By Dayo Johnson
POLITICS of 2020 and 2023 played out, last week, in Akure, the Ondo State capital between two gladiators Tinubu and Akeredolu, of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has not been on the same page with National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, since November 26, 2016, when the governorship primary of the party in the state won by Akeredolu was conducted.
Both leaders have tolerated each other whenever their path cross.
Akeredolu had soldiered on ignoring all entreaties to mend fences with Tinubu while the National leader had also made himself unavailable despite efforts by leaders of the party to reconcile him with Akeredolu.
Akeredolu was not Tinubu’s choice for the seat he presently occupies. And Akeredolu too did not hide his feelings that since Tinubu was not disposed to his candidature and yet he crossed the hurdle, calling his bluff was the right thing to do. Tit for tat sought of.
But the die is now cast and the two gladiators have seen the need to work together to help their personal ambitions.
Akeredolu though has not come out openly to canvass for a second term in office but his hangers-on have gone to town saying that he is entitled to a second term. However, the coast remains unclear as party leaders are waiting to turn the table against him when the chips are down.
Also read: Nigerians are already disenchanted with APC, even the APC members are also complaining – Obi
Akeredolu eyes have opened and he has seen the need to mend fences with Tinubu to have a smooth sail in 2020. His governor friend in neighbouring Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who was his Man Friday during the governorship primaries and the election proper, and the former South-West National Vice Chairman of the party, Chief Pius Akinyelure have helped to soften the heart of Tinubu and won him over for Akeredolu.
Political observers, however, are doubting the sincerity of both Fayemi and Akeredolu supporting Tinubu’s speculated 2023 presidential ambition.
“They are only playing along when the time comes they will show their true colour and where they belong,” a top party chieftain confided in Vanguard.
Minded that the loss of the party in Oyo State and near defeat in Osun State may affect his 2023 presidential ambition, Tinubu, it was learned has decided to bend over backwards to court Akeredolu. It was a marriage of convenience so to say for both leaders.
The popular saying in politics that there is no permanent enemy but permanent interest was again displayed on the political chessboard in Ondo State known as the Sunshine state by the two leaders.
Tinubu’ effort to still the political storm ahead of 2020 governorship election in Ondo State is a prelude to his 2023 presidential ambition. Political observers believe he is afraid of losing Ondo to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which is warming up to kick out the APC administration going by its outstanding performance in the last Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The last week gathering, which brought leaders of the different factions of the party together, will be the first of its kind since the controversial governorship primary.
The decoy was to call the gathering a stakeholders meeting of South-West leaders while in practical terms it was a reconciliation meeting between Akeredolu /Tinubu on one hand and that of Akeredolu and other party leaders who have the ears of Tinubu in the state on the other hand.
Tinubu came for the said reconciliation meeting with a team of powerful party bigwigs which included Chief Bisi Akande; former Governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba; APC Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Adeniyi Adebayo; and Chief Pius Akinyelure.
On arrival, the Tinubu team was received by Governors Akeredolu and Fayemi, aggrieved party leaders that included former governorship aspirant in the state, Dr Segun Abraham; former state party chairman, Isaac Kekemeke; Chief Olusola Oke; and former deputy governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi among others.
An exclusive meeting with less than 20 party leaders was held at a hotel in the state capital by the Tinubu team with the combatants which include the governor and other aggrieved party leaders.
The aggrieved party leaders attested to it that Akeredolu was performing but that he had attitude problems and was acting like a commanding officer who cared less about party members that worked for his emergence.
A reliable source said that all the warriors after a frank talk decided to let down their guards.
The two gladiators were made to see the futility in their lingering fight and the need to let go of their over two years of political differences in their own interest.
Sources at the very crucial meeting which lasted for about three hours, said that Tinubu and other visiting leaders declared Akeredolu as the leader of the party in the state and also pleaded with the aggrieved ones to cooperate with him in the interest of the party and for the party not to lose next year’s election.
References were made to the abysmal performance of the party in the last presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.
Tinubu at an expanded meeting with party members and other leaders said, “we want to win the next elections” adding that leaders of the party in the South West were in Ondo State to resolve some political issues that could affect the party’s fortune in future elections in the state.
The national leader who said rancours are not new in the political environment, charged leaders and members of the party in the state not to destroy the house they built by themselves.
He said the party leaders must come together as one so as to win the next election and other future elections.
“We are leaving one thing behind. The charity that must begin at home. We want to win the next election in Ondo State and every other election. The solution is in your hands. We want to thank you for your commitment to the party.
Other leaders who spoke at the meeting including Chief Bisi Akande, Aremo Segun Osoba and Governor Kayode Fayemi said the party is rising from the meeting to find common front which will boost the fortune of the party in future elections.
The host Governor, Akeredolu thanked the leaders for their commitment and support for the progress of the party in the state and assured them that the party will continue to wax strong.
The meeting was said to have agreed that the government should put in place a caucus for the leadership of the party in the state to be led by him while he should henceforth see himself as the leader and must be ready to accommodate other party leaders in his administration.
The aggrieved leaders and the governor were asked to forgive one another in the interest of the party.
A steering leadership committee was thereafter set up for the leadership to engage and converse regularly and a former chairman of the party, Hon Isaac Kekemeke was appointed a secretary of the committee.
However, reliable sources and a party chieftain informed Vanguard that the Asiwaju visit to Ondo State was to kill two birds with one stone as it was also about his 2023 presidential ambition.
“The whole thing is about the 2023 presidency; we have all seen that with the way things are going, the South-West can only survive the struggle if we put our house in order ahead of that crucial election.
“ Within our party, it is almost becoming a North-South battle and with seeming intention of our leader to have a shot at the presidency, we can only survive if we all swallow our pride and give concessions where necessary.
“So, the meeting analysed the whole scenarios around the 2023 politics and concluded that we must be one to be able to confront other contenders from outside. For one, unless we get the ticket of our party, the people of the South-West will stone us that we sold out.
“If on the other hand we go into the battle divided, we will end up not achieving anything. So in looking at the Ondo scenario, various question is begging for answers.
“Who is running first? The governor, of course. It sounds bitter but that is the truth and we understand the feelings of all those who the tide does not support.
“Therefore, it will be better for us to forgive ourselves and still have our party in place than forcing a sitting governor out for him to do damage to the party at the governorship poll because he has nothing to lose then.
“The implication will be that the opposition PDP will carry the day, God forbid.”
One of the party’s chieftains, who fell out with Akeredolu’s style of governance, former state chairman of the party, Hon Isaac Kekemeke, said the reconciliation meeting held over the lingering crisis rocking the party in the state did not deliberate over governor Akeredolu’s second term bid.
Kekemeke told newsmen: “We have discussed a domestic solution to our domestic problems as motivated and encouraged by our leaders in the South-West.
“We agreed that we have offended ourselves and we have agreed to forgive ourselves so as to move the party forward. We talked about how our party would remain united.
“We have agreed to compromise as a way forward. The most important is to build a platform to move the party forward.”
Meanwhile, it’s not yet Eureka for Akeredolu as he still has some hurdles to cross before he realizes his second term ambition.
For now, those said to be interested in Akeredolu’ seat include Isaac Kekemeke, former governorship aspirants Olusola Oke, and Segun Abraham, and the executive director of engineering and technical services at the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC) Engineer lfe Oyedele.
He should roll up his sleeves and be ready for the next contest within his own party as the fight to retain his coveted seat may spring surprises.
The cloud is still foggy for Aketi as he is fondly called.