Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (left), All Progressives Congress National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Akeredolu’s running mate in the November 10, 2020 governorship election in the state, Mr. Lucky Ayedatiwa, when the governor visited Tinubu to present Ayedatiwa to him in Lagos
Gbenga Elegbeleye is a former Ondo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant and former Chairman, National Sports Commission. Now an All Progressives Congress (APC) member, having joined in 2016 and chairing the Lagos fund-raising ceremony during the first term campaign of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, he spoke with OLAWUNMI OJO on the governor’s fallout with his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, the threat that poses to his re-election, his chances in the upcoming guber poll, among other issues.
The misunderstanding between Governor’s Rotimi Akeredolu and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, and his eventual decampment is a major highlight in the build-up to the upcoming guber poll in Ondo state. Do you see the development swaying the election in any way?
I CAN’T understand the desperation. But what I can say is that even if he contests under Zenith Labour Party or any other party, he will not be able to win even his local government let alone the election. He has portrayed himself to be a nomadic politician; it shows he is very desperate in his ambition.
After Akeredolu’s second term, he may have had the chance of becoming the governor. I must confess to you, I did tell him this about a year and half ago. I said he should display loyalty to his boss; that the Akeredolu I know is someone who does not play games nor lie. Once he likes you, he will go all out to work for you. After his boss’ tenure, he could show interest. But I wouldn’t know what made him behave like this. Maybe the governor gave him too much power to exercise as his deputy, which made him feel that he too could be the boss himself.
But some people say Agboola is popular in Ondo politics…
What has he done to make him popular, just because he was deputy governor? What is his pedigree? Ondo State is not just a state that any body can wake up and say he wants to be governor? He does not have a chance at all.
…with the support of the Zenith Labour Party and former Governor Olusegun Mimiko?
What many people do not know is that he contested under the same Labour Party for the Senate in his Senatorial District in the last election and he did not even come second. So, what are we talking about?
Sometime ago, you aspired to become governor of Ondo State. What has happened to that ambition?
I was in the PDP and wanted to be governor of the state especially as there was a consensus that the candidate should come from Ondo North Central District where I come from. We had primary elections among those of us from the Senatorial District to pick the consensus candidate. That election was conducted in Akure. I came tops but former governor Mimiko instigated them not to accept the result.
Since the governor and his people decided to upturn my victory in the primary, I was pushed to Akeredolu, who was a commissioner while I was an elected council chairman during the government of late Navy Captain Onyearugbulem in the state. During the Onyearugbulem days, I had established a good relationship with Akeredolu. Looking at the situation and how Mimiko had destabilised the party for selfish reasons, I had to leave. As God would have it, I met Akeredolu and told him I would like to join his campaign team. Even after his primary, I was the Chairman of his fund raising in Lagos.
In this current dispensation, Akeredolu and I come from the same Senatorial District. What is he not doing well that will make me oppose and contest against him? I am from Ikare and if you go to my hometown, you will see the dualisation and rehabilitation of the roads. What the people deserve is good governance, it does not matter who does it.
But some people from Owo, Akeredolu’s hometown made an attempt to displace him in the last primaries. What could have been responsible?
What did they get? From about 3,000 votes, the highest anyone of them got was 4 votes; others got one and zero votes respectively. Is that a contest? I think the three contestants from Owo should find a way to apologise to the rest of us for the insult to our collective psyche. Thinking that they could displace or replace Akeredolu as governor was absurd and insulting!
Akeredolu’s opponents do not see any achievements. What much has he done to deserve a second term?
I have just told you how the governor has performed in my own part of the state; the projects are physical and visible. It is not something that you will require binoculars to see. Akeredolu is giving good governance. In politics, opponents must say something to be relevant.
But the loudest noise seems to be coming from Ondo North, led by former deputy governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi?
The symbol of Unity Forum is Chief Olusola Oke (SAN) who ran on the platform of the Forum. Already Oke and the governor have agreed to work together. Whatever they might have done during the primary was to discredit the governor for their aspirants to win the sympathy of the delegates; all that is over now. After the primary, they have collapsed their structures to support the governor. I think that there is the general acceptance that the governor has done well and deserves their support.
But some have alleged that the structures were dismantled after financial inducements…
That assumption must have arisen because people don’t really know who Governor Akeredolu is. I have known this man for close to 30 years and he is not the kind of person that will settle you; he does not believe in settlement. Agreement is his settlement; he will say let’s agree on issues and not on monetary terms. Oh, even me that am supporting him now, has he settled me? No, I have never collected a kobo from him or contract or appointment in Ondo State. You can check it; I have never benefitted anything personal in Ondo State.
So what magic did he use to earn the support of aspirants who have suddenly agreed to work with him after a bitter and fierce campaign?
The support must have come as a result of the party’s supremacy. Those candidates that aligned with him after the primary are actually party patriots who believe that after the election, they should rally round the winner for the general election, unlike Agboola Ajayi who could not wait to contest the party ticket before he moved to other party, but wanted to destroy the government that made him. You can see the difference between him and patriots like Olusola Oke who decided to support Akeredolu.
PDP’s governorship candidate, Jegede is a second timer. He also recently met former governor Mimiko to seek his support. Won’t this boost his chances this time around?
Jegede was Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice under Mimiko for eight years, what value did this add to his chances when he contested the first time even when his boss, Mimiko was in power? And when you talk about the Akure factor, is the governor going to be the Governor of Akure or the Governor of Ondo State?
I think the issue of Ondo State governor should be based on quality. Go and look at the Benin/Ore road and see a first class flyover bridge, first of its kind in the state, built by Akeredolu. See the industrial Park in Ore area as well as the vehicle Assembly Plant. Everybody knows that Akeredolu has improved road network in Ondo State. What do people want really? Quality Service. People say Akeredolu is not a political person. Do we need a super politician as governor or a performer? We have seen super “politician” and that is not the kind of politician Ondo State needs. We don’t want a super politician; we need a super administrator and that is what we have in Akeredolu.
So the exit of Agboola Ajayi will not affect the fortunes of Mr. Governor in the next election, looking at the role he played in the 2016 governorship election?
Don’t forget that Agboola Ajayi’s name was put there as the running mate to satisfy INEC’s requirement when those who were supposed to produce the name of a deputy were delaying and time was running out for both Akeredolu and the party. That was how Ajayi’s name was put there on temporary basis but the temporary thing became permanent. He should have been grateful to APC – for even reaching that level.
APC in Ondo State went through some internal wrangling for about two years but Akeredolu has now been able to get all the aspirants behind him. How does he cement this newly found cohesion?
The advice is what he is doing right now; he should reach out to opposition and get them to come together to fight as a united party during the general election. I don’t have to mention names but it is a good thing that he is mending fences with everybody.
What about the likes of Senator Borofice, Abegunde and the rest?
The last peace meeting held had Senator Borofice in attendance and he spoke with Akeredolu and pledged his support for him.