•Mass defection looms as commissioners allege overbearing influence of technocrats in their ministries
•Defection/resignation story a hoax – Gov’s spokesperson
By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West
ALL appears not well with the Ondo State Executive Council, led by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state ahead of next year’s general elections.
The governor’s style of governance has reportedly left many of his commissioners and party leaders dumbfounded.
Members of the House of Assembly are also believed to be sulking over alleged unfulfilled promises of Akeredolu on the purchase of vehicles and constituency allowances.
A source said the governor, who travelled out of the country recently, failed to communicate this to the state House of Assembly.
He is accused of running a one- man show as political patronage is not dispensed fully in the 17 months of the administration.
Meanwhile, some of the governor’s friends are said to be highly favoured by the Akeredolu administration.
For instance, one of such friends is alleged to be a consultant to no fewer than four major road contracts across Ondo while the company that secured the contracts is alleged to be owned by a Special Adviser in one of the ministries.
Another friend is alleged to be in charge of the state forest reserves.
Party members are grumbling that about 50 per cent of the contracts for the renovation of primary schools across the state, recently awarded by the state government, were cornered by a privileged few who were nowhere to be seen when the APC was in the trenches.
Also, an influential Special Adviser is alleged to be having an overbearing influence in some major ministries that are said to be lucrative.
Many commissioners and party leaders complained that the governor is not accessible as he is said to be not always around in the state and, when around, prefers to engage with his associates appointed as Special Advisers in their ministries instead of them.
While many commissioners are grumbling over alleged overbearing influence of Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants in their ministries, APC chieftains are raising the alarm over alleged capital flight from Ondo allegedly traced to the allies of Akeredolu who allegedly come from outside Ondo to do government contracts and take the proceeds back to their bases.
The APC leadership in the state, according to party sources, has met with the governor severally on his style of governance, saying however that nothing has changed.
In addition, party sources said Akeredolu refused to constitute the boards of government agencies and parastatals to give room for political patronage.
Consequent upon these allegations, it was learnt that many of the commissioners and other political appointees may have been perfecting plans to jump ship.
Many are said to have abandoned their constituencies simply because they do not have the financial muscles to oil their structures.
The commissioners and Special Advisers, as a prelude to taking the plunge, plan to contest the APC tickets for the National Assembly seats next year and, if unsuccessful, may bid the party bye.
Those believed to be eyeing the House of Representatives or the Senate include the Women Affairs Commissioner, Wunmi Edet Olatunji, the Secretary to the State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde, a Special Adviser and former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Victor Olabimtan, Youth and Sports Commissioner, Saka Yusuf, Physical Planning and Urban Development Commissioner, Sola Amodeni, Finance Commissioner, Wale Akinterinwa, Commissioner for Agriculture, Gboyega Adefarati, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Yemi Olowolabi, Commerce Commissioner, Timehin Adelegbe, Culture and Tourism Commissioner, Ismaila Olurimisi, Housing Commissioner, Donald Ojogo, Commissioner for Natural Resources, Rasheed Badmus, and the Special Adviser on Transport, Tobi Ogunleye.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that Mrs Wunmi Olatunji has been having a running battle with the Special Adviser in her ministry, Titi Adeyemi, who is alleged to have the ears of Akeredolu because she (Adeyemi) is a close ally of the governor’s wife, Betty.
The situation is said to be not entirely different in the state Commerce Ministry where the Special Adviser on Investment, Boye Oyewumi, and that of Multi-Lateral Services, Mrs Bunmi Ademosun, both associates of Akeredolu, don’t relate well with Adelegbe.
In the case of Housing Commissioner Ojogo, he is believed to be opting out because the House of Representatives seat may be zoned to his Ese Odo constituency and he is interested in vying for the seat.
This is aside from his alleged running battle with the Special Adviser in his ministry and the Works Ministry where Aminu is commissioner.
The Information Commissioner, Olowolabi, is said to be eyeing the House of Representatives but the influence of the state party chairman, Ade Adetimehin, appears to be an impediment. He, however, is said to still be consulting and studying the body language of his political leader, Adetimehin.
Some of the commissioners spoken to confirmed that they were “like lame ducks in our ministries”.
But some friends of Akeredolu, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, absolved the governor of the allegation of rendering his commissioners redundant, saying many of the commissioners “are novices in their ministries whereas the technocrats they are accusing of taking over their responsibilities are the life wires of the ministries”.
It was learnt that in the appointment of the commissioners, their professional callings were not taken into consideration hence the appointment of technocrats into the ministries.
But one of the commissioners punctured the argument, pointing out, “Even if a commissioner isn’t a professional in the ministry he is appointed to administer, does that make the Special Adviser there his boss? Why should the governor prefer engagement with only the SAs leaving the commissioners only to sign contracts documents which they know nothing about?”
A party chieftain echoed the same position, saying: “Most of these people (commissioners) have been rendered useless and the governor seems not bothered and I am confirming to you that some of these men might leave the cabinet soon”.
Meanwhile, the party chairman in the state, Adetimehin, is believed to have been working round the clock to ensure the APC does not implode before or after the state and National Assembly primaries ahead of the 2019 elections.
Reacting to the allegation of commissioners planning to take the plunge, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Segun Ajiboye, said, “Though some members of the cabinet may be nursing political ambition, that should not disturb or distract them from continuing working for the state”.
Ajiboye described the allegation of overbearing influence of some Special Advisers appointed by the governor on some commissioners in the state as “ridiculous”.
“It is clear that these allegations are not only false but also an attempt to sow the seed of discord to destabilise this government and I am assuring you that the focus of this administration is to deliver dividend of democracy to the people of the state who elected Governor Akeredolu “.
The state chairman of the Mega Party, Biyi Poroye, while reacting to the alleged incessant travel of Akeredolu out of Ondo, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to advise the governor to, “as a matter of urgency, stop gallivanting about and also urge him to face his primary assignment because he’s not always available in Ondo State”.
The state Director of Publicity of the PDP, Ayo Fadaka, confirmed that defections were set to hit the ruling party in the state like a volcano.
Fadaka, however, declined to give the names of those already talking with leaders of his party.
Also reacting to the defections of Senator Akinyelure and House of Representatives member, Bode Ayorinde, to the PDP, the state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alex Kalejaye, said, “Defections are normal in political settings, especially where there are justifiable occurrences. Unfortunately, that is not the case now”.
Appearing on a radio programme last week, Information Commissioner Olowolabi described the Ondo cabinet members’ defection/resignation story as a hoax meant “to distract a performing governor and his officials”.
Olowolabi added that the story was designed to “cause disaffection within government and the APC family in the state”.
But his counterpart from the Youth and Sports Ministry, Yusuf, who appeared on the same radio programme, said, “We have some of our colleagues who want to contest and even we have their posters. At the appropriate time, they will make their ambitions official but they should not link all of us together.”
Analysts believe the happenings in the ruling party in the state may turn for the worse if the governor failed to listen to the groaning of those who work for his emergence and are now eating crumbs falling from the tables of the alleged privileged few who have been accused of coming on board after the meal had been served.