A chieftain of Ondo All Progressives Congress (APC) and Chairman of the State Broadcast Media Group, Kunle Adebayo, has put the blame for the crisis rocking the party in the state at the feet of the APC national leadership. In this interview, Adebayo bares his mind.
By Olayinka Ajayi
What is your assessment of Akeredolu’s performance so far?
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has creditably discharged on the mandate given him by the people of Ondo. One is tempted to, in fact, talk of attainments which surpass the promises he made. This is because in two years, the deliveries are overwhelming and answerable to four years of governors elsewhere whose ratings are described in superlatives. At a deeper level, I think the tangible success of Akeredolu must be viewed in terms of his politics and governance ideals. I think what Akeredolu has brought into politics which stands for him is Integrity. Far more than the preceding years, the people are beginning to witness and believe in the bond between word and intention. People now know that this governor will not lie to you, his word is his bond and that he says what he means and means what he says. In every sense, this is critical and defining and is antithetical to the leadership tutelage that once ravaged the place.
But the governor has been in the eye of the storm with the Presidency and the national leadership of the party on matters bordering on anti-party activities during the general elections…
Narratives in politics are dynamic and, sometimes, a struggle of evil and mediocrity to suppress excellence. In other climes, truth is constant and stands tall, but here politicians put a condition that truth is according to who is saying it and at the pleasure of the listener. All the furore you talk about is about the politics of 2021 in Ondo. It is about struggle for power. It is about supplanting the governor so that other preferred candidates can be installed. And if you look deeper, you will see that this is an unpopular but a well organised and highly coordinated machination, which seeks first to gain oxygen and confidence by puncturing Akeredolu’s popularity with the people of Ondo, as well among party members who are proud of the deliveries of their government to the people.
But there are allegations that party members are dissatisfied on account of neglect and lack of patronage, to the extent that many have vowed to vote against him at the next primary.
That is strange and laughable. Of course, it falls in the category of the wishful thinking of those who do not wish our party and state well. Against the background of resources available to the state, government has created baskets of patronage for members in terms of appointment, economic empowerment and employment opportunities. Many young people have been appointed into key offices in government while some hold federal appointments. The large chunk of empowerment programmes has attracted opportunities for women and youths as well as other strata of the party. No doubt more can still be done.
There is also the problem of leadership irresponsibility by a group of leaders who are supposed to take the largesse to the grassroots. Limited exposure, greed and self-conceit by a few leaders are regrettable. But all these must be taken in the broader context of managing institutional challenges within a young party. And let me tell you, there is never a party whose members are 100% happy. But I know, as the Head of the Strategic Development and Policy Planning Committee which helped to produce the government’s policy blueprint, that Mr Governor has deliberate, staggered and progressive plans and programmes to elevate patronage and satisfaction laterally.
But there was the specific allegation that the governor sponsored candidates in Action Alliance, AA, to the detriment of President Buhari and other APC NASS candidates.
Those behind such theory are dishonest and mischievous. They gave themselves away as bad democrats and pretentious leaders who must never be trusted. They rationalise coercion and imposition as democracy when it pays them and de-market peoples’ will when it defeats their purpose. The truth of the matter is that our party did not do well in Ondo and many other states, including Osun and Edo, because of the failure of party leadership to respect its own laws and internal democracy. It was a matter of national disgrace that the primaries of our party across the nation were fraught with irregularities and allegations of fraud, imposition and manipulation. It was embarrassing and frustrating that candidates were freely imposed from the national secretariat of our party while results of genuine primaries were manipulated with impunity.
This led to crisis in many of our strongholds with attendant effects on the election results. People trivialise common sense by assuming simplistic explanations for matters of conscience and emotions. The narrative that Akeredolu sponsored Dr Tunji Abayomi and a few others to join AA to undermine APC is calling the dog a bad name to hang it. Tunji Abayomi contested for our party’s senatorial ticket, but the powers-that-be ensured the primaries never held. They boasted and imposed a candidate who never went through primaries. They announced, in a very crude and blatant manner, a winner in a contest that never held.
It was not only in Ondo that such deprived and humiliated aspirants like Abayomi defected to AA and other parties to test their popularity. And now they look for scapegoats for the mess they created. Now, does the temperament of Tunji Abayomi, as we all know him or any true Ondo man, accommodate a tele-guide by anybody on what to do with his frustration? Is Tunji Abayomi a child or a simpleton? Was he and others not members of the APC? Does he have the right to be angry and take personal decisions if he feels insulted, cheated, robbed and humiliated?
But the governor was alleged to have openly campaigned for and financed AA candidates.
The inability of some of our leaders in APC to allow democracy to work, without helping it for personal reasons, is a big challenge in our nation’s party democracy. When crisis of confidence, frustration and anger happens in a party, shouldn’t a genuine and humble leadership activate a mechanism for appeasement and genuine reconciliation? Where this was not done, does it means the governor must carry the blame? One would never have expected that a political party this endowed and talented will be run like this. Of those who allege, it will be interesting to see their evidence.
Some have argued that the manipulation that put Akeredolu in office in 2017 is the cause of the wide division in the party.
The background of organisational challenge, which affected the fortunes of our party in the general elections, was laid in 2016 during our party’s governorship primary. Those, like one Bola Ilori, think people are naive or oblivious of history. Everyone remembers that Akeredolu won that difficult and keenly contested primary in spite of our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s open partisanship and preference for Dr Segun Abrahams. For an election, which was conducted by respected party leaders, headed by Governor Mohammad Badaru of Jigawa State, and which our party publicly adjudged as the freest, fairest and most transparently done as at that time, the open attack from Asiwaju Tinubu against then-Chairman, Odigie-Oyegun’s forthrightness shows that some people are bad losers.
Loyalists of Akeredolu have also alleged that Tinubu is masterminding the travails of the governor with the aim of blocking his nomination for second term. What is your view?
Those who have said that find its logic in the dangerous undercurrents since 2016. Was it not before our very eyes that three out of the aspirants (Olusola Oke, Segun Abraham and Ajayi Borrofice) made a U-turn to challenge the winner, Akeredolu, whom they had earlier embraced and congratulated? Was it not an open secret that Segun Abraham was inserted into litigation against the winner while Sola Oke was inserted into AD to contest the general elections in the desperate bid to stop Akeredolu, thereby working against the interest of their own party? Have we forgotten that Olusola Oke was heavily and openly supported by Lagos through then-Governor Aregbesola who literarily took over the campaigns through Bola Ilori? Ilori was reported on September 3, 2016 to have openly announced that Tinubu instructed them to go to AD and that they will go to any party including AA if Tinubu said so. Did anyone pillory Tinubu, Aregbesola and many others for these anti-party activities? After the failed excursion and Oke became stranded in AD, did they not bring him back into APC? The point I am making is that the seed of disaffection, injustice, instability and manipulation were sown into the party since 2016; it failed then and a resurgence is happening now, it will fail again because God hates pretenders to His throne.
But Bola Ilori recently castigated Akeredolu as the architect of the disaffection in the party.
Bola Ilori is childish. By his infantile vituperations, he has done more harm to the reputation of Tinubu. He is not a factor and one should not dignify him with a response.
Will Akeredolu defect to another party should he lose the party’s nominations?
Our party is strong and reliable. We respect our leaders and all of them are men of tested reasonability. I do not think our conversation will degenerate to that level you insinuate. What is going on is a conversation about power and politics. There are internal contradictions in the party that are useful in interrogating our strength and resilience. We will resolve and Akeredolu will lead the state for another four years.