AHEAD of the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State one of the questions on the lips of observers is: Who will gain the upper hand in the battle of wits between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the Unity group in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC?
The Unity group consists of APC leaders and stalwarts, who want to abort the re-election of Governor Akeredolu.
Before now, the group looked formidable but appears to have shot itself in the leg when the leaders picked on a well respected APC leader and former Osun State Governor, Chief Bisi Akande.
At one of their meetings at the Akure residence of their leader, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, a former deputy governor of Ondo State, leaders of the group not only took Akande to the cleaners they also passed a vote of no confidence on his headship of the party’s national reconciliatory committee.
Their communiqué after a four-hour meeting signed by Alhaji Olanusi said, the meeting reviewed the replacement of the Senate President (Ahmad Lawan) with Chief Bisi Akande as the Chairman of APC National Reconciliation Committee and passed vote of no confidence on Chief Akande as the chairman of the committee.
“This is because the said Chief Bisi Akande is on the payroll of Ondo State Governor and he was part of the reconciliation committee that met with the party leadership in Ondo State in July, 2019 at Heritage Hotel Akure,’’ he added.
Attack on Akande backfires
The attack on Akande created a rift among the leaders and since the group is in disarray.
Indeed, some members of the group with governorship ambitions have dissociated themselves from the attack on Akande.
The crack widened when notable elders of the group began to dissociate themselves from the communiqué.
The 2016 APC primary election runner-up, Dr. Segun Abraham, said the vote of no confidence passed on Akande was unacceptable, frivolous and unpatriotic.
“I personally called the leader of the Unity Group, Alhaji Ali Olanusi to ascertain whether it was true that the former Osun state governor was on the payroll of Governor Akeredolu but he gave no genuine explanation.
“The allegation levied against him is unfounded, frivolous and lack any credibility. This was not discussed at the Unity Forum meeting which I attended.
“What was discussed at the meeting was illegitimate corrupt State Advisory Council put together by Akeredolu in which Chief Pius Akinyelure was railroaded into this deceptive contraption without asking for the two resolutions on dissolution of APC executives in the state and all inclusive government.
“I urge the party leaders who passed the vote of no confidence to publicly apologize to Akande because he is forever our pride in Yoruba Land and Nigeria at large,” he said.
Abraham advised the leadership of Unity Group to join hands with the Akande-led Reconciliation Committee if truly it is committed to unity and peace in Ondo State APC.
Abraham described Akande as an incorruptible, dogged and rare breed politician, who mentors new generation leaders for future challenges.
“I can never question or doubt his capacity or competence as the Chairman APC National Reconciliation Committee because he is one of the few leaders who have all that is required to assist the party resolve the crisis at both national and state levels.
“I will never sit down and allow anyone to abuse Akande instead I will leave politics and maintain my conscience and integrity”
Within a week after the controversial attack on Akande, some concerned elders across the three senatorial districts of the state also washed their hands off the communiqué especially the aspect that attacked Akande.
They lambasted Alhaji Ali Olanusi for “castigating our respected elder and leader, Chief Akande.’’
The elders include Chief Erastus Akeju and Bode Sunmonu from the North, Pa Olufemi Ojo and Chief Dapo Ajayi from the central and Sir E A O Akintade and Barrister Mrs Yejide Ogundipe from the southern districts of the state.
“We hereby express our unflinching confidence in the leadership of Chief Bisi Akande and the National Reconciliation Committee jointly set up by Presidency and our National Party leadership.
“We have resolved to Continue to support all efforts by our National Leaders to unite the Party and in this regard , will work for the accomplishment of the objectives of APC Advisory council which we believe will further strengthen our great party in Ondo State.
“Members reviewed the present political situation in the State and lamented that the continued division in the party is fuelled by the way and manner Governor Akeredolu has excluded large sections of the party both in government and the party.
“The leaders appeal to all leaders and members of the party to desist forthwith from utterances and actions capable of further heightening the current division as there is no other party we can call own.
“As leaders, we on behalf of Ondo state APC, apologise to Chief Akande, the Presidency and our National Chairman for this unwanted embarrassment. We are sorry.’’
Unity group fires another salvo
Undeterred by the development, the unity group boasted that it would present the APC standard-bearer in the forthcoming governorship poll.
A top leader of the group, Senator Ajayi Boroffice said: “We in Unity Group of APC in Ondo State will pick a consensus candidate that will face Akeredolu in the party’s primaries in July.’’
Consequently, a seven-member committee has been constituted to screen the seven aspirants in the group.
They include Senator Yele Omogunwa and Professor Ehindero as chairman and secretary respectively. Other are Elder Mike Adeyeye Ajiroba, Boye Adegbemisoye, Prince Solagbade Amodeni, Hon Afe Olowokere and Mrs Iyantan.
The governorship aspirants in the group include: Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Chief Olusola Oke, Dr Segun Abraham, Ife Oyedele, Bukola Adetula, Banji Ayiloge, Jimi Odimayo and Kazeem Olanrewaju.
Akeredolu fires back
However, Akeredolu shot back saying that he is not threatened by any gang-up by the group, adding that the leaders of the group “are irrelevant to his re-election bid.’’
Akeredolu said he would not need them for his re-election campaign as they have drawn the battle line against him and his government.
“The members of the group did not support me during my first time and l would not need their support during my re-election campaign. We will fight them no matter their age. How could a man of over 70 years be ganging up against a performing government? We will win with or without them”
The governor lambasted the former deputy governor as “someone who was a deputy governor and chairman of a political party but could not tar a kilometre of road in his community.’’
He pointed out that his government tarred the road in the community and yet Olanusi aid what he saw was just a kilometre of road.
“Those criticising us are blind and do not deserve to be pitied. lf there is an election that is devoid of shenanigans, l will win hands down,” he said.
He declared that those interested in the governorship seat in the Unity group are of no match to him.
“We will meet at the primaries. They are no match to me. I will win the primaries. We have delivered and the people on our side are more than those with them.
“lf we go for an election today we are sure of having over 70 percent votes across the state. So we are at home with the majority of the people in the state. They should congratulate me after winning and also join our government and if they win I will also congratulate them.
Meanwhile, political observers believed that the unity forum would disintegrate soon as the ambition of the leaders would tear them apart.
A former governorship candidate in the state who spoke in confidence said “Do you think Chief Olusola Oke, with his political experience will just align and drop his structure for Oyedele in the group?
“Do you think the cold war between Senator Boroffice and Dr. Abraham has ended? It was because the duo decided to embrace “political fight to finish tactics” that allowed the 2016 APC governorship ticket to slip away from the hands of the Akoko.
“So, you think Abraham will back Senator Boroffice as the consensus aspirant of the group?
“The looming political war in the Forum, by the time its begins, President Muhammadu Buhari or Adams Oshiomhole won’t be able to resolve the crisis.’’
A loyalist of the governor said that “the battle line drawn by Aketi was provoked by the Unity group which pulled out of the reconciliation move by disowning the State Advisory Council and its sub-committee headed by Olusola Oke which was intended to serve as the clearing house for grievances.
“The Forum also discredited the national reconciliation committee. So to me, Aketi merely stated in words what the Unity Forum has said by its actions.
“As to the approach and language of Aketi, should he be talking in pastoral language to people who are determined to unseat him? I would be worse if am in Aketi’s shoes. You don’t joke with opponents, you fight.’’