The Tug Of War In Ondo

That meetings at every level are now held virtually gives even state executives with health challenges reasons to remain in charge without exposing the fact that they could be incapacitated physically, mentally or even emotionally due to COVID-19.

Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu / Photo credit: tribuneonlineng.
Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu / Photo credit: tribuneonlineng.

An election had already taken place and a winner declared.

But when outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi died early last month from complications relating to the coronavirus, it still led to chaos and a power vacuum that threatened political stability and the transition to a new government.

The country’s Constitutional Court had to step in, ruling that the President-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye had to be sworn in as soon as possible, and sidelining the speaker of parliament, Pascal Nyabenda, in the process.

The reasoning of the judges was that under the constitution, the interim period during which the speaker is president was designed to hold elections.

A slightly different scenario played out in Kogi State right in the middle of the 2015 governorship election where APC’s Abubakar Audu was cruising to victory, only to die while results were being collated.

It led to a legal conundrum, whether to declare him winner and let his deputy inherit the mandate or hold fresh election.

Citing cancelled results, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) settled for the middle ground, declared the election inconclusive and held supplementary elections and Audu was replaced as the candidate with Yahaya Bello, the present governor of the state who was runner up during the party primaries.

The role of a deputy governor is however taking on a new significance with the outbreak of a global pandemic, infecting not only governors but also crippling entire state cabinets, government agencies and the ability of some states to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of health emergency, the world is changing and so is governance.

That meetings at every level are now held virtually gives even state executives with health challenges reasons to remain in charge without exposing the fact that they could be incapacitated physically, mentally or even emotionally due to COVID-19.

Of all the governors that have so far contracted the coronavirus, Rotimi Akeredolu at 63 is the oldest of them all

Still, who would have thought it was possible to govern people from isolation, under a quarantine and at a time of a global pandemic.

Even while confessing that it was a very difficult and anxious period, not knowing what would become oh him, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State didn’t hand over the reins of power to his deputy, Baba Tela.

The deputy governor would himself later test positive for the virus that has now reached every part of the world.

Mohammed was the very first governor to contract the coronavirus and though he was under stress during the period, he had continued to make all decisions.

He wasn’t the only one to have done this.

At least six other governors have tested positive for COVID-19.

Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, David Umahi of Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Seyi Makinde of Oyo.

Every single one of them suffered from a disease with no known effective treatment or cure and as such could be said to suffered some level of mental anxiety, but they held on to power.

The most these governors did was to leave the day to day decision of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the hands of their deputies.

The exception was Okezie Ikpeazu who clearly stated that the deputy governor would act in his absence.
In Ondo, it is an entirely different ball game.

Of all the governors that have so far contracted the coronavirus, Rotimi Akeredolu at 63 is the oldest of them all.

But that isn’t necessarily a problem.

He could be as healthy as any of them who have recovered.

His problem is that he has contracted the c right in the middle of a campaign to run for reelection and by the look of things, his main antagonist is his deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi.

Akeredolu’s positive status has now become a political weapon in the hands of the deputy governor who not only refused to resign after falling out with Akeredolu, but has conveniently decamped to the opposition People’s Democratic Party.

To compound matters for the governor, several of his aides and cabinet members are also in self-isolation.
The state commissioner for health, Wahab Adegbenro, died from COVID-19 some days ago.

The number of people and those testing positive for coronavirus is now a politically sensitive issue in the state.
Akeredolu and Ajayi are now not only in opposing political parties, there is growing hostility between them.

That the governor who is seeking reelection could still be in isolation at that time puts the entire primaries and the outcome into question

While Ajayi thinks he should be acting governor, Akeredolu is making not so subtle moves to have the deputy governor impeached by the House of Assembly.

At a point, the state commissioner of police got dragged into their tug of war and withdrew security details of the deputy governor.

In this toxic atmosphere, COVID-19 is spreading in government circles.

It wasn’t really an issue when other governors going through treatment for COVID-19 didn’t hand over to their deputies.

But Expecting Akeredolu’s to do so would be inconceivable and that is what Ajayi is calling for and he is turning up the pressure.

With his new found status as a member of the PDP, Ajayi has not only claimed that Akeredolu is incapacitated but has also accused the governor of being in breach of the constitution by not transferring power to him.

He has also gone as far as giving the governor a 21-day ultimatum to hand over power to him.

The APC governorship primaries in Ondo is scheduled to hold in roughly two weeks.

The PDP plans its own primaries for July 22, two days after the ruling party holds its own. It is bad enough that any public gathering with hundreds, possibly thousands of delegates poses a health risk to the entire state.

But that the governor who is seeking reelection could still be in isolation at that time puts the entire primaries and the outcome into question.

The health of the APC is at stake in Ondo and the least anybody can do is to send Governor Akeredolu a get well soon message.

Written by Shuaib Shuaib

Shuaibu, a former Editor of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers, is based in Abuja.

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