As political gladiators in Ondo State oil their machines for the October governorship election, there is no no doubt that the imcubent governor of the state, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu has many hurdles to cross. And his ability to succeed will depend largely on how smart he is at managing the hurdles occasioned by intra-party differences.
That the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) will pose a serious challenge to Akeredolu is a fact, but more challenging is the internal crisis already rocking the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state.
It is not a fallacy that the APC in Ondo State is already polarized and its centre can no longer hold. Little wonder the emergence of the unity group led by former Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Alli Olanusi within the party (APC).
The Olanusi-led unity group of the APC comprises strong leaders and stakeholders in the party who can influence votes in their various senatorial districts.
Prominent among the key figures in the group are Senator Ajayi Bororfice, who is representing Ondo North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, former Osun State Commissioner for Regional Integration, Mr Bola Ilori, and former state chairman of the party, Mr Isaac Kekemeke.
Others include a former member of the House of Representatives, Babatunde White, former Commissioner for Environment in the state, Mr Solagbade Amodeni and a host of other former members of the state executive council and the House of Assembly.
It was also rumoured that the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the state, Chief Olusola Oke was working underneath for the unity group as it was alleged that he (Oke) is interested in conntesting the next governorship poll.
Just like Oke, Kekemeke is also said to be interested in the governorship race. Not only has Kekemeke launched his ambition, if not for the outbreak of Coronavirus, which has dampened all activities in the state, the former Secretary to the State Government would have commenced his campaign ahead of the party’s primary election earlier scheduled for July.
Kekemeke specifically told Sunday Sun that he will pose serious challenge to Akeredolu and insisted that he would ensure that Akeredolu does not emerge the party’s candidate, stressing that he would not mind teaming up with other like minds in his unity group of the APC to bring an end to the reign of Governor Akeredolu.
The APC stalwart who was the state chairman of the party during the primary election that produced Akeredolu as the party’s standard bearer was alleged to have worked for the AD candidate, Chief Oke during the last election, an allegation he, however, denied.
But this time around, it was not certain whether or not Kekemeke will work for Oke who is also in the race due to his intrest in the exalted position. Both Oke and Kekemeke are from Ondo South Senatorial District, while Akeredolu is from Ondo North Senatorial District.
One of the arguments of those in the unity group of the APC is that governorship position should be zoned to other parts of the state. This is unarguably to make way for either Oke or Kekemeke or any other interested candidate from the zone.
Oke was also alleged by those in the mainstream APC to have worked against the interest or the APC when he contested on the platform of the AD in 2017, but lost to Akeredolu.
Although Oke, a former national legal adviser of the PDP was relatively new in the APC as at the time the party held its primary election, he came second in the primary. He was, however, not satisfied with the conduct of the primary election, hence his defection to AD two weeks after the APC primary and subsequent contest.
He, however, came third in the governorship poll, having been defeated by the APC’s Akeredolu who came first and PDP’s Eyitayo Jegede who came second.
The performance of Oke within the short period of his defection to the AD impressed many politicians in the state, a situation which made many, including APC members, to plead with him to return to the APC fold and he eventually obliged.
Oke is seen as a strong politician in the state as he had held many positions in the past and used his influence to assist many residents and natives of the state.
Political observers in the state argued that Oke may pose a very serious challenge to Governor Akeredolu, especially as he was alleged to have the backing of the former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Sunday Sun reliably gathered that Oke has always enjoyed the support of Tinubu in his political ambition. Even when he contested for the governorship position under the AD, it was alleged that his decision gained the blessings of Tinubu who at that time was the leader of the APC in the country.
This, it was gathered was as a result of his very cordial relationship with the former Governor of Osun State and current Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, who is a close ally of Tinubu. It was speculated that it was Aregbesola that sold Oke to Tinubu.
Although Oke has not launched his campaign or made his decision known formally, his posters have been sighted in some parts of the state, including Akure, the state capital, a development that suggests that he may contest the election.
A close loyalist of Oke, Giwa Olusegun said Oke wwould soon make his position known on his decision to contest the governorship election, stressing that there is serious pressure on him to contest the governorship poll.
He said that Oke is already prepared for the contest as he has his people in all parts of the state, adding that he is one of the most influential politicians in the state, adding that he has paid his dues in the political scene of Ondo State.
But Kekemeke said he is the aspirant to beat in the party’s primary, saying that” having served as a commissioner, secretary to the state government and state chairman of the ruling party, no one else could be more experienced than me in the politics of our dear state.
“God has told me that I am the next governor of Ondo State and as a believer in God, I am sure nothing can change His words. I have started working on the ways to win the primary election and I have my coordinators in all the wards and local government areas across the state. I am not new in this game or politics.
“No one has made contributions to the APC in Ondo State more than me. No one has sacrificed for the APC in Ondo State more than me. I was at campaign rally two weeks after the death of my wife campaigning for the APC. It is time to pay me back,” he pointed out.
However, an aide of Governor Akeredolu who preferred anonymity said: “Governor Akeredolu will emerge the candidate of the APC and eventually win the gubernatorial election. He has developed the state and his works in the last four years will speak for him.”
He said that the people of the state know what is good for them and members of the party will also be fair to him by voting for him as the party’s standard bearer.
Reacting, the state chairman of the party, Mr Ade Adetimehin who spoke through the party’s Director of Publicity, Mr Steve Otaloro, said that the party is one and will remain one indivisible element before, during and after the next gubernatorial poll.
He assured that the leadership of the party would be fair to all contestants that signify intention to contest the October governorship election in the state.