Ondo APC Aspirants Gear Up for April Primary Ahead of 2024 Guber Poll

Ondo APC Aspirants Gear Up for April Primary Ahead of 2024 Guber Poll

Fidelis David reports that the stage appears set for next month’s All Progressives Congress’ primaries ahead of the 2024 governorship poll in Ondo State.

The race to the November 16, 2024 governorship election in the sunshine state is gathering momentum as all roads that lead to the election look literarily unpredictable.

For now, at least 20 aspirants of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have registered their readiness to battle the incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, in the primary election holding next month.

Unfortunately, among all the political parties in the state, APC has more aspirants than other parties.

APC Aspirants

For now, those jostling under the platform  of APC to take over from Aiyedatiwa, whose tenure ends on February 24, 2025 include former Commissioner for Finance in the State, Mr Wale Akinterinwa; 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; two-time governorship candidate in the state (2012 and 2016), Olusola Oke; former Director of Finance at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Brigadier-General Olumide  Ohunyeye (rtd), business mogul and incumbent Senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District, Jimoh Ibrahim.

Others include 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, among others.

Fears are, however, rife among the aspirants that the choice of President Bola Tinubu, who is believed to have a vested interest in who becomes the next governor, could be the deciding factor.

Lucky Aiyedatiwa

On December 27, 2023, Lucky Aiyedatiwa was sworn-in as governor of Ondo state following the death of his principal and 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.

No Automatic Ticket

However, The declaration by the national secretariat that there will be no automatic ticket for the governor, has also piled pressure on Aiyedatiwa, who is now seeking endorsement from the public.

Six members of the House of Representatives caucus of the APC from Ondo State recently wrote to President Tinubu about Aiyedatiwa, alleging that he was creating a crisis in the party in the state and exhibiting disdain for his late predecessor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.

The open letter to President Tinubu was signed by six lawmakers, namely, Adesida Abiodun Cornelius (Akure North/South), Timehin Adelegbe (Owo/Ose), Festus Ayodele (Ileoluji-Okeigbo/Odigbo), Ojogo Donald (Ilaje/Ese-Odo), Odimayo Okunjimi (Okitipupa/Irele), and Adegboyega Adefarati (Akoko South West/South East).

However, the lawmaker representing Ondo East/Ondo West federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Abiola Makinde in his reaction said that while there is a known aspirant among the six that wrote the letter, all of them were supporting different aspirants.

Late Akeredolu’s Wish

Besides, last Tuesday, the governor formally declared his intention to contest the governorship seat declaring that his late principal had always wished that he (Aiyedatiwa) succeeds him.

 “Distinguished citizens and party faithfuls, I must re-echo what our late leader had always wished for in his life time. It was his wish that I succeed him, not in death though, as the next Governor of the State. He was a courageous and visionary leader who had no time for pretense and so he expressed this wish at different fora in both public and private.

“All was with one conviction and implicit confidence in me to carry on the torch of accelerated development which he lighted first in 2017 and later renewed under a joint ticket for both of us in the 2021 gubernatorial election.

Exploiting Akeredolu’s Name

Unfortunately, few hours after the statement, Richard Olatunde, the former Chief Press Secretary to the late Governor, warned Aiyedatiwa, to stop exploiting the deceased governor’s name for political gain.

Olatunde emphasised that both Akeredolu’s family and his ardent supporters across the state strongly object to Governor Aiyedatiwa’s deceptive tactics, stating that the narrative regarding the alleged wish of Akeredolu, for Governor Aiyedatiwa to succeed him has gone too far to be disregarded.

“This narrative began even before our leader was laid to rest. Out of respect and utmost reverence for our late Governor, we chose not to engage with those spreading this narrative. While we acknowledge that the political atmosphere in the state is intensifying, we want to unequivocally state that the late Governor did not anoint or express a desire for Aiyedatiwa to succeed him. On the contrary, the relationship between the late Governor and Governor Aiyedatiwa became strained and distant until his passing.

“Despite attending to official matters and meeting people from Akure, the late Governor intentionally kept Mr. Aiyedatiwa, who was the deputy governor at the time, away from him in Ibadan. Our late Governor was deeply disappointed and regretful of certain behaviours and character traits displayed by Mr. Aiyedatiwa during his health challenges, which ultimately led to his passing.

“We have also observed the circulation of a video recorded during the swearing-in ceremony of the late Governor and Mr. Aiyedatiwa as Governor and deputy governor, respectively. Undoubtedly, our late Governor had high hopes for Mr. Aiyedatiwa. The late Akeredolu never concealed his intentions.”

Vote of No Confidence

Also, less than 24 hours after endorsing Aiyedatiwa’s governorship bid on behalf of  Ondo State Assembly, some members of the Assembly passed a vote of no confidence on the Speaker, Hon Olamide Oladiji.

The Speaker in his goodwill message, during Aiyedatiwa’s official declaration assured the governor of the support of the members of 18 out of the 26 members of the Assembly in getting the ticket of APC and winning the main election in November.

However, 13 members of the Assembly, in a statement distanced themselves from the endorsement, describing the statement of the speaker as embarrassing and disappointing.

The lawmakers who signed the statement include, Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi (Majority Leader), Moyinolorun Taiwo Ogunwumiju (Parliamentary Secretary), Oluwarotimi Fasonu (Chief Whip), Olajide Oguntodu (Minority Leader), Raymond Daodu (Deputy Minority Leader), and Akinsuroju Nelson, Akomolafe Temitope, Ifabiyi Olatunji, Agbulu Akeem, Christopher Ayebusiwa, Atinuke Witherspoon, Biola Oladapo and Afe Felix.

Night Mare for Arch Rivals

 Political experts believe that these among other embarrassment has continued to cast aspersions and dark cloud on the chances of Aiyedatiwa to secure the ticket while others believe it will not affect his chances.

They argued that the power of incumbency has always been a night mare for any arch rival, explaining that as an incumbent governor, he would have enough resources to fund his election because it is widely believed that any aspirant who wishes to succeed in any contest, must have the wherewithal, party structure as well as proven integrity.

Wale Akinterinwa

Immediate past commissioner for finance in the state, Wale Akinterinwa, is one of the numerous aspirants running for the governorship ticket APC.

The financial expert, an ally of President Tinubu had between 1999 and 2002, had worked with Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) as the Special Assistant on Finance, Investment and Strategy to the Managing Director.

Also, from 2003 to 2009, he was the Executive Vice Chairman of Gideon Trust Investment Limited and also sits on the Board of Gideon Trust Micro Finance Bank Limited, and Non-Executive Director of Emergent Power Energy Development Company Limited.

Akinterinwa who hails from the Oke-igbo/Ile Oluji LGA of the state, said late Rotimi Akeredolu anointed him as his successor before his death. He said Akeredolu did this after he returned from his medical trip to Germany in 2023.

Festus Adefiranye, the lawmaker representing Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives believes that Akinterinwa stood the best chance among the horde of aspirants in the APC to emerge as its governorship candidate.

In addition, it was gathered that Akeredolu’s kinsmen may back the ex-finance commissioner against Aiyedatiwa.

Mayowa Akinfolarin

A businessman and two-time member of the House of Representatives, Hon Mayowa Akinfolarin is also one of the strong contenders. The ex-lawmaker is believed to have the support of the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of the Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo; member representing Owo/Ose federal constituency, Timilehin Adelegbe, among others

For clarity, Gbajabiamila, Akinfolarin, Tunji-Ojo and Adelegbe were members of the ninth House of Reps.

The governorship aspirant, speaking last Wednesday in Ose and Owo local government council areas, while intensifying his consultation tours said his agenda, centered around key pillars of agriculture, education, health, job creation and infrastructure to the people at the grassroots.

For Timilehin Adelegbe, member representing Owo/Ose federal constituency in the House ofRepresentatives, Akinfolarin is the only unifying factor in the state emphasizing that the provision of requisite infrastructure and education would be a catalyst for the development of the state.

Jimoh Ibrahim

Ibrahim is the senator representing Ondo South, in the red chamber and one of the strong contenders for the election. He is said to be leveraging his personal relationship with President Bola Tinubu.

To him, the death of a former governor of the state, Rotimi Akeredolu, will enhance his chances of becoming the next governor.

“Maybe the death of Aketi has enhanced my chances because Aketi is a human being, he can be subjectively objective at the last minute. But now that he is no more, that possibility is written off completely. So whoever is there, wants to run for governor will meet me at the field. So Aketi’s death doesn’t affect my chances at all, but it would rather enhance my chances to win the governorship position of this state. So we are working seriously to win this election.”

Besides, he has the support of two former Senators among other political giants in the state and recently, a former Secretary to the state government and an aspirant, Oladunni Odu collapsed his structure for the lawmaker.

Olusola Oke

Olusola Oke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is another strong contender for the election. A two-time governorship candidate in the State and hails from Ilaje, the second most populous local government in the state.

He was a governorship candidate in Ondo during the 2012 and 2016 gubernatorial elections, and came second and third respectively in the two

elections, first on the platform of the PDP and then Alliance for Democracy (AD). He left the APC in October 2017 after a controversial primary election which produced the incumbent governor, but rejoined in January 2018.

Oke’s primary mission in politics is the compelling and urgent need to liberate the people of the coastal state from leadership ineptitude and underdevelopment.

The former Commissioner who represented Ondo State on the Governing Board of NDDC, lamented that despite Ondo’s natural endowment the state has remained largely economically handicapped, humanly underdeveloped, educationally static and socially sterile with the majority of the population ravaged by poverty.

Isaac Kekemeke

Isaac Kekemeke is currently the National Vice Chairman (Southwest) of APC and an indigene of Ese-Odo LGA. Kekemeke, with a political career spanning over 32 years, had held political positions from both the PDP and the APC.

He was the state’s founding chairman of the APC (2014-2018), a former Secretary to Ondo State Government (2007-2009), a former Commissioner for Works, Lands, and Housing (2005-2007), and Commissioner for Justice (2003-2005), former member of the State House of Assembly and pioneer Chairman of the National Examination Council (NECO).

The APC Vice Chairman said he is contesting the election to enable him genuinely and committedly utilize the people’s resources to directly impact their lives in a visible and sustainable manner.

Olugbenga Edema

Born in the rustic village of Ogogoro, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State on 15th November, 1966, Edema served as member of the Ondo State Sports Council (2005–2007) and the Ondo State Scholarships Board. He joined the Labour Party (LP) in 2010 and was elected as member representing Ilaje constituency II at the State House of Assembly in 2011. He later joined APC in 2014 and he re-contested but lost re-election in 2015.

Also, Edema was appointed as the Board Chairman of Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) by late Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in 2017.

While expressing his intention to contest the race, Edema revealed that his motivation to serve the people stems from the urgent need to provide more effective solutions to improve the living standards of the citizens, adding that he has developed socio-economic plans to turn the state’s economy around.

For the people of the sunshine state, all they want is a leader who has the temperament and courage to confront multifaceted challenges and ultimately use the entire governmental powers to fight hunger, poverty, joblessness, insecurity and  rescue the state’s decayed basic infrastructure.

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