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ANALYSIS: The Ondo Governorship Poll, APC and Nigerian Politics

By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau

 There will hardly be a stop to diverse commentaries by various interests on the just concluded Ondo State Governorship Election, won by Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN). Given the animosity and rancor which transpired before the poll, within the party (All Progressives Congress – APC) of the eventual winner and one of his main oppositions the (Peoples Democratic Party – PDP), the remarks which expectedly, will be rooted from different dimensions, I wish to affirm, will linger throughout the four year tenure of the Governor-Elect. Interestingly, the intrigues which I anticipate will not be restricted only to the APC stalwarts and its leaders; but by extension, to the public – within and beyond Ondo State and they will either be justifying or denigrating a particular action or reaction, by various actors, before the poll and as the incoming Governor is sworn-in and  ‘’ hit the ground running’’.

Before I dwell on that, let me recall that from all indications, except (few days) to the election, a lot of political watchers did not give Akeredolu a chance – of emerging the winner. Using my personal experience as an example, I was mostly faulted for attempting to give impression that the former Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) National President was a strong contender. In fact, when it appeared that the outgoing Governor Olusegun Mimiko was surreptitiously brokering an alliance with the ruling APC and I calculated that this would give Akeredolu an edge, the response I got was that ‘for Ondo Governorship poll; the unexpected would happen; that an underdog was most likely to win the contest.

I must confess that what I gathered from the field and to my utmost surprise was that many commentators gave victory to the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Mr. Olusola Oke. I am not from Ondo State, so, what accounted for Oke (his perceived) popularity in the State, up till now, I have not to come terms with. I therefore asked why his poor performance at the poll, despite the mass media hypes deployed? I keep wondering, why all the claims and ‘giragira’ (make-belief) in the man’s favour and propaganda failed to materialize.

Very funny, let me say. Some pundits alleged that the AD candidate ran into a ‘red account’ as the poll drew closer. Is that not shocking to hear, given his strong (money bags) backers and ‘allies’? How could a man so projected to be popular and tipped to win such an (instructive and strategic) poll be starved with cash, by his political godfather (s) when it mattered most, please? I think some things were wrong about Oke, and the thinking weaved around him – in particular, chances of winning the recent election.

Take it from me, the master politicians were at work – definitely the impression around Oke was merely a ruse – but far from the reality on ground.  So, what am I up to, you might wish to ask. My position is that certain people knew that the candidate (Oke) they were supporting could not win, yet, decided to work for him, so that the interest of (certain candidate) could be truncated, irrespective of sharing party affiliation with him! That is politics for you, I hear, you are saying abi? No qualm. Anyway, Oke is not my focus in this piece; rather, his side of story is just by the way.

Ahead of the Election which held last Saturday, November 26, 2016), many pundits and fans of the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu warned and cautioned him on the wrong side of divide he stayed. His attention was also called to the setback Akeredolu’s likely victory would cause his personality as well as his political career, not only within the party he labour to nurtured to survival, but within his zone (south west) and Nigeria in general. Alas, it was as if the former Lagos State Governor was desperate than anyone could ever imagine, all just to deal with his ‘’undesirable’’ party man, irrespective of whose ox is gored!

My position when Tinubu’s ally in (Osun State) with their foot soldiers in Ondo, started the wahala (trouble) of alleged wuruwuru (irregularity) APC Governorship primary, was that ‘let the sleeping dog lie’; that every gladiator should ‘second’ personal interest and pursue a far reaching one, which I felt were the party’s interest and desire to consolidate in the south west geo political zone. Again, to Asiwaju and his men, such an approach and thinking would not and could never be!

Whether the plot to ensure that Oke wins the poll (if at all that was the plan) or Akeredolu’s chances of winning was frustrated, was Tinubu and his supporters’ agenda, one fact that is clear about the recent Ondo Governorship Election is that Asiwaju and the APC men who queued behind him, goofed, miscalculated and failed.

Still, Tinubu is one unique leader – who mostly strikes, yet, sometimes, knows when to admit, withdraw and sacrifice. This accounted for his prompt congratulatory message to Akeredolu and going a step further, to extend an olive branch – when he declared that it was time to reconcile. I commend him for that and to have eaten the humble pie.

This is one side of the entire saga. The other is what happens, after the Election and when ‘’Aketi’’ fully resumes as the Ondo State Governor? I make bold to say here that, despite the belated show of modesty, nobody, I repeat, no right thinking human being should expect Akeredolu to be loyal to Tinubu or allow him to influence the manner he goes about his administration. In addition, I hold that it will be very offensive to Akerdolu’s co-party leaders (especially in Ondo) and suicidal for him, should he allow any over bearing from Jagaban.

If loyalty has a place in politics at all, Akeredolu’s should not be to Tinubu, rather, to those who stood by him; struggled with him; toiled day and night for him to triumph. Recall, it was amidst this struggle, late Afolabi Olaposi, a strong grass root supporter of Aketi was shot dead by the unknown gunmen, late Thursday, November 24, 2016 in Akure, the Ondo State capital. If at all Akeredolu must be loyal to any party Leader, I’m more than sure everyone knows who and who should they be. And this is not animosity; disrespect or insubordination, but reality. It is just natural to conclude that Akeredolu did not owe Asiwaju any loyalty. Agree, the incoming Governor can respect him as a party Leader, but not to the point of impacting on his and team’s decisions. Again, This is a fact of life; no one could have done otherwise if in Aketi’s shoes.

This is why I stated earlier that tongues will continue to wag, not only within the APC and its members, in Ondo and beyond, but among members of the public from the start to the end of Mr. Akeredolu’s tenure.

This is also the reason I posited earlier that the Ondo Governorship Election was strategic and opened a fresh leadership dimension within the ruling party. Whether we like it not, the outcome of the poll has elevated the rating of President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership quality, both within the APC and the Nigerian public. There is no doubt in the fact that the fatherly role he played; his bold and matured disposition before and after the poll has endeared him to more of the APC stalwarts, even more Nigerians. Most significantly, his maturity held the party together and largely determined the APC successful showing.

He further demonstrated his political maturity when in his congratulatory message, called on the Governor-Elect to look within and beyond the State in coming up with the team, to achieve his electoral promises to Ondo people.

I found it so gladdened when Asiwaju himself in his message to Aketi – admitted that APC candidate won the Election due to Mr. President’s ‘’stature and dignity’’. Ironically, he failed to conduct himself in the same manner. This is the reason I feel former Governor Tinubu should be more modest in his approach, especially as a party Leader.

Asiwaju Tinubu and his men must admit that the role they played in Ondo poll was unruly, therefore, should have ordinarily been sanctioned by the party. Tinubu is a progressive, so he knows and appreciates that no single person is stronger than the party. So, for him to have been left alone despite his misconduct, it is a message for him to feel remorse and retrace his steps, if he wished to be seriously reckoned with in the South west and Nigerian politics in future. He must be very careful and humble, if he aspires to be relevant in the present administration. Already, this subject (relevance) has thrown up a serious debate, in which at a point, involved the President’s immediate family.

Never done yet. Asiwaju must realize that his over bearing advances and conflicting interest have recently recorded many setbacks. He must recall that one of his political ‘sons’ in Odi-Olowo/Oju Woye from Mushin Federal constituency Lagos State, Hon. Dauda Kako Are was presently elected as a second term Hon member of the House of Representatives, without his support and under another political platform. Also, Nigerian political followers still recall that, left to him (Asiwaju), the immediate past Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) (for reasons best known to him) would not have been tipped for a Presidential aide (SA for instance), let alone of being nominated for and emerged as the ‘’Super Minister’’ of the Federal Republic of the Nigeria.  What about the raging cold war between him and incumbent Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosu and his former Ekiti State counterpart and now Minister of Steel and Solid Mineral Resources, Dr. Kayode Fayemi? By the way, why Tinubu keeps having issues with the successful technocrats and politicians he had one time or the other helped to rise to the stardom?

Is it a question of ingratitude or disloyalty on the parts of his political sons or greed and irresistible over bearing tendency on his part? Tinubu must be really, really careful.  There are so many Lagos politicians for instance, who are just being forced to be subservient to him, while others who feel they cannot be gagged have publicly liberated themselves. Some of them did not hide their opposition to unwarranted influence.

Asiwaju is a fine politician. Therefore, he must once again appreciate that every politics is ‘LOCAL’. Jagaban must ask himself this question that why in 2012 the same Akeredolu he supported against the interest of other Ondo proscribed Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) leaders lost then, but the same party’s leaders now supported him and won?  The key point and message here is that local politics must be allowed to thrive, why the leaders moderate and ensure that level playing field is allowed. This is the real ‘’internal democracy’’ that has largely eluded us and prevalent in our political parties.

The former Governor might have had his way in the past and still do in Lagos State. This, to a large extent is because Lagos is his base and surely, as a Leader, must enjoy certain privilege, especially due to his past political roles. But even at that, Asiwaju should do more of fair handling and due moderation, instead of the present approach of the ‘Leader takes all’.

Again, I dare say that if President Buhari had insisted on an anointed candidate in Ondo poll, without necessarily pacifying other party leaders, his political son could have probably suffered similar fate, just like in Tinubu’s case.

Above all, I feel that it is important that Asiwaju on his own, voluntarily tendered a public apology to his party leaders, and of course, to those who were directly offended by his anti-party roles in the last ‘’Ondo Decides’’ exercise. This is very key and it will go a long way in setting a good standard and entrenching culture of discipline in the ranks and file of the party, as well as our party politics.

Finally, personally, I am glad about the outcome of Ondo poll (especially as it is related to the ruling APC). Specifically, it rubbished politics of godfatherism; promoted the essence of local politics, internal democracy as well as rewarded diligence and political forthrightness. To this end, other political godfathers and all ‘principalities’ across the land must wake up and embrace the emerging trend in the Nigerian political landscape. Every political gladiator must begin to appreciate that with the Ondo Governorship poll and its outcome, the face of democracy and politics is changing and advancing in Nigeria, as well as breaking away from what it was used to be over a decade ago. In other words, Akerodolu’s victory, despite the ignoble roles of some elements, offered a new vista to the Nigerian political and economic mentality and culture. Definitely, it is a new dawn, so let’s all watch out!

E-mail: tjaysuccess10@gmail.com; Twitter: @tajudeen Balogun; Skype: tjaysuccess10@gmail.com; Facebook: Tajudeen Balogun  






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