When light dims on opposition against Akeredolu in Ondo

Oluwarotimi Akeredolu

The internal opposition within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State is in disarray as efforts to stop Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s march for a second term into Alagbaka Government House recently suffered a major setback. Initially, it was the crisis that trailed the emergence of Chief Olusola Oke as the consensus candidate of Unity Forum, a pressure group within the party. 

After a while, the group finally announced its consensus candidate to the chagrin of other aspirants and members of the selection committee. This reinvigorated Akeredolu’s camp, which had earlier joked that their unity would scatter them. As envisaged, other nine governorship aspirants kicked against Oke’s emergence on the ground that the candidate selection committee was biased. Meanwhile, APC Elders rejected the result, disbanded the committee and also sacked Alhaji Ali Olanusi as forum chairman. 

Olanusi, who is a former deputy governor of the state and member of APC Board of Trustees (BoT), has been leading an army of disgruntled APC stalwarts and members to oppose Akeredolu since he was sworn in on February 24, 2017. They accused the governor of marginalization, highhandedness and anti-party activities, which led to the poor performance of the party in the last general elections. Since then they have been working hard to stop his bid to get the party’s ticket for re-election. 

In a bid to circumvent Akeredolu from clinching the party’s ticket in the July 20, 2020 primary election, APC guber aspirants who are against him, appealled to the National Working Committee (NWC) to adopt direct primary for the state. Recently, the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, announced direct primary option for the governorship election in Edo State, leaving people in Ondo State in uncertainty. 

The pioneer state chairman of the party and leading governorship aspirant in the October 10, 2020, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke, had clamoured for direct primary option, lamenting that majority of APC stakeholders do not believe in indirect primary mode. According to him, the reason for clamouring for direct mode of primary in the state is because of the controversial emergence of the current party officials at the last congresses in the state.

Kekemeke, who pulled out of Unity Forum before the scout for consensus candidature, argued that there had not been any cohesive party leadership in the state since Mr. Ade Adetimehin emerged as the state chairman of the party. He noted that the fight against Covid-19 pandemic would not be a problem, saying the Presidential Task Force (PTF), the party leadership and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could work out a feasible plan. 

“We need to carry along very many interest groups in the party,” Kekemeke said. “We need direct primary. We can establish protocols that enable people in their wards to gather and elect who they want by observing social distancing and making the use of facemask compulsory. I know that direct primary is the preferable option. It is the inevitable for victory and success of the party.”  

The former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and lawmaker stressed that he possessed cognate experience and leadership skills to win victory for the party and state at large. While the candidacy crisis within the largest and most formidable group against Akeredolu, the Unity Forum, was yet to settle, the factional chairman of the party who emerged in the 2018 congress, Mr. Idowu Otetubi, backed out of the struggle to supported the governor. 

Meanwhile, a close source within the party leadership disclosed that the only reason direct primary could be adopted in Ondo State, like Edo State, is if there is evidence of crisis within the party. Otetubi did not only back out of balkanizing the party, he declare support for the leadership of Adetimehin, Akeredolu’s reelection bid, but also withdrew the case in court which challenged the last party congress. 

Without mincing words, at a press conference held in Akure last Sunday, Otetubi, who led the APC factional executives to address journalists, jettisoned the court case, suit No: FHC/AK/CS/10/2019, challenging the composition of the State Executive Committee of the party. “I am done with Unity Forum,” he said and decried the consensus crisis within the group. He added that he had chosen to reconcile with the duo and work for the success of the party in the forthcoming governorship election.

According to him, “The recent decision on consensus candidate by some leaders of Unity Forum has no doubt shown that we were not guided by altruism but self-serving interests. 

“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. The unity we craved for, in a group that was propelled by sheer envy, jealousy and greed has thus far remained elusive. In the light of the above, I, Hon. Idowu Otetubi, have resolved to pull out of the Unity Forum. In making this announcement, I leave no room for further negotiations on the matter.”

While speaking on the APC suit, he said: “I have withdrawn unconditionally my case in court, suit No. FHC/AK/CS/10/2019, challenging the composition of the State Executive Committee of the party. These decisions are purely informed by my unquenchable desire for the progress of the state and the APC, particularly, the Ondo State chapter. 

“I am politically experienced enough to determine when a battle has been deflated. The party must move on and the government needs to be encouraged to do more for the good people of the state.”

Otetubi hinged his support for the re-election of Governor Akeredolu on the successes achieved in education, healthcare, infrastructural development, agriculture, and industrialization of the state. 

“I want to use this opportunity to call on my former colleagues in the Unity Forum to be broad-minded in their agitations and reasonable in their campaigns,” he said. “We should begin to discourage erecting pillars of enmity within our own party, APC. This will, without contention, be a gross disservice to the state 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.”

Political watchers described the latest development as the final nail to the coffin of Unity Forum in the state and the end of all hope to have direct primary in the party, which, as expected by the APC aspirants, would scuttle Akeredolu’s second term bid. 

“Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has thrown a final bomb that does not only scatter the stiff opposition against him, but also dismantles the morale of opposition against him within the party,” a political analyst said. “Otetubi’s game is the final game.

“The national leadership of the party is convinced by the narrative put forward by the governor and state party leadership that there is no crisis within the party that makes direct primary necessary, like Edo State.” 

The defensive turf of Akeredolu’s opponents has suddenly become sullen and cold as none of his major political adversaries: Olanusi, Oke and other nine governorship aspirants in Unity Forum had come out to state otherwise. But a chieftain of the party, Mr. Tolu Babaleye, who raised a hue over serial betrayals within the opposition rank and file, kicked that Otetubi could not speak for other members of the faction. He noted that there were other parties to the suit. 

“As much as I respect the rights of Hon. Idowu Otetubi to withdraw his support for anyone or pledge his support for any other person at anytime,” he said, “ he should also respect the rights of others to press home with their political rights and entitlements moving forward.

“I wish to state it categorically that there are 13 plaintiffs who are suing in representative capacity for and on behalf of all the 203 wards excos, 18 LG excos and state executives of the APC faction of the Unity Group in Ondo State.” He affirmed that “Idowu Otetubi and Gani Muhammed are just two out of the lots,” revealing that “I spoke to Hon. Otetubi when I read the news item and he offered his explanation and apologies to me and I appreciate his frustrations, especially when he told me about how he was abandoned and the recent threat to his life. 

“Otetubi has the right to withdraw his name but he cannot discontinue the suit without the consent of other plaintiffs (claimants) in the suit and those who gave them consent from all the 203 wards and 18 LGs in Ondo State.”Babaleye explained that the Akeredolu-led administration and Adetimehin-led APC executives are playing the political game to seek sympathy and distract the national leadership of the party. 

“The reason why those holding sway in the state are desperate at buying anybody buyable is the fear of direct primary,” Babaleye continued. “We are aware of all the undercurrents and quest for indirect primary. Let me assure our teeming supporters in the Unity Group in Ondo State that the case is still on and alive in court. It is adjourned to June 11 at the Federal High Court, Akure.

“A new acting chairman and secretary would be appointed to replace Idowu Otetubi and Gani Muhammed soon. No retreat, no surrender! We shall take our party back from these usurpers.” 

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