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Ondo Guber – Aiyedatiwa’s Endorsement Sparks Controversy

Several groups have publicly endorsed Lucky Aiyedatiwa to continue as the governor of Ondo State beyond February 24, 2025, when the joint ticket between him and the late Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu must have expired. BABATOPE OKEOWO reports the squabbles these endorsements have generated in the politics of the Sunshine state.

Since December 27, 2023 when the former governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu died after protracted illness, several groups and individuals have been pledging their support for the governorship ambition of Lucky Aiyedatiwa to continue beyond February 2025 when the tenure which began in 2021 would end. Among those, who have declared support for the ambition of Aiyedatiwa are former appointees of the government, political groups and artisans from different professions. However, some of the endorsements that have caused brouhaha in the political firmament of the state.

Owo/Ose Endorsement

The first diatribe over endorse- ment and rejection of Aiyedatiwa was the constituency of the late governor Akeredolu, Owo/Ose federal constituency. Some leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), including local government chairmen, ward executives, unit chairmen, leaders and party faithful converged on Oba Olag- begi Olateru Civic Centre in Owo, to publicly endorse Lucky Aiyedatiwa as the governor in the 2024 election. Moving a motion for endorsement, the Chairman of the APC in Owo Local Government, Hon. Samuel Balogun, said that the governor is the right candidate to take Ondo State to the next level. Balogun was seconded by his Ose Local Government counterpart, Hon Ladi Tenabe. On the part, The Deputy Governor of the state, Olayide Adelami, said that there are many reasons the governor is the right choice for the people of the state, saying that he must be given a chance to continue the good work he has started. According to him, “Governor Aiyedatiwa has excellent ideas on how the state will be transformed and he is really working on it. We must all look for our APC membership cards and bring them out when they mat- ter. We are lucky in Ondo State that God has brought Aiyedatiwa at this point in time to pilot the affairs of the Sunshine State.” Former Chief of Staff to the late governor Akeredolu, Chief Olugbenga Ale, in his contributions, said that Owo has every reason to support and endorse Lucky Aiyedataiwa for governor for being loyal to his late boss, while he was on medical leave and for his tremendous support during the funeral of the late governor. Similarly, Yemi Mahmud, former commissioner for women affairs in the state, declared that women in Owo and Ose Local Government areas would throw their weight behind Governor Aiyedatiwa.

Rejection

However, a group loyal to for- mer governor Akeredolu described those who endorsed Aiyedatiwa as betrayals. Former appointees of the late governor, Fatai Olushina, and Elefola Solomon, said in a statement that there was no time a decision to endorse Aiyedatiwa was taken. They said; “We assert that the report claiming APC leaders in Owo and Ose have endorsed Aiyedatiwa is both egregiously fallacious and patently deceptive and misleading. The event that transpired in Owo was, in fact, a gathering of those loyal to Aiyedatiwa, convened at the Oba Olateru Olagbegi Civic Centre for a political meeting, as evidenced by the attendees. This group has pre- viously opposed Aketi’s interest in the state. Should there ever be a genuine consensus to endorse a candidate within Owo and Ose APC chapters, it would be championed by our renowned and steadfast leaders, whose political acumen is well recognised. This unfolding spectacle is as amusing as it is troubling.

“We remain vigilant of Aiyedatiwa’s escalating desperation and his attempts to manufacture endorsements across the state. Our resolve is firm in Owo and Ose, and within the broader APC family, to not let misrepresentations prevail. “The loyalists of the late governor Akeredolu’s leadership in Owo and across the state stand united in their rejection of Aiyedatiwa’s tactics to secure the party’s nomination. It is well documented that Aiyedatiwa’s treatment of the late governor was profoundly inhumane and deeply callous. “We refuse to honour such betrayal and cruelty with our party’s endorsement. As we await guidance from our revered leader and father, President Bola Tinubu, we are committed to exposing the deceit and mendacity of Aiyedatiwa and his cohort of betrayers.”

Akeredolu’s Endorsement

Aiyedatiwa had said during his formal declaration as Governor that the late Akeredolu had endorsed him before his death. In his speech, Aiyedatiwa said “I must re-echo what our late leader had always wished for in his lifetime. It was his wish that I succeed him, not in death though, as the next Governor of the State. He was a courageous and visionary leader who had no time for pretence and so he expressed this wish at different fora in both public and private. All was with one conviction and implicit confidence in me to carry on the torch of accelerated development which he lighted first in 2017 and later renewed under a joint ticket for both of us in the 2021 gubernatorial election. I dare say too with a sense of humility that our departed leader would be proud of me as a worthy constitutional successor who has not derailed on the path of development we jointly pursued.”

Rejection

The Chief Press Secretary to the late governor, Mr Richard Olatunde denied the endorsement of Aiyeda- tiwa by the late governor. Olatunde, in a statement titled “Akeredolu Didn’t Anoint Aiyedatiwa as Successor,” warned Aiyedatiwa, to “stop exploiting the deceased governor’s name for political gain.” Olatunde emphasised that both Akeredolu’s family and his ardent supporters across the state strongly object to Governor Aiyedatiwa’s deceptive tactics. Olatunde stated: “This narrative regarding the alleged wish of our late leader and father figure, the late Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON, for Governor Aiyedatiwa to succeed him has gone too far to be disregarded. This narrative began even before our leader was laid to rest. Out of respect and utmost reverence for our late Governor, we chose not to engage with those spreading this narrative. While we acknowledge that the political atmosphere in the state is intensifying, we want to unequivocally state that the late governor did not anoint or express a desire for Aiyedatiwa to succeed him. “On the contrary, the relationship between the late governor and Gov- ernor Aiyedatiwa became strained and distant until his passing. Despite attending to official matters and meeting people from Akure, the late governor intentionally kept Mr. Aiyedatiwa, who was the deputy governor at the time, away from him in Ibadan. Our late governor was deeply disappointed and regretful of certain behaviours and character traits displayed by Mr. Aiyedatiwa during his health challenges, which ultimately led to his passing. “We have also observed the cir- culation of a video recorded during the swearing-in ceremony of the late governor and Mr. Aiyedatiwa as Governor and Deputy Governor, respectively. Undoubtedly, our late governor had high hopes for Mr. Aiyedatiwa. The late Akeredolu never concealed his intentions. One thing that discerning minds can clearly see is the turn of events in the latter half of last year. Trust was betrayed, confidence was shattered. And the true colours of desperation overshadowed the good intentions of our late governor. What followed was a tale of disappointment and betrayal. Our late leader, to say the least, was heartbroken before his demise. “We, therefore, caution Mr. Aiyedatiwa to cease these deceptive tactics and focus on his campaign. Akeredolu’s ardent followers, including members of his family, do not support Mr. Aiyedatiwa’s aspiration to clinch the ticket of the party.”

Assembly’s Endorsement

The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Olamide Oladiji had during the flag-off of the cam- paign for the governor said that 18 lawmakers are with Aiyedatiwa on his desire to clinch the sole ticket of the party ahead of the November 16 governorship election. The Speaker also said that lawmakers in the opposition party are also with the APC members in the movement to get Aiyedatiwa as the flag-bearer of the party.

Rejection

However, 13 members of the Assembly disowned the announcement by the Speaker. In a statement tagged, “Ondo State House of Assembly speaker’s disrespect for the independence and integrity of the house in his endorsement politics,” they maintained that the assembly did not at any time pass any resolution to endorse Governor Aiyedatiwa. The lawmakers, in a statement signed by Hon Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi, Majority Leader; Hon Moyinolorun Taiwo Ogunwumiju, Parliamentary Secretary, Hon Olu- warotimi Babatunde Fasonu, Chief Whip; Hon Olajide Johnson Oguntodu, Minority Leader; Hon Raymond Daodu, Deputy Minority Leader and Hon Akinsuroju Akindolani Nelson, they disowned the Speaker on the endorsement statement. Others, including Hon Akomolafe Temitope, Hon Ifabiyi Samuel Olatunji, Hon Agbulu Tope Akeem, Hon Christopher Odunayo Ayebusi- wa, Hon Atinuke Morenike Witherspoon, Hon Biola John Oladapo and Hon Afe Felix expressed shock and disappointment in the action of the Speaker. The lawmakers described the announcement made by Oladiji as untrue, misleading, un-parliamentary and ridiculous. The aggrieved lawmakers said; “At no point did the Ondo State House of Assembly deliberate the governorship ambition of any of the numerous aspirants that has indicated their interests to contest for the State’s 2024 Governorship Election, let alone agree to support any particular aspirant. Mr. Speaker lacks the moral and legal authorities to speak or pledge support for any governorship aspirant on behalf of the House without the explicit con- sent of members. Mr. Speaker has, by his unconventional and false public declaration, misrepresented the honourable House, and in so doing, brought the 10th Ondo State House of Assembly into disrepute, needless controversies and breached our confidence in his leadership. Consequently, we hereby pass a vote of no-confidence on the leadership of the Speaker, Rt Hon Olamide Oladiji.”

Controversy over cash for endorsement

As the controversy over endorsement and rejection continued unabated, a group within the APC, the Ondo State Redemption Initia- tive (OSRI), alleged that Aiyedatiwa is using the state resources to fund his governorship ambition. The group, through its President, Pastor Adebayo’s Ogunsanmi, Secretary, Jide Oriola, and Publicity Secretary, Sunday Ayeni, accused Aiyedatiwa of setting aside $180 million to bribe lawmakers for phantom endorse- ment. The group said that it would be wrong for a Governor to use the state’s resources for selfish political ambition when majority of the citizens are wallowing in abject poverty. In a statement titled “Aiyedatiwa offers lawmakers $10.000 dol- lars for Abuja endorsement,” they said that Aiyedatiwa has taken his desperation to another level by using dollars to bribe lawmakers for endorsement. The group said that the previous endorsement has been denied and warned the Governor against using the state’s resources meant for infrastructural development to bribe lawmakers, who have lost relevance in their constituency. The OSRI said that “Desperate efforts by Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa of Ondo State to offer 10,000 dollars to each member of the state assembly for endorse- ment has been exposed. The plot, according to inside sources, will in- volve a trip by 18 lawmakers from the state to accompany the Gover- nor to the national headquarters of the APC during which they will stage the endorsement. Aiyedatiwa is desperately going round for endorsements.” However, the government in its reaction through Special Assistant to Aiyedatiwa on New Media, Mr Sunday Abire, described the allega- tion as hogwash. Abire said “Why will the Governor bribe the Ondo State House of Assembly in the first instance? The same Governor has been accused by politicians of not being a spendthrift, which should we hold dearly now? It is the season of mischief and the Governor is too focused to be distracted.

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