Ahead of Ondo State’s November 16 gubernatorial election, political activities in the state have started gathering momentum.
More aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state and other political parties are bracing up for the election.
Among all the political parties in the state, findings showed the APC was emerging with more aspirants than other parties.
Some of the aspirants, are incumbent Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa; former Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa; a former member of the House of Representatives, Mayowa Akinfolarin; the former Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Oladunni Odu (who is only the female among the aspirants); former Special Adviser to the Governor on Health, Prof Francis Faduyile; former aspirant of the APC, Olusola Oke; and Gbenga Edema among others.
Findings revealed that Aiyedatiwa, who became the governor after the death of the former governor, late Rotimi Akeredolu, may have more edge over others, by virtue of the position he is currently holding.
Akinfolarin, one of the aspirants, who had declared his intention, said the sunshine state needed someone that would bridge the gap between the government and the people, and he was the one that could make it possible.
Similarly, Akinterinwa , who is also a strong contender of the ticket, party sources say, may be favoured to get the ticket of the party going by his popularity in the party across the 18 local government areas of the state, particularly, among those that would be delegates to vote at the primary ( if indirect primary system is adopted).
Signifying his popularity, barely 24 hours after the dissolution of the Ondo State Executive Council by Governor Aiyedatiwa, it was gathered that Akinterinwa was received by a huge crowd of party supporters at the Akure Airport on his arrival from Abuja, singing and chanting his name.
Akinterinwa simply said, “Your gesture is a testimonial that when you do well, people will appreciate you. This is a manifestation of better things to come.
“I am ready for the task ahead; I’m ready for the job”
However, the State Chairman of the party, Ade Adetimehin, was indifferent about the matter as he said all the aspirants remained members of the party, and had the right to contest the governorship position, but he said there would be no anointed candidate.
It was gathered that some of the aspirants close to the late governor may not pick nomination and expression of interest forms to run as they might step down for Akinterinwa.
The former commissioner, who hails from the Oke-igbo/Ile Oluji Local Government Area of the state was said to be attending the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee in Abuja when the governor sacked him and other commissioners.
A source said, “I can tell you authoritatively that Akinteriwa is the choice of the majority of those working with the late governor, Akeredolu. He had anointed him before he died.
Unfortunately, he was not strong enough to make it publicly before he died.
“The governor will run, but he will meet a formidable opposition in the state, especially among the late governor’s loyalists.”
On January 22, 2024, Governor Aiyedatiwa met with the stakeholders of the APC in the state, calling on them to promote unity for the progress of the party.
The meeting was the first Aiyedatiwa would hold with APC chieftains after he assumed office as governor.
The APC had ruled out giving Aiyedatiwa an automatic ticket for the election.
At the meeting, many of the Ondo APC bigwigs eyeing the seat of the governor were absent.
At the meeting held at the International Culture and Event Centre, Akure, only one governorship aspirant, Mrs Oladunni Odu, who was Secretary to the State Government, was present.
Some of the governorship aspirants, who did not attend the meeting, were Olusola Oke, Wale Akinterinwa, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim, Mayowa Akinfolarin, Gbenga Edema, Jimi Odimayo and Olamide Ohunyeye.
Also, only one member of the National Assembly, Abiola Makinde, attended the meeting.
The National Vice Chairman (South-West ) of the party, Isaac Kekemeke, the Minister of Interior, Olubumi Tunji-Ojo, and the Minister of State for Youths Development, Ayodele Olawande, were absent from the meeting.
It was gathered that an invitation was not extended to the absentees as the meeting was called at the instance of Governor Aiyedatiwa ahead of the forthcoming primary of the party in April.
Stating the reason for his absence, one of the aspirants, Oke, said, “I received the invitation for that meeting at 2:00 a.m. today (Monday). I saw it on my phone and the meeting is at 11:00 a.m. and already, I am in Abuja going to attend an important function.
“I responded that the notice came too short and I couldn’t attend, but I had no reason not to attend the meeting. I would have attended if I had been notified earlier.
I don’t know if it was sent late deliberately or not.”
Similarly, another aspirant and former member of the House of Representatives, Mayowa Akinfolarin, said he was not invited to the meeting and he could not attend such an event.
“I was not invited to the meeting; my close associates were not invited too,” Akinfolarin stated.
But the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ebenezer Adeniyan, said every stakeholder was invited to the meeting.
“They were all invited through their local governments,” the CPS stated.
Speaking at the stakeholders meeting, Aiyedatiwa urged the chieftains of the party to embrace peace and unity ahead of the coming governorship election in the state, appealing to them to forget the past and move the party forward. He also declared that there was no vacancy in the governor’s office currently.
“We must all come together as one family to work together for the progress of our party knowing for sure this is an election year, an election to the office of the Governor of Ondo State even though the seat is not vacant currently.
Let us work together In oneness and in peace so that our party, the APC, will continue to govern this state,” the governor said.
The state Chairman of the APC, Ade Adetimehin, commended the governor for the timely engagement of the party stakeholders, stressing that party leaders must put the past behind them to foster unity ahead of the coming governorship election.
Those present at the meeting included members of the state House of Assembly, led by the Speaker, Olamide Oladiji, former deputy governors, Alhaji Ali Olanusi and Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo, a former state chairman of the party, Ambassador Sola Iji, former SSG, Sunday Abegunde, member of the House of Representatives, Biola Makinde, Chief Segun Ojo, Chief Jamiu Ekungba, Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose, among many others.
Governor Aiyedatiwa, on January 23, pulled a smart one, when he announced the nomination of a deputy, Olayide Owolabi Adelami, former Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, from the same Owo Local Government as the deceased governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
Adelami had also contested the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State on the platform of the APC.
The nomination of the deputy governor came a few hours after Aiyedatiwa dissolved the state executive council, with immediate effect.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ebenezer Adeniyan, stated that his nomination would be announced by the State House of Assembly after screening and ratification.
The Deputy Governor has been cleared by the House of Assembly and consequently sworn in.
On Friday, Governor Aiyedatiwa forwarded the names of six Commissioner-nominees to the state House of Assembly for screening and confirmation.
Two of the nominees, Emmanuel Igbasan and Razaq Obe, were commissioners under the late Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
Igbasan was Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, while Obe served as Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources.
Other nominees are Omowumi Isaac, Olukayode Ajulo, Akinwumi Sowore and Oseni Oyeniyi.
The Governor has also appointed the following individuals as Special Advisers: Olugbenga Omole – Special Adviser on Information & Strategy; Olamide Falana – Special Adviser on Gender Affairs and Alabi Johnson – Special Adviser on Energy.
Recall that Messrs Ajulo and Obe were at the forefront of the allegation of the forgery of late Akeredolu’s signature when he was critically ill.
Ajulo first blew the whistle on the alleged forgery, before Obe came forward with a forensic report on a document purportedly signed by the late Governor.
During the inauguration of his deputy on Thursday, Aiyedatiwa had said his new cabinet would reflect the yearnings and aspirations of the Ondo people.
He also said the previous cabinet was dissolved to allow for less distraction, especially for those who would be involved in politics, given that 2024 is an election year.
As politicians in Ondo State begin the political shuffle to pick the tickets of their parties, Jimoh Ibrahim, senator representing Ondo South and a foremost governorship aspirant on the platform of the ruling APC has embarked on a consultation tour of the 203 wards in the state.
Senator Ibrahim had completed a consultation tour of the state’s 18 local governments of the state.
The billionaire entrepreneur with interests in insurance, banking, hospitality, property, oil and gas, education, and the media, with the local government consultation tours is seen as one of the early birds, presenting his political agenda around key pillars of education, health, job creation and infrastructure.
The ward consultative tours provided Ibrahim a platform to showcase his achievements in the relatively short time he has been in the Senate, better understand the needs and expectations of Ondo people and outline his vision for the future.
Ifeoluwa Ehindero, candidate of the APC in Saturday’s by-election in Akoko North East/North West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, was declared winner of the exercise.
Ehindero, son of former Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, who had earlier expressed optimism of winning the election, was declared victorious by the Independent National Electoral Commission at the conclusion of the exercise on Saturday night.
Johnson Fasinmirin of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, the Returning Officer of the election, declared the APC candidate winner after the counting of votes at Victory College, Ikare-Akoko, venue of the collation final results for the exercise.
Fasinmirin revealed that Ehindero scored a total of 35,504 votes to defeat his closest rival, in the two horse race exercise, Olalekan Bada of the PDP.
Bada garnered 15,328 votes.
He said total votes cast were 51,896 with valid votes cast being 51,341 while 555 votes were rejected.
“That Ehindero Ifeoluwa Babajide of APC having satisfied the requirements of the law is hereby declared the winner and returned elected,” the INEC returning officer added.
However, the candidate of the African Democratic Congress Ishmail Adeshina came a distant third with 213 votes.
The bye-election in Akoko North East/North West Federal Constituency was conducted on Saturday to fill the seat vacated by Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Minister of Interior appointed by President Bola Tinubu.
Before his appointment, Tunji-Ojo, was a former member of the House of Representatives occupying the federal seat at the National Assembly.
Analysts said the death of Akeredolu and the inauguration of Aiyedatiwa may not halt the pattern of intra-party conflict in the Ondo State chapter of the ruling APC, especially when the imbroglio is linked with this year’s succession politics.
They said there is a need to erase the feeling of political loss by members of the Aketi Movement, especially those who had tied their political survival to the existence or survival of the deceased governor.
“The scenario at the swearing-in of Aiyedatiwa on December 27, 2023 was somehow disappointing. What was required was a solemn ceremony in honour of the departed chief executive and not garrulous behaviour by the band of praise singers,” a chieftain of the party told The Point at the weekend.
He said crowd control is important on such occasions, saying it would have prevented the regression to mockery by some noise-making, uncouth rascals who thought they were doing Governor Aiyedatiwa a favour during the brief ceremony.
He also regretted that the resignation of some aides to the late governor shortly after his demise might be partly due to their position during the protracted conflict between the camp of the deceased governor and the new helmsman.
“It also conveyed a sense of insecurity, real or imaginary, in the government circle. They left with heavy hearts, having lost their leader to protracted illness, and apparently for fear of anticipatory action against them. But this is debatable.
“Every human being, being a political animal, necessarily covets power. There is an inherent spirit of competition and antagonism, which serves as the propeller.
The front seat is quite alluring and electrifying. Yet, the man in the saddle, being also the controller of huge resources and distribution of largesse, is assailed by the vituperations of jealous rivals in the competitive political game.
“Many have aspired to the Ondo number one seat but without success. Many are still gazing at the seat ahead of the April 2024 primary, where Aiyedatiwa may become a formidable candidate and the general election where the People’s Democratic Party and other smaller parties are waiting for the APC candidate. These gladiators will be interested in how the governor will run the affairs of the state.
“No doubt, his (Aiyedatiwa) performance may be one of the factors that would shape the shadow poll of the ruling party and even the primary of the major opposition party that is praying for an implosion in Ondo APC.
“The onus is on Aiyedatiwa to reflect on the challenges of governance now resting on his shoulders. The immediate task is to rebuild confidence and unite the party,” the APC chieftain added.
Another top politician in the state added that, “As a leader, he is not expected to seek vendetta but to view past incidents, including the threat of impeachment, as part of politics.
No governor of a diverse and enlightened Ondo State can successfully rule by dictatorship. All shades of opinion have to be absorbed through consultations and constant engagements with the party, prominent indigenes, and the masses.
“The new governor of Ondo State should emulate his Ekiti State neighbour, Abiodun Oyebanji, who is ruling with humility, fear of God, and respect for the party that midwifed his administration.
“In making other critical appointments, Aiyedatiwa can pander to the party, based on the criterion of zoning or rotation that has fostered inclusion and a sense of belonging.
It is noteworthy that Aiyedatiwa has promised to complete the projects embarked upon by his predecessor as a key player in the immediate past administration. If he keeps to that promise, his administration would be rightly perceived as one of continuity.
Although some relations exerted influence on Akeredolu, he was adjudged incorruptible. Therefore, Aiyedatiwa should emulate his late boss by shunning graft, sleaze, greed, and the culture of ‘steal and go’.
“It is important to bear in mind at this initial stage that the governor would have to seek a higher degree of partnership with the House of Assembly in an atmosphere of cooperative separation of powers.
He would have to moderate his actions and steps in sensitivity to the presence of an active legislature that once threatened to end his political career.
“The late Akeredolu picked Aiyedatiwa initially as deputy because he said he was loyal and consistent. He somehow predicted that as he was bowing out, Lucky Aiyedatiwa should move in.
It has come to pass. Anybody who will work with the new governor should also be ready to be loyal to him. Aiyedatiwa has not been fully transformed by power.
Commissioners, special advisers, and other aides of Akeredolu, who he is likely to retain, should embrace the reality and adjust to the style of the new sheriff in town,” he added.