Ondo governorship election: Whither Akoko agenda?

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As Ondo State governorship election draws near and political parties are picking candidates, YINKA OLADOYINBO, in this report, looks at the implications of the choice of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate on the much-advertised Akoko agenda.

the coming governorship election in Ondo State is throwing up new calculations and permutations with each day passing, as each of the political parties are taking steps and making moves that they believe would enhance their performance at the poll. The parties have been busy meeting on how to choose the best candidate that the people of the state can trust and cast their votes for on October 20.

However, prior to this stage, some sections of the state had come up with series of agitation as to the desirability of their areas producing a successor to the incumbent, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. The most vocal of these sections are the people of Akokoland in the Northern senatorial district of the state. The people had argued that since the governorship seat had been rotating among the three senatorial districts of Ondo North, South and Central, it is logical that they should produce the next governor of the state.

According to them, in the present dispensation that started in 1999, governorship had moved from the North, with the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati; to the South, with Dr. Olusegun Agagu, and now with Dr. Mimiko, who is from the central senatorial district.

The argument of the people led to the much-advertised Akoko agenda. The agenda, being propagated by some indigenes of Akokoland, means that the next occupant of Alagbaka Government House must be from any of the four local government areas in Akokoland.

The reason for the large number of the governorship aspirants from the opposition parties, particularly the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), may not be unconnected with the agitation from Akokoland where no fewer than 15 people signified intention to contest the election in order to further propagate the agenda.

Among the governorship aspirants from the area were Dr. Olu Agunloye, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, Saka Lawal, Honourable Jaiyeola Ajata, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Segun Abraham, Festus Oluwole, etc. Although there were some other aspirants from the two other senatorial districts, the high number of aspirants from Akokoland gave a reflection of an unwritten agreement that the next governor should be from the area.

Former chairman of the ruling Labour Party (LP) in the state, Dr. Olaiya Oni, dumped the LP with the prosecution of the Akoko agenda said to be one of the reasons for his resignation. He was said to have had an agreement with Mimiko that after a term in office as governor, an Akoko man would succeed him. However, when it was obvious that Mimiko wanted to seek another term in office, he had no option than to leave the party and join one which he believed was ready to hand over its ticket to an Akoko man. This led him to the ACN; although there were other personal reasons why he left the LP for the ACN, which were contained in his letter of resignation.

While agitating that an Akoko man should be governor, there were also other arguments and dimensions to the prosecution of the agenda. Some people further argued that since Akoko has four local government areas, namely Akoko South-West, Akoko South-East, Akoko North-West and Akoko North-East and with the last governor from the area coming from Akoko South Federal Constituency, it should be the turn of Akoko North Federal Constituency. In one of his arguments in favour of this position, Dr. Abayomi had stated that Akoko North-West/Akoko North-East was the only one being marginalised in the distribution of political offices in the state.

He argued that Adefarati; the present deputy governor, Alhaji Alli Olanusi; former Speaker, Victor Olabimtan; and the present deputy speaker, Dare Emiola, are all from the Southern part of Akokoland.

Abayomi explained that the issue of Akoko agenda goes beyond agitation by a particular group from the state. He said the arrangement in the state was that the next governor would be picked from the area that produced the incumbent deputy governor.

According to him, during Adefarati’s tenure, his deputy came from the area that produced Agagu, while the deputy governor of Agagu also came from the area that produced Mimiko as the governor of the state.

Now that there is an Akoko man as deputy governor, he reasoned, the next governor must be an Akoko man.

He said: “The question is where the governor will emerge from in Akokoland. We should now look at which of the federal constituencies have produced governor; Owo/Ose has produced Ajasin; Akoko South-West/Akoko South-East has produced Adefarati; Akoko North-East/North-West has not produced any governor. It has not produced a deputy governor and it has not produced a senator. The other two zones have produced those ones, that is the logic. That is the logic on which it is assumed and expected that the next governor will come from the federal constituency of Akoko North.”

Abayomi argued that governorship should not go back to Owo/Ose as that would mean marginalising the Akoko North-East/North-West Federal Constituency that had never produced a governor. He said it would be wrong to base the rotation on the name of the ethnic groups from the area, adding that it could only be based on what is recognised by law and that is the federal constituencies.

With this at the back of their minds, chieftains of the ACN from Akokoland and the aspirants went into the field mobilising people from the grassroots and this gave the party a semblance of acceptability in the Northern senatorial district, particularly Akokoland more than in other senatorial districts.

Political observers in and outside the state had always been entertaining fear as to the ability of the party to manage the post-selection of candidate crisis that is likely to happen because of the large number of aspirants from the ACN. At some time, it was concluded that if an Akoko man is picked, it might be a bit easy to talk to others to accept their kinsman and work for him.

However, to the disappointment and surprise of many of the aspirants, the leadership of the party met in Lagos and considered many factors for choosing their candidate and after days of meeting and waiting, all the aspirants from Akokoland were brushed aside and the party went for somebody from the same Northern senatorial district who is from Owo Local Government by picking a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN. Observers had noted that with this decision, Akoko agenda had ‘died’ in the ACN.

The leadership of the party was said to have considered the fact that Akokoland produced the last governor that came from the Northern senatorial district and that the last time Owo/Ose area occupied the position was in 1983 with the late Chief Ajasin.

The decision of the party was a shocker to many of the aspirants, who could not hide their feelings. Some of them wondered why the leadership of the party and the national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, had allowed them to waste their time, money and energy when they knew the direction the issue would take. To them, the journeys made to Bourdillon Street and the countless waiting game they had experienced had been wasted.

Immediately Akeredolu was presented to the governorship aspirants at a stormy session, it was obvious that the centre may no more hold for the party as the aspirants; particularly those from Akokoland, were dejected. Some of those that participated in the meeting such as Dr. Oni, were said to have stormed out after it became clear that the leadership of the party would not follow their line of argument.

Upon returning from Lagos, members of the party have continued to express their displeasure with the choice of the leadership of the party, with many of them saying the party had conceded victory to the LP before the election is conducted with the candidacy of Akeredolu.

The Sunshine Liberation Forum (SLF), a group of youths in the party, categorically rejected Akeredolu as the candidate of the party. The group also condemned the process of Akeredolu’s emergence, saying it amounted to imposition of candidate on the party from Lagos State.

According to the Director of Media and Publicity of SLF, Segun Odidi, the choice of Akeredolu came as shocker to the entire members of the party. He said the former NBA president was a political neophyte that could not lead the party to victory. He said categorically that the group would not be party to the arrangement as it was poised to win election, lamenting that with the candidacy of Akeredolu, the ACN might not win the election.

To the group, it was wrong for the leadership of the party to have ignored the like of Dr. Agunloye, Professor Boroffice and Lawal, all of whom are from Akokoland, and pick Akeredolu who was alien to the politics of the state.

Odidi said: “The choice of Akeredolu from Lagos amounts to imposition of candidate and the SLF is not going to be a part of that arrangement; we reject totally the choice of Akeredolu as this cannot lead the party to anywhere.

“For obvious reasons, the SLF has in the last one year been putting machinery in motion and we have been working tirelessly to ensure that the ACN wins the coming governorship election in the state, but our morale was dampened with this kind of choice.

“It is a known fact that Akeredolu is alien to the politics of Ondo State, the people of the state do not know him, he himself does not know the people needed to win election in the state, Akeredolu is a political neophyte. The leadership of the party has jettisoned those who worked to build the party and opted for somebody that cannot win in his ward.”

It was obvious that the three aspirants preferred by this group are from Akoko land in line with the Akoko agenda that had been on for sometime.

In the same vein, 12 of the aspirants from Akoko land met to review the selection of a candidate for the party and came with a verdict that the choice of the leaders of the party was unacceptable to them. They argued that while they had nothing against Akeredolu, they were totally against the process that led to his emergence.

The aspirants, who met in Akure after leaving the Lagos meeting, thereafter sent a letter to the leadership of the party to commence the process of picking a credible candidate for the party.

Sources at the meeting explained that they rejected Akeredolu because of the lapses in the process that led to his emergence. It was gathered that the aspirants were not happy with the process as none of the people in the state has input in how Akeredolu emerged as the candidate of the party.

One of the aspirants that attended the meeting said, “it is unfortunate that the leadership of the party will take a decision as important as the choice of governorship candidate without the input of the people of the state, without the contributions of the members of the party from the state.

“It is clear that the decision was strange to majority of our members and it is therefore unacceptable to us and such will not be allowed to stand”.

While the aspirants were kicking, the youths of the party from Akokoland, who had expected somebody from the area to be picked, also stormed the party secretariat to protest the choice of the party’s candidate.

The youth, who stormed the secretariat of the party in the state with placards that carried various inscriptions, said the choice amounted to imposition.

Leader of the youths, Jayeola Akinwamide, stated that the leadership of the party had marginalised Akokoland with its choice, saying that they would not work for the party if the choice of Akeredolu is allowed to stay. They therefore mandated the state executive of the party to forward their letter of protest to the national secretariat.

To the LP, the only agenda is the Ondo State agenda, which would make the governor, return as governor on February 24, 2013. Even many of the leaders of the Akoko land, particularly the traditional rulers, have at some occasions disowned the agenda, saying it did not emanate from the people of the communities that make up Akokoland.

Speaking at one of their meetings in the area, the monarchs from Akoko North-West Local Government Area had said there was no time the people of the area met to give a direction on the agenda. The traditional rulers, who spoke through the Zaki of Arigidi, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, while addressing members of a group, “Akoko for Mimiko,” led by its coordinator and member representing Akoko North-West/Akoko North-East Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Honourable Gani Dauda, said the people of the area would not isolate themselves from other parts of the state.

He said, “we are not aware of any Akoko agenda; nothing like that. Why should we isolate ourselves to prosecute a parochial agenda?

“If we want to achieve something in this state, it has to be within the framework of the entire state, we cannot be part of any parochial agenda, we are ready to work hand-in-hand with other parts of the state to ensure its development.”

On the part of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it appears that it does not believe in any agenda to choose its candidate. Already, the party has picked its immediate-past National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, who is from the Southern senatorial district of the state and this has further reduced Akokoland’s hope of producing the governor in 2013.

The Director of Publicity of the party in the state, Ayo Fadaka, in his earlier reaction to the development said, “the PDP is an absolutely democratic party that always aligns itself with the desires of the people, if the Akoko people can aggregate their position very well and through proper rapport with other sections in the state, the said agenda will become a state-wide position.

“What the state, however, requires now is a situation that will allow the very best material to emerge as governor after the expiration of Mimiko’s tenure. As a party, we don’t care where that best material comes from within the state but we are sure that he must possess the required acumen and discipline to move the state forward, the strength to work assiduously for the interest of the state and not to promote nepotism.

“In the PDP, we did not zone the governorship position to any of the senatorial districts but rather encouraged all interested party men to join the race and showcase whatever they have to offer for the state to see. Therefore, it is essential to state that there were candidates from every nook and cranny of all the senatorial districts that contended for the position but, it is equally essential to disclose that the PDP has taken serious cognisance of different agitations of the Akokos and other groups within the state therefore working assiduously to address them appropriately.”

One thing that is, however, certain is that with the choice of the ACN, the noise being made over Akoko agenda has vanished because it appeared to be the only platform being used to propagate the agenda.

 

In : Politics