9 March 2020
Ahead of the October 10, 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, the camp of the incumbent Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu seems to be gradually back on winning path.
With unrelenting political vigour, a considerable number of the All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders, under the aegis of Unity Group, had vowed to block Akeredolu from getting the party’s ticket for a second term in office.
Prominent among the opposition against the incumbent Governor is the immediate past state chairman of the party, Isaac Kekemeke, who has been relevant in every government in the state.
Others include Chief Olusola Oke, Dr. Segun Abraham, Chief Bukola Adetula and many others.
But the opposing faction, which is the only virile threat to Akeredolu’s re-election, seems to be diminishing in size and might, as some of their ace leaders are dissociating themselves from the group.
The last working visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the Ondo state to commission multi-billion Naira interchange and Ondo-Linyi Industrial Hub at Ore, the Headquarters of Odigbo LGA, is a high score for the Governor.
For months, the war song in the mouths of the opposition group was that the governor had lost favour with the Abuja Mafia, who barred him from entering the State House and having access to the President.
So bad was the political situation that the party’s National Leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s attempt last year to unite the party ahead of upcoming elections, the reconciliation with Akeredolu’s faction had ended in a stalemate.
Recently, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) set up a National Reconciliation Committee, headed by former Governor of Osun State. This development irked some Unity Group members, who declared an outright rejection of the committee.
In one of their meetings last month, the aggrieved members alleged that Chief Bisi Akande, who was the first interim APC chairman, was on the payroll of Ondo State Government, and that he would be biased in the assignment given to him.
Consequently, they passed a vote of no confidence on the national reconciliation committee to the chagrin of some factional leaders like Kekemeke, who dissociated himself from the group.
He expressed utter disappointment at the decision taken by the Unity Group leaders to incite party members against the National leadership. He disapproved the statement against Akande, which he described as “inflammatory.”
He said: “I have always said there is no crisis in Ondo APC, but what we have are various interest groups within the party pursuing interests which are legitimate. I don’t belong to any forum.
“The only Unity Forum that I know as authentic is the Advisory Council of the APC, put together to unify all tendencies in the party. I don’t belong to any group that is anti-Akeredolu or pro-Akeredolu.
“Rather, I lead a movement that wants to change the future of people of this state. There is nothing like Unity Group and any forum called Unity Forum should be pursuing unity and not disunity.
“So, the only unity forum is the APC Advisory Council that keeps working hard to see that every APC member sees the unity of the party as the most important thing. Whoever made such comment does not represent our own feelings, or what we think as members of the Advisory Council…”
According to him, those who made such caustic remarks about the national leadership of the party did that out of selfish interest that will cause disaffection and disunity, and without weighing the consequences.
“Those who promote disunity in this party don’t love the party. Differences are normal and a part of the political process, but to pull down the house and cause it to collapse is unpatriotic.
“If we love this party, everything we do in our actions and inactions must be about putting this party together as one family, so that it can continue to be a credible platform for electoral success.”
Recently in the pursuit of peace, Kekemeke, who was a member of the state House of Assembly and also served as Commissioner for Works in the state, was made the Secretary of an Advisory Council set up to proffer lasting solutions between Akeredolu and the aggrieved members.
He blamed the Governor for his unwillingness to run an all-inclusive government after assuming office three years ago.
Contrary to the stance of the factional leaders to discredit the National Reconciliation Committee, the former party chairman, affirmed that, “We will welcome the National Reconciliatory Committee and the Advisory Council will work with the committee to bring about lasting peace into Ondo APC.”
He expressed optimism that the Akande-led panel would proffer lasting solutions to the squabbles within the party and make it stronger and better to win the next governorship election.
“The division we have in the party is normal. A party is a big forum where interests are pursued individuals to realise their political dreams. So, there is nothing unusual, if we have internal tendencies within the party. What is unacceptable is for any individual to allow the minor conflicts to hurt the party as a whole,” he said, stressing the need for every party member to forget their differences and work towards winning the election for the party.
Meanwhile, there are insinuations from some quarters that there was a political understanding between Tinubu and Akeredolu at the peace talks last year to replace the Deputy Governor for the October poll; suggesting Kekemeke as a better replacement.
But Kekemeke, a former Secretary to the State Government, dispelled it as mere rumour. He recounted his recent encounter with the incumbent Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, at the airport.
“I called him and said, ‘Agbo, I have been hearing people say I wanted to take your job. Just forget it and take it as one of those political rumours of the season. See, I don’t need your job. It is the job of your boss, the Governor that I want to take,” he said.
Similarly, the runner-up in the September 2016 governorship primary, Dr. Abraham, also dissociated from the bid to malign Chief Akande on his credibility to lead the committee.
He said: “I will never sit down and allow anyone to abuse Baba Akande. Instead, I will leave politics to maintain my conscience and integrity. 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 to resolve the crisis at both national and state levels.
“I hereby pass a vote of confidence on the committee and see the Unity Group’s decision as unacceptable, frivolous and unpatriotic. 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 was the illegitimate and corrupt State Advisory Council put together by Akeredolu in which Chief Pius Akinyelure was rail-rolled into this deceptive contraption without asking for the two resolutions on the dissolution of APC executives in the state and an all-inclusive government.”
As a matter of urgency, he urged the party leaders that passed the vote of no confidence on Chief Akande to publicly apologise to him, stressing that, “he (Akande) is forever our pride in Yorubaland and Nigeria generally.”
Also, Abraham, who had also shown interest in re-contesting the next governorship poll, implored the leadership of Unity Group to join hands with the Akande-led Reconciliation Committee. To him, that is how they could prove their commitment to the unity and peace of Ondo State APC.