Governor Rotimi Akeredolu caused a stir during a recent radio programme tagged ‘Meet the Governor’ when he declared that the Ahmed Bola Tinubu-led presidential reconciliation committee was not needed in Ondo State. It seemed to many commentators that the animus carried over from the November 2016 Ondo governorship poll had not ended, a bitterness that was reported to have reflected in the then governor-elect’s victory speech that November. In response to a question by his interviewers on the reconciliation effort directed by President Muhammadu Buhari, the governor controversially declared: “(Tinubu) has no business coming to Ondo State since there was no crisis…All is well with APC in Ondo State; we are waxing stronger. Olusola Oke (a rival claimant to the throne) has just returned to stay longer, so Asiwaju Tinubu has no reason to come here. Where there is peace, you don’t need a peacemaker so you don’t create more problems. The Presidential reconciliation committee is not needed here in Ondo State; there is peace in Ondo APC.”
On Tuesday, however, Mr Akeredolu issued a clarification that suggested his statement was misinterpreted, not misquoted. Here is how he interpreted what he said on the radio, according to his spokesman: “He (Akeredolu) wishes to make it clear that the Asiwaju Tinubu-led reconciliation committee is welcome in Ondo State at any time. The committee will, however, find that it has no work to do in the state, as there is peace and stability in the Ondo State APC. The Governor never doubts the ability of Asiwaju Tinubu to successfully carry out this onerous task of uniting our great party and putting it in good stead for the task ahead. The Governor does not deny the legitimacy of Senator Ajayi Boroffice’s position as the senator representing Ondo North senatorial district. The point (the governor) made was that he knows of only two APC senators in the state, who are currently working with the state government for the upliftment of Ondo State.”
How this clarification rebutted the original ‘twist’ he alleged was given his statement is not quite clear. Perhaps he meant to say that in suggesting that Asiwaju Tinubu did not need to come to Ondo to reconcile warring groups, he did not say it with a sneer. Well, if it was not said sneeringly — and the tenor of that statement is indeed open to many interpretations — the statement at least echoed elements of the gaffes idiosyncratic to him. The governor speaks candidly, sometimes offensively and even disparagingly. And it is clear that if he had been more reflective, he really should have been able to say what was on his mind in a more diplomatic and sensitive way without compromising his beloved candour.
Hear Mr Akeredolu when he responded in 2016 to questions relating to his refusal to acknowledge the same Asiwaju Tinubu in his victory speech: “On the names that were mentioned in my speech when expressing gratitude, and that I didn’t specifically thank Bola Ahmed Tinubu: I thanked the President and the leader of our party profusely for the leadership which he showed leading to this election. I also thanked our indefatigable chairman for standing by the truth and for his position on this matter that led to this election…Party structure to the best of my knowledge is very clear. You have the leadership of the party and that is represented by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. After the election, a chief executive emerges, he becomes a leader of the party, you don’t have to personalise and be looking for leaders all over the place. If we have to do that, then I will have to mention 36 or 37 leaders. So I believe the leadership as represented by the President covers all leaders and that tells me it would include Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it would include even Baba Akande, Onu, and so many leaders. But President Buhari is the leader of the party.” After all, did the president himself not insist during a cocktail that the APC did not have two national leaders?
Regardless of his offensive candour, the often impatient Mr Akeredolu is absolutely entitled to embrace or objurgate whomsoever he likes, and to play his politics to suit both his private philosophy and his person. Indeed, he has stretched this freedom liberally to now fully embrace, idolise and propagate the person and worldview of President Buhari. At a rally to mark his first year anniversary, and in the presence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, the governor threw in his lot with the president with this fawningly insinuative statement: “Here in Ondo State, we are supporting Buhari for a second term, and nothing can change that. We are with Buhari and Oyegun. I have to commend members of the state House of Assembly for tolerating me. I also thank Ade Adetimehin, who is the only chairman of the APC in Ondo State. Any other one is a counterfeit. Anybody who wants to fight should fight. This is not a hidden support; we are declaring it openly. I am one of the governors that will give everything it takes for him (Buhari) to secure a second term in 2019. I am open and frontal about my support for his second term.” Mr Akeredolu obviously knows which side his bread is buttered.
It seems, after all, that Ondo is actually in need of some reconciliation. But let that pass. If the pugnacious governor says he does not want to be reconciled with anybody, he is free to nurse his bellicosity and keep his daggers permanently drawn. Alas, since the exit of Obafemi Awolowo, the Southwest has apparently grown enamoured of trifling and mediocre politics. Their lodestar used to be their unmatched fondness for regicidal politics, even in Chief Awolowo’s time; now, it is obsession with enervating factionalism. One governor is building an estate named after the president; another reports his leading traditional ruler to the president; and yet another now swears to sink or swim with the same president. You would think the lionised president had propounded some earthshaking political philosophy or built an unparalleled administrative system such as the world has never known.
Source: The Nation