Over seven months after the peace meeting to reconcile all the warring factions in Ondo State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the problems get tougher while the chances of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu gets slimmer ahead of the upcoming governorship election.
Akeredolu has been in the middle of prolonged crises, first with the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, before the 2016 primaries, and later with the major stakeholders of the party after he won both the primary and 2016 poll.
However, Tinubu made a political detour to reconcile with the embattled governor last year July and made efforts to pacify other aggrieved factions, who are bent on ensuring the latter was sanctioned for his anti-party activities. The gladiators and opposing faction members, who attended the meeting included former party chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, Olusola Oke, Ali Olanusi, Bola Ilori, Sola Amodeni, but Senator Ajayi Boroffice and Mr. Ife Oyedele were conspicuously absent.
Consequent upon the massive failure of the party in the last general election, the opponents within the party blamed Akeredolu for raising candidates in other parties to spoil the chances of the ruling party, which also led to the defeat of President Muhammadu Buhari in the state.
But Tinubu, who paid a surprise visit to the state last year in the company of former interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, former governors of Ogun and Ekiti States, Segun Osoba and Niyi Adebayo, pleaded that the opponents should sheathe their swords. He noted that the meeting was to promote the interest of the ruling party and how they would win the next election resoundingly.
He insisted that the party’s leaders must come together as one so as to win the next election and every other future elections.
While speaking with journalists after the meeting, Tinubu disclosed that the differences and age-long grievances among the leaders, especially against Akeredolu, had been amicably resolved, adding, “You can see all our leaders coming out together, laughing and happy.
“APC in Ondo is one now; we have asked all our leaders to go back and bring peace and unity to Ondo Atate. We applied conflict resolution mechanism to smoothen the edges.”He added that political issues were not new in politics as he charged the leaders and members of the party in the state not to destroy the house, which they built by themselves.
Even while the meeting was going on, the governor’s aides declared that the political gladiators had settled their age-long rift with Akeredolu and agreed to support him for a second term.
But Kekemeke, who is the immediate past APC chairman in the state and an aspirant in the 2020 governorship poll, stressed that the meeting did not endorse anybody.
According to him, “We have not reached consensus over Akeredolu’s second term bid. We never talked about first or second term. What we talked about is how our party will remain united and that whether anyone likes it or not, Akeredolu remains the governor of the state and by indication, the leader of the party in the state.
There was no talk about second term, third term or forth term.”He, however, confirmed that reconciliation meeting was held over the lingering crisis rocking the party and tasked the leaders on how to fashion out lasting reconciliatory moves so that the party could win next elections.
“Leaders of our party have spoken to us and we have agreed that we will work together and find domestic solutions to our domestic problems at the prompting of our leaders. In a short while, we will be putting ourselves together to proffer domestic solutions to our domestic problems as motivated and encouraged by our leaders in the Southwest and that will be very soon.
“We also agreed that we have all offended ourselves and the better thing to do is to also forgive ourselves and make compromises as the way forward, both the governor and all of us from the other side. The most important thing is to continue to build a platform that is credible and will be able to win elections in the future.”
Despite the truce, the confrontations between Akeredolu and the other faction under the aegis of Unity Forum and APC Elders Forum, led by a former deputy Governor and member of APC’s BoT, Olanusi, continue to wax stronger at alarming proportion. Recently, Oyedele, who is also an aspirant and the Executive Director of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), accused Akeredolu of running the state aground and as a ‘family affair’ while the latter said the former is a ‘Stakeholders’ ATM.’
The governor had also boasted in Abuja that he was the only candidate who could win the state for APC, warning that any attempt by the national leadership of the party to deny him of the party’s ticket would cause the party a huge failure.
But Olanusi retorted that the party would not miss him if he ditched APC to contest as opposition, assuring him that he would not only be defeated in his local government but also in his hometown, Owo. It was rumoured that the governor is romancing the immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, to use his party, Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) as an alternative to pursue his second term ambition if he was eventually denied APC’s ticket.
Though as political analysts posit, that move could not be far from the truth as some loyalists of Mimiko and candidates of ZLP in the last election were given appointment by the governor last year. However, the Assembly member representing Odigbo II, Samuel Aderiboye, dispelled such speculations and attributed the relationship between the duo to be devoid of any political plans for 2020.
Meanwhile, APC’s opposing faction, who is said to be scouting for a consensus candidate among themselves to dislodge Akeredolu in the next governorship primary, accused the governor of frustrating the peace meeting held at the instance of the national leaders. They raised alarm on several occasions that the governor was working to frustrate the intent and objectives of the meeting, hence, there is no iota of event to show that the peace talk yielded any positive result.
Only recently, another emergency meeting was held in Akure at the instance of Tinubu. Though he was not in present, his lieutenant and former Vice Chairman (Southwest) of the party, Chief Pius Akinyelure, conveyed the meeting. Whereas, it was gathered that Akeredolu had had an indoor meeting with Tinubu and Akinyelure in Lagos before the duo came to attend the Akure meeting, which raised the hope that the opposition might whittle down completely.
At the meeting, the Unity Group was represented by Olanusi, Oke, Bode Sunmonu, Dr. Paul Akintelure, Chief Erastus Akeju, Dr. Taiwo Malumi, Mr. Jacob Oredola, Senator Yele Omogunwa among others while Boroffice and Oyedele were absent again.
Commissioner for Finance, Wale Akinterinwa, Secretary to the State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Bamidele Oleyelogun, Commissioner for Regional Integration and Special Duties, Prof. Bayonile Ademodi, and state APC chairman, Mr. Ade Adetimehin accompanied Akeredolu to the meeting.
An insider at the meeting disclosed that the issue of candidacy was not discussed, adding that the governor, to the chagrin of all the contenders, had boasted that he would win the party’s primary. Shortly after the meeting, there was widespread rumour that the opposing camps had sheathed their swords and agreed to work for Governor Akeredolu’s reelection. This signalled hope for the governor’s aides, especially the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
WITH intent to reclaiming the state, PDP is waiting like a political vulture to feed on the carcasses, which the infighting within the ruling party would throw up. They had been wishing that Akeredolu should get APC ticket. Inevitably, they believe that most APC members and the arch-political rivals within would work with PDP to ensure Akeredolu does not win the election for a second term.
But the Unity Forum Group was quick to dismiss speculations that the internal crisis within the party had been settled in favour of the incumbent governor, affirming that there was no time they ever talked about endorsing Akeredolu for re-election. Also, the APC chieftains also denied negotiating for the dissolution of the party’s State Executive Council and asking for the deputy governorship slot in the next election as conditions to support Akeredolu.
An aspirant in the 2016 controversial APC primary, Oke, affirmed that there was never a time the issues of Akeredolu’s re-election and negotiation for deputy governorship slot were discussed as wrongly reported.
He confirmed that the Saturday meeting was held in one of the popular hotels in Akure, revealing that it was called to bring all the warring factions together as a family ahead of future election. He lamented that the report over the endorsement of Akeredolu was designed by some elements to mislead some party members.
According to him, “I read a distorted story of what transpired at the leadership meeting of APC in an online platform, dedicated to propagate political news and deliberate propaganda of the sponsor. The meeting was held last Saturday in Akure, but matters that were not discussed were reported as the objects of discussion at the meeting.
“Members of the public should be aware that the intent of that meeting was to seek unity among the leaders of APC in Ondo State and the issue of 2020 governorship was not in the agenda, neither was it discussed at the meeting.”
The APC chieftain recounted that the meeting was conveyed to resolve the lingering leadership crisis in APC as follow up on committee set up by the national leaders of APC, who summoned a reconciliation meeting sometimes last year.
“The major agenda of the meeting was to find out the crux of the crisis with a view to restoring peace among the warring leaders of the party including Mr. governor. It will be recalled that at the peace meeting held last year, it was agreed that a state Advisory Committee should be constituted as a prelude to fostering peace in the party.
“Months after the first peace meeting was summoned, Pa Pius Akinyelure in consultation with Mr. governor and Alhaji Olanusi, called the meeting of the state advisory committee. The meeting was held last Saturday, February 1, 2020 at the Heritage Intercontinental Hotel, Akure. At the meeting, it was agreed that issue of governorship election must not be discussed and that how to restore peace to the party is the major agenda to be discussed.”
Members of the committee include Chief Oke as chairman, Kekemeke as secretary: both are aspirants in the coming governorship election while Chief Sunmonu, RT Hon Bamidele Oloyelogun, Mr. Wale Akinterinwa, and Mr. Jacob Oredola. Oke, who was also the Southwest’s Director-General of President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Group in the last general election, added that “Members in attendance made known their grievances and said the executive members of the party from state to ward levels must be dissolved and reconstituted.
“A reconciliation committee to harmonise the grievances of members present and those not within the rank of the advisory committee was constituted. The committee was to report back to the State Advisory Committee and national leaders of the party for execution.
“The aggrieved members are to submit a memorandum which will be used to generate solutions to the crisis, which will now form the working document to address the crisis while the document will now be sent to the National leadership of the party.”Without mincing words, Oke declared, “The issue of endorsement never cropped up at the meeting. Nobody endorsed the governor and no one asked for deputy governorship slot.
We did not endorse anybody. The membership of the committee has nothing to do with next governorship election, and they never discussed the issue of governorship, or deputy governorship but they talked about the party and the party alone.”
Meanwhile, the secretary of the newly constituted Advisory Council, Isaac Kekemeke, disclosed that an ad-hoc committee had been put in place by Ondo APC to broker peace among all feuding leaders of the party. Kekemeke said after the leaders at the meeting considered the presentations by the various contenders, they resolved that the selected leaders at the meeting should find solutions to the core issues identified as the root causes of the disunity within the party.
He said the council after an extensive deliberation on the present structure of the party in the state constituted an ad hoc committee to consult stakeholders and party faithful and come up with recommendations for its consideration within the shortest possible time.
“The council noted the appeal of Governor Akeredolu to members present to put the past behind them and urged all to work for the unity of the party. The governor’s declaration that the council was not a forum for deciding the candidacy of the party for the 2020 governorship election in the state and the assurance that he would run a more inclusive government were commended.”