The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), in this interview by KATE ANI, shares his thought on the controversies surrounding the recently concluded primariy that produced him.
Your victory at the APC primary has continued to generate controversies. Specifically your leader, Senator Bola Tinubu has called for the annulment of your victory. What is your offence with Tinubu?
I have no issues with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, all I know is that I am the candidate of the party and I know that there is no challenge to my candidature. So, I am going ahead to run my campaign; that is all I can tell you.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has also said your emergence did not follow due process and should therefore, be annulled. Do you have any reaction to that?
I am not sure he (Atiku) said so because I am sure he would have gathered all relevant facts before passing comments. I don’t believe the former vice president would say such a thing because the facts are there for every Nigerian to see.
Your emergence as the APC candidate in Ondo state is causing a lot of ripples between the APC national leadership and the powers that be, as calls have already been made for the removal of the national chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun…
I don’t know whether it is causing any ripple or not. All I know is that I am the governorship candidate of APC in Ondo State. I am calling on every member of the party in the state for us to work together as a team and win the election, which is my main focus now. I am not interested in any distractions, I don’t know why people are calling for the removal of Oyegun. I am sure that it is not because of the outcome of the primary. Maybe they have other reasons and just wanted to use the Ondo primary to cover up for other issues. Chief Oyegun will earn the respect of people who are not biased and he will continue to earn the respect of most Nigerians because he stood for the truth. All the decisions of the APC National Working Committee (NWC)were not Oyegun’s decision; people can go and check the facts by verifying the minute of the meeting of the national working committee, from the secretary and other members of NWC. From what I gathered, I am sure these people stood for the truth and that truth.
According to reports, the primary was marred with series of irregularities and there were also claims that delegates were enticed with money…
(Cuts in…) I hope you watched the conduct of the primary on television; no other primary has ever been that transparent in the history of primary elections in Nigeria. I can assure you that the primary was free and fair. There was no fraud and I can assure you that Nigerians, particularly Ondo people gave kudos to the chairman of the primary committee, Governor Badru of Jigawa, on how he conducted it in the most free and transparent manner.
You are also reported to have spent heavily on that primary. How much did it cost you? How did you source your funds?
The person who gave you that report should also tell you how much it cost. If you have a report that I spent heavily on it, get the cost from that person or from your source. I didn’t pay any delegate; nobody was given a dime to vote for me. I didn’t give anybody money before they voted. Go and ask your source how much he claimed I spent.
What is your relationship with ex-govs Fashola, Fayemi and Amaechi, Governor El-Rufai and President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari?
(Laughs…) You want to know my relationship with members of my party? I have a good relationship with them. These days; I hardly see or talk to most of them, but sometimes we see at party functions. If you talk about Fashola, we have known ourselves as lawyers before he even became governor and now minister and I have known Dr Kayode Fayemi for long; we live on the same street. All these people you mentioned and quite a few others are my very good friends in the party.
Is it true you were President Muhammadu Buhari’s candidate in that primary?
Why don’t you ask President Buhari himself if he had any candidate during the Ondo primary… I don’t think you people know the president too well. He is a very busy man; his major concern is the problem of this country. How can you say he has a candidate in the primary?
There were reports that the presidency funded your primary…
Well, if you gathered that they funded the primary, show that source of funding and where the fund came from and how they sent it. You are a journalist, go and do your investigations. The Federal Government that is in crisis financially would now be funding a state governorship primary candidate, is it possible? When I listen to allegations like this, I always get worried. Why don’t you give the president credit and some measure of respect! I can say it boldly here that the Presidency did not sponsor me; all the money I spent were mine and contributions from friends.
In the light of these attacks and counter-attacks, are you still hopeful of winning the coming election?
I don’t think I have been attacked in the media. Of course, primaries of this nature and every other primary in the country would generate series of reactions and I refuse to be distracted by any attacks from any quarters. My main focus is the election, the people of Ondo state and let me also say this; I said so during the primary and I am repeating it here that I am confident, absolutely confident that by the grace of God, I will win the election as the governor of Ondo State. I have never had doubt about it and I call on all the members of our party to join hands with me and form a formidable force against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), wich we all know has not done too well for the state. We must ensure that PDP does not come back as the government of Ondo State. The defeat of PDP in Edo state is enough to assure everyone of what will happen in Ondo State. Hence, we should all come together and work for our party; the party is greater than Akeredolu, the party is greater than the chairman, the party is greater than the aspirants and even greater than our president.
Any advice for Tinubu, Atiku and others opposed to your candidature?
I have told you earlier that it is not possible for Atiku to oppose my emergence. What is his own interest to oppose my candidature in Ondo? And I know that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is not opposed to the candidate of our party.
If Tinubu didn’t oppose to your candidature, why did he release a statement calling for the removal of Chief Oyegun, alleging that the primary was not credible?
Why don’t you ask him (Tinubu) why he is calling for the resignation of Oyegun? This is not a question for me o. Why don’t you ask him why he is calling for the head of Oyegun? That is a question for you but for me, I don’t believe he or the others you mentioned are opposed to my candidature. I always believe that they will come to Ondo and campaign for the party to win.
You were known as a prominent member of ACN/APC legal teams in the 2007, 2011 and 2014 elections across the country. Although you were paid your fees, why would those you represented in the court now turn against you?
I don’t know who among them has turned against me. I am telling you, I don’t believe anybody is against me; it is just that they had their preferred candidate and a winner has emerged. But, I believe that all of us would eventually come together for this party. They may have one or two reasons to pick things up but not against the candidate of a party, it can’t be.