By Emmanuel Oladesu, Deputy Editor, Bisi Oladele and Osagie Otabor
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Tuesday commenced reconciliation with former aspirants hours after he clinched the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket.
He described his triumph as a collective success.
He hailed his co-contenders for their gallantry, love for the party and commitment, and urged them to team up with him to retain the state for the ruling party.
Akeredolu, whose acceptance speech was hailed as conciliatory, said he needed the input and support of the aspirants to win the October 10 election.
Shortly after picking the ticket, the governor embarked on the unfinished business of reconciliation by reaching out to the ex-aspirants and other stakeholders.
He visited the contenders, including Chief Olusola Oke, Ambassador Sola Iji and Isaac Kekemeke, in their homes. The governor was accompanied by party chairman Ade Adetimehin, Secretary to the State Government Temidayo Oluwatuyi and Chief of Staff Gbenga Ale.
The aspirants also reciprocated his olive branch by pledging their support for his victory in the general election in the interest of the party and of Ondo State.
Delivering his acceptance speech at the Ondo State International Cultural and Events Centre, Akure venue of the primary, Akeredolu described the aspirants as experienced generals leading the troops for state’s development.
He said their participation enriched the race, adding that all of them were winners.
Akeredolu, won the primary with a wide margin, polling 2,458 votes to defeat eight other aspirants that participated in the primary. He won in all the 18 councils. Oke came a distant second with 262 votes. Trailing him was Kekemeke,who garnered 19 votes. Ambassador Olusola Iji polled nine votes. Olayide Adelami and Nathaniel Adojutelegan polled four votes each while Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose scored two votes.
Three aspirants, Jimi Odimayo, Ifeoluwa Oyedele and Segun Abraham, stepped down for Akeredolu.
Declaring Akeredolu winner of the primary, the chairman of the election committee, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, said a total of 3,016 delegates were accredited while total votes cast stood at 2,793. Of the number, 2, 760 votes were valid while 33 were voided.
The victory coincided with the birthday of the governor. His wife, Betty, marked her’s on Monday as the primary kicked off, Akeredolu marked his on the day he was declared winner.
The governor said winning the primary was challenging, promising not to betray the confidence reposed in him by the party.
Akeredolu said: “All the same, the campaigns preceding this day have been noticeably fraught with mixed feelings. Relationships in some cases may have been bruised and interests hurt. In other cases, methods deployed to run these campaigns may not have been pleasant. I plead with all us to leave these in the past and move on. This is more so that, all aspirants, including myself were either victims or indirectly responsible for such unpleasant circumstances. We must find spaces in our hearts to forgive one another.
He added: I am convinced that our individual pursuits were driven by the altruistic motivation to strengthen our great party and more importantly, take our dear State to loftier heights.
“Therefore, I find it delightful to say here and now, that we have all won together. Consider me as the custodian of your vision for the Sunshine State. Together, we shall move the state forward. Under my watch, we shall witness a more robust, reassuring and rewarding relationship.”
A source said Akeredolu’s visit to his co-aspirants has rekindled the bond of unity in Ondo APC.
At Ambassador Iji’s residence, Akeredolu noted that it was Iji that first called to congratulate him on the outcome of the primary.
He described Iji as “a party person to the core.”
After a meeting with Kekemeke, the governor said they had discussions about the party and not individuals, stressing that Ondo State must remain an APC state.
He said: “As you know D. I and I are colleagues. We are not only colleagues, but brothers. We have spoken frankly. He was frank. We have started talking. We are talking about our party not about individual. We have had very robust and frank discussions on how to move our party forward and work together. Ondo state must remain an APC state.”
Iji said the PDP would be disappointed by the positive outcome of the reconciliation meeting between the governor and the aspirants.
He said: “Expect consistency from us. When I was campaigning, I said I had nothing against his Excellency. I have contested against him and I see his victory as victory for our party. Whoever the PDP picks, we will beat them silly.
Also declaring support for Akeredolu, Kekemeke, said he would not be seeking redress in any court of law.
The former Secretary to the State Government in a press statement in Akure maintained that the process leading to the voting was slanted, skewed and compromised to produce a predetermined result.
Kekemeke stated that the advantages and opportunities that incumbency confer were overstretched to constitute the incumbent into both an umpire and a contestant.
He, however, said the “delegates have spoken clearly and so be it,” adding that he wished Akeredolu well.
Kekemeke said he was satisfied that his campaign organization, “Lekeleke Movement” has been adjudged, acknowledged and applauded for running a decent, issue-based, knowledge-driven, strategically unique and inducement-free campaign locally, nationally and even internationally.
Kekemeke added: “Like the Governor said, we have spoken very frankly and I’m happy that he tolerated my frankness. I have said I will work with him. I shall not be going to any party or court. I will work hard to see that Ondo remains an APC state. ”
Also, the Ondo APC Aspirants’ Forum (APC’AF) has commended the party for organising a hitch-free primary.
Its Coordinator Commander Tunde Giwa-Daramola (retd) in a statement congratulated Akeredolu.
He said: “We are elated about the successful conduct of primary and we also congratulate the governor for picking the ticket,” he said.
Giwa-Daramola advised the governor to be magnanimous in victory, urging other aspirants to join him in moving the state forward.
He added: “The party in the state is highly fragmented and in tatters, the battle is won, but the war is still raging.
Mr Ife Oyedele, Executive Director (Engineering and Technical Services), Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited, denied allegations that he collected money to step down for Governor Akeredolu.
He told his supporters in Akure he stepped down for the greater interest of the APC and Ondo State.
Oyedele said he had his interest in the rebuilding of the APC and unity of the people across the state to ensure economic development.
“My interest is that we must rebuild the APC in Ondo State. We must unite all our people so that we can ensure economic development. We must continue to work for the interest of the people of the Ondo State.
“Akeredolu has promised that he will work to correct what he did in the past. He apologised to everybody he may have offended through his actions. He has promised to correct things he did in the past and he has promised not to victimised anybody who did not support his second term bid. Who wants to go court must ensure success of the party.
“We will rally citizens of Ondo State behind Akeredolu. No leader of the APC will look me in the face and offer me anything that is going to be of my own benefit. I am a national leader of this party. All those in the negotiation table acknowledged that fact.”
The Southwest and Ondo State All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday congratulated Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) over his victory at the primary.
The zonal chapter, led by Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, wished him a bigger victory at the October election.
Also, Ondo State chapter, led by Ade Adetimehin, lauded the governor and the Primary Committee chaired by Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello for conducting a transparent, peaceful and inspiring shadow poll.
A statement by the Southwest APC Publicity Secretary, Chief Karounwi Oladapo, congratulated the National Caretaker Committee, led by Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni for recording a major feat through the peaceful primary.
The Ondo State APC Publicity Secretary, Alex Kalejaye, said although a candidate emerged from the transparent and rancour-free exercise, Akeredolu’s victory should be perceived as a collective victory.
Hailing Akeredolu for his success, he urged him to accommodate all tendencies within the fold.