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Ondo: Battle for Aiyedatiwa’s deputy heats up

Permutations on who the new Ondo State governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa will appoint as his deputy has heated up the polity in the state as interest…

Permutations on who the new Ondo State governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa will appoint as his deputy has heated up the polity in the state as interest groups along political, regional and religious divides make case for their course, Daily Trust reports.

Indications emerged at the weekend that Aiyedatiwa, who succeeded his principal, Rotimi Akeredolu, in office following the latter’s death, was already under pressure to name a deputy governor, who would assist him with the administration of governance in the state.

Daily Trust gathered that the choice of the deputy governor might be an uphill task for Aiyedatiwa considering his experience and that of those who stood by him, especially during the political crisis and bickering that led to his eventual emergence as the governor after Akeredolu’s death.

Impeccable sources close to the new governor revealed that Aiyedatiwa who was still keeping his cards to his chest might likely pick his deputy among the members of the cabinet, who are loyal to his cause during the move orchestrated by lawmakers of the Assembly to remove him from office.

One of the sources, who pleaded not to be named, said the governor was already exploring all the options before him by either picking his deputy from the Central Senatorial District or the Northern Senatorial District, which is the same zone of the late Akeredolu, to complete the remaining last leg and tenure of the present administration.

Aiyedatiwa, who is said to have begun consultation with some political stakeholders and think-tank groups both within and outside the state, was said to be being careful about his choice of the deputy based on his calculation to contest the same governor’s seat in this year.

Aiyedatiwa, who hails from Ilaje in the Southern Senatorial District of the State, had been eyeing the Alagbaka governor’s seat, a situation that was said to have led to the broken relationship between him and his late principal or the kitchen cabinet of his late principal.

Already, those within the cabinet being tipped to take over as the No. 2 citizen of the Sunshine State in the State Executive Council are: the Commissioner for Energy and Water Resources, Rasaq Obe and the Chief of Staff to late Governor Akeredolu, Olugbenga Ale.

Obe, who hails from Ilara Mokin in Ifedore Local Government Area of the state (Central) was one the few members of the cabinet who stood by Aiyedatiwa after he exposed with the services of forensic experts how the signature of the late governor was allegedly forged by some cabals within the cabinet to tempered with official document and the state treasury.

He was also among the few members of the state executive council who refused to sign the vote of confidence passed on the late Akeredolu on November 16, 2023, by the council.

On the other hand, Ale, who is from Owo (North) – the same town with late Akeredolu, was allegedly sidelined by the kitchen cabinet of Akeredolu who also accused him of disloyalty to his former boss after falling ill and refused to quickly handover government while on still on sickbed.

Already, those pushing for Ale as the deputy governor, claimed that the political equation in the state would still be balanced and also be a compensation for Akeredolu’s kinsmen, whose son could not complete his tenure before he died.

However, an insider in the government told Daily Trust that President Bola Tinubu, who had long been showing interest in the politics of the state had already reigned in his influence over who deputised Aiyedatiwa with the remaining months in office to complete the term.

The influence, according to the insider, showed at the weekend, when Tinubu summoned Aiyedatiwa to a late private meeting at the president’s Ikoyi residence in Lagos where the race for the deputy governor seat was extensively discussed.

He revealed that the president, although frowned at some actions of Aiyedatiwa shortly after the demise of Akeredolu, noted that the shopping for his deputy should not create another political crisis in the state.

“The names rumoured in the state are outside the cards of Tinubu as I speak with you. He wants someone who would not give Aiyedatiwa another crisis in the state because it’s glaring that the president has his full eyes on Ondo politics and he also wants his men.

Daily Trust’s further findings also showed that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) might be planning to settle down for Ifedayo Abegunde, the Executive Director, Corporate Affairs on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), recently appointed by President, who hails from Akure.

Abegunde otherwise known as Abena, who had been playing national politics and a chieftain of the APC in the state was the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) during Akeredolu’s first term in office. He, however, fell out with the former governor shortly after the primary and was not retained in office in the second term of the government.

A source in the party hinted that the presidency with the backing of the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Ganduje, the deputy governor seat might slide to Abegunde’s favour.

When contacted for reactions, the Chief Press Secretary, Ebenezer Adeniyan, said his boss was never under any undue pressure to appoint his deputy, noting that he would do the right thing at the appropriate time.

Adeniyan, however, declined further comment on the battle for the deputy governor seat.

Also reacting, the spokesman for the APC in the state, Alex Kalejaye told Daily Trust that the party leadership would take the decision over who deputised Aiyedatiwa after the period of mourning.

“Don’t forget that we’re still in the period of mourning over the death of our former governor (Akeredolu). But I can tell you for free that the party will sit down after that and deliberate on who becomes the deputy,” Mr Kalejaye said.

Meanwhile, religious and cultural groups have also begun to lobby for consideration in the appointment of the deputy governor.

For instance, the Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) and the League of Imams in Akure have demanded that the appointment of Aiyedatiwa’s deputy should be a Muslim.

In a statement issued and signed by its National Coordinator, Ibrahim Abdullahi and the State Coordinator, Ali Abdul-Yekeen, the MMWG advised Aiyedatiwa to appoint a Muslim deputy governor from Ondo North Senatorial District, especially Owo, the hometown of the late former governor Akeredolu.

Also, the League of Imams in Akure led by its Chairman, Shaykh Muhammad Raji Kewuyemi and Secretary, Imam Qamardeen Bintinlaye echoed the yearnings and aspirations of the Muslim community in the state for a Muslim to be chosen as Aiyedatiwa’s deputy.

Similarly, a social-cultural organisation, Imade Development Association (IDA) in Owo has asked Aiyedatiwa to consider an Owo indigene as his deputy to compensate for the loss of their son, the late Akeredolu.

Chairman of IDA, Segun Ogunbadeniyi and its Secretary, Femi Fadaisi, who addressed journalists in Akure said Owo being an ancient town and stronghold of the reformed Action Group has a strong interest in presenting a candidate for the deputy governorship position.

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