Tinubu Deflates Ondo ACN; Picks Akeredolu as Governorship Candidate as confusion rages: Mimiko Set for Landslide in October

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Shock and disbelief enveloped the camps of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) aspirants in Ondo state on Wednesday following news that the leadership of the party had settled for Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu; former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Akeredolu an indigene of Owo who was not known to the structures of ACN in Ondo state until news regarding his governorship ambition emerged less than a year ago. Members of the ACN who spoke with NigerianEcho in Ondo state would rather prefer to wait until a final announcement of Akeredolu’s candidature is made before making elaborate comment.  Meanwhile, the ruling Labour Party (LP) in Ondo state appears elated by the choice of Akeredolu for a number of reasons believed to make the ACN prone to implosion ahead of the election. Already, there are strong indications late Wednesday night that a number of ACN leaders and supporters who are disappointed by the outcome of the selection process are set to rejoin Labour Party in Ondo state from which they decamped months ago to prosecute governorship ambition under the platform of the ACN.

Leading aspirants of the ACN were not willing to openly react to the development on account of some underground moves aimed at challenging the decision. For instance, some of the aspirants were as at Wednesday afternoon still making frantic efforts to know the exact view of the National Chairman of the ACN, Chief Bisi Akande and other national leaders on the matter. Activities have been enveloped by hush indifference at the campaign offices of some of the aspirants in Akure. Supporters were seen moving around with apprehension following weeks of expectation regarding the chances of their camp in the selection process. A meeting was said to have been summoned in Lagos at which Akeredolu would be formerly unveiled to other ACN aspirants as the party candidate for October 20 governorship election.

Some party loyalists and supporters of the aspirants are already kicking against the decision. A leader of the ACN in Ikare; headquarter of Akoko division in Ondo state however described Akeredolu’s choice as impossible; asserting that the party was taking a huge risk by endorsing an unpopular candidate for the October 20 governorship election. A lawyer and field coordinator of one of the governorship aspirants who pleaded anonymity categorically told NigerianEcho in a telephone conversation from Ondo town that it was possible for the leadership to force Akeredolu on the party but that the generality of the people of Ondo state cannot be coerced into voting an unpopular candidate as governor; noting also that the ACN would pay dearly for imposing governorship candidate.  According to him, “I have never been comfortable with this whole idea of selection right from the first day. But I honestly cannot understand how our leaders here in Ondo state fell for this undemocratic means of selecting a governorship candidate. If the news making round about Akeredolu’s  endorsement is true, then we would have a big issue to contend with”, he added. While a supporter of Dr. Tunji Abayomi in the University town of Akungba simply told NigerianEcho, “na so we dey hear o, the camp of Dr. Olu Agunloye appeared undeterred as at Wednesday afternoon going by a notice titled: Disregard Rumour Mongers through which it sought to placate supporters thus: “our attention has been drawn to some unscrupulous elements spreading falsehood on the social media that a particular candidate has been nominated to be the flag bearer of ACN for the guber poll. There is no iota of truth in that. Disregard it with a wave of your hand”.

The tone for the unease that has engulfed ACN In Ondo state was set on Monday when surprisingly former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu reportedly called a number of the leading governorship aspirants to intimate then about the decision of the party leadership to endorse Akeredolu as governorship candidate. Tinubu reportedly told one of the aspirants that the decision was final and binding when the aspirant demanded reasons for the decision and the particular of the leaders involved in the decision-making process. Report also has it that leaders of the ACN in Ondo state were not involved in the final decision where Akeredolu was supposedly picked but were only communicated to on phone by Tinubu.

Meanwhile, the choice of Akeredolu by the ACN leadership may have deepened the dichotomy between the Akokos and the Owos which are the two dominant groups in Ondo North Senatorial District. The Akokos with four local government as against Owo which has two local governments have been angling for a short at governorship to be zoned to Akoko North zone which had never produced a governor unlike Owo which produced Chief Adekunle Ajasin (1979-1983) and Akoko South which produced Chief Adebayo Adefarati (1999-2003). A cadre of the Akoko project for Governor argued that Akoko North zone ought to have been accorded priority in deciding a candidate for the ACN on the basis of equity. According to him, in addition to producing a governor, Akoko south currently produce the Senator for Ondo North Senatorial District, Professor Ajayi Borooffice and Alhaji Ali Olanusi; the deputy governor to Olusegun Mimiko which the ACN seeks to unseat. The Owo zone has in addition to Ajasin as governor produced four different senators for the Ondo North Senatorial District in 1991, 1999, 2003 and 2007.

Though a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo state under Military rule, Akeredolu candidature may also be facing herculean task in the general election as several people spoken to in Akure believe he does not enjoy the kind of popularity that can win votes in Ondo state. Whereas, Mimiko won the governorship election overwhelmingly in 2007 on the platform of an unknown Labour Party; defeating an incumbent purely on the strength of his popularity, Akeredolu is largely unknown within the rank and file of the ACN and maybe considered a political stooge that should not be relied on. Regardless, the electioneering campaign in Ondo state promises to be interesting considering the array of support and resources available to ACN and Akeredolu. While, ACN national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had vowed to prosecute Ondo election by all means necessary, Governor Mimiko remains a tested politician that understands the political terrain in Ondo state if not far more tenacious than what Tinubu can lay claim to in Lagos state.

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