As Aiyedatiwa, 18 Others Jostle for Ondo 2024 Guber Seat…

As Aiyedatiwa, 18 Others Jostle for Ondo 2024 Guber Seat…

Fidelis David reports that real politicking has started in Ondo state with Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa and 18 other aspirants jostling for the governorship tickets of the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the November, 2024 gubernatorial poll in the Sunshine state.

Politicians in Ondo State including seasoned campaigners and neophytes who are hoping to upset the old order have heightened their tempo and political shuffle to pick the tickets of their parties ahead of the November, 2024 governorship election in the state.

On December 27, 2023, Lucky Aiyedatiwa was sworn-in as governor of Ondo state following the death of the former governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and thus, by law, Aiyedatiwa is expected to complete the joint tenure of  late Akeredolu and himself by February 2025.

Besides, Aiyedatiwa is also eligible to contest the November 16 governorship poll in the state and perhaps, with his ambition, he’s leaving no stone unturned to secure the parties ticket.

Aiyedatiwa Dissolves Ondo Cabinet

The governor has proven the adage that says the gentility of a lion is not a sign of cowardice, timidity or stupidity by dissolving the State Executive Council, last month.

Many people believe that it took him so long to dissolve the cabinet while others believe that he should have waited until the remains of his former principal, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is buried on February 23.

They argued that the aloofness of the state government on the burial arrangements of the late governor shows that the fight between the camp of the former governor and Aiyedatiwa hasn’t ended.

Aiyedatiwa’s decision came almost a month after he was inaugurated as the governor of the state, following the death of his principal, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) who died on December 27, 2023 after battling with prostate cancer for several months.

This also came 15 days after the governor assured the people of the state that he’s not in a hurry to rejig the State Executive Council (SEC) as being rumoured.

A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ebenezer Adeniyan said all members of the Cabinet were to immediately hand over to the Permanent Secretaries or the most senior administrative officers in their respective offices, stressing that all Senior Special Assistants (SSAs) and Special Assistants (SAs) are also relieved of their duties, with immediate effect.

He subsequently announced the nomination of a former Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, Olayide Owolabi Adelami as the deputy governor of the State. The nominee was subsequently confirmed as the number two citizen of the state after screening by the State House of Assembly.

Adelami is from Owo Local Government Area of the State where the former governor, Akeredolu hailed from and he contested the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State under the platform of the All Progressives Congress.

The following day, the governor also announced the appointment of Tayo Oluwatuyi as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Mr. Abayomi Olasanya as the Chief of Protocol.

Oluwatuyi worked briefly as Ondo SSG under  Akeredolu’s administration but was later replaced with Mrs Oladunni Odu.

Also, last weekend, Governor Aiyedatiwa reappointed four out of the Commissioners sacked from the members of the State Executive Council (SEC) the previous week.

They include Barrister Akinwumi Sowore; Mrs. Omowumi Isaac; Engr. Razaq Obe; Mr Emmanuel Igbasan and Mr. Oseni Oyeniyi.

He also appointed renowned legal practitioner, Olukayode Ajulo.

Others include former member of the State House of Assembly, Hon Olugbenga Omole as Special Adviser on Information and Strategy; Mrs. Olamide Falana, Special Adviser on Gender Affairs and Mr. Alabi Johnson, Special Adviser on Energy.

The Electoral Umpire

For the electoral body, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu last Tuesday re-echoed that Ondo Governorship election will hold on Saturday, 16th November 2024 while party primaries will hold from 6th – 27th April 2024 in line with Section 178 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

Besides, INEC said the submission of the list of nominated candidates via the online portal will start at 9.00am on 29th April 2024 and close at 6.00pm on 20th May 2024.

Battle for District Supremacy

However, a major hurdle looms for political parties in the state as, the selection of candidates from the senatorial districts, particularly amid the claim by Ondo South Senatorial district that it is their turn to produce governor. In other words, going by the “unwritten” zoning arrangement in the state, the next governor of the state is expected to emerge from the south senatorial district where Aiyedatiwa hails from. Therefore, the party’s primary might be a battle for district supremacy.

Some political pundits propose an open competition for governorship ticket based on competence and capacity but others believe that for fairness, equity, and justice, Ondo South deserves the opportunity, given its significant contribution to the development of the state.

But, for now, there are no fewer than 18 aspirants from both the APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) jostling to take over from Aiyedatiwa, whose tenure  ends on February 24, 2025. The aspirants are made up of old guards and new entrants.

They include former Commissioner for Finance in the State, Mr Wale Akinterinwa; Secretary to the state Government (SSG), Mrs Oladunni Odu; former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Mayowa Akinfolarin; former member who represented the State on the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Olugbenga Edema; former Director of Finance at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Brigadier-General Olumide Felix Ohunyeye (rtd), business mogul and incumbent Senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District, Jimoh Ibrahim.

Others include former Commissioner for the Environment in the state, Mr Sola Ebisemi; two-time governorship candidate in the state (2012 and 2016), Olusola Oke; the Executive Director (Engineering and Technical Services) at Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited, Engr. Ifeoluwa Olusola Oyedele; APC National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Isaac Kekemeke; former President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Adedayo Faduyile; Dr Paul Akintelure, Mr. Olusola Iji, Hon. Jimi Odimayo and Mr. Matthew Oyerinmade.

Akinterinwa Gets Rousing Welcome

Apart from Aiyedatiwa, a strong contender for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket is a financial expert and former Commissioner for Finance in Ondo State, Mr Wale Akinterinwa.

Although, he hasn’t formally declared his interest in the race but recently, he was received by his admirers across the State at the Akure Airport after returning from Abuja.

The former commissioner, who hails from Oke-igbo/Ile Oluji Local Government Area of the state was said to be attending the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee in Abuja when the state governor, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa, dissolved the State Executive Council.

However, Akinterinwa who had worked with Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) as the Special Assistant on Finance, Investment and Strategy to the Managing Director between 1999 and 2002, was welcomed by supporters, APC leaders, and residents who trooped out to catch a glimpse of one of the governorship aspirants.

The people of the state from across the 18 local government areas of the state stormed the Akure Airport as early as 9:00 am to welcome the Ile-Oluji-born financial expert in appreciation of his meritorious service to the state.

Addressing the mammoth crowd, Akinterinwa appreciated the people for their love for him and promised to reciprocate the love they had for him, saying, “I am humbled by your perseverance. You have been here since morning. I came late due to a delay in my flight as a result of poor weather. A lot of flights were canceled due to the weather.

“We had the opportunity to fly when the weather became clear enough and approved by the authority. I know you have been waiting for about eight hours to express your appreciation to me after my meritorious service to our state for about seven years. Your gesture is a testimonial that when you do well, people will appreciate you. This is a manifestation of better things to come.”

Besides, Akinterinwa while speaking on a national television vowed that he would defeat the current Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, in the APC primary elections.

Specifically, Akinterinwa revealed how his ex-boss, the late Governor Akeredolu after he returned from his medical trip to Germany in 2023 anointed him as his (Akeredolu) successor.

“During the discussion in his office, he told me that he would want me to takeover from him. And he prayed for me. I’m also aware that he told certain people about that desire. The conversation happened immediately after he came back from Germany.

“At an appropriate time, I will make my intentions known. I am confident that I will get the ticket. The people are with me”.

Just like Akinterinwa, Aiyedatiwa too is yet to make a formal declaration, but he has been consulting with leaders at the national and state level to realise his ambition. His plans, according to his close aides, is to visit all stakeholders before he makes a formal declaration. According to them, the power of incumbency is the most potent political force in Nigeria and this will be adequately deployed ahead of the election.

Apparently, Aiyedatiwa, in preparation for the party primaries, at a stakeholders meeting of the party held recently in Akure declared that there’s no vacancy in the governor’s office. The meeting was the first after the demise of  Akeredolu.

He said: “We must all come together as one family to work together for the progress of our party, knowing for sure this is an election here for us. 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, APC will continue to govern this State”.

The Governor said he will liaise with the leadership of the party to ensure the smooth running of the party structure, regular stakeholders’ engagement and the operations of the Leaders’ Caucus and the Governor’s Advisory Council.

According to him: “It is important for me to tell you that as leaders of our party, we must put behind us the events of the last few months and come together as one big family for the progress of the APC and the development of our dear State.

“To me, what happened in the past was just politics. It was not a fight; it was not a battle; it was mere politics and I can say that I did not take any offence from that. The most important thing for us is to remain as one big family. There should be no division in our party. There is the need to make our party stronger and that necessitated the idea of this enlarged stakeholders meeting to bring everybody on board. Our party leaders and members are critical stakeholders that we cannot afford to neglect.

“There have been complaints from many of our party officers at local levels of not being carried along in the scheme of things. That must now be a thing of the past. All our party officers from ward to local government to state levels will be given the recognition they deserve.”

 The meeting came also a week after the APC through its spokesperson, Felix Morka, ruled out an automatic ticket for Aiyedatiwa, for the 2024 election, noting that members would decide who would get the governorship ticket.

Asked whether APC would offer Aiyedatiwa the right of first refusal on the governorship ticket, Morka said the party has not had such a discussion, adding that the party follows democratic principles.

The APC spokesperson said the party does not give “free gifts” and that “positions are meant to be contested. We have not had that discussion, but we are a democratic and progressive party. We don’t give anything to people; people have to justify and earn it. It is not to us (referring to APC executives); they have to justify their suitability, qualification, or criteria; it is to the people of the state who are our members, who would participate in the direct or indirect primary.

“Whatever preference anyone may have; it is all subject to the democratic decision of the party members who will participate in our primaries. We don’t give free gifts in APC. We contest, compete, and win whatever it is we can get in terms of representation.”

 A Contest of the Highest Bidder

An indigene of the state, Dr Segun Teniola, alleged that the composition of the meeting was intended to veil the real intention of the governor and give an impression of bringing the Ondo APC members together in the interest of peace and unity.

“The meeting did not achieve the major objectives it was planned to achieve. The meeting was held to remove the perception that the governor is a stranger to the leaders and majority of party members in Ondo state. It was also to reintroduce the governor to the leaders and members of the party. The governor’s group is aware that the majority of the people within the party are aversed to his aspiration. The need to remove the fear of rejection at the poll propelled the meeting.

“Reading the body language of Governor Ayedatiwa and the numerous promises he has made, his approach to governance smacks of panicky response to the challenge of lack of structure and crisis of confidence he elicited through the way he heartlessly kicked his former boss, the late Akeredolu, while he was on his sickbed and his life ebbing away.

“Leadership is never bought. It is earned. The governor must understand that governance should not be seen as a big basket where you deep your filthy hands to share patronages that you can not sustain. The governor should not join other governorship hopefuls whose only credential is the supposed fat pockets they brandish up and down the state.

“Enough of turning Ondo governorship contest to a bazar market and a contest of the highest bidder. Governorship seat of Ondo State is not for sale.”

Besides, a lawyer, Dele Kuboye, believes that it will be right for Aiyedatiwa to jettison his governorship ambition in the best interest of Ondo South senatorial district.

In an open letter to the governor, he argued that the law does not permit the incumbent to be sworn in as governor thrice if he intends to run for two terms. He added that Ondo South earnestly yearns for a two-term of eight years for whoever will represent the district as governor from February 24, 2025.

“I went to church today (Sunday) but I could not concentrate! I have been told occasionally by few individuals that you would be running for governor in the forthcoming guber race in Ondo State. Sir, I have looked at the enabling laws and case laws in Nigeria, particularly the ones handed down by our Supreme Court, and I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that the law will not permit you to be sworn in as governor three times, consecutively or otherwise!

“Please note that Ondo South Senatorial District, our mutual district, earnestly yearns for a two-term of eight years for whoever will represent the district as governor from 24th February, 2025! Sir, you can only spend four years in office plus the remainder of your former boss’s term which expires on 24th February, 2025! That is the law as it is today sir!

“In the event of the foregoing, your Excellency, please put the interest of our mutual district before self, yield your interest to run the race and consider your role in furtherance of good legacies in the remaining months that you have got to spend as the governor of Ondo State! I am sincerely yours in humility and honesty.”

Be as it may, residents of Ondo and Nigerians as a whole are curiously waiting for the next move from Governor Aiyedatiwa and other aspirants eyeing the Alagbaka seat, knowing fully well that interesting and shocking days are ahead.

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