Rumblings in Ondo APC ahead of 2020 guber polls
First, some party members have raised concerns over the way the government is being run by some cabinet members, especially since the alleged sudden disappearance of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu from the state.
From palpable signs, things are said to have further degenerated since the governor proceeded on his annual vacation, while his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, was presumed to have taken over in acting capacity.
Though a circular with reference No: CD217Vol IV/50 and dated September 24, 2019, was received by the Chief of Staff to the governor from the Cabinet and Special Services Department of the Governor’s Office, announcing the annual vacation of Mr. Governor, allegations had been rife that a cabal took over the reins of government instead, shutting out the deputy governor from governance.
The circular had read to all MDAs that, “Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, would be on a 9-working day vacation with effect from Monday, September 23rd, 2019 to Friday 4th October 2019, as the second installment of his year 2019 annual leave. Mr. Governor has directed that the Deputy Governor perform the functions of his office while on vacation.”
Party men have, however, alleged that all through the period, the deputy governor was shut out while subordinates had field day. This is besides another allegation that since the so-called vacation period lapsed, Governor Akeredolu had neither resumed his duties nor seen anywhere in public.
The situation, it is claimed, almost led to a near-crisis situation among party members in the state when a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, on Monday, October 7, announced the sack of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Political Matters, Engr. Augustine Pelemo (attached to the Deputy Governor) over birthday greetings.
Pelemo, it was said, had greeted the wife of the Deputy Governor on his Facebook wall, describing her as the “Acting First Lady” to the chagrin of the Governor, who ordered his sack in absentia.
The development got many party chieftains questioning the constitutionality of the governor’s act while the acting governor, recognised by the same law that granted his vacation, has not been informed of his resumption to office.
The Assistant Publicity Secretary of the state chapter of APC, Ayodele Gbenga Oladimeji, however, argued that the governor did not act in contravention of the constitution, saying “Someone was sacked on October 7 by the Governor and you say it ought to be the Deputy Governor because the Governor was on leave?”
Amid the confusion caused by Governor Akeredolu’s absence, news is making the rounds that the Governor is critically ill and travelled out of the state to seek medical attention overseas in an undisclosed hospital.
A source within the state cabinet, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that, “the Governor was actually ill and was flown out of the country. But he is back, he has only been confined in Abuja for recuperation.”
According to the source, only very few members of his cabinet are granted access to see him while many are groping in the dark about the governor’s whereabout.
This stance was further fuelled by some incidences. First, observers noted that the Governor was expected to be at his maternal uncle, late High Chief Sunday Adeyemi ‘s burial at Igbotu, Ese-Odo Local Government Area of the state, but was conspicuously absent.
The delegation to the burial, held at First African Church Mission, Igbotu, further fuelled the suspicion as it was gathered that there was a dual representation of the governor by the Deputy Governor, Ajayi, and the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Ojogo, who both hail from the council. It was alleged that the cabal sent the latter to represent the Governor.
But Ojogo dispelled reports of his boss’ sickness as mere rumour and figment of some people’s imagination, stating that the Governor was hale and hearty. He described the rumours as insinuations from those who do not mean well for Akeredolu and the state at large.
Ojogo explained that the vacation was part of the rights attached to the office of the Governor annually, adding that he was only patriotic enough to cut it short at some point to attend to some public interests affecting the people of the state.
The Commissioner disclosed that Akeredolu came back from the vacation as indicated in the circular and went to Abuja for some meetings like the recent economic summit, APC governors’ caucus meeting and meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
“These are tissues of lies. Such can only hoodwink gullible and stereotyped minds. It will only be preposterous if a script as such is given attention,” Ojogo added.
Meanwhile, in the governor’s absence, two ad-hoc committees were set up by the state government to tackle flooding problems in the coastal communities. And the action got several APC chieftains complaining that the office of the Deputy was despised and reduced to nothingness.
In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ojo Oyewamide, two different committees were set up to promptly look into the flooding problems in Ilaje and Ese-Odo councils and report back to the state government. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Niger Delta Affairs, Oye Aladetan and the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Gbenga Ale, head the two committees.
A chieftain of the ruling party, Mr. Tolu Babaleye, while lamenting the composition of the committee, said the action was a great disservice to the office of the Deputy Governor.
He noted that the Deputy Governor, who hails from Ese-Odo LGA and whose office superintended the disaster and emergency management of the state’s administration organogram from 1999 till date, ought to play tremendous roles in the flooding problems.
Babaleye said: “I wish to ask what is happening in my dear Ondo State? Is the Governor, through the Chief of Staff, using the same template used for the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the federal level, which is still generating heat, for the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi in Ondo State?”
Babaleye alleged that only last Monday, one of the close aides to the Deputy Governor was unceremoniously removed from office by the cabal in Alagbaka, using Aketi’s name and without recourse to the Deputy Governor, who is the boss of the overzealous aide.
He added: “I challenge anyone to tell the world in truth if Aketi had been seen in any public function in either Abuja or Akure since his date of purported resumption. I also challenge any of the Governor’s aides to come up with the letter of resumption penned by Aketi himself, as stated in Section 190(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
“Even when they claimed the Deputy Governor was the Acting Governor, none of the releases from the office of Ojogo, the Commissioner for Information or any of the spokespersons ever referred to Agboola Ajayi as Acting Governor.
“They always refer to him as Deputy Governor and have continued to do everything in the name of Governor Akeredolu, just to undermine the man and his office, including the latest one of setting up committees on flooding.”
The APC chieftain affirmed the importance of the Deputy Governor’s office to the Akeredolu-led government, arguing that both of them vied on the platform of the party to win the November 26, 2016 governorship election.
“Who wants the Deputy Governor out? Why are the Chief of Staff and Special Advisers to the Governor usurping the office and function of the Deputy Governor? Who says the Deputy Governor is not important but a mere extra tyre? The cabal should realise their folly,” Babaleye further lamented.
He, however, noted that he was not canvassing support for the Deputy Governor, saying that they even belong to different factions of the party in the state.
“We need unity and cohesion in Ondo State, especially now that our great party will be going for another election next year. We are ‘fighting’ ourselves because our party is in office in Alagbaka Government House. God forbid that we lose the bragging right to the opposition party.
“I am doing this as a stakeholder who wants peace for the sake of love and unity of purpose and in defence of our dear Ondo State, which shall soon become a place of pride for us all,” Babaleye said.
In a reaction, however, the Special Assistant to the Governor on New Media, Olabode Olatunde, refuted all the allegations against the Governor and the so-called cabal.
He described the outburst of Babaleye as spurious, mischievous and misleading.
Olatunde explained that the office of the Deputy Governor and the committees were working in tandem with the drive of the Akeredolu-led administration to put an end to the flooding menace ravaging the state.
According to him, “It is perhaps apt to emphasise that it is the height of naivety for Babaleye or anyone to cabin the enormity of this national emergency to a unit in an office. This shows how puerile and lowly-equipped in mind, those who have offered to be purveyors of mischief and crisis entrepreneurs, are. It must be made clear that the Ilaje and Ese-Odo flash floods are beyond the capacity of SEMA.”
He urged Babaleye to “divorce himself from beer parlor thinkers’ narrative,” adding that “it is imperative we let him know that this government will not abandon its responsibilities to the people for any reason. This particular instance reinforces our position.”
Olatunde said that Governor Akeredolu had since resumed from his 9- day vacation on the 4th of October and had since busied himself with official matters in Abuja and Ondo State.
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