In a carefully executed plan, loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari in the All Progressives Congress (APC), some of whom are cabinet members, yesterday successfully delivered on their first political assignment in the lead up to the 2019 elections, with the election of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the Ondo State governor-elect.
Akeredolu was declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), after polling 244,842 votes while his closest rival, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with 150,380 votes came second. Coming third was Mr. Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), who polled 126,889 votes.
Saturday’s election in Ondo State was, however, indicative of the power tussle within the ranks of the APC for the South-west geopolitical zone, with loyalists of the president, on the one side, and those loyal to a National Leader of the party, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the other.
Tinubu, who backed Dr. Olusegun Abraham to secure the ticket of the APC to contest in the Ondo poll, had opposed Akeredolu’s emergence as candidate of the party, alleging irregularities during the party’s primary.
Those believed to have taken part in the execution of the plan to deliver the state and are now regarded as “Buhari’s Boys” are the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN); the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai; and his Ogun State counterpart, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Ironically, most of those who have now aligned with the president were once loyalists of Tinubu, but are believed to have fallen out of favour with him.
Party sources who spoke on the issue to THISDAY said they were spurred by political expediency to show strength and capacity by mobilising all the resources at their disposal to ensure that the candidate of the president, Akeredolu, who was openly rejected by Tinubu won the election in the hotly contested race in Ondo.
The only APC governor believed not to have taken sides in the ongoing power tussle is the Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, while the Osun and Lagos State governors, Rauf Aregbesola and Akinwunmi Ambode, remain staunchly in the Tinubu camp.
Curiously, Akeredolu too, who is now in the opposing camp to Tinubu was his (Tinubu’s) candidate in the 2012 governorship election in Ondo State, but in which he came a distant third.
According to sources, with a majority of Tinubu’s former allies executing a brilliant campaign against their erstwhile principal, the stage has now been set to deliver Ekiti and Osun States to the president in 2018.
The goal, explained one source, is to ensure that the alliance between the North and South-west, which catapulted Buhari to victory in the 2015 general election, is maintained.
“The Buhari boys left nothing to chance, including using pawns such as Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, a businessman, and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, who both held the PDP by the jugular by ensuring that the party was unable to go to the election in one piece.
“Team Buhari was not oblivious to the fact that had they lost the Ondo election, the president would have been subjected to gross embarrassment, the very reason they deployed everything at their disposal to ensure that Akeredolu won, including mobilising everything and everyone who mattered to the grand finale campaign rally held in Akure, the Ondo State capital, a few days to the election.
“Although it is believed that Buhari’s boys have nothing against Tinubu, their goal, however, is to reenact the alliance that existed between the North and the South-west that was used to snatch victory from the PDP during the 2015 general election.
“So, with Edo and Ondo now comfortably in the kitty, the next port of call for Buhari’s Boys are Ekiti and Osun States, where elections are in 2018,” the source revealed.
But while those loyal to the president are said to be preparing for the two South-west states, and how best to retain their winning streak, they are not likely to bother about Lagos State, which Tinubu has held firmly in his grasp since 1999.
From all indications, what seems to be coming up in 2019 in the APC is a reenactment of the 2003 tsunami, which swept off all the AD states with the exception of Lagos under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a situation that gave the PDP considerable leverage during its 16-year reign in power.
But the difference between 2003 and 2019 is that while the former was an external aggression orchestrated by the former president into AD-controlled territory, this is no less an internal insurrection, also by the presidency, to wrest control of the South-west from Tinubu and ultimately pave the path for Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019.
THISDAY also learnt that the outcome of Saturday’selection is bound to stoke a bitter rivalry within the party, whichever way it goes.