It was not supposed to be a smooth ride for Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) in his quest to get the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to seek a second term. This was because of the array of political heavyweight that ganged up to stop him. But, at the end, he won with an overwhelming wide margin by garnering 2,458 votes to defeat his closet rival, Chief Olusola Oke, who got 262 votes.
By Osagie Otabor
Akeredolu’s supposed greatest sin against some chieftains was that he ran his administration with those in the ‘Aketi group’. He was accused of sidelining party chieftains that worked for his electoral victory in 2016. Other accusations were nepotism and favouritism, lack of political patronage, supporting candidates of the Action Alliance (AA) in the 2019 general elections, which made the APC to lost the presidential election, two senatorial seats and some seats in the House of Representatives.
The aggrieved chieftains resolved to be patience until Akeredolu would be seeking a second term ticket. What happened to Akinwumi Ambode in Lagos State in 2019 spurred them to unite.
To ensure Akeredolu does not get the ticket, a former deputy governor of the State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, and Senator Ajayi Boroffice had put together what they called the Unity Group which later metamorphosed to the Unity Forum.
In the 2018 congresses of the APC that saw the emergence of Ade Adetimehin as the chairman was Akeredolu’s sucker punch for his detractors. A parallel congress was held by the Unity Group where Idowu Otetubi emerged as a factional chairman. A suit was filed in court challenging the emergence of Adetimehin and it is still pending in court.
The Unity Forum grew in strength as more aggrieved chieftains joined the fray. With the array of politicians in the Unity Forum, some supporters of Akeredolu feared they would unseat Akeredolu. Bigwigs in the Unity Forum were Senator Ajayi Bororfice, Bola Ilori, Babatunde White, Solagbade Amodeni, amongst others. Those seeking to contest for the governorship election under the Unity Forum were Olayide Adelani, Dapo Adelegan, Bùkólá Adétulà, Jumoke Anifowos, Akin Awodeyi, Alhaji Olanrewaju Kazeem, Jimi Odimayo, Chief Olúsolá Òkè, IfeOluwa Oyedele and Chief Olusegun Abraham.
At an event last year, Akeredolu drew the battle line with the Unity Forum by ruling out any reconciliation meeting with them. Cracks began to appear in the Unity Forum when over 12 of its members declared intention to run for the governorship race. To ensure the forum contested the primary on a united front, a seven-man committee headed by Senator Yele Omogunwa with a mandate to interviewing and collating report on the aspirants. The purpose was to present a single aspirant against Governor Akeredolu at the party primaries. Senator Omogunwa led committee was to report back to a Special Purpose Committee before the end of March, 2020.
The Senator Omogunwa-led committee was accused of being bribed and the Unity Forum broke apart when it unveiled Chief Oke as its consensus aspirant. Others interested in the race kicked against Oke’s emergence and went ahead to set up their campaign offices. Attempts to bring members of the forum together met a brick wall as Boroffice settled for Jimi Odimayo.
Another factor that dealt a blow to the plans of the Unity Forum was the role expected from both PDP and APC leaders from Ondo South. Some politicians from Ondo South said they wanted Akeredolu to finish his second term in 2024 so that the slot could be zoned to the South. They said another governor replacing Akeredolu from the North means the South would wait for another eight years.
Also, in May, Otetubi withdrew his support for the Unity Forum and announced withdrawal of the suit challenging the Ondo APC congresses. Otetubi said the decision on the consensus candidate showed its leaders were not guided by altruism, but self-serving interest.
Otetubi said he is politically experienced enough to determine when a battle has been deflated, adding that the party must move on and encourage the government to do more for the people.
Otetubi said: “The time has come for us to end this exercise in futility and halt the needless distractions that we have given to the parent-body, APC.”
“That suit has the ability of truncating APC successes in Ondo State. I don’t want to be party to any further crisis. The name Unity Forum emanated from the Unity Group executive we formed.
“I don’t want to be party to see the opposition taking over the state.
Unity we craved for, in a group that was propelled by sheer envy, jealousy and greed has thus far remained elusive.
“These decisions are purely informed by my unquenchable desire for the progress of the State and the APC, particularly, the Ondo State Chapter.
He added: “I dont want to be the arrow head to allow what happen in Bayelsa to happen in Ondo State. I want to call on my former colleagues in the Unity Forum to be broad-minded in their agitations and reasonable in their campaigns.
“We should begin to discourage erecting pillars of enmity within our own party, APC. This will, without contention, be a gross disservice to the chapter.
“It would amount to unrivalled callousness for any individual or group to allow himseIf/itself to be used to scuttle the very bright chances of Ondo State APC in the forthcoming governorship election like it happened in Zamfara State.”
The events at the national headquarters of the APC appeared to work in favour of Akeredolu. Sources said the agreement reached with APC governors for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to remain in office was for both Governor Godwin Obaseki and Akeredolu got get the party’s ticket. The source said Oshiomhole opted to work for Ondo State alone. In the letters he wrote to INEC before his sack, he informed INEC that the party would use the direct mode of primary for Edo and the indirect mode for Ondo State.
It was when INEC published the notice of party primaries that 11 aspirants ran to Abuja to protest and kick against the decision of the Caretaker Committee. Many protest were held in Abuja and Ondo State, but the deed appeared to have been sealed. It was about one week to the date of the primary that many of the aspirants started targeting delegates in their campaigns.
But, some of the delegates made it clear that it was too late as the aspirants in a protest letter ‘tagged them as rogues’.
However, the battle for the ticket became a battle between politicians in Ondo South and Ondo North. Akeredolu hails from Owo in Ondo North, but aspirants from the district said they were in the race to complete the eight years due to the zone since the governor will be completing the first four years.
The aspirants from Ondo South are Chief Olusola Alex Oke, Engr. Ifeoluwa Oyedele, Ambassador Olusola Iji, Jimi Odimayo and Isaacs Kekemeke while those from Ondo North are Bukola Adetula, Jumoke Anifowose, Olayide Adelami, Abraham Segun, Dr. Nat Adojutelega and Akin Akinsehinwa.
Signs that many of the aspirants gave up on their ambition started when three aspirants, Jimi Odimayo, Dr. Olusegun Abraham and Oyedele, announced their support for Governor Akeredolu. At the voting venue, apart from Chief Oke, Kekemeke, Dr. Adojutelegan and Ambassador Iji, others were absent.
Akeredolu won with wide margin of votes of 2,458 while his closet rival, Chief Oke secured 262 votes. Others such as a former Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Olayide Adelami had four votes, Dr. Nath Adojutelegan had four votes, Mrs. Jumoke Anifowoshe had two votes, Ambassador Olusola Iji polled nine votes, Isaacs Kekemeke garnered 19 votes, Odimayo Jimi stepped down, Ifeoluwa Oyedele who also stepped down had one vote. Akeredolu described his victory as the best birthday gift for him.