April 20, 2024

Ondo 2024: Intrigues as Aiyedatiwa, Jimoh, others battle for APC ticket today 

Ondo 2024: Intrigues as Aiyedatiwa, Jimoh, others battle for APC ticket today 

•Oke, Akinterinwa, Kekemeke,Akinfolarin also in the race

By Dayo Johnson, South-West Regional Editor

APC ticket: All is now set for today’s governorship primaries of the  ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Ondo State.

As it is, a tough contest looms among the 16 aspirants screened and cleared for the exercise by the APC hierarchy as none of the aspirants including Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who is also running, is sure of picking the party’s ticket.

A nine-man committee headed by Emma Eneukwu, had examined the certificates and documents of the 16 aspirants comprising 14 males and two females.

Among the 16 contestants, 14 are from Ondo South senatorial district. The battle for Ondo South delegates’ votes is expected to be fierce and the two other senatorial districts- Central and North are expected to be tie breakers. The APC adopted direct primaries to be held across the 18 LGAs of the state.

The sudden death of the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who was the symbol of the party in the state, without naming his preferred successor, disorganized and caused division in Ondo APC as the once united Aketi loyalists have gone different ways. While some remained in the camp for their loyalty to their benefactor, many others had jumped out even while the former governor was still recuperating on his sick bed.

Consequently, the political tension across the state has risen to a boiling point ahead of today’s contest.

Aspirants woo Central, North

To win votes of Ondo Central and Northern, all the 14 aspirants have promised to appoint their deputies from the Central and Secretary to the State Government from North respectively.

The roll call

The cleared aspirants include Governor Aiyedatiwa; immediate past Finance Commissioner, Wale Akinterinwa; former member of the House of Representatives and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Mayowa Akinfolarin; former President of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, and former Special Adviser to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Health, Prof Francis Faduyile; APC National Vice Chairman South-West, Hon Isaacs Kekemeke; and two term governorship aspirant, Chief Olusola Oke, SAN.

Others are former Chairman of the Ondo State Oil-Producing Areas Development Commission, OSOPADEC, Hon. Gbenga Edema; the senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District, Dr Jimoh Ibrahim; a retired Army Officer, Brig. Gen. Olamide Ohunyeye; a member of the House of Representatives representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency, Hon. Jimi Odimayo; former commissioner of the Nigeria Population Commission, NPC, Diran Iyantan; Executive Secretary of the Niger Delta Power Holdings, Ife Oyedele; Mr Soji Ehinlawo; Mrs Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo; Morayo Lebi, and Mrs Funke Omogoroye.

Tight race

The entire members of the party from the national, state and council areas are going into the contest unsure of who would win.

There are speculations that President Bola Tinubu, who is said to have a vested interest in who becomes the next governor will play a major in today’s contest.

However, President Tinubu has maintained silence in the affairs of the state with regards to the primaries.

Sources said that President Tinubu decided to tread softly so as not to be seen as taking side with any of the aspirants. He has refused to grant audience to any of the aspirants despite pressures from them and several visits to Abuja for the President’s endorsement.

Aides to the President said he is looking for a candidate who will be loyal to the party and prepared to deliver the state to the APC in the 2027 general elections.

A source told Saturday Vanguard that the silence of Tinubu till now shows that he’s either still undecided on who to settle for or that he has tactically succumbed to pressure from Aiyedatiwa’s fellow governor’s under the NGF, to allow him continue for another four years.

However, another party source said that Tinubu was not favourably disposed to the return of Aiyedatiwa but has to be tactical about it in order not to ruffle feathers in the state.

Aiyedatiwa, others in final push

Unperturbed by a series of attacks against his return, Aiyedatiwa is making a final push to secure the party’s ticket ahead of the November 16 election.

Findings showed that some of those supporting Aiyedatiwa, including the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP were not doing so because he cannot do more than four years, if elected.

Specifically, the PDP is hoping that he picks the APC ticket so that it can fly with the campaign of guaranteeing eight years for Ondo South.

Ondo South against Aiyedatiwa’s return, wants eight years

Aiyedatiwa, having taken the oath of office to complete Akeredolu’s tenure, is entitled to only one term, according to the new constitutional provision in the amended 1999 Constitution.

The implication is that Ondo South will only do five years, if Aiyedatiwa returns,instead of the eight years that the other zones got.

The big six contenders

A peep into the profile and activities of 16 aspirants, has shown the emergence of six front runners.

The big six include Governor Aiyedatiwa, Chief Olusola Oke, Wale Akinterinwa, Mayowa Akinfolarin, lsaacs Kekemeke and Jimoh lbrahim.

Lucky Aiyedatiwa

He was deputy to the late Akeredolu. He stepped into the big shoes of his benefactor and became the seventh executive governor of the state after fighting the battle of his life against some Akeredolu’s loyalists who wanted him impeached.

By virtue of the power of incumbency that he enjoys, he has an edge over the other aspirants, who have vowed to beat him.

With the several endorsements that Aiyedatiwa has enjoyed across the state since his swearing-in as governor his supporters said he stands a better chance of winning the primaries.

Currently, Aiyedatiwa is said to have the support of serving governors, some members of the APC National Working Committee, NWC, and some loyalists of late Akeredolu.

However, many core loyalists of Akeredolu are against Aiyedatiwa following the unresolved differences between them. They consider his alleged desperation to take over from his late principal while on sick bed and utterances after his death as unforgivable sins.

Some of these Akeredolu’s loyalists have since pitched their tent with another aspirant, Wale Akinterinwa, saying that Aiyedatiwa betrayed the confidence reposed in him and the love showed to him by Akeredolu despite the strong opposition to his choice as deputy governorship candidate.

Former Ondo State First Lady, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, who reportedly brought Aiyedatiwa to be picked as Akeredolu’s deputy, then, has reportedly abandoned Aiyedatiwa and switched support to Akinterinwa.

Also, Aiyedatiwa is also facing challenges in winning the support of other South-West governors, particularly those who are members of the APC.

All said, Aiyedatiwa has declared that he has the structure, the people and the competence, saying: “The people want me to continue and they are the ones who are going to vote. They are clamouring for me and they are the ones that will vote. I can’t install myself; it is the people that will make me their governor. Aiyedatiwa is a force in today’s election. If he fails today, it’s the will of God.”

Olusola Oke, SAN

He’s the most popular of all the 22 governorship aspirants in the two major political parties- the ruling APC and the opposition PDP.

Oke is a grassroots politician. He has contested for the coveted seat twice- 2012 and 2016 under two different political parties and many believe this will be his last shot at the position because of his age. Oke has a deep pocket and has friends across all political divides.

Some observers said his closeness to those who are not in the political good books of President Tinubu may hurt him at the primaries. So, also, his movement from one party to the other in the past. But his loyalists argue that Oke remains the candidate that can take the state from its backwardness to the front burner. They insist that if given the ticket, the opposition parties in the state would fizzle out as many have pledged to work for his emergence in the November governorship election.

Jimoh lbrahim

He’s said to be leveraging on his personal relationship with President Tinubu to win today’s contest, coupled with the fact that he has moved round all the 203 wards and the 18 LGAs to sell himself to the people in the grassroots. He has a deep pocket and rich credentials and has openly displayed them. He is currently a serving senator representing Ondo South.

However, Jimoh is not that popular among some party members in the state, who see him as arrogant, The fear of some party leaders is that Jimoh may be too difficult to control.

Wale Akinterinwa

He’s a three-time Finance commissioner, under Governors Olusegun Mimiko late Rotimi Akeredolu. The Akeredolu political family and many of his loyalists have queued behind him. They believe Akinterinwa would continue where their benefactor stopped, if elected.

 He has within the short period that he joined the race garnered massive grassroots support.

His albatross is where he hails from, ile-Oluji/Okeigbo LGA. Many don’t see the area as part of the core southern senatorial district.

He’s a strong contender in today’s contest and his closeness to the Presidential Villa and Bourdilion is an added advantage.

Before now many believed he’s arrogant and inaccessible but that has changed since he joined the race.

lsaacs Kekemeke

He’s a loyal and committed party leader. He was the first APC chairman in Ondo and now the national vice chairman, South-West. He has laboured hard to build the party in the region. He’s a grassroots politician, a household name in the state and popular among the high and the low. His humility has endeared him to many and this is working for him. His pocket isn’t deep but he said he’s comfortable financially and optimistic of winning today’s contest.

Kekemeke hails from Ese- Odo LGA of the state. Many believe that since he’s from the minority area, his chances are slim but findings showed that his political strength cuts across the entire 18 LGAs.

Mayowa Akinfolarin

A former deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly and a member of the House of Representatives, is a strong contender with backing in the Villa. He has the backing of some federal lawmakers as well.

His albatross is that many claim that, if elected, he would be controlled by presidential villa cabal. But his aides have countered this argument saying that his closeness to the seat of power would be beneficial to the state.

He has contested elections many times but only lost once. He’s a silent achiever and loved for his gentle and humble disposition.

Other aspirants

While other aspirants should not be written off, findings showed that they don’t have the structure, political clout and the financial war chest to slug it out with the big six in today’s contest.

Vanguard News