Akinola Awodeyi-Akinsehinwa is a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State. In this interview with DAVID ADEJO, he throws more light on the crisis in the chapter as it prepares for the primary.
There are over a dozen aspirants within the APC eyeing the party’s ticket. Why the scramble, since your party has a seating governor who is qualified to run for a second term?
First of all, that seat is not a chieftaincy title, so a second term ticket is not automatic for Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. Even his own son can decide to aspire to remove him, so, for me, making the attempt to remove Akeredolu is not new. I am not the one wanting to remove him, but the people of Ondo are tired of him and want to remove him so that a better person would take his place. Akeredolu knows that I am the only one that has what it takes to remove him. I have the sagacity, capacity, and the ability to remove him. We started this journey together; we were both in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the parties that merged to form the APC. He knows my ability. Talking of acceptability by the party, he knows that I have it. So, it is going to be a smooth ride for me to remove him. In addition, he is not performing to the expectation of the people of Ondo State. If you are performing, it will be difficult for someone to say he wants to remove you. One thing is to perform and the other is acceptability by the party. So, when you look at those two things, I can categorically say that I will defeat Akeredolu.
You have lost the bid to contest for the governorship twice in the past, what makes you sure that you will make it this time around?
I will not accept that I lost in the first and second contest. In the progressive bloc, we have structure and leaders. If your leaders say it is not yet your time, what you do is to obey them. In the first case, in ACN, I was persuaded by the leadership of the party to step down for Akerdolu, because of some circumstances known to me and the leadership of the party at that time. So, I can’t say I lost; if there was a proper contest, he wouldn’t have made it, because, at that time, everybody was waiting for this “young man” to come and take over. In the second instance, almost a week to that primary, they appealed to me again to step down for Abraham. They said, ‘you are our own person, we believe in you, and whatever you say you want to do you will do, but we are appealing to you again to step down for Segun Abraham’. As a progressive, I had no choice than to accept their plea. When you have a leader, you would be very mindful of their feelings, because if at the end of the day, I go all out and defeat Abraham, yes I would defeat everybody, win the election, after four or eight years, am I not still coming to this leadership? How will they see me? I am a party man, and I go with the rules and regulations of the party.
The Unity Forum has zoned the ticket to Ondo North. How does this affect you? Secondly, will you abide by the group’s decision at the end of the day?
You might have heard about the recent hullabaloo on how one of our past leaders of the forum handpicked Olushola Oke, which we the other aspirants resisted it. By convention, the northern district was supposed to complete their eight years, which is the two-term tenure for the governorship. We said that the ticket should remain in the north; that was why the aspirants voted seven against three in favour of Ondo North. We agreed that the ticket should remain in the north; that was what led to the removal of the former leader of Unity Forum, Alhaji Ali Olanusi. Unity Forum is my baby, we were seven or nine members that started the forum, we initially called it “Leaders and Elders Forum” we inaugurated it after the election of Akeredolu, three years ago, we decided that we would not allow our party to die because we notice that Akeredolu has segregated the cure-party members, he was then bringing other people to run the government of Ondo state and side-line core-members. The party is bigger than anybody, we decide to put a structure, which led to the wise-men leadership and elders which I am one of them, the former chairman, only came to join us when one of the elders who is supposed to be residence is getting older and is getting medical attention in Lagos. we asked the former leader to hold-on fourth for us while we are away when people say that the forum was progressing, they join and it became a group. I stand by the Unity Forum. We saw autocratic leadership coming and decides to decentralize the power to the South, Central and North, at South, we have Mrs. Kemi Iyantan as the chairman for the South zone, at the central we have Chief Bayo Olakusi and the North we have Chief Tijani aka Baba Ellemeje as Chairman. we did this to encourage more people to join instead of traveling far to Akure to attend the meeting, you can join the zone in your area. this will ease transportation fee, risk hazard, and now that we have Covid-19 outside, we take the forum to them in their various units, we are able to achieve these, I am 100 percent with the forum and I remain a member.
Will Ondo APC survive after the primary?
Critics say you lack the political structure to win an election in Ondo. What is your reaction to this?
That is not true. In the first instance, I am emphatically telling you that a surprise will happen in the South, a northern man is going to win the South, I have plans and strategy that I am adopting to penetrate into the South to win, the popular person there, have crowds but doesn’t have people, crowds will come and go but people will stay with you. I have been able to get the linkages why we sometimes lost in the South and we are building the bridge right now. If I win the APC primary which I believe I am going to win by GOD’s Grace, I assure you that I have six local government in the Northern senatorial district undisputed, then I have another four from the central that my team is already working on, at the end of the day, it could even be six going by what is going on there right now, because I have my structure there, I have twelve and I am sure Ojugbo will be a run over for me because it is another progressive base. Then Okitipupa is shaking now because the engine of Okitipupa is working with me now, and that is where one of the strongest aspirants in APC is coming from. At the Ilaje side, where people think they are champions, we are going to hit them had and capture it.
Do Olusola Oke and Segun Abraham pose any challenge to your aspiration?
Well, these are eminent personalities in Ondo State; they’re like senior brothers to me and I respect them. I and Olusola Oke have a good relationship, but you have to put personal interest away from public interest and also from governance, I love him because he is a good man. I and Seguin Abraham have been in the party for a long time right from the days of ACN till date, I can not deny the fact that we all are one, I can assure you that I if I win the primary election, they will join and support me in moving the state forward, it is a project and the project is greater Ondo state where everybody will be part and parcel of the project, it is not going to be a personal thing for Olusola Oke, Segun Abraham or Apata but every prominent Ondo sons and daughters coming together for the progress of the state.
Which of the type of primary would you prefer?
From the look of things, it is going to be a direct primary and this will help even in this COVID 19 than the indirect primary. In a direct primary, you are voting in front of your house, crowds can be controlled because you are voting from your units and social distancing can be observed and every card carrier member will participate. In the last election, we have about 3009 delegates that will vote. Today, we are going to have over one million, which means that the representation will be spread towards and units in the state, and centre but in the indirect primary, you have to move delegates from all the 18 local government area to one place, can you grantee all the facilities you will use of corona virus-free? As for me, I support direct primary where you will queue and vote for your choice of candidate and go back to your homes. We were told the last time that it is going to be direct primary and nobody can change it. The only people that can give me a sleepless night are Segun Abraham and Mrs. Anifowose, daughter of former governor of the state, Chef Adekunle Ajasin. But I can assure that the narrative has changed. Ondo people want a young, energetic, and dynamic that has the zeal to run the affairs of the state.