Unity eludes Ondo APC internal opposition against Akeredolu
• Tinubu’s neutrality weakens anti-Akeredolu plots
Less than five months to the governorship election in Ondo State, things have started falling apart in the circle of the most formidable opposition within All progressives Congress (APC), Unity Forum, as the centre can no longer hold. Feelers have it that it cannot present a consensus candidate against the incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, in the October 10, 2020 election as members are at loggerheads among themselves.
Unity Forum, led by a former deputy governor and member of APC Board of Trustees (BoT), Alhaji Ali Olanusi, has been waging political war against Akeredolu since he assumed office on February 24, 2017, accusing him of marginalization and anti-party activities, especially in the 2019 general elections.
The forum has its membership spread across the 18 local government areas of the state. It has the sole intention of stopping Akeredolu from clinching a second term ticket for the ruling party in the state. Several governorship aspirants have shown interest within the group to slug it out with the governor.
In order to have an easy victory over the power of incumbency and other opportunities at Akeredolu’s disposal, the group settled for a consensus candidate among the aspirants and a seven-man committee was set up, headed by Senator Yele Omogunwa and saddled with the responsibility of producing a candidate before the end of March.
The aspirants from the north senatorial district are Dr. Segun Abraham, Jumoke Ajasin-Anifowose, Bukola Adetula, Olaide Adelami, Akin Awodeyi, Kazeem Olanrewaju and Prince Dapo Adelegan, while Chief Olusola Oke, Egnr. Ife Oyedele and Jimi Odimayo hail from the south senatorial district.
The Guardian gathered that the screening exercise in March, before the COVID-19 pandemic stalled all preparations for the election, hit the rock as the governorship aspirants, about 10 in number, could not agree among themselves to present a consensus candidate for the election.
Also, their efforts suffered a major setback as there were series of infighting among the committee members over the purported emergence of a candidate from the south district, who the aspirants and some committee members revealed to have scored the lowest mark during the screening exercise.
Chairman of the committee and some leaders in the group were allegedly accused of collecting money from some of the aspirants, who vowed that they would not agree with the decision of the committee and forum at large if they were not picked. It brewed a lot of tension and crisis, and some of the aspirants resorted to sponsoring media attacks against the forum.
But committee secretary, Prof. Sola Ehindero, who was said to have reportedly kicked against the decision of the committee and refused to sign the report that picked the candidate, dismissed it as mere rumour, adding that the committee was yet to file its report.
According to him, “The mandate of the committee set up by the Unity Forum is to select a consensus candidate who is credible, loyal and whose track record reflects his or community and corporate accountability and commitment to selfless service.
“After three weeks of deliberation and not being able to reach a compromise, the committee is yet to reach a decision on such candidate and thus yet to prepare a report. While the search continues, party members should ignore information from the social media or any outfit regarding the choice of a consensus candidate.”
Since the Unity Forum could not avail itself of the unity of purpose against Akeredolu, it was learnt from impeccable sources that the aspirants have begun to lobby the immediate past governor of Osun State and current Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, to intervene in the lingering crisis rocking the forum.
They intend to explore the neutral stance of the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the run up to the governorship primary of the party slated for July to their advantage. Some of them attributed the intractable crises within the forum to Tinubu’s “attitude of indifference”.
According to one of the aspirants who spoke anonymously to journalists in Akure, “From the beginning, the idea of the forum was not just without some external leadership and encouragement. But as events unfolded, we observed that those leaders who encouraged us at the beginning began to withdraw support.
“We thought at the initial stage that we were going to get the backing of those who encouraged us but here we are, almost stranded and seen as enemies of the governor. We have no regret at all; but our concern is that events leading to the primary are not encouraging to us at all and we must move on with our plans to change the leadership of the state still on same party platform.”
He confirmed the last resort: “That is the reason we have reached out to Aregbe (Aregbesola) to work on the national leader to come to the rescue of the party by brokering peace among us in the Unity Forum for us to be able to arrive at a consensus candidate to fight the incumbent; if not, we are going nowhere.”
It was learnt that the move to draft in Aregbesola in order to enlist Tinubu’s support was hatched about two weeks ago in Lagos State, with most of the Unity Forum leaders were in attendance. Though the former governor was absent, he was said to have directed one of his associates, Bola Ilori, to anchor the meeting and report back to him.
Ilori was the Director General of Alliance for Democracy (AD) governorship project of Chief Olusola Oke after he ditched APC to protest the emergence of Akeredolu as candidate in September 2016. It is not too clear if the interior minister has heeded the request to draft Tinubu into the state’s politics again.
But an impeccable source disclosed that the first scheme to drag Governor Akeredolu into a fight with Tinubu has commenced though Tinubu had been quoted severally by those close to him that he would maintain neutrality towards Ondo 2020 governorship election.
Meanwhile, Ilori issued a statement last week and castigated Governor Akeredolu for dragging the name of APC’s national leader into the crisis, and accused him of not being magnanimous enough in victory. However, the state’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, has condemned Ilori’s alleged statement even as he said the state was busy battling COVID-19.
“We are aware of the unfounded statement made by Bola Ilori,” Ojogo said. “It is highly unfortunate that he could go along this perfidious slide.
“For the records, Mr. Governor has neither made any political statement lately nor has he spoken about our national leader. They are crisis entrepreneurs who want to create conflict but we won’t join issues with them because we know their tricks.
“We are busy here battling COVID-19. For those whose focus is on their ambitions, we can only wish them well. We are aware of all their plans but they should also know that their ambitions can only be noticed if we have a COVID-19 free state; that is exactly what the government of Ondo State has been doing.”
While speaking on the allegations that the governor was planting seeds of discord within Unity Group, Ojogo explained, “For those who know Aketi very well, I don’t think he will have time for that. For those who know him very well, Akeredolu is not a politician that will want to undermine anybody. He believes that everything must take its natural course.
“There is none among those governorship aspirants that the governor has not had personal encounter with in terms of conflicting relationship but they will always come together as leaders of the party and they will settle. We have Olusola Oke there; we have Ife Oyedele, Segun Abraham, Boroffice. Who amongst them will now make himself available to be used?
“In any case, they all know that the most unexpected person to strike a deal within that manner is Akeredolu, because he won’t have time for that. So, these are stories that are being concocted and sponsored by people who are already losing out at the other end, so that they will have some credible safe landing amongst themselves. They shouldn’t be calling the governor.”
Ojogo spoke on the chances of Akeredolu to get APC’s ticket for second term, assuring that his chances are very bright against the scheming of his adversaries.
According to him, “The governor is prepared to go into the primaries with any of them. He is prepared. It is not unlikely for four, five of them to run. It is also not unlikely for them to resolve on one person, that this is the person we have picked.
“But whichever way it comes, all those who are there are persons he had defeated before at the primary in 2016. So, he is going to repeat it. Some of them, out of anger after defeat, went to other parties, contested and enjoyed some formidable loses. So, they are not strangers to him.
“He is not afraid to run against any of them, whether at the party primary or at the general election, because some of them, after losing out in the Unity Group, those who cannot endure it might even join other political parties. Those who can endure to the point of the party’s primary, after losing out, might not even endure to remain in APC. So, they are doing themselves.”
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