Though the Ondo State Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, has calmed the tumultuous storm generated by his purported revolt against Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s second term ticket, observers of Ondo polity are wont to return to the recent reconciliation meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which had national leader bola Tinubu in attendance.
According to analysts, the peace meeting held last month to reconcile the governor and his estranged ‘godfather’ Tinubu, would always come with a big price for the Aketi team.
The Guardian gathered from reliable sources that among other conditions given to Akeredolu, Tinubu demanded that the idea of Ajayi as his running mate must be deleted for a choice, which the leader will announce, in the 2020 governorship race in the state. It was in the news last Sunday that the deputy was set to ditch APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and that his political associate, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Governor of Sokoto State was ready to sponsor him.
The unconfirmed report indicted Ajayi for meeting with Tambuwal, other PDP chieftains, including aggrieved APC members to pick a grassroots politician and current member representing Akure South/North Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Adedayo Omolafe, as his running mate. This idea was to politically galvanize the South District, where the deputy hails from, and the Central District together to stop the second term ambition of Governor Akeredolu, who hails from the North District.
As envisaged, this piece of news item fanned the embers of internal wrangling in the state chapter of the ruling party, to the extent that insiders in government confirmed the fear expressed by Akeredolu and his cronies over the growing popularity of Ajayi.
For the past 30 months they have been in office, Governor Akeredolu was yet to hand over to his deputy in acting capacity, whether he was on leave or out of the country, as enshrined in the Constitution. But curiously, less than 24 hours after the controversial report of his deputy nursing an ambition to decamp to PDP was made public, Akeredolu, last Monday sent a letter to the state Assembly, notifying of his two weeks leave and to formally hand over to Ajayi as the Acting Governor.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Segun Ajiboye, issued the statement that read: “Akeredolu begins 14-day working vacation. Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, on Monday, August 19, 2019, begins a 14-day working vacation.
“The Governor is to resume on Thursday, September 4, 2019. Before he proceeded on the annual leave, Arakunrin Akeredolu transmitted a letter to that effect to the state House of Assembly. The deputy Governor is to perform the functions of the Governor’s office while the Governor is away.”
Some in the state are now wondering if the story of the deputy’s plan to ditch the APC was not sponsored by mischief-makers, or a smart idea to put the deputy Governor under close watch.
Whereas, Ajayi promptly refuted the allegations and noted that the relationship between him and his boss has been very cordial, he further revealed that some mischievous persons were plotting to cause friction within the government.
According to the deputy Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Babatope Okeowo, in a statement issued last Sunday: “The deputy Governor is unperturbed by this sponsored story and the ones before it as these are the handiwork of attention and job seekers.
“These funny characters are well known within the political circle in Ondo State. This is to say that this is blatant falsehood as Agboola Ajayi remains a bonafide member of the APC and has no plan to dump the party for any rival political party.”
He dispelled rumour of the purported meeting with the opposition party and other APC faction to stop Akeredolu’s second term bid.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that some prominent politicians, who also have PDP background like the deputy are jostling to take over from Ajayi come 2020, either as wished by Governor Akeredolu or as dictated by the conditions requested by the reconciliation team led by Tinubu.
Okeowo, however, declared that “the seat of the Deputy Governor is an exalted seat, and let those who are interested in becoming the Deputy in the next dispensation wait till when Arakunrin Akeredolu is ready to pick who will run with him in the next election for the further development of Ondo State
Since the alleged plot was rumoured, it has prompted some to begin to consider the prospects. Some Akure people in the four local government areas of Central Senatorial District see it as a huge prospect.
But the camp of the PDP governorship candidate in the last election, Eyitayo Jegede, who has declared his intention recently to contest again next year, see the prospect of an Ajayi-Omolafe ticket in the party as an affront. Ajayi and Jegede both hail from Akure South council.
A PDP stalwart from Akure, Dr. Cornelius Adesida, who spoke on the possibility of the ambition, said: “Ajayi and Omolafe’s ticket will be a blessing for PDP and the Akure people at large. If Ajayi comes to PDP his bird has only come home to roost, we will welcome him. He is a founding member of our party in the state.”
Adesida added that thought it would cause some rumple, “I can tell you categorically that it is the surest way to pull down Aketi government and keep an Akure man on the queue for tomorrow.
“Ajayi is a seasoned politician with large political strength from the South and our own ‘Expensive’, Omolafe, is a political household material here in the Central District. The match of the two is a perfect move to stop thousands of Akeredolus, APC, their incumbency in the state and from Federal.”
But Omolafe, popularly called “Expensive” by his supporters said, “I would have ignored such baseless and unfounded allegations but for the purpose of setting the record straight and for unsuspecting public.
“I want to state unequivocally that the story is untrue and a figment of the imagination of the author. I enjoined the leaders and members of our great party to consider the story as a joke taken too far by whoever is behind the campaign of calumny aimed at distracting our party in preparation for the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
“We must be wary of fifth columnists who are bent on sowing the seed of discord among us; the nepotists with perverse minds who are bent on keeping our party divided. They want to do everything possible to see us always at daggers-drawn as part of their grand plan to keep us off track.”
The PDP House of Representatives member, Omolafe, who is the Vice Chairman, House Committee on Poverty Alleviation, emphasized that he was currently preoccupied with the social contract of qualitative representation of the good people of Akure North and South Federal Constituency.
“I have made a solemn vow to ensure that we lift our people from abject poverty and give them a new lease of life. I have therefore pledged to remain committed to this vow without looking back.
For the record, the six councils in the South District have been the strongest base of PDP since 1999; and Ajayi was part of that history as he rose politically from councillor, caretaker chairman, substantive chairman to House of Representatives member before he decamped to APC.
The opportunities offered him by the PDP, as revealed by political observers, have entrenched him across the district, so much that when he served in the National Assembly from 2007 to 2011, his residence in Abuja was like a “liaison office” for every person from the district.
Nonetheless, it was learnt from a close source in government House that the APC is skeptical of the reconciliation meeting initiated by Tinubu, as a number of aggrieved party members are still at loggerheads with the Governor and determined to stop his second term bid.
The source disclosed that an imminent clash in the 2023 presidential ambition of the national Leader and the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is a close ally of Akeredolu, is the reason why the reconciliation remains a political stillbirth.
According to him, “The Governor is wary of Tinubu and expressed fears often that the national Leader cannot be trusted. Governor Kayode Fayemi is a strong associate to Akeredolu and his presidential ambition clearly points to where the Governor will stand.
“Do you think Tinubu is not aware of this? And also, do you think Ondo Governor does not know the national Leader is aware? I don’t see the July stakeholders’ meeting making any headway; they are just hobnobbing each other for the doomsday.”
The President of Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged (MOSUP), Mr. Dappa Maharajah, said the romance with Tinubu would not do Governor Akeredolu any good, rather than to waste the little fortune in his vault for second term.
He stressed that the ability of any politician to shine in Ondo State politics lies mainly with the people, who vehemently hate any form of imposition and external influence on their governance and leadership style.
Maharajah explained: “In 2012, Tinubu imposed Akeredolu as the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Ondo State people decided, he failed. Tinubu and Akeredolu became sworn enemies; he raised a candidate against him in the next election.
“Akeredolu became the governorship candidate of the APC for 2016 without the support of Tinubu, the people decided again and he won. That is Ondo State people for you, they will always kick against imposition.”
He warned the governor to distance himself from whatever conditions reached in the July accord, saying “Ondo State people would only see it as a business to sell them cheaply for his selfish reasons; and they will show him their colours politically.”