In a carefully executed plan, loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari in the All Progressives Congress (APC), some of whom are cabinet members, yesterdaysuccessfully delivered on their first political assignment in the lead up to the 2019 elections, with the election of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the Ondo State governor-elect.
Akeredolu was declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), after polling 244,842 votes while his closest rival, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with 150,380 votes came second. Coming third was Mr. Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), who polled 126,889 votes.
Saturday’s election in Ondo State was, however, indicative of the power tussle within the ranks of the APC for the South-west geopolitical zone, with loyalists of the president, on the one side, and those loyal to a National Leader of the party, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the other.
Tinubu, who backed Dr. Olusegun Abraham to secure the ticket of the APC to contest in the Ondo poll, had opposed Akeredolu’s emergence as candidate of the party, alleging irregularities during the party’s primary.
Those believed to have taken part in the execution of the plan to deliver the state and are now regarded as “Buhari’s Boys” are the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN); the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai; and his Ogun State counterpart, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Ironically, most of those who have now aligned with the president were once loyalists of Tinubu, but are believed to have fallen out of favour with him.
Party sources who spoke on the issue to THISDAY said they were spurred by political expediency to show strength and capacity by mobilising all the resources at their disposal to ensure that the candidate of the president, Akeredolu, who was openly rejected by Tinubu won the election in the hotly contested race in Ondo.
The only APC governor believed not to have taken sides in the ongoing power tussle is the Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, while the Osun and Lagos State governors, Rauf Aregbesola and Akinwunmi Ambode, remain staunchly in the Tinubu camp.
Curiously, Akeredolu too, who is now in the opposing camp to Tinubu was his (Tinubu’s) candidate in the 2012 governorship election in Ondo State, but in which he came a distant third.
According to sources, with a majority of Tinubu’s former allies executing a brilliant campaign against their erstwhile principal, the stage has now been set to deliver Ekiti and Osun States to the president in 2018.
The goal, explained one source, is to ensure that the alliance between the North and South-west, which catapulted Buhari to victory in the 2015 general election, is maintained.
“The Buhari boys left nothing to chance, including using pawns such as Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, a businessman, and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, who both held the PDP by the jugular by ensuring that the party was unable to go to the election in one piece.
“Team Buhari was not oblivious to the fact that had they lost the Ondo election, the president would have been subjected to gross embarrassment, the very reason they deployed everything at their disposal to ensure that Akeredolu won, including mobilising everything and everyone who mattered to the grand finale campaign rally held in Akure, the Ondo State capital, a few days to the election.
“Although it is believed that Buhari’s boys have nothing against Tinubu, their goal, however, is to reenact the alliance that existed between the North and the South-west that was used to snatch victory from the PDP during the 2015 general election.
“So, with Edo and Ondo now comfortably in the kitty, the next port of call for Buhari’s Boys are Ekiti and Osun States, where elections are in 2018,” the source revealed.
But while those loyal to the president are said to be preparing for the two South-west states, and how best to retain their winning streak, they are not likely to bother about Lagos State, which Tinubu has held firmly in his grasp since 1999.
From all indications, what seems to be coming up in 2019 in the APC is a reenactment of the 2003 tsunami, which swept off all the AD states with the exception of Lagos under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a situation that gave the PDP considerable leverage during its 16-year reign in power.
But the difference between 2003 and 2019 is that while the former was an external aggression orchestrated by the former president into AD-controlled territory, this is no less an internal insurrection, also by the presidency, to wrest control of the South-west from Tinubu and ultimately pave the path for Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019.
THISDAY also learnt that the outcome of Saturday’selection is bound to stoke a bitter rivalry within the party, whichever way it goes.
Sources hinted that some of the unreported outcomes of two separate meetings of the South-west governors held in the run up to the Ondo election showed that the cracks might be deeper than thought, as the governors in the region have already taken sides.
At the Ibadan meeting, for instance, one of the governors loyal to Tinubu was said to have called Tinubu on the phone for him to thank the Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, a PDP governor, “for staying the course”.
Indeed, when Tinubu answered the call, he was said to have profusely thanked Fayose for his interventions and described him as “Omoluabi”, the Yoruba term for a child who has done well in a particular assignment and shown to be of proper upbringing and behaviour.
But that camaraderie at the meeting only lasted till the time other APC members suggested that Fayose should chair the meeting.
Amosun, however, was said to have rejected the suggestion, saying since there were two PDP governors present at the meeting, against four of them from the APC, a governor from the ruling party should chair the meeting. It was on this basis that the meeting was chaired by a governor from the APC.
The Ibadan meeting, nonetheless, was not as heated as the Abeokuta meeting, where Aregbesola and Amosun were said to have engaged in a heated exchange.
In fact, Aregbesola, a source disclosed, was said to have claimed Amosun was threatening him because the meeting was held in his house.
The cause of the exchange occurred because Aregbesola and others accused Amosun of betrayal, as they had reached an understanding earlier that they would not attend Akeredolu’s grand finale rally in Akure.
But Amosun was said to have objected, saying they were the ones who played anti-party politics by disobeying and disrespecting the president, who was said to have personally called everyone and urged them to attend the rally. Amosun, the source said, accused them of ignoring Buhari’s pleas and embarrassing him and the party by not attending.
The meeting was said to have been so heated that Aregbesola and Ajimobi refused to eat after the meeting. But while Aregbesola refused to eat because he claimed Amosun had threatened him, Ajimobi felt it was improper to eat since the matter had not been resolved.
However, a former chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande had a hearty meal, showing maturity and neutrality over the contending issues.
Aregbesola, who believed that their candidate, Oke, might win the Ondo election was also said to have suspended further discussions until after the election.
Had Oke won the election, Tinubu, sources said, would have returned today into the arms of scores of supporters who would have been mobilised to receive him at the airport.
But with the outcome of the election, it is unlikely he would return anytime soon as planned and might spend more time abroad before returning home.
Despite Tinubu’s disenchantment with the APC primary that threw up Akeredolu, leading to his eventual victory, the party’s national leader yesterday congratulated the new governor-elect.
Tinubu asked party members to close ranks “for the good of our party and its progressive ideals”.
In a statement from his media office, he said: “Following the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with regard to the governorship elections in Ondo State, I extend congratulations to Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) on the outcome of the election and for his perseverance and persistence in seeking that office.
“I must also congratulate the people of Ondo State for their generally exemplary conduct on election day and for demonstrating their will to shun the regressive politics of yesterday by returning to the progressive brand of politics that has been the trademark of the people of that state.
“I congratulate all party members in the state, particularly the party leadership in the South-west.
“Finally, I must express profound congratulations to President Muhammadu Buhari, the national leader of the party, whose stature and dignity helped guide the APC to another victory that should advance the progressive aims of the party and the people.
“To all the people and parties in Ondo, your election has been had and held. Now is the time that all must work for the continued development, prosperity and peace of your state and our beloved country.”
He appealed to all party members including those who have been disaffected from the primary to come together for the good of the APC and its progressive ideals.
But as the internal wrangling within the South-west zone of the APC continues, INEC’s Returning Officer for the Ondo governorship election, Prof. Abdulganiyu Amballi yesterday declared Akeredolu as the winner of the poll, having polled 244,842 votes to defeat Jegede of the PDP who scored 150,380 votes. Oke scored 126,889 votes to come third while the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Dr. Olu Agunloye, came fourth with 10,149 votes.
Amballi, who is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, said the winner had satisfied the requirements and was therefore declared the winner of the poll. The margin of victory, he said, was 94,462 votes.
He said the election was conducted in a free and fair manner, and under a peaceful atmosphere.
The results released by INEC showed that the Akeredolu won in 14 local government areas, while the Oke won in two – Ilaje and Okitipupa Local Government Areas, just as PDP came top in the two local governments of Ondo East and Ondo West.
Surprisingly, Jegede marginally lost the election in his own local government area, Akure South to Akeredolu, scoring 25,005 as against 25,797 scored by the APC candidate.
Other local governments won by APC were Akure North, Ile Oluji/Oke-Igbo, Ifedore, Ose, Akoko South West, Akoko South East, Akoko North East, Akoko North West, Owo, Idanre, Irele, Ese-Odo and Odigbo.
While agents of the parties that contested the election signed the result sheets, the agent of the SDP, whose candidate came a distant fourth, refused to sign the result sheets.
With his declaration as the winner of the election, there was jubilation in many parts of Akure and Owo, the hometown of Akeredolu, as the governor-elect and his supporters trooped out to celebrate his victory.
The APC members who armed themselves with brooms danced round major streets in the towns, chanting solidarity and pro-Akeredolu songs.
A good number of APC members also converged on the party’s secretariat along Oba Adesida Road and at his campaign office on Oyemekun Road, where they sang and danced in celebration of the victory of the party in the election.
Speaking on his victory at his country home, Akeredolu promised not to fail the people of the state who elected him and dedicated his success at the poll to God.
He commended the president, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and members of the party National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
“I wish to express my profound gratitude, first, to the Almighty God whose infinite grace has allowed us to see this day.
“This victory is of God through the people. It is not for me or the APC alone, it is a victory for the people of Ondo State irrespective of which side of the divide you stood during the election. For me it is a challenge to perform. It is a call to rescue our state and reverse its fortunes.
“I thank the people of my dear state for their steadfastness. I have heard their messages throughout the campaign in all the nooks and crannies of the state. Today, you have spoken with one voice. You have walked the talk. You have voted for me as your governor for the next four years.
“Today, change has come. I hereby make a solemn pledge that this collective mandate shall address all issues with keen determination. The welfare of our people alone shall be the directive policy of the government.
“Today’s victory is a confirmation of the willingness and readiness of the people of Ondo State to change and seek a better life. I thank you for your faith and confidence in me. I thank all those whose uncommon sacrifice contributed in no small measure to the success of the exercise.
“A special show of gratitude must be extended to our security agents for their patriotic duty.
“I shall in a few months be saddled with the task of providing responsible leadership, a leadership that would take our people from poverty and stagnation to productivity and prosperity, from pains and lamentation to joy and laughter,” he said.
Buhari, APC Congratulate Akeredolu
Also reacting, Buhari congratulated the governor-elect on his “well-deserved victory” in the Saturday, November 26 governorship election in the state.
Buhari, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina also congratulated Oyegun, the Chairman of the Campaign Committee, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, and all party faithful who put in their best and braved the odds to ensure a successful outing for the flag bearer of the APC.
he electioneering and reach out to all well-meaning people in the state and beyond, to implement his vision.
The president rejoiced with the good people of Ondo State, who aligned with his own belief that Akeredolu, with his pedigree, possessed the qualities to transform the state into the Ondo of their dreams.
“From the beginning, this election set out to be a different kind of election. The unity and resilience of the party was tested. I am happy we came out of this victorious.
“This is a huge win. The mood today is against corruption, insecurity and for the restoration of the economy and the creation of jobs. This is where the party stands and I am happy that the electorate has read the situation correctly,” said the president.
Buhari called on other contestants in the election to see the triumph of Akeredolu as the wish of God and enjoined them to work together with him to make the state a truly progressive and economically prosperous one for all.
The president also commended INEC, the security agencies and the voters for the peaceful and successful conduct of the elections.
Similarly, Oyegun congratulated Akeredolu and his running mate, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, on their election victory.
In a message issued yesterday on behalf of the NWC of APC, Oyegun expressed gratitude to the good people of Ondo State for their impressive turnout and peaceful conduct during the election exercise. He also thanked the Ondo electorate for voting for the party.
He equally thanked Buhari and other party leaders for their invaluable support towards winning the governorship election. He called for calm and appealed to the opposition parties and their candidates to accept defeat in good faith.
Also, the APC Publicity Secretary in Ondo State, Mr. Adesanya, congratulated INEC for the conduct of the poll, stating that there was prompt arrival and delivery of electoral materials to the 3,009 polling units across the state.
He applauded the simultaneous accreditation and voting system adopted by INEC as a landmark achievement, saying that it was largely responsible for the absence of electoral malpractices and violence.
Adesanya said that the election was unprecedentedly peaceful, free and fair in the history of the state.
The publicity secretary also commended residents in Ondo State for the peaceful conduct before, during and after the election.
According to him, the electorate remained calm in the face of provocation, intimidation, harassment and the clamour for the repeat of the 1983 violence in the state, where scores of people were killed.
He also praised the professionalism of all security agencies before, during and after the poll.
PDP Protests Result
However, the PDP refused to accept the outcome of the election, alleging that the exercise was rigged before it was conducted.
The Publicity Director of the party in the state, Ayodele Fadaka, who spoke yesterday in Akure, claimed INEC connived with some powerful persons in the country to rig the election.
“In spite of the national orientation of the federal government, buying voters is the highest form of corruption that this government portends to be fighting day in day out and we see that corruption is getting entrenched by the day more and more.
“The PDP failed this election simply because INEC and some other interest groups decided it will fail,” Fadaka said.
He alleged that the processes that led to the election amounted to rigging, insisting that INEC should not have held the election when it knew that the name of the PDP candidate was unjustifiably removed from the list of candidates.
According to him, INEC had up till January to hold the election, and should have postponed it, but chose to go ahead with it because it planned to ensure the PDP failed in the election.
“I will say that powerful interests in this country, working hand in gloves with INEC decided to do us in this election, they decided and desired and they have achieved their aim to hand over our party to APC,” he said.
Asked if his party accepted the results,” Mr. Fadaka said: ” My answer is neither here nor there,” stressing that the election was conducted hastily despite the travails of the party in court.
Meanwhile, the PDP governorship candidate, Jegede, said yesterday that it was too early to decide after his loss in the election.
Jegede, who spoke with journalists in Akure, said he was still studying the conduct of the election.
“It is too early to decide on what to do as a person. My party, the PDP, will decide what to do. We are still consulting with those that matter so as to know the next line of action,” he said.
He added: “I know we have won the heart of the people and I should thank our people for standing by us and for their show of love and their steadfastness.
“We are studying the situation and in the fullness of time you will
know what the position of the party is.”
He stated further that the events that led to the election were known to everyone.
“We had 48 hours to prepare for the election. I was cleared by the court on Wednesday and had only Thursday to campaign and on Saturday I had to go for the election.
“Our request for postponement of the election was denied by INEC for reasons that we are yet to fathom and these are the things in the next few days we will have to review.”
Similarly, the state Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Clement Faboyede, said the party would meet today with all the stakeholders and their decision will be made public.
“We thank God for the litigation processes and for the way we came out victorious and our heart’s desire candidate for PDP was cleared to contest the election a few days to the poll when there was no time for campaign,” he said.