The Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, considers the victory of Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress in the just concluded Ondo governorship election as a blow to Bola Tinubu’s hold on south-west politics, the organisation’s spokesperson has said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Mr. Akeredolu winner on Sunday, having polled 244, 842 to defeat his challengers, mainly Eyitayo Jegede of Peoples Democratic Party with 150,380 votes and Olusola Oke of Alliance for Democracy with 126,889 votes.
This outcome, Afenifere spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, meant “Abuja has prevailed over the south-west which worked against Akeredolu.”
“And this is going to have implications for future politics of the south-west,” Mr. Odumakin added.
Pressed to explain what he meant by “Abuja” and ‘south-west” – Mr. Odumakin said that, “the South West APC has a controlling leadership under Tinubu, or by South West I mean the Tinubu caucus which is the majority in the region.”
“And, at the moment, Fashola (Babatunde), Governor Ibikunle Amosun (of Ogun State) and Fayemi (Kayode) do not belong to that group under Tinubu which was opposed to Akeredolu’s emergence.”
He said Afenifere would watch “these implications” as they unfold.
Mr. Akeredolu’s emergence as the candidate of the APC months ago at the expense of several aspirants, including Olusegun Abraham, backed by Mr. Tinubu, had generated crisis which saw aggrieved defeated aspirants petition the party’s appeals panel.
The panel invalidated Mr. Akeredolu’s victory at the primary poll, but the National Working Committee of the party led by John Odigie-Oyegun overruled the panel, provoking a furious Mr. Tinubu to accusehis party of injustice and undemocratic tendencies, and demand Mr. Oyegun’s resignation in a strongly worded letter through which he also renounced the “honorific title” of national leader of the ruling party.
But Mr. Odigie-Oyegun, who hit back at Mr. Tinubu and dismissed allegations against him as reckless, has remained in office, apparently backed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr. Tinubu and his core loyalists, including Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State refused to endorse Mr. Akeredolu and shunned his grand rally attended by Messrs. Buhari, Oyegun, Amosun, Fayemi and Senate President Bukola Saraki in Akure.
One of Mr. Aregbesola’s aides, Bola Ilori led AD’s Mr. Oke’s campaign and many card carrying APC members, citing “injustice” in their party, openly mobilised support for Mr. Oke, fuelling claims Mr. Tinubu backed the AD’s candidate against his own party’s flag bearer.
Mr. Oke joined AD to contest the election after he lost in the APC primary. But despite the support he had from APC members in the south-west, he came distant third leaving over 100 thousand votes between himself and Mr. Akeredolu who faced abandonment by his own party members and leaders in the region.
In his victory speech, Mr. Akeredolu thanked Mr. Buhari, Mr. Oyegun whom he called “our indefatigable and principled chairman”, and “loyal” governors – subtly hitting at his APC governors in the south-west allegedly involved in anti-party activities.
However, hours after Mr. Akeredolu was officially declared winner by INEC, Mr. Tinubu congratulated the governor-elect and noted his “persistence and perseverance”.
The governor-elect first contested the Ondo governorship election in 2012, fully backed by Mr. Tinubu, but came third, trailing Mr. Oke of PDP then, and the outgoing Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who then used Labour to clinch a second term.
In his reaction, Mr. Tinubu also extended congratulations to Mr. Buhari whom he called “the national leader of the party whose stature and dignity helped guide the APC to another victory…”
Mr. Ambode also congratulated Mr. Akeredolu, just after Mr. Tinubu’s reaction on Sunday, and charged the governor-elect to pursue unity of Yoruba through regional integration and economic transformation of the south-west. But Mr. Aregbesola has not issued any public reaction as at the time of filing this report.
The Afenifere and Mr. Tinubu have been on divergent paths since the latter’s tenure as Lagos governor.
Afenifere was the socio-cultural organisation behind the AD in 1999, as Egbe Omo Oduduwa was for the Action Group led by late Obafemi Awolowo in the 1950s.
However, the group did not back the AD candidate in the Ondo election because of the perceived support Mr. Oke enjoyed from Mr. Tinubu.