The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) again came to the fore yesterday as President Muhammadu Buhari, his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and National Leader of the governing party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, were conspicuously absent at a scheduled rally in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Besides Buhari, Osinbajo and Tinubu, prominent members of the party in the South-West stayed away from the flagoff campaign of the APC’s candidate for the November 26 governorship election, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
Three of the four governors from the South-West – Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos) – were absent at the party’s rally. Only Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State was at the rally. Also absent were Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara; former interim National Chairman of APC and erstwhile governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, and the Chairman of APC Governors’ Forum, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
Even the Senator representing Ondo North Senatorial District and a contestant for the APC ticket, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, four out of the five House of Representatives’ members were also absent at the rally attended by some leaders of the party. In most cases, the vice president was supposed to flag off the governorship rally while the president attends the grand finale. This was the practice in Kogi and Edo governorship elections where Osinbajo flagged off the campaigns. But Osinbajo stayed away from the Ondo rally.
The absence of the notable leaders might not be unconnected with the crisis in the party over the emergence of Akeredolu against the wish of Tinubu, who had endorsed Dr. Segun Abraham as his preferred candidate for the election. In an advertorial signed by the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ondo State, Abayomi Adesanya, Buhari, Osinbajo, National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie- Oyegun, Saraki, Dogara, Okorocha and Governor Solomon Lalong of Plateau State were listed as prominent personalities expected at the rally, among other high profile figures. The advertorial was published in some national dailies.
There were also radio and television advertorials welcoming the prominent party leaders. Aside Dr. Tunji Abayomi, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, Chief Jamiu Ekungba and Engr. Tunji Light Ariyomo, other contestants for the ticket of the party, including the first runner-up, Abraham, were conspicuously absent at the rally. However, only the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Babachir Lawal, who represented President Buhari was the highest political office holder who attended the flag off rally.
Some ministers, Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Mines and Solid Development), Dr. Chris Nigige (Labour and Productivity), Prof. Isaac Adewole (Health), Barr. Adebayo Shittu (Communications), Usani Uguru Usani (Niger Delta), and Prof. Claudius Daramola (State for Niger Delta) were at the event. Aside some hordes of ministers and some governors from the North, the shakers of South-West politics were conspicuously absent at the rally, deepening the feud between the South-West APC led by Tinubu and the Abuja group.
However, Oyegun, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Segun Oni; Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Kasim Shettima (Borno), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), and Lalong (Plateau) were present. Others at the rally were National Vice Chairman (South-West), Chief Pius Akinyelure; Dr Patrick Akinyelure; former deputy governor, Alhaji Ali Ola nusi Director General of Technical Aide Corps, Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi; former governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Senator Olorunnmibe Mamora, among others. Aware that the crisis in the party might affect the fortune of the candidate negatively in the poll, the only governor of the South-West at the rally, Amosun, told the party leaders to sheathe their sword and work for the unity of the party.
According to him, there must be unity among the APC leaders in the South- West in order to deliver the state to the governing party at the national level. Amosun said the people of the state have seen the capacity of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and discovered they could not do much for the people. His words: “We should not fight among ourselves. If we have issues with one another, we must resolve it.
Yoruba must not fight each other. We must be united in the interest of our race and party. Those that are angry should please forget the past and work together so that opposition political parties would not have edge over us.”
Oyegun, in his speech, said the Federal Government and the party were interested in the governorship seat of the state. Oyegun, who spoke after presenting the party’s flag to Akeredolu as the candidate of the party and his running mate, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, said the state was too strategic to the Federal Government to be left in the hands of the opposition political party. Oyegun said: “Ondo State is important to the Federal Government.
Akeredolu is part of the APC’s Federal Government.” He further said that the state should not be allowed to continue with opposition politics. According to him, the array of people that witnessed the rally showed the importance attached to the realisation of Akeredolu’s governorship ambition. He said the state should join its counterparts in the South-West states in the mainstream of Nigerian politics.
The state chairman of APC, Hon. Isaacs Kekemeke, said the state would join other progressive states by voting Akeredolu as governor. He said the people of the state have resolved that the person to succeed Governor Olusegun Mimiko is Akeredolu. In his speech after he accepted the party’s flag, Akeredolu said with the support of the people of the state and the party leaders, the next governorship election would be won by him.
Akeredolu promised massive employment through agriculture, regular payment of salary, gratuity and pension if voted as governor. He added that the state couldn’t afford to vote Alliance for Democracy (AD) without a councillor in any part of the country.