By Sesan Laoye
Politicians in Ondo State are now jittery over the return of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who has been absent from office since June, when he took permission from the State House of Assembly, to attend to his failing health condition.
Government activities were nearly grounded the state before he eventually transferred power to his Deputy Lucky Aiyedatiwa, whose stay in acting capacity, has been tainted with controversies.
The governor, who arrived Nigeria from the medical tourism abroad on Thursday, August 7, after resting in Ibadan for a day, proceeded to Akure on Friday, to take over from his Deputy, Aiyedatiwa and announced that he was back with vigour and in good health, to continue his tenure, as the governor of the State.
Prior to his official take over from Aiyedatiwa, Gov. Akeredolu, in accordance with the constitution, formally wrote to the State Assembly under section(190)(1), that he has returned from sick leave and he was hail and well to start work immediately.
He also had talks with the top party officials and members of this cabinet, where he made them realised, that he would live to complete his tenure as the governor, a statement, which people interpreted to have confirmed the rumours going round that he may not return from his medical treatment abroad to govern the state again.
His return would, however, put to an end to the power tussles, and in-fighting, which characterized his absence from office among party members, government officials and other interest groups.
While he was away there were serious crisis between his loyalists and that of the his Deputy, who was acting, as it was being insinuated that some group of people wished he should not recover from his ailment.
Although Akeredolu is yet to settle down fully, his presence in office on Friday, while it brought hope to some of the members of his cabinet loyal to him, may not go down well with people believed to against him, even when he was not sick. This scenario playing out since Friday, has, however, heightened the tensions, which were on during his departure, as it was argued in some quarters that, Governor Akeredolu, after settling down, may not waste time in changing some hands in his government.
Possible cabinet change has been listed as one of the things he would do, as it was said that he is now ready to work with those he trusted.
Before Akeredolu asked for medical leave, his sickness brought a lot of controversies in the state, as some people in his cabinet and personal aides were accused of being behind his ailment, which had defiled, medical attentions, here in Nigeria, before he was flown to Germany, for treatment.
Although, it was said that the governor would take some rest in his residence at Ibadan before he would finally go back to work, in Akure, the State Capital, Governor Akeredolu stunned the entire state when he surprisingly and unannounced storm the state and headed straight to his office last Friday.
During his absence, a lot of incidents occurred. The cabinet, which he left was sharply divided, as some members, who were accused of not wanting him to come back, allegedly pitched tents with the the Aiyedatiwa, the acting governor, believed to be interested in taking over from Akeredolu, whose tenure would end in 2024, after the governorship election.
Akeredolu is now spending his last lap of his eight year tenure, and during his absence, political activities heightened, over the 2024 governorship elections.
While he was away, gladiators, for the governorship, both within his political party and other parties, intensified their moves and were busy mapping out strategies to win their parties tickets ahead of next year’s election.
What has actually brought tensions among the political elites and jobbers, was the notion that the governor would want to influence, who succeeds him, as it has been the normal practice by the incumbents to install a successor.
Although, he had a close door meeting with members of his cabinet in his residence at the weekend in Ibadan, the outcome has not been made public but it was learnt that the meeting centered on how the state was governed, in his absence, as he was said to be worried about the news of events in government while he was away.
It was also gathered that during the meeting, government officials were instructed to change everything, both in the office and residents to enable him enjoy something new.
While some politicians, especially, those who remained loyal to him were happy that he survived the illness, which many believed was spiritual, because they would benefit, from his presence and would help their political ambitions, those who felt otherwise, were said to have been withdrawing back to their shell, as it was believed that their game plan was over, now that the incumbent is back.
A source informed the BH that, while Akeredolu was out of office, his close associates and family stood to protect his interest and this was said to have brought a serious personality clash between them and the Acting Governor, Aiyedatiwa, who believed that he was not allowed to exercise the full power of a governor, vested on him but was closely monitored by Akeredolu’s loyalists.
Political activities during his absence gained momentum and politicians,l did not looked at the direction of his illness but busy focusing on 2024, when Akeredolu, would officially bow out of office, for another person to take charge.
While the wife is being accused of wanting to impose a chairman in Okegbo area of the State, the Cocoa farmers accusations were heavy against the attitude of her son Babajide, over imposed levies.
Despite all the noise about Akeredolu’s health and absence from office, politicians in the state are undaunted about all that but are concerned about the governorship election, coming up next year, 2024, which is just about a year from now.
With the incumbent governor, Akeredolu, who is from the Northern Senatorial District of the state, is finishing his tenure, next year, the other two Senatorial zones, the Ondo South and Central, are now poised for a fierce battle to occupy the governorship chair.
Interested aspirants have started coming out, mostly from the Central and the South. The Deputy governor Aiyedatiwa, now Acting governor, top the list of aspirants from the South, wanting to take over from his boss.
Aiyedatiwa despite, his unflinching loyalty to Akeredolu and family, has become the enemy of those, who believed that he has hands in what has befallen his boss on the allegations that he’s eyeing the governorship.
As such, the people of the state are looking towards the South and the Central, with very strong arguments in favour of the South, which last occupied the Alagbaka Government House, over 20 years ago, when late Dr. Olusegun Agagu was the governor. After him, those, who have tried from that zone have not been that lucky and they are now determined this time around, that whatever the matter and whatever it takes, the coveted chair must not elude them.
From the latest count, about 15 contestant have signified their interests in APC, which is the highest so far, from any political party.
Although, the PDP, SDP and Labour parties have sizable numbers of aspirants, there were indications that before then and when the gate is opened for the parties, to conduct their primaries, their figures would increase.
It was also being speculated that the coming election could be the one that would produce the highest numbers of aspirants in the history of governorship elections in Ondo State, as it was believed that the aspirants all together, at the end of the day before the primaries, could rise up to 50.
Those already known in APC to be interested are the former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), and Alliance for Democracy (AD), Barrister Olusola Oke, now in the party, the acting governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Finance Commissioner, Wale Akinterinwa, Special Adviser to the Governor on Health Matters Dr. Frances Faduyile, member of the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), representing Ondo State, Barrister Gbenga Edema, among others.
Ironically all those mentioned here, are from Ondo South Senatorial District, an indication, that the zone is serious to have the governorship, come 2024.
The group calling on Mrs. Funmi Ayinke to contest, is the Ondo Progressives Forum (OPF), which held a meeting recently, where all members unanimously endorse the female Engineer, described, as one of the best Civil/ Mechanical Engineers in Africa, who has provided over 2,000 jobs through her engineering work and other businesses.
The President and the General Secretary of the group, Abiloro Feranmi and Isaac Odunayo respectively, boasted that the group is ready to mobilize members, spread all over 18 Local councils, who would eventually mobilize voters for her 0because they believed she “is honest, Prudent, purposeful and with transparent personality.”
Also, a group called the Renewed Hope, led by Abiodun Samson, promised to mobilize as well, for Dr Oluwatayo Fashogbon in the 2024 governorship election
While aspirants are springing up on daily basis and are engaging in political activities, the APC chairman, Ade Adetimehin, said, the party is yet to decide on the coming election, saying, the primary objective of the party is how Akeredolu is going to recover fully and come back to office.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alex Kalejaiye, spoke in the same vein, saying that the party is eagerly waiting for Governor Akeredolu to come back, “then other activities towards the election would follow, when he is back.”
The publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kennedy Ikantu Peretei, has said that, the party would capitalize on the poor performance of the APC to win Ondo State back. He too expressed the joy that Governor Akeredolu has come back, adding that the whole state is ready to receive him back in office, when he finished his rest and properly “fit to join us”.
The PDP spokesman, further argued that APC in the state has not responded adequately to the hardships of the people, pointing out that its score card, would determine its future, in Ondo State, after Akeredolu.