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Ondo: Tinubu intervenes as jostling for Aiyedatiwa’s deputy hots up

Barely 48 hours after taking the oath of office as the substantive governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa may face another battle over the choice…

Barely 48 hours after taking the oath of office as the substantive governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa may face another battle over the choice of his deputy as he prepares to hit the ground running. 

Indications emerged on Thursday that Aiyedatiwa, who succeeded his principal, Rotimi Akeredolu, in office following his death, was already under pressure to name the deputy governor, who would assist him with 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.

As the hot race began, impeccable sources revealed that Aiyedatiwa who is still keeping his cards to his chest might likely picked his deputy from the remaining members of the cabinet, who are loyal to his cause during the move orchestrated by lawmakers of the Assembly to remove him from office.

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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 Ondo Central Senatorial District or Ondo North Senatorial District, which is the same zone of the late Akeredolu.

More importantly, the source revealed that Aiyedatiwa who had begun early consultation with some political stakeholders and think-tank groups both within and outside the state, was being careful on his choice of the deputy based on his calculation to contest the governor’s seat in 2024.

Aiyedatiwa, who hails from Ilaje in the Ondo South Senatorial District, had been eyeing the Alagbaka governor seat before he and his late principal fell apart.

Recall that Aiyedatiwa had faced a political crisis and the battle of impeachment following his alleged disloyalty to his late boss as the Assembly led by its Speaker, Olamide Oladiji, slammed him with 14 allegations of gross misconduct which include abuse of office with actions likely to bring down the Ondo State government, financial recklessness, and publications in print media by media aides maligning the credibility of the governor.

It was further learnt from sources in the cabinet that those being penned for the deputy governor seat in the State Executive Council are: the Commissioner for Energy and Water Resources, Mr Rasaq Obe and the Chief of Staff to late governor Akeredolu, Mr 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, through the service of forensic experts, how the signature of the late governor was forged by some cabals within the cabinet to tamper with official document and the state treasury.

The Commissioner for Energy and Water Resources, who is now being referred to as the ‘starboy’ for exposing the cabals in the cabinet was 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.

Ale, who is from Owo (North), the same town with late governor Akeredolu, is the current Chief of Staff allegedly sidelined by the kitchen cabinet of Akeredolu who also accused him of disloyalty to his former boss after falling sick and refused to quickly handover government while still on sickbed.

Already, those pushing for Ale as the deputy governor of the state, claimed that the political equation in the state would still be balanced and serve as a compensation for Akeredolu who could not complete his tenure before he died.

But as the chess game over the deputy governor seat began, 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 waded in over who deputises Aiyedatiwa.

The influence, according to the insider, came up on Thursday 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 shopping for who becomes the deputy governor obviously has begun but President Tinubu has intervened now by summoning Aiyedatiwa to a private meeting yesterday (Thursday) night in Lagos.

“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 especially those who will carry on the legacies of late governor Akeredolu.

“Don’t forget how the president penned his tribute to condole the family of Akeredolu over his shocking death a few days ago. He actually has Akeredolu in his heart considering how the former governor stood tall and fought gallantly when the ruling APC was also shopping for its presidential candidate in the presidential election,” he said.

As the people await the choice of Aiyedatiwa’s deputy, Daily Trust’s findings further 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. Abegunde hails from Akure.

Abegunde, popularly known as Abena, was 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.

A source in the party hinted that the presidency with the backing of the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Ganduje, may succeed in influencing the deputy governor seat in favour of Abegunde.

“Abena is among the choice of the presidency for the deputy governor’s seat and he’s also being considered but how Tinubu and the party in Abuja want to walk their way for his acceptance is what we don’t know yet but he’s not a wrong choice.

“I know Aiyedatiwa is under pressure over the choice of his deputy but the decision of Tinubu over the slot for the seat would also go a long way as the people await the announcement by early next year,” he said.

When contacted for reactions, the Chief Press Secretary, Ebenezer Adeniyan, who just assumed office, 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.

As the battle for the deputy governor seat hots up, a religious group, the Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) has demanded that Aiyedatiwa’s deputy must be a Muslim.

The group, which recalled that the past administrations in the state appointed Muslim fateful as their deputies, claimed that appointing a Muslim would balance the politics of religion and enhance tolerance and peace in the state as Aiyedatiwa settled down for governance.

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

While calling for the spirit of inclusivity in governance, equality, justice and fairness, the group cited the mutual understanding among political leaders in Ekiti State where both the governor and deputy are Christians, but a Muslim was made Secretary to the State Government (SSG).

It said, “For a single religious group to hold 10 topmost political offices in a state is not only unfair and disproportion but absolute injustice.”

The group, therefore, urged those in governance to always remember that balancing appointments religiously is a way of promoting peace, citing Lagos, Osun, Ogun and Oyo states as examples and advised Governor Aiyedatiwa to follow suit.

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

They argued that such a move would promote religious harmony, political balance, social justice, equity and fairness.

The group further craved the support of indigenes and residents of the state for the new governor.

“A promising stay in power will mark the beginning of a new chapter of an illustrious political career if the religious plurality and sectarian sensibility of the entire population is taken into consideration on all policies and programmes,” the group said.

While congratulating Governor Aiyedatiwa on his inauguration, the League of Imams urged him to build on the legacies of his predecessor.

They noted that Aiyedatiwa’s unforgettable roles, which he played alongside his late boss to ensure a power shift to the South in the last general election would remain evergreen in history.

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