By Dayo Johnson, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA — INCOMING governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu yesterday explained why he did not mention Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in his victory speech even as he said that his All Progressives Congress, APC has now set its sight on taking over the governorship of Ekiti State.
Mr. Akeredolu’s assertion was quickly rebuffed by the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose who affirmed that back-to-back victories of the APC in Edo and Ondo had made him wiser on his succession plan.
Mr. Akeredolu gave his explanation for not acknowledging Tinubu in his speech, following a thank-you visit to President Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Earlier in the day he had received his Certificate of Return in Akure.
Speaking to State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with Buhari, Akeredolu explained that all the leaders of the APC, including Tinubu were generically acknowledged in his victory speech.
He stated that it was pointless mentioning their names specifically.
Akeredolu had praised Buhari and national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun in his victory speech last Sunday.
The development had elicited reactions, giving the impression of a deepening rift between him and Tinubu who allegedly laboured in futility to replace his candidacy with his godson.
Akeredolu, flanked by deputy governor-elect, Agboola Ajayi, governorship national campaign committee, Governor Simon Lalong and the Minister of State for Niger Delta, Claudius Daramola explained that all party leaders were acknowledged in his speech.
He said: “I thanked the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the leader of our party profusely for the leadership which they showed and which led to this victory. I also thank our indefatigable chairman for standing by the truth and for his position on this matter that led to this victory. I have no reason to do otherwise.
“You see, party structure, to the best of my knowledge is very clear. You have the leadership of the party, and that is represented by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. After the election, a chief executive emerges, he becomes a leader of the party. You don’t have to personalize and be looking for leaders all over the place. If we have to do that, then I will have to mention 36 or 37 leaders.
“So, I believe the leadership as represented by the President covers all leaders and that tells me it would include Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It would include even Baba Akande, (Ogbonnaya) Onu, so many leaders. But President Buhari is the leader of the party. So, that is my position there”.
On his relationship with Tinubu, he said:
“The relationship with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has always been the same. I don’t think we have any strained relationship. For me as a person, I believe he is one of the leaders of the party and I don’t see any strained relationship between us. And you will observe that he has sent in his congratulatory message after the election, so what else do you expect?
Asked whether he would probe the Olusegun Mimiko administration, the governor-elect said it was not necessary.
“The task ahead of us is enormous for us to start instituting probes. My own is not to institute any probe, and that is what President Buhari has done. But if we find out that wrongs were committed we have enough laws of the land to take care of people who have committed wrongs.
‘Ekiti, our next target’
Before meeting the President, Akeredolu and his entourage had been to the national secretariat of the APC where he affirmed that the APC roller-coaster was on its way to uproot the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP leadership in neighbouring Ekiti State
He also pledged his unalloyed loyalty to Odigie-Oyegun as national chairman, assuring that he would always abide by his instructions.
“I owe you, my national chairman, a lot. You have done well. I remember during my campaign that immediately we won in Edo; you said we will move en masse to win Ondo. I want to assure you that people are already rooting for us in Ekiti and I want to assure you that we will win Ekiti,” he said.
In his response, Chief Odigie-Oyegun tasked the governor-elect on the immediate payment of worker’s salaries as soon as he takes over.
“People who work, deserve their pay and I hope that would be your priority”, he stressed.
On the controversial primary that led to Akeredolu’s emergence, Odigie-Oyegun declared that “the entire process that led to him being our candidate happened before the cameras. He was able to convince the APC that he was the right candidate for the people of Ondo state”.
APC fooling itself, says Fayose
The boast of the APC taking over Ekiti was immediately rubbished by Governor Ayodele Fayose who vowed to win the APC again in all 16 local government areas of the state as he did in 2014.
“APC will be fooling itself if it thinks it will conquer Ekiti like it did in Ondo. Ekiti is a peculiar place, and I am the man on ground here. I want to assure my supporters and Nigerians that APC won’t win a local government here in 2018, even if President Muhammadu Buhari moves down all the money in FG’s TSA,” the governor said yesterday during a meeting with junior workers in the state’s civil service.
“Governor Olusegun Mimiko and Eyitayo Jegede may have lost in Ondo State, but that does not mean the people voted rightly. In 2015, people clamoured for change, and what have we got now? Nigerians are becoming poorer than ever.
“Today, I am the only one (PDP) among the APC governors in the South-West. I am now like the nation of Israel surrounded by enemies, but I shall defeat and triumph over them. APC has never defeated me in any battle, either political or legal.
“Whether they like it or not, I will win in Ekiti no matter the animosity, because I have the people behind me,” Fayose declared.
At another forum earlier in the day, the governor noted that he could use the platform of another political party to achieve his succession plans if it would help stave off the legal burdens now weighing the PDP.
Fayose, who dropped the hint in Ikere Ekiti while meeting members of the Suppliers’ Association of Nigeria, Ikere chapter, said; “I don’t know the platform I will use for the 2018 election yet, but at the appropriate time, I will tell you.”