Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Leading candidates in the tussle for Ondo State governorship have intensified horse trading and power-sharing to shore up support for their aspirations, 10 days to the electoral contest.
THISDAY gathered that due to the bad blood and acrimony that trailed the emergence of the governorship candidates of the main parties — the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — the contest has become characterised by high level intrigues.
Aggrieved incumbent governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, is reported to be holding talks with the candidate of the APC, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu.
Mimiko and his preferred choice, Prof. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), have been having a running legal battle with businessman Jimoh Ibrahim over the ticket of the PDP. Mimiko has reportedly told the PDP supporters not to join the Alliance for Democracy (AD) if the legal fireworks did not favour Jegede before the November 26 governorship election.
It was learnt that in order to firm up the arrangement, Mimiko held a preliminary meeting with the Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum and Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha on Tuesday.
The meeting, which had the APC candidate, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), in attendance, took place at the Akure Airport.
A source close to the Ondo State governor told THISDAY that although no firm commitment was reached, Mimiko assured the duo of Okorocha and Akeredolu that if after the court processes Jegede did not fly, he would deploy his forces to back the APC candidate.
Said a Mimiko source: “It is true they met but not as people are speculating that Mr. Governor has already committed himself to the Akeredolu project. We are still confident we will win the mandate back. But if at the end of the day because of lack of time it happens that Jegede cannot fly, we have been told what to do.
“The governor and even those of us supporting Jegede believe that it is an insult for Tinubu to come from Lagos and install Iroko’s successor. It is an aberration we will fight, so rather than allow that, Iroko will be the one to swing support for Akeredolu to win because Ondo State belongs to us.”
On the other hand, the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, is said to be rooting for Chief Olusola Oke, the candidate of the AD, following the edging out of his preferred candidate in the party primary, Chief Segun Abraham.
Oke had, like Abraham, lost out in the same exercise but opted for the Action Alliance (AA) before he moved to the AD allegedly on the directive of Tinubu.
There were strong indications that Tinubu has sealed a power sharing deal with Oke. Among the terms of the deal is that for bankrolling Oke, the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, would nominate the secretary to the state government.
Among other things, the power sharing deal involves the distribution of cabinet slots and other strategic positions if Oke wins. But there is a caveat: the APC leaders must mobilise enough resources and voters to first ensure the victory of the AD candidate.
Although details of the power sharing deal were still kept secret, a source close to the deal disclosed that Oke had agreed to concede some positions to the APC national leader and Aregbesola.
They include: Secretary to the State Government (SSG), chairmanship of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), Commissioners for Finance, Works, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Health and headship of the Ondo State Board of Internal Revenue. Others include six caretaker committee chairmanship positions, that is, two per senatorial district as well as four special advisers.
The source said: “You know that the circumstances that led us to the AD are very peculiar. At first, we wanted Action Alliance but when the national leader suggested that we need to test the ground with AD in lieu of the zone’s interest ahead of 2016, we had no choice than accept the AD proposal.
“But what I just told you is not abnormal in politics especially when you view it from the prism of the need to cut down the APC candidate. I can assure you that the arrangement will work perfectly well and we will have no problem about that.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of the AD has approved a waiver to enable Oke fly the party’s flag in the election.
In a statement by its National Chairman, Chief Joseph Avazi, yesterday, the party said that it had rectified the waiver for Oke at its National Executive Committee meeting in Abuja.
He said: “After a careful and exiting deliberation during the NEC meeting which took place on the 17th day of November, 2016 at Afri Hotel Abuja, in bid to move the party forward, the NEC hereby adopts the following resolution as issued in this communiqué.”
He said that the AD NEC meeting was monitored by INEC officials, Mr. Ifaladu Saadu and Mrs. Bola Adewon.