AGAINST the expectations of many, Rotimi Akeredolu aka Aketi, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2012 Ondo State governorship election, has emerged the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 26, 2016 governorship election. With this win, Akeredolu is a step away from the Alagbaka Government House Akure, Ondo State. God’s time, as they say, is the best. Akeredolu would have beaten Governor Segun Mimiko in 2012 if not for the splintering of his party, the ACN. That unfortunate incident was caused by the shenanigans of godfathers who imposed a candidate on the ACN, thereby causing disaffection within the party and splitting it down the middle. Many who would have supported the ACN to win that election decamped; those who did not adopted the late Chief Bola Ige’s “siddon look” approach. That was how Mimiko escaped with a narrow win.
Incidentally, Akeredolu was the candidate imposed by the godfathers in 2012. Possibly because the time to favour him has come this time round (Psalm 102:13), the godfathers turned their backs on him and reportedly anointed one of his rivals for the contest. When I read Akeredolu’s boast that the godfathers would be disappointed, I honestly did not believe him. I thought he was just making mouth (as they say in Nigerian Englsih) like politicians often do. The incurable optimists – some will say blatant liars! – that politicians are, even when they see clear defeat staring them in the face, they will still stand on rooftops to declare that they will win hands down!
Akeredolu appears to have matured as a politician, though. His feet appear to be firmer on ground this time round than four years ago. He is now, in my view, in a better position to understand the murky waters of politics, its shifting and unstable alliances, as well as its dark alleys and sharp corners. He is not the “outsider” of four years ago, who was brought in from Ibadan by “Lagos” at the promptings, as I heard, of some retired or serving judges, to be imposed on Ondo people. The locals were vociferous in rejecting him and the imposition. As I also heard, Akeredolu’s peacock attitude poured petrol into a raging fire. Rather than build bridges the last time round, he burned them. Rather than extend a hand of fellowship to his fellow contestants who felt cheated and abused by the godfathers’ imposition, Akeredolu reportedly arrogantly told them off. The rest, as they say, is history.
Once bitten, twice shy. Akeredolu must have grown up and should not make the same mistakes twice. If he stumbles at the same hurdles again, then, something really serious must be wrong with him. It is good for him that he is no longer seen as the errand boy of a godfather; with the way he ran in the primary, he appeared to have come of age. He must have had a political structure of his own to have been confident enough not only to run independently of his erstwhile godfathers’ support, but to also publicly thump his chest that he would win. Ondo, I believe, will like him for that. Here, too, I am sure he will have an edge over the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, who is seen as the anointed son of outgoing Governor Mimiko. If it was when “Iroko” was “Iroko”, I would have counselled Akeredolu to tighten his belt seriously. But the “Iroko” of today is not the same as the one that took Ondo politics by storm in 2007/2008; defying no less a person than ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo; standing against a behemoth like the PDP; contesting on the ticket of an unknown Labour Party and still winning landslide victory against an incumbent governor. The election was massively rigged but “Iroko” had his day in court and won. “Iroko” – “Gba sibe!” – is the nickname of Governor Mimiko; “Iroko” in Yoruba is ‘king of the forest.’
That was then. Mimiko has since diminished seriously in political stature. Inability to pay salaries as and when due has been his greatest undoing: The other time, Mimiko cut a pitiable sight as he sat on the bonnet of a vehicle addressing protesting workers who would not allow him access to his office. There is also the Modu Ali Modu Sheriff albatross dangling from PDP’s neck. Mimiko must be rueing why he left his Labour Party comfort zone for the “double wahala for dead body” that the PDP has become. Many will suspect that Mimiko is trying to install a crony to help cover his back and tracts. An independent fellow is needed to succeed Mimiko, so we can have a glimpse into how he ruled Ondo: If someone else had not succeeded former President Goodluck Jonathan, we would not have heard or seen what we are hearing and seeing today.
But that is as far as it goes. The time is now for Akeredolu to face up to daunting realities and hard facts. He has a bright chance of winning if he has his party solidly behind him. Should his party splinter like it did the last time, he could lose again. The results of the APC governorship primary indicate that he was merely lucky to have won. Akeredolu may not like my bluntness, but I do not care or, to borrow from Jonathan, I do not give a damn. I have never met or spoken with him; I only know him by reputation. Like him, I am from Owo and I think the rotation formula enacted a long time ago by Ondo leaders of thought makes some sense. The formula says it is now the turn of Ondo North, where Akeredolu comes from, to produce the next governor. I have participated in think-tank sessions with brilliant Chief Akin Aruwajoye, the Ogbeni-Oja of Owo and President, Owo General Assembly, on how to effectively push Owo’s candidature. Governor Mimiko from Ondo Central is trying to subvert the zoning formula by lining up a candidate from the same Ondo Central to succeed him. Where is Mimiko’s sense of fairness? My sentiments are therefore with Akeredolu, but my support, eventually, will go to the best candidate. If Akeredolu messes up, I will withhold support for him.
The primary results show that Akeredolu won by the narrowest of margins. He scored 669 votes; Abraham, 635; Olusola Oke, 584; Ajayi Boroffice, 471 votes. We can see that it was a very strong field. If any two of the other three had teamed up against Aketi, the outcome would most likely have been different. The results indicate that Aketi’s first three opponents are formidable in their own areas of strength and the winner is going to need their cooperation and support. If he fails to, I can assure him it will affect him adversely in the governorship election proper. A total of 2, 744 delegates were accredited; meaning that Aketi got only 24.380 per cent of the total votes cast. This score is not even enough to give anyone an E or “resit”; it is F flat! Aketi is also going to need all the other contestants who, amongst them, polled a total of 385 votes by my own calculation. When elections go to the wire – and we never can know if the one we are preparing for will not – every vote will count. If all the aspirants support Aketi conscientiously, that will make his burden lighter and victory at the polls much more likely. Aketi has bounden duty to run, affect the others, court them, and curry their favour. Beg them, if you have to. Make concessions to them, if you must. Politics is a game of compromise. “Who chop alone; die alone,” as they say.
It is in this respect that Aketi must pay great attention to the vituperations of two of the front-runners, Dr Segun Abraham and Chief Olusola Oke, who are contesting the outcome of the primary election. Their complaints may not likely lead to the cancellation of the primary election, but no one must think of it that way. It is important to immediately win them over. None of the APC gubernatorial contestants must be allowed to defect. Aketi will also be well advised to treasure Dr Tunji Abayomi. I dare to say that he is the one who allowed his head to be used to crack this coconut. If he had not campaigned vigorously against the attempt by godfathers to hijack the process, the outcome might have been different. Finally, Aketi must avoid the situation that played out in Ekiti in the last governorship election when the party leadership was lukewarm to the re-election bid of Governor Kayode Fayemi. Apart from what PDP did to outsmart Fayemi, the attitude of Fayemi’s own people did not help matters. The party splintered, with Opeyemi Bamibele leading a section to confront Fayemi before reportedly teaming up with PDP’s Ayo Fayose.
Aketi must immediately begin to reconcile with party leaders; firstly, in the state and then at the national level. He must worm his way back to the hearts of the godfathers. I give him two Yoruba proverbs and I close. The first says the leper cannot milk the cow, but he can spill the milk. The second says if a child has as many clothes as his father, he cannot have as many rags. Need I say more?
LAST WORD: Ramadan Kareem to all lovers of this column! I wish each and every one joy, peace, and happy celebrations. These are not the best of times for festivities, though; what with the high cost of rams and other food items and the scarcity of money in circulation? How many workers have received their salaries? But this is the time to remember the late Ooni Okunade Sijuwade’s immortal words to South-west electorates during those difficult days of Sani Abacha’s maximum dictatorship. The late Ooni had said: “E jade lo ki e lo try best yin” meaning, “troop out (to vote) and try your best.” Economic depression notwithstanding, troop out and make the best of a very bad situation.