The All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary which produced Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as flag bearer for the October 10 election was transparent.
But, Akeredolu has been enjoined to bend backwards and carry the other aspirants along. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN writes on the challenge of reconciliation in the chapter.
The governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) has been certified as the All Progressives Congress (APC) stand bearer for the October 10 election.
He emerged winner of the shadow election, having scored the highest number of votes in all the 18 local government areas.
The outcome of the primary proved some bookmakers wrong. They had anticipated violence, tension and inconclusive primary that would lead to the disintegration of APC in Ondo State.
They hinged their fear on the deep animosity and acrimonious relationship between the governor and other party chieftains under the aegis of the Unity Forum.
The group had vowed to scuttle the second term bid of Akeredolu by presenting a consensus candidate that would slug it out with him at the primary.
But, the exercise was smooth, transparent and hitch-free. Since the declaration of Akeredolu as the winner by the Governorship Election Committee headed by the Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, none of the aspirants has threatened to go to court.
Rather, some of them have been calling for reconciliation to ensure that the APC wins the poll.
Analysts have advised Akeredolu against underrating his co-aspirants and urged him to seek reconciliation with them to ensure victory for the APC in October.
A political observer said Akeredolu would need the support of the aspirants. He should show leadership by reaching out to aggrieved party members and settle their differences amicably.
He said the buck stops on Akeredolu’s table and that he should bend backwards and carry his party men and women along.
An indication that reconciliation had begun emerged when three aspirants withdrew from the race before the primary and declared support for Akeredolu.
They are Dr Olusegun Abraham, the first runner-up in the 2016 primary, Ife Oyedele and Jimi Odimayo. They said they took the decision after due consultations with stakeholders.
The withdrawal of Abraham was a morale booster for Akeredolu’s camp. It doused the tension that had enveloped the exercise before the commencement of voting.
Abraham, a successful businessman was considered a strong contender that would give Akeredolu a good fight as he did in 2016 primary.
He lost the shadow election to the governor with just 34 votes. Abraham contested the results of the primary in court to no avail.
His withdrawal from the race marked the beginning of a cordial relationship with Akeredolu.
Another breakthrough by Akeredolu was his reconciliation with Senator Ajayi Boroffice on the eve of the primary. Boroffice is one of the leaders of the Unity Forum working against Akeredolu’s second term bid.
The major fall out of the reconciliation was the stepping down of Odimayo from the race. Boroffice is regarded as Odimayo’s political ‘godfather’.
Analysts believe that Boroffice prevailed on the Irele-born oil mogul to step down for the governor. Both Akeredolu and Boroffice hail from the Ondo North Senatorial District.
In the build-up to the primary, Boroffice had endorsed Odimayo, who is from Ondo South for the ticket.
In a letter congratulating Odimayo after collecting nomination form, Boroffice said he had consulted some elders, youths and women across the state and they had given him a nod to identify with a credible aspirant like Odimayo “who represents our aspirations, collective interests and hope for a more prosperous state”.
Factional Chairman, Idowu Otetubi had also withdrawn the suit challenging the Ade Adetimehin-led executive that is loyal to Akeredolu.
Otetubi did not only back out of balkanising the party, he declared support for Adetimehin and Akeredolu’s re-election bid.
The governor promised in his acceptance speech, after emerging as the candidate for the governorship election, that he would embark on reconciliation to heal all perceived wounds.
True to his words, the governor visited some of the aspirants less than 24 hours after emerging as the party’s candidate.
He met with Chief Olusola Oke, his first runner up. Similarly, he paid a surprise visit to Ambassador Sola Iji and Chief Isaac Kekemeke at their residences in Akure, the state capital.
Akeredolu said there was the need to engage the aspirants so that they can work together for the success of the APC.
Kekemeke, the immediate past Ondo APC chairman, was surprised to see the governor in his house. He described the visit as a pleasant surprise.
He said: “We have spoken frankly and I’m happy that he tolerated my frankness. I have said I will work with him. I shall not be going to any party or court.
I will work hard to see that Ondo remains an APC state. As a former chairman of the party, I will never abandon the APC for any party.”
On his visit to Iji’s house, Akeredolu acknowledged that he was the first person among the other aspirants to call and congratulate him on the outcome of the primary.
He added: “He didn’t even know that I was coming. As you know, he was once our chairman; he’s a party person to the core.
We have had a very robust and frank discussion on how to move our party forward and work together. Ondo must remain APC state.”
Oke, who had threatened to challenge the indirect mode of primary in court, has back-pedalled. He has assured that he would not be leaving the APC.
This clarification has debunked speculation that he was planning to defect to another party to contest for the election, after losing to Akeredolu.
He had defected from the APC in 2016 and joined the Alliance for Democracy that offered him automatic ticket to contest the election but he was defeated by Akeredolu.
Oke said: “We have resolved to remain members of the APC in Ondo State and our respective wards and that we are interested in a cohesive, united APC where I’d no disconnection, where all members will be treated as equal, where government patronages will no longer be sectional and right and privileges of members will be respected without hindrance.
We agreed that it is not in the interest of any member of the party for power to slide into the hands of the opposition.
We will do everything possible on our part subject to the conditions and terms that will be given out to retain the party in power in Ondo State.
“We also agreed that the incumbent governor has made overtures to us for discussion, for reconciliation and our team will be ready to participate in any reconciliation efforts, genuinely undertaken by the party leadership from the national secretariat to the zone and to the state.
“Our group insists that because of the experience in the past where promises were made but not kept, where people were given assurances but were denied, it is therefore important that the reconciliation should be comprehensive and that is the only reconciliation that will instil the confidence on our people.”
APC chieftain Chief Olabiyi Lalegan advised Oke against defecting to another party to enable him to contest the election.
He said changing parties after every primary is not good because the electorate will not have confidence in him. Lalegan advised Oke to remain in APC and allow Akeredolu to have his second term.
This, he said, would benefit Oke in the long run rather than jumping from one party to another. Lalegan said power will shift to Ondo South Senatorial District where Oke comes from after Akeredolu, if he succeeds in securing his second term.
He said: “There is an agreement on power rotation among the three senatorial zones; that each zone would be allowed to rule for two terms of eight years. This arrangement is irrespective of parties that produced the governor.
Akeredolu is from Ondo North Senatorial District. The immediate past governor who ruled for eight years is from Ondo Central. That explains why there was no APC governorship aspirant from Ondo Central.
“Oke stands a better chance in 2024 when it will be the turn of Ondo South to produce governor.
Leaving the APC for another party now will be disastrous. He should stay and work together with Akeredolu, so that the APC can still retain Ondo State.”
The party chieftain also advised Akeredolu to be magnanimous in victory. He said: “He should be flexible in dealing with party matters.
Though Akeredolu is a lawyer, in politics you don’t have to be rigid in trying to abide by the law. Other aspirants and leaders are complaining that the governor sidelined them in the last four years; that they were shortchanged in terms of political patronage.
“They have supporters to cater for and they have to oil their political machinery. But when they are not getting anything from the government how would they and their supporters survive.
This is what is causing friction in the party. Akeredolu should spread political appointments to supporters of other aspirants.”
Lalegan also advised Akeredolu to seek advice from party leaders in choosing his running mate. “He should consult widely so as to guide in making the right choice.
The involvement of party stakeholders in the choice of deputy governor would instil confidence of party leaders and members. It will also enhance the performance of the APC at the poll”, he stated.
To a political observer, Dr Dotun Adegoroye, the emergence of Akeredolu as the APC candidate is in tandem with the rotational arrangement of power among the three senatorial districts in the state.
He said a look at the history of elections in Ondo State shows that the electorates adhere strictly to the rotation of power among the three zones.
He recalled that in 1999, the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati from Ondo North Senatorial District served as governor between 1999 and 2003; Dr Olusegun Agagu from Ondo South was governor between 2003 and 2009, and Dr Olusegun Mimiko from Ondo Central governed the state from 2009 to 2017.
He said attempts to derail the rotational arrangement failed. His words: “After the tenure of Agagu, his party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), fielded Oke who hails from Ondo South like Agagu as its governorship candidate for the 2009 election, but he lost to Mimiko from Ondo Central.
Mimiko also repeated this feat in 2016 when he failed to return the ticket to Ondo North. Instead, he gave the ticket to his own senatorial district after completing eight years in office.
The electorate again refused to vote the PDP and its candidate, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN). This led to the emergence of Governor Akeredolu as governor in 2016.”
Adegoroye advised the aggrieved APC members to embrace peace and join hands with Akeredolu to ensure that APC retains power in Ondo State. He said this is the only way the opponents of the governor can remain relevant in the APC.
The Unity Forum, led by a former deputy governor of Ondo State and member of APC Board of Trustees (BoT) Ali Olanusi, had been working against Akeredolu since he was sworn in February 2017.
They accused the governor of marginalisation, highhandedness and anti-party activities which led to the poor performance of the party in the state in the last general elections.