By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure
Following the selection of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State, former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the ruling APC, Chief Bola Tinubu, is faced with a dilemma over who to support.
Tinubu, sources close to the former governor informed THISDAY, is torn between his allegiance to his party and throwing his weight behind Chief Olusola Oke, the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the Ondo election.
Tinubu has been extremely unhappy with his party over the outcome of APC primary, following the defeat of his preferred candidate for the Ondo election, Mr. Olusegun Abraham.
His belief was that there was a gang up by those opposed to him in the APC who allegedly manipulated the primary in order to ensure that Abraham lost to Akeredolu by 669 votes last September, leading to an outcry that the primary was flawed.
Even after an appeal panel that was set up by the ruling party to review the outcome of the primary recommended the conduct of a fresh primary, the national APC leadership ignored the decision of the panel and chose to field Akeredolu as the candidate of the party in the Ondo election.
The decision of the APC leadership drew a scathing rebuke from Tinubu who accused the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, of being compromised and demanded his resignation.
Despite Tinubu’s anger and call for Oyegun’s resignation, he was ignored by the party, which led the former Lagos governor to ignore most major meetings and events held recently by the APC.
Seeing that he could not get the party to do his bidding, a source informed THISDAY yesterday that Tinubu might have now decided to back Oke in the governorship election in Ondo State.
His decision has been galvanised by the solidarity rally by his supporters in Lagos State at the weekend who believe that Tinubu, as the leader of the APC who worked assiduously for the merger that led to the creation of the party, was being sidelined.
Furthermore, the source said Tinubu’s decision to back Oke instead of Akeredolu stemmed from the fact that the APC chieftain also lost out in the Kogi governorship election when his pick, Hon. James Faleke, was ditched by the party in favour of Yahaya Bello as the governorship candidate of Kogi after the death of Abubakar Audu before the conclusion of the election.
“Although he largely ignored what happened in the Kogi election, following Abubakar’s death, he believes that the party’s decision to settle for Rotimi Akeredolu was an insult taken too far, hence his consideration of Olusola Oke,” the source explained.
However, the source divulged that as Tinubu mulls the options before him, the call on who to back will not be an easy one.
“He cannot be in APC and be fighting the party at the same time, so this is a tough call for Tinubu after being at the vanguard that led to the creation of APC in 2013 and its subsequent victory at the 2015 general election,” he said.
The source further divulged that Tinubu is also being propelled to support Oke in the election because of his closeness to the Director General of the Olusola Campaign Organisation, Mr. Bola Ilori, who has been begging the former Lagos governor to throw his political weight and clout behind Oke.
He added that President Muhammadu Buhari will also be in Akure, the Ondo State capital, next Saturday to support Akeredolu ahead of the governorship election, but Tinubu will be conspicuously absent at the event.
Tinubu, it was gathered, is still outside the country, having departed the United States of America for the United Kingdom at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Oke will today be presented with the flag of the AD by its national leadership.
Ilori disclosed the decision of the AD leadership yesterday in Akure to present the flag to the candidate, who had been going round various parts of the state canvassing votes from the electorate.
Ilori, in a statement, invited all and sundry to join the AD family at the flag off rally of the Ondo State chapter of the party where the national leaders would present the Oke and his running mate with the symbol and authority of the party.
Ilori further disclosed that the event would also avail the party’s flag-bearer the platform to articulate his innovative ideas for Ondo State.
“We want to invite our people to be part of this historic and epoch making event, one that all and sundry have been looking forward to for the benefit of our state and our future.
“The AD as a progressive party and it is poised to bring back the lost glory and restore the fortunes of our dear state, and Chief Olusola Oke and his running mate, Alhaji Ganny Dauda are ready to drive the vehicle of this economic recovery.
“We want our people to troop out and be part of this historic event by coming to witness the dawn of a new Ondo State,” he stated.
Oke also got a boost at the weekend with the promise by the people of Ikare Akoko of Akoko North East Local Government Area in the state, expressing their readiness to support him during the November 26 election.
Oke, whose running mate hails from the neighbouring Akoko North West Local Government, was received by a mammoth crowd when his campaign trail berthed in Ikare Akoko yesterday.
The candidate, who visited the traditional ruler of Ikare, the Olukare, Oba Akadiri Momoh, said he was on a rescue mission to wrestle Ondo people from the clutches of hunger.