Guber Aspirants Step Up Campaign as Tinubu Visits Ondo

Fidelis David reports that the recent visit of President Bola Tinubu to Ondo State was an opportunity for aspirants for the 2024 gubernatorial poll under the platform of the All Progressives Congress to campaign and show their popularity to the visitor.

It’s a little over a year that the Independent National Electoral Commission presented the certificates of return to the then President-Elect, Bola Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima in the February 25, 2023 poll, after garnering 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who scored 6,984,520.

Months before the election, it was a seemingly symbolic and emotive moment for the then All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, when he took a benedictory pilgrimage to Akure, the capital of Ondo State to receive the all-clear blessing from the leader of Yoruba’s socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti—an endorsement that generated mixed feelings.

To underscore the enormity of the occasion and the weight of support he enjoyed, the former governor of Lagos State was received at the country home of Pa  Fasoranti by Ekiti state governor, Biodun Oyebanji, the governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa who was then a deputy governor; Deputy governor of Oyo State, Bayo Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, former Ogun state governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Minister of state, Transportation, Ademola Adegoroye, a former Minister of state, Niger Delta, Chief Tayo Alasoadura and a former Governor of Osun State among other Afenifere leaders.

Then, Fasoranti, while performing the greybeard invocation on October 30, 2023, had his two palms firmly placed on Tinubu’s clean shaven head and wished him a smooth glide in the race for Aso Rock, even as Tinubu put forward his 80-page manifesto before the nonagenarian with other prominent Yoruba leaders present.

But, 126 days after receiving the blessing, and nine months to his administration, Tinubu, knowing fully well that little appreciation sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious bringing up in the world, returned to Akure, the country home of Pa Fasoranti, and presented his certificate of return to him in appreciation for his blessings.

This time around Fasoranti’s palms weren’t firmly placed on Tinubu’s “clean shaven head” but it was all greetings as they exchanged pleasantries.

Earlier, President Tinubu visited Owo, in Ondo State to condole with the family of the late Governor of the State, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu who died on December 27, 2023, after a protracted illness.

The President, who was accompanied to Owo by the state governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Chief Bisi Akande and Chief Pius Akinyelure,  was received by the widow of the late Governor, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu.

President Tinubu, who had a closed-door meeting with Mrs. Akeredolu, also visited where the late Governor was laid to rest, saying the void left by the departed Governor will be difficult to fill.

According to him, it is honourable to depart the world when the ovation is loudest.

“This sentiment should inspire us to live each day with purpose, to pursue our goals with determination, and to leave behind a legacy that will be remembered fondly by those whose lives we have touched.

While acknowledging the courage and fearless nature of the late governor especially his passion for good governance, Tinubu said “he truly embodied courage and fearlessness, especially in his relentless pursuit for good governance. I can only describe him as a fearless fighter, his unwavering commitment to the welfare of his people and his courageous nature will always be remembered”.

Mrs. Akeredolu speaking after the visit appreciated the President for the condolence visit, saying “On behalf of my family, I appreciate Mr. President. We understood he couldn’t attend the burial ceremony due to the dictate of Yoruba culture. He couldn’t have attended the burial of his younger brother.

“Coming today is a big deal because we are in a better atmosphere. I also express my profound gratitude to the Southern Governors for their immense financial contributions to the burial. Most especially, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-olu, who singlehandedly brought Aketi’s remains back to Nigeria. We appreciate this huge show of love and we are grateful and forever indebted to him.

“I requested that Mr. President see where Aketi has been laid to rest and he followed me. We are deeply grateful to Mr. President for coming. He’s indeed, Aketi’s brother and friend. I told Mr. President, yes, Aketi has left but he lives because he left behind legacies. It is our wish that those legacies continue and are built upon where necessary.”

Immediately he was done from Owo, President Tinubu flew in a chopper to Akure where he paid homage to Pa Reuben Fasoranti.

At the private meeting with Pa Fasoranti, the president began his usual gesticulation like a smart attorney, explaining a point before a magistrate, saying his government was aware of the challenges confronting Nigerians but promised that the policies of his administration will bring positive solutions to the challenges.

He also called on Nigerians to grow and eat home foods, noting that doing so would wean the country from depending on foods from foreign sources.

Pa Fasoranti, on his part, called on the President to restructure the country and enthrone true federalism as it was originally entrenched in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions to end the nation’s problem of grappling with double-digit inflation, foreign currency shortages, a weakening naira, widespread insecurity, amongst others.

His words: “You know that since the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the Yoruba people, led by Afenifere, have been in the forefront of the campaign for the restructuring of Nigeria.

“It is now incumbent on you to address this issue of constitutional reforms with courage, fairness and determination. We know we cannot return to the past, but we have to seek a future where regional competitions would bring out the best in our country as it did during the First Republic.

“We seek therefore a true Federal Republic that would reflect fiscal federalism. If derivation principle is good for oil, why is it not good for Value Added Tax for example?”

He stressed that the group believe that a review of the 2014 National Constitutional Conference would help him in charting the course.

“For the people of the South-West, restructuring also has a more pressing meaning. Today, Nigeria has a population of 200 million which would double in the next 25 years to 400 million. However, the South-West is facing an avalanche of migration from the other zones of the country to the extent that in 25 years’ time, if the current trend continues, the South-West would be home to 50 percent of the population of Nigeria.

“By this time the states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo would be home to at least 200 million people. We need to plan for this eventuality on a regional scale. We need to be prepared so that our region would not be overwhelmed by imported challenges.

“Mr President, please also seek for institutional reforms that would strengthen our federation and make Nigeria safer and more prosperous. Try and balance the budget and execute capital projects that would create more employments. We thank you for welcoming the idea of state policing.”

He noted that Afenifere want each of the geo-political zones to have greater responsibilities for security, food production and infrastructural development.

“Since the removal of fuel subsidy, which was costing Nigeria 10 billion dollars yearly, the state governments have been receiving hefty allocations from the Federation account.

Mr President should persuade the governors to allow this change of fortune for the states to reflect at the grassroots so that life can be better for our people. They should not just buy rice and yams for the people.

“They should create employment, improve education and build new infrastructures. Today, life is truly challenging for most people and the state governments have an important role to play to transform the society. You have done well with trying to reposition our economy and reform the Public Service. We salute your courage in tackling many issues that have remained unresolved for many years.

“It is an act of courage and sagacity for you to adopt the Oronsanye Report as the basis to reform the Public Service. This is a welcome development”, he added.

The presidential visit was also an opportunity for  aspirants for the 2024 governorship poll under the platform of the All Progressives Congress in the Sunshine State to show their popularity to the visitor.

Supporters of the aspirants displayed banners, with crested vests, bearing different inscriptions while major streets of Akure and Owo were flooded with campaign banners of the aspirants.

Unfortunately, the show of loyalty led to violence among the aspirants’ supporters which informed why former state Commissioner for Finance and governorship aspirant under the APC, Wale Akinterinwa, called on President Tinubu to caution the state governor against using armed thugs to cause chaos and crisis in the state ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

Specifically, the aspirant through his campaign organisation alleged that the governor used political thugs to attack his supporters and destroyed his campaign materials in the wake of the visit of President Tinubu to the State last Wednesday.

The Akinterinwa Campaign organisation, alleged that his supporters and peaceful members of APC who turned out to receive the president during his trip to family of late Governor Akeredolu’s family, were attacked by armed thugs who were working for the state governor.

The statement, signed by the spokesperson of the group, Segun Ajiboye, said property and billboards of other aspirants were destroyed by the rampaging thugs during the attack.

The statement, tagged: “Ugly attacks on gubernatorial aspirants by Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa’s thugs during President Tinubu’s visit to Ondo State”, said the organisation is being restrained by “the need to save our dear state from an ugly return to the dark days by those who harbor vaulting and mechanical ambition.”

 “You will recall that the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu,  was in Ondo state, on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, to commiserate with the family of the former governor of Ondo state, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and His Majesty the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin Ogunoye III. The president was also at the residence of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere.

“As expected, the good people of Ondo state, particularly the peaceful members of our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), trooped out to welcome the president, who is the leader of the party and father of the nation. The people were joined by party leaders, party members. In an effort to give our leader a rousing welcome to the state, the different gubernatorial aspirants vying on the platform of APC mobilised their supporters to receive Mr President at the airport.

It stated that, “The atmosphere was carnival-like. But that was until what ordinarilly was planned to be a rousing welcome and celebration of the visit of Mr President was turned to a theater of violence and bloody attack on APC members and supporters of other gubernatorial aspirants by thugs sponsored and fully armed by Hon Lucky Ayedatiwa, the governor of Ondo state.

“The well-orchestrated and executed attacks were carried out by some well-known thugs as well as members of the NURTW loyal to the governor of Ondo state. The thugs, who brazenly fired gun shots into the air to cause confusion, went on a destruction spree as they attacked property, while billboards of other gubernatorial aspirants were defaced, pull down or out rightly destroyed.

“Party members perceived to be loyal to all gubernatorial aspirants sustained varied and diverse degree injuries resulting from the attacks unleashed on them, while those supporting Governor Ayedatiwa were spared. T-Shirts, faze caps and other insignia wore by members of the targeted aspirants were torn to shreds.

“The thugs who carried out the orchestrated attacks were armed with all sorts of dangerous weapons. It is sad to note that many of our supporters with deep cuts are in the hospitals receiving treatments at the moment. It is, however, surprising that no aspirant other than the governor was spared of the attacks.

“Let me state here that the need for this press statement is not borne out of fear or inability to protect our supporters. We have the capacity to give adequate protection to all our members who have remained peaceful in the face of this dastardly attack. We are also not unaware of the overriding need to save our dear state from an ugly reenactment of the dark days by those who harbor vaulting and mechanical ambition.

“At this juncture as members of the Wale Akinterinwa Campaign Organisation, we would also love to state that as responsible leaders and members of our party with genuine intentions to serve our dear people, we are unable and will not accept the imposition on the party members a regime of panic and fear in other to supplant popular participation in a democratic process aimed at emplacing accountable and responsive leadership. 

“We, therefore, call on Mr President and the national chairman of the APC to prevail on Mr Governor to halt the use of thugs to advance his political interest. The field is wide enough for everyone to operate.

“Also, we urge all security agencies to not only to be on red alert against future occurrence but also ensure that those who carried out these dastardly attacks are apprehended and brought o books to serve as deterrent to others who may be emboldened by this barbaric act.”

Reacting, Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa in a release by his Chief Press Secretary, Ebenezer Adeniyan said, his administration will not tolerate any form of violence that is capable of threatening the peace and tranquility of the State.

He stated: “As the Governor has said repeatedly, any political campaign that disturbs the peace in the State is unacceptable and must be met with the decisive actions of law enforcement agencies. It is pertinent to make it clear that nobody associated with the Governor or the government of Ondo State was involved in any of the reported activities ascribed to “political thugs” during the President’s visit to Owo and Akure.

“The Governor has therefore asked law enforcement agencies in the State to arrest and prosecute anyone found to be engaged in such violent activities.

“The Governor urges politicians and their followers to ensure that their campaings are issue based, devoid of blackmail, spreading falsehood, inciting the public and intimidating opponents.”

Related Articles