The Ondo State governor-elect, on Wednesday at the State House, suggested former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu is not more than a state level leader of the All Progressives Congress.
So, Mr. Akeredolu said, mentioning Mr. Tinubu in his victory speech, after he specially acknowledged President Muhammadu Buhari and party chairman John Odigie-Oyegun could have necessitated inclusion of “36 or 37” leaders – referring to the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
Mr. Akeredolu, accompanied by the deputy governor-elect, Agboola Ajayi, addressed journalists after meeting with Mr. Buhari, and explained why he didn’t mention Mr. Tinubu – reputed for his pivotal role in the formation of APC and emergence of Mr. Buhari – in his victory speech.
In his victory speech after he was declared winner of the election on Sunday, Mr. Akeredolu “profusely” thanked Mr. Buhari; Mr. Oyegun, the “indefatigable and principled Chairman”; and “loyal” governors and ministers – subtly hitting at South West APC leaders, including Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and his Lagos counterpart, Akinwumi Ambode, who had abandoned him during campaign, allegedly supporting Olusola Oke of Alliance for Democracy instead.
Although Messrs. Tinubu and Ambode have extended congratulations to Mr. Akeredolu, it is apparent, with his subtle denigration on Wednesday, the governor-elect is still angry he was not supported by the former Lagos Governor.
He said, “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. I have no reason to do otherwise.
“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. So, that is my position there.”
He however denied rift with Mr. Tinubu.
“For me as a person, I believe he is one of the leaders of the party and I don’t see any strain relationship between us. And you would observe that he has sent in his congratulatory message after the election, so what else do you expect?
”I mean all of us see this as victory for the APC, not for Akeredolu, not for us an individual but for the party as a whole. I believe he is a member of the party. Mr. Femi Adesina had issued a release but you journalists just want to put words into our mouths,” said Mr. Akeredolu.
Mr. Akeredolu and his deputy were led to the President by the Chairman of APC Campaign Council in Ondo State, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State.
Mr. Tinubu had backed Olusegun Abraham to clinch APC ticket eventually won by Mr. Akeredolu to contest, and win, last Saturday’s governorship election.
But Mr. Akeredolu’s emergence in the primary saw aggrieved losers like Messrs Abraham and Oke petition APC appeals panel.
The panel invalidated Mr. Akeredolu’s victory but Mr. Oyegun-led National Working Committee overruled the panel, provoking a furious Mr. Tinubu to accuse his party of injustice and demand the chairman’s resignation in a strongly worded letter in which he also renounced the “honorific title” of national leader.
Mr. Tinubu later in his congratulatory message to Mr. Akeredolu called Mr. Buhari the “national leader of the party whose stature and dignity helped guide APC to another victory.”
Bola Ilori, an ex-aide to Mr. Aregbesola, staunchly pro-Tinubu, headed Mr. Oke’s campaign, and many APC card carrying members loyal to the former Lagos Governor, citing “injustice in our party” openly mobilised support for the AD’s flag bearer, fueling allegations Mr. Tinubu backed Mr. Oke who came distant third in the elections.
But the Presidency, in a statement on Monday, said Mr. Tinubu did not work against APC in Ondo, having promised Mr. Buhari he would not be involved in anti-party politics.
The statement also denied any plot against Mr. Tinubu and acknowledged him as “a priceless asset” to the APC.
Mr. Akeredolu reached the pinnacle of his career, becoming President of the Nigerian Bar Association. But in politics, he did not count much to anything when Mr. Tinubu backed him when he first aimed at becoming Ondo Governor in 2012.
But then in the 2012 poll, he came third in that election, coming behind Olusola Oke of PDP then, and Olusegun Mimiko who used Labour Party to clinch a second term.