In this interview with Sunday PUNCH, Ondo State Governor-elect, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, speaks on how he won the election and his relationship with politicians inside and outside his party. It’s a must read:
What is your reaction to the fact that none of your co-contestants filed petitions at the tribunal, challenging your victory?
It is a good development, some members of my party who were asked to monitor the happenings at the tribunal confirmed to us that no petition was filed and I was also informed that the tribunal would move back to Abuja. I have to praise my other contestants, especially, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede and Mr. Olusola Oke. I am sure that they have seen, as senior lawyers that we are in a position to accept the result of an election, having assessed all the parameters. We believe the election was free and fair and I want to believe that such attitude is worthy of note by all of us. We should at least try to emulate that in subsequent elections. They must have weighed all the options and there must have been substantial compliance to electoral acts for them to decide not to challenge the result. I want to thank them. No doubt, when you take out the distraction that court cases cause, one would be in better frame of mind to govern and I am sure it will give us more time to execute whatever programme we have and I know that it will also not force me to pay for any legal services. It will also enable us to conserve money. As I said it is a welcome development and it will be for the best interest of the state and it is in my own interest too to start work.
Some people have said that you did not stand the chance of winning the election, how did you perform the ‘magic’?
It was not a magic, I don’t know about those who ruled me out but I was sure that your colleagues (journalists), who have come here to interview me before the primary and the election would tell you that I was confident that I was going to win the election. Again I don’t know about people who ruled me out but I always tell them that, by the grace of the almighty God, I would win.
What gave you the confidence that you would win the election?
I relied on solely on God and nothing else. I know that there is nothing God cannot do. I know that He is the only one that has the final say and since I worship only Him and no other thing, I said to people before that election that I may not know my future but I know my future is in the hand of God and not in the hand of any man. So for me as a Christian, I believe totally God was going to do it and I knew that this God I served was going to deliver on his promise.
There was an allegation that the APC spent a lot of money to buy votes from the voters on the Election Day, what is your reaction to this?
It is a lie, there is nothing like that but do you know how much the Peoples Democratic Party spent when (President Muhammadu) Buhari contested? Did Jonathan win the election? Of course, Jonathan didn’t win the election. That is how it is; it is God that enthrones not money. The people of this state decided to vote for the All progressives Congress. The politics of this state was very clear; we cannot wake up overnight and change the dynamic of our politics. That is why we won all the six local governments in the Ondo North Senatorial District. The people were convinced that it was the turn of the north to produce the next governor and I was the major contestant from the north. If you look at that dynamic, it has a part to play. Seriously speaking for me, it was God that gave me the victory.
It was also alleged that Governor Mimiko secretly supported you to achieve that victory. What is your reaction?
Is that possible? That is not possible! If Governor Olusegun Mimiko wanted to work for me, he would have thrown in the towel immediately they said it was Jimoh Ibrahim that will be the candidate of the PDP. He was virtually living in Abuja until he got the judgment in favour of (Mr. Eyitayo) Jegede (SAN). Do you know how much he must have spent on his lawyers and they said he was working for me? Mimiko was determined that he wanted his party to win and he put in everything he had. I don’t know how many times that he flew private jets from Abuja to Akure. That gulped money, energy and time. Is that how to work for somebody in the opposition? I can also assure you that there was never a day he and I discussed on the telephone or anywhere that he should work for me. So he was very loyal to his party, he worked for his party. All anybody can say is that they had problem with their party but at the end of the day, his faction was favoured . So we still had Jegede as the candidate, how can they say he worked for me. That is far from the truth.
Now that the election has come and gone and you have emerged the winner, what are you doing to reconcile the aggrieved members of your party?
I don’t know any member of the APC that was aggrieved but if any member of the party takes his grievance to a ridiculous extent and gets himself into anti-party activities, such individual is no longer a member of the APC. I have no basis to meet such person and ask him to come back to the party. However, if he wants to come back, he is welcome but he will be treated as a new member in the party. If you are aggrieved and you don’t like the candidate, you can sit down in your house since you are still a member of the APC but if you didn’t work for me and you worked for another party, that is not being aggrieved, that is clearly an anti-party activity and I believe that such person should be sanctioned so as to serve as deterrent to others.
What kind of relationship do you have with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the moment?
I have said it on several occasions that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and I have nothing against each other, I won an election, and he congratulated me. When people keep asking about our relationship, I do tell them that nothing is wrong with the relationship. He has not left the APC. He is a leader in APC. He is one of the leaders in APC; so there nothing amiss between us.
People insinuated that something was amiss between the two of you when you did not recognise him during your thank-you speech to the APC leaders?
I have said it clearly if I have any problem with him, will he congratulate me? I said that nothing is wrong between both of us, absolutely nothing! We are both members of this party and today by the grace of God; he has said he is not leaving the APC. If he had left the APC for instance, it is going to be another ball game entirely but he has not. So we are not quarreling.
Do you still consider him as your leader?
What I am telling you is that there are many leaders in the APC and he (Tinubu) is one of the leaders in APC.
Workers in the state are currently being owed salaries, what is your plan to pay them once you are sworn in?
The state would not get out of it (indebtedness to workers) immediately, let us be frank with ourselves, I can’t perform any magic but as we go on, the state will settle everything. For instance when we talk about the IGR (Internally Generated Revenue), we can’t increase IGR suddenly, it takes a gradual process. We need money, we will prioritise, if need be, we might choose to borrow money, so that the workers are paid, just wait and see how we are going to do it.
Do you have plans to probe the Mimiko’s administration?
I have said it several times. I have been elected to come and work for the state. There was never a time I said so during the campaign that I will probe the immediate past administration. I have said so. I am not interested in such things. It is a mere distraction, let me go and do my own work, anybody who comes after me, if he wants to probe me let him probe me but for me I want to serve the people of this state, that is my focus and leave. But I have said so if anybody commit any crime, we have enough laws to take care of it.
Now that Ondo is an APC state, what are the benefits to be expected from the government at the centre?
No doubt there would be some relationship with the APC-controlled Federal Government. The one that we will take advantage of. For instance, I will gain from my minister and others and I am sure that when I put a request regarding the suffering of my people before them, they will find a way to assist us.