventions from the governor and some senators from the state before he was cleared for the NDDC job. There were also insinuations that he has certificate problems.
“Now that APC has picked Lucky Aiyedatiwa as running mate to Akeredolu, it will be a herculean task for the party to convince the people to vote for the party,” the source said. “Aiyedatiwa has a lot of issues that will work to his disadvantage.”
Also, party members are surprised that the governor’s choice is a repeat of the pitfalls that pitched him against members of the Unity Forum, who accused him of marginalization prior to the party’s primary. They argue that Governor Akeredolu ought to be magnanimous in victory to pick his running mate outside the Aketi Team, so as to give other factions and caucuses within the party a sense of belonging.
Some party chieftains from Ilaje council are of the opinion that Aiyedatiwa’s choice would further strain the relationship between the governor and the second runner-up, Oke, who is allegedly poised to challenge the July 20 primary in court. They note that the running mate may serve as a stumbling block to the hope of politicians like Oke, who might have resigned to fate to patiently wait for Akeredolu to finish his two terms and clinch the party’s ticket, when it will naturally rotate to the South District in 2025.
Giving insight to the fallout Akeredolu’s choice of running mate may cause in Ilaje, the paramount Ruler of Ilajeland and Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Frederick Obateru Akinruntan, had advised the governor during his pre-primary tour, to consult him if any person from the council would be picked as deputy governor.
As gathered from reliable sources, the governor may not have carried out wide consultations before settling for Aiyedatiwa, who holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. However, it was argued that the emergence of Aiyedatiwa was due to the age-long clamour by the Ilaje people for a deputy governorship slot since the state was created in February 3, 1976.
According to political pundits, who justified his selection, Ilaje council has the highest votes in the district and this would be the first time it would produce a deputy governor if Akeredolu wins a second term. Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not embarking on a new voter registration, with a total of 530,146 registered voters in the South District, the Ilaje LGA has the highest with 120,235 of registered voters.
But many party men in the South District, predominantly the Ikale, faulted the analysis above based on registered voters from the other five councils as follows: Irele, 60,264; Ileoluji, 66,090; Okitipupa, 99,359, Odigbo, 117,494, and Ese Odo, 66,704.
According to them, the Ikale have two councils: Irele and Okitipupa, with total registered voters put at 159,623. They stated that 50 per cent of people in Odigbo LGA are Ikale, who poll a rough estimate of 58,747 registered voters.
“If Akeredolu has preference for Ilaje over Ikale due to the block votes, he is making an unwise decision politically,” a source said. “Ikale people have two councils, more than 50 per cent occupiers of Odigbo Local Government Area. Ago Alaaye and Likaju amongst others are examples.
“It is counterproductive to pick Aiyedatiwa and discard a whooping 159,623 registered voters from Okitipupa and Irele, 58,747 voters from Odigbo that belong to Ikale people, totalling 218,370 voters let alone the electoral support Ikale people always enjoy from Ileoluji/Okeigbo and Ese-odo councils.”
However, many party men believed it is reward time for Aiyedatiwa, whose loyalty to Akeredolu is undiluted.
But Governor Akeredolu has explained his preference for Aiyedatiwa amongst others, basically to put back those who exited themselves from his cabinet, saying: “For us, it is good riddance to bad rubbish. As things stand currently, the people expect a fresh and dignifying breather from the choking rot of the immediate past. The leaders of the party have made wide consultations to choose the most suitable candidate as running mate.
“We have concluded that Mr. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa is the appropriate choice given the prevailing circumstances in the political arena at present. This person has been with us since the beginning of this political journey in 2012.
“In arriving at this choice, some important factors assisted the leaders of this great party. We have decided to sever ties with mediocrity and treachery.”
Referring to his experience with Ajayi, he said: “There is indeed no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. We are also not in any position to change yesterday. We must, however, allow the experiences of the immediate past to guide our decision.”
Akeredolu passed a vote of confidence on his new running mate, saying: “A candidate with verifiable credentials and pedigree has been chosen to complete the last part of the gubernatorial race.
“We may not have chosen a saint and the best but let it not be said that we, either wittingly or otherwise, settled for an avowed hater of human beings and good things, an enemy of his own people and a serial forger.”
The governor noted that there are many qualified persons among party members, adding that the ruling party parades an array of eminently qualified personalities for any position within and outside the state.
“The position of deputy governor is very important, no doubt. However, there are other equally important assignments waiting for all those whose allegiance and preference for decency is not in doubt”, he said. “We will not fail in ensuring that all those who merit considerations are engaged. We will not shut out any group on account of unprofitable partisanship, which militates against amity and progress. Loyalty and diligence will be rewarded.”