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Sleaze allegations rock Ondo guber campaigns

By Guardian Nigeria
07 October 2020   |   4:26 am
Three days to the governorship election in Ondo State, the incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and his estranged deputy, Agboola Ajayi, have resorted to a game of blame and wits to win the forthcoming election.

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu

Three days to the governorship election in Ondo State, the incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and his estranged deputy, Agboola Ajayi, have resorted to a game of blame and wits to win the forthcoming election. The campaigns have degenerated to dirty fighting and mudslinging between the number one and two citizens of the state. Now, topmost secrets of government are being spilled to ordinary citizens. Not even enquiries through the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act could have yielded him much. 

There have been speculations and insinuations about how public funds have been spent in the past three and half years of Akeredolu’s administration. A few months ago, the discovery of N4.3 billion in a secret account shook the state to its foundation, as accusing fingers were pointed at the governor and his son, Babajide, who was alleged to have received N430 million as consultancy fee. 

Also, allegations that the governor’s family, especially the first lady, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu and her son, Babajide, have overbearing influence on government’s business had spiralled to serious litigation. Miffed by the audacity of the deputy governor to stand in the way of his second term bid, Akeredolu, who publicly described Ajayi as “inexperienced,” disclosed that he had been so generous to him to the extent of making him the most highly paid deputy governor in the country. 

Most observers give Akeredolu credit for tolerating Ajayi to complete his tenure as his deputy. However, this did not come for lack of attempts to impeach Ajayi since he ditched APC for PDP and then ZLP. 

In one of his campaigns, the governor stated that he gave Ajayi N13 million as monthly running cost apart from other concessions given to him to make critical decisions in the cabinet and politics at large. 

While fielding questions on the allegations on Sunday, Akeredolu acknowledged how active his wife and family were in the state, describing it as an asset for the development of some key areas that border on provision of social protection services. 

According to him, his wife had been making landmark achievements with the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN) and impacting lives positively long before he became governor in 2017. The APC candidate, however, dared anyone to provide evidence of sleaze against him and his family members, threatening that he would seek redress in court over attempts to malign his reputation.  

But Ajayi, who has also become a political thorn in the flesh of other parties, flayed his boss for denigrating him politically, alleging that the governor is desperate and boxed politically to a corner, which has made him lose “decorum.”

Amongst others, Ajayi specifically accused Akeredolu of relegating governance to family matter. He disclosed that the wife of the governor has been cashing on her pet programmes as conduit pipes to siphon OSOPADEC fund. 

“Not only that, the whereabouts of the 40 per cent of the 13 per cent oil derivation funds accruing to Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) since 2017 would have to be accounted for,” Ajayi alleged.

“In the same vein, the account of the money raised for COVID-19 fund should also be made available for auditing. The forensic audit of the Ondo State Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), REMITTA payment system and the unveiling of the consultants collecting the 10 per cent of generated revenues, a percentage which is just too high for the services being rendered.”

He warned that if the governor continues with “this indecent route,” he would be forced to defend himself “with damning facts and figures of the recklessness and fiscal indiscipline of the outgoing governor.”

However, the Media Adviser to the Deputy Governor, Allen Sowore, recounted that; “Ajayi is surprised that the governor could go to the press announcing the sum of N13 million as what the deputy governor gets as if it was a gift for his personal use and not for the use of his office.”

Contrary to Akeredolu’s N13 million claim, Sowore stressed that the Office of the Deputy Governor only received N12 million monthly, adding that the money had been stopped by the governor. 

He explained that; “This includes the imprest of his office, allowances of staff, fuelling of vehicles, care of his residence and welfare of his aides. Huge as the amount may appear, it amounts to not so much when the heads and number of individuals it caters for are considered.

“This also pales to nearly nothing when compared to what Akeredolu and members of his family skim off the purse of our state with reckless abandon. For instance, the governor gets a security vote of N750 million every month. He, Akeredolu, also gets an imprest of about N150 million.”

While confirming the allegations of the active roles played by the first family in the state, he noted that; “His wife, though occupies no constitutionally recognised position, takes an imprest of N15 million per month. 

“Apart from this, she collects an additional sum of N11 million from the Ministry of Women Affairs, which she runs like a potentate. Babajide, Akeredolu’s son, is also not left out in the pillage that Akeredolu and his family is visiting on Ondo State,” he alleged. 

AKEREDOLU’S camp through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Segun Ajiboye, accused the deputy of deliberate attempt to blackmail the present administration. Ajiboye, who denied all the allegations against the governor and his immediate family, said the disclosure of “a monthly running grant of N13 million appears to have further emitted the entrenched character of the man in question, Agboola Ajayi. 

“True to type, Ajayi has resorted to lies and fabrications that Mr. Governor gets a monthly payment of N750 million as security vote. This brazen misinformation is not a surprise, but a true reflection of the unstable and treacherous content in Ajayi.”

The CPS implored the general public to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) so as to investigate both statements and claims by the governor and his deputy.  

“For the avoidance of doubt, the State Bureaucracy, which processes such payments, is very available to confirm the veracity or frivolity of the statements. The October 10 governorship election is between integrity and the absence of it. The patent greed, which has provided motivation for the treachery and perfidy of Ajayi, appears to have created further paths of dishonesty to oil his political misadventure. 

Similarly, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Titi Adeyemi, refuted the allegation that the First Lady collected N11 million monthly from the ministry.  Adeyemi described the allegation by the deputy governor as “a blatant lie and grossly unfounded,” adding that; “The ministry had not, at any time, received any monthly allocation close to N11 million. 

“The ministry has neither at any time transferred any amount to the First Lady, wife of the governor. In politics, all sorts of unfounded allegations and falsehoods are concocted to smear the image of opponents, their families and relations and this is one of such for campaign purposes.”

The commissioner urged the general public to “disregard all unfounded allegations against the wife of the governor, who is passionate and focused on the advancement of women and girls in Ondo State and beyond.”

MEANWHILE, the governor’s son, Babajide, lamented that the allegation has soiled his reputation and insisted that the deputy governor would need to prove it with evidence at a court of law how he was paid such sum.

According to him, “I find it imperative to state unambiguously that I do not hold any political office. It is evil and most wicked to make such allegation that exists mainly in the minds of Hon. Agboola and his ilk against me.

“I have instructed my lawyers to institute legal action against Hon. Agboola Ajayi to claim full damages for the harm the false and malicious statement he made has done to my reputation.

“He must prove this allegation in the court of law. The decision to drag Agboola to court was borne out of the need to clear my name from mud, which the allegation had put it. I maintain my innocence in the matter.” He added that; “I will like the general public to know the real facts as against the falsehood being peddled.

“I state with emphasis that it is the greatest disrespect and an intentional distortion of facts for the deputy governor to state, inter alia, that I siphoned N430 million of Ondo State’s funds under the guise of consultancy fees.” Emboldened, rather than being cowed, the Office of the Deputy Governor challenged Babajide to immediately carry out his threat, stressing that; “It is in the interest of Ondo State that the threat becomes a reality.”

Also, the ZLP governorship candidate argued that the litigation “will provide everyone ample opportunity to resolve, once and for all, the whereabouts of the recovered but now missing N4.3 billion Ondo State money.

“The deputy governor stands by his statement that the payment of N430 million as 10 per cent of the recovered N4.3 billion as consultancy fees to the firm of Babajide, the governor’s son for doing nothing, is unjustifiable.”

“We therefore urge Governor Akeredolu to allow the state House of Assembly complete the probe of the N4.3 billion kept for 10 years in a bank account. Also, the government officials responsible for this mendacity should be revealed and punished accordingly.”