By Yejide Gbenga-Ogundare
Things must have fallen irretrievably apart with the All Progressive Congress, APC, in Ondo State as Alhaji Ali Olanusi, a former deputy governor of the state and a member of the Board of Trustees of the APC has lambasted Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
An angry Olanusi told YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE in a chat that the governor is running the state like his fiefdom with the wife parading herself as the de facto deputy governor round the ministries and his children having offices at the governor’s office.
“For the first time in my political life, I am seeing what I have never seen,” Olanusi said. “It was when Akeredolu became governor that the political party which brought him into power went comatose. Till now, the party is not holding any ward meeting in all the 203 wards of Ondo State. If you don’t meet at the ward level, the local government level and at the state level, where else does the party meet to talk about issues?”
Speaking on Akeredolu’s achievements in the state, the man simply retorted: “Which achievements? You know I laughed when they show people outside the state a road which is not up to one kilometre; they will show pictures. It is those of us here that know what is going on. All the roads he was showing, none is up to two kilometers; from Police A Division to Ajasin Road Roundabout, it is not up to one kilometre. Since the beginning of this year, I have been to Akoko only twice because of bad road.
“He said it is federal road but we are the people plying the road. When other governors were there, they knew how to work with the Federal Road Management Agency (FERMA) to frequently patch the road so that we could get round easily. Because of bad road, I can’t go home regularly like I used to do. Seeing what other states are showing on television, Akeredolu decided to emulate them by showing pictures so that people can think that he is working. The people outside the state don’t know that what they are being shown is not the correct picture of what is going on here. Today, there is no pipe borne water in any part of Ondo State.
“He has killed APC in the state. There is no party. When we were asked to conduct election to pick officers to run the affairs of the party, he and his cabinet at the Government House sat in their offices and wrote names by themselves without any party input or election. That is where the problem started from.
“The situation is terrible. I told the leaders that came that if election is conducted today in Ondo State, I don’t know which party will win but not the APC. If things do not change, I can assure you that the APC cannot win election. I just told you that there is no meeting going on; no caucus meeting. I was the state chairman of the PDP for six years. Every month, we hold caucus meeting where we have the cabinet, including the governor, deputy governor and leaders of the party. But there is no caucus now in Ondo APC, even wards are not meeting.
“I am a man of peace. We in the Ondo APC Unity Forum are just trying to patch things for him to finish his term since he was elected. But surprisingly, we now discovered he is now erecting bill boards in some areas. The boards initially carried no logo but later when people started murmuring, he put small symbol of broom on the erected bill boards.”
Find below the excerpts of the interview:
Having traversed many political parties, don’t you think that being inconsistent by moving from one party to the other is one of the factors responsible for the situation of things in Ondo State and the country as a whole?
I will say yes and no in the sense that the principal actors, as soon as they get to the top, they change like chameleon. So, inconsistency on their part is one of the reasons. Because of their inconsistency, people were also forced to be inconsistent because what they see is different from their ideologies or expectations. For example, things were okay and peaceful till the era of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). But in this generation, things have been terrible from the PDP emergence. That is why you see people changing parties every day. The thing started from the PDP of which I was a foundation member. I agree with you that inconsistency is an issue and it is so unfortunate.
You said you were not around during the APC governorship primary but as an elder, have you tried to talk to the governor as a son and why has it been difficult for you and other elders in Ondo North to guide him?
God is my witness; I was on my sick bed in Berlin, Germany when the primary was conducted and one of my associates, Alhaji Saka Arowolo, called to tell me that Akeredolu had emerged. Before I travelled, I made a promise to the people of Ondo State, as a leader of the group then, that I would not support any candidate but would work with whoever emerged. So, I was on the sick bed when I was called that he had emerged.
Akeredolu also got my number from Alhaji Arowolo and called me that he had emerged and I told him that as soon as I am better, I will come and join my people at home to campaign for him. I came down with my walking stick and when I got back, I discovered that no politician of note followed Akeredolu in campaigning. I only saw Ayo Aborishade, former Speaker, Ondo House of Assembly and myself; we were the only two politicians in his campaign rally throughout the state.
Sincerely, Akeredolu appreciated me publicly. But when he got to office, I was giving him advice. He would say yes but would not take it. So, I decided to distance myself from him because I have made a name in Ondo State and I don’t want anything to destroy it. I have no problem with him. If I ask him to give me this or do that for me today, he will do it but I don’t want to because he doesn’t listen to counsel and he has deviated from the normal; at least, he is not the first governor. We have had not less than five elected governors: Adekunle Baba Ajasin was there; Chief Adebayo Adefarati, Chief Bamidele Olumilua; Dr Olusegun Agagu and then Dr Olusegun Mimiko. All what Akeredolu introduced and is doing now, none of the former governors did a quarter of such. His children resume in office like governor; his wife is going round ministries. He himself is the one that writes names to present for anything; there is no party input or deliberation with any party leader. If you advise him, he won’t heed; if you call him, he won’t pick his call.
In essence, you are saying he had moved away from the party that brought him to power…
He doesn’t recognise any party structure. For the first time in my political life, I am seeing what I have never seen. It was when Akeredolu became governor that the political party which brought him into power went comatose. Till now, the party is not holding any ward meeting in all the 203 wards of Ondo State. If you don’t meet at the ward level, the local government level and at the state level, where else does the party meet to talk about issues?
So what do you think is the way out?
I am a man of peace. We in the Ondo APC Unity Forum are just trying to patch things for him to finish his term since he was elected. But surprisingly, we now discovered he is now erecting bill boards in some areas. The boards initially carried no logo but later when people started murmuring, he put small symbol of broom on the erected bill boards.
Are you implying that he is not also convinced that he is going with the APC to contest the election?
He is not in APC. I am telling you that he is working with a group; the few that followed him to the action Alliance (AA). That is the group he works with. He is planning to move to another party; he knows the APC cannot take him as its governorship candidate. He has been working against the party, especially in the last general election.
Did you inform the party of what is going on?
We did; we wrote more than five petitions to the national leadership of the APC. We copied Senator Bola Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and others but there is no action yet. The only action they took was the meeting they held with us at the Heritage Hotel in Akure about five months ago for reconciliation. We all agreed that he should finish his term, but we didn’t tell him to go for a second term.
Does what you said represent the view of generality of the people from Ondo North senatorial district?
Let me tell you, we have four local government areas in Akoko and two in Owo Division-Ose and Owo. The governor did not work for the senator that represents Ondo North senatorial district which you are referring to in the last election. But for your information, we won in all the wards apart from Ose. The senator who he didn’t want to win the election won in all other local government areas except Ose. Even in his own local government area, Senator Ajayi Boroffice won six out of 11 wards. We are anxiously waiting for Akeredolu to finish his term and go. We have discovered that he is not ready to help the state.
Is that the stand of the Unity Forum?
Yes, that is the position of the unity group. I am the leader, so I know. He should finish his term and leave.
Who are its members and how well spread is the group?
Don’t mix things together. We are the Ondo APC Unity Forum. We are a reasonable faction within the APC; we are over 70 per cent of the real members of the party in all the 19 local government areas of Ondo State.
So what future does the APC have in Ondo State?
The future is just one with God is a majority. May God minister to the minds of the leadership of the APC at the national level as we don’t have a party executive in the state. This is because Ade Adetimehin who Akeredolu installed as the state chairman of the APC is now working for the Action Alliance (AA) and not for the APC. We wrote and complained to the people in Abuja, but they did not take action.
What was the agreement at the reconciliation meeting?
On conditions for reconciliation during the meeting, we asked them to dissolve the state executive of the party because the members were not elected by the people and they were not working for us. They noted that. We told them that there is no caucus that will advise the governor on any issue and they said we should start the meeting. But unfortunately, none of the conditions has been carried out up till now. We asked Akeredolu to call a meeting but he has been postponing, at least for over four months now. The reconciliation has failed woefully; it failed completely. The common interest is for APC to return to power in Ondo State but that is if they wish.
If all the things we asked are done, I can assure you that the APC will do well. Before Akeredolu came, APC gave Buhari over 54 per cent in the 2015 elections when the PDP was in power at the state and federal levels. Now that he has destroyed the party in Ondo State, if all those things we agreed upon during the meeting are put in place, I can assure you that the APC will fly so high.
What happens to Ondo North If Akeredolu is not given a second chance?
The situation on ground now is about who will play the game according to the rules of the land and who will carry the party along and embrace those who are not his party members for development. All the industries established by Ajasin are dead; all that were started by Agagu are not completed. The issue now is not about zone; the government is for all and not about a zone. The people of Ondo State are suffering, irrespective of where they come from. So who becomes governor is not about whether’ it is the central or north. When those roads in Ondo North were constructed, was the governor from that senatorial district? We need a governor that will listen to the people, one that will do what the people want.
What is your advice for the APC National Working Committee?
They should listen to the voice of reasoning and do their research thoroughly to know whether it is the Unity Forum that is lying or the Akeredolu group. They should come here to the grassroots to find out the truth.
Are you saying that even with the power of incumbency, your group will win?
Yes, we will. We won’t allow what happened the last time happen again. We are waiting for them; they rigged election for Akeredolu at the primary with people who are not even members of the party. We are going for direct primary this time around. That will make it difficult for anyone, either from London or Abuja, to rig the primary for anybody. This is the first time the people of Ondo State did not pick their leaders; this man was imposed on us by people in Abuja and see what has happened.