The men and women who worked hard for the electoral success of APC and the uprooting of the acclaimed Iroko of Ondo politics have been revealed, and the indefatigable governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, is prominent among the profiles of distinguished politicians and leaders who had a telling influence on the outcome of the Ondo gubernatorial election.
The Leadership Newspaper, in a report published on 11/12/16, analysed the pivotal roles of these men and women in the electoral triumph of the APC.
Rotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN) is the Governor-Elect of Ondo State, but his victory did not come easy. It was a long, winding political journey punctuated by endless drama; an epic political battle that according to the report, ultimately resulted in the demystification of one of the strongest political tactician in the Southwest of Nigeria, incumbent governor Olusegun Mimiko (popularly known as Iroko).
In profiling and analysing the efforts of Governor Bello towards Akeredolu/APC victory, the report had this to say:
“Alhaji Yahaya Bello, 41
Youthful governor Yahaya Bello is another person that played central role in the election. While Fayemi operated from the tactical headquarters, Yahaya Bello assumed the position of a field commander who led a boots-on-ground campaign that effectively entrenched Akeredolu in the hearts of non-indigenes in the Northern senatorial district of the state. Before the intervention of Yahaya, many had assumed that the refusal of key APC chieftains in Ondo State, such as Prof. Robert Ajayi Boroffice and Mr. Segun Abraham, to support Akeredolu would gravely affect the fortune of the party in the northern senatorial district. Bello however stormed the fringes of the district in solo or independent campaign efforts that saw him connecting one on one with the non-indigenous population of Agatus, Igalas, Ebiras who thereafter took the Akeredolu project personal. While other political parties focused on the main campaign by Akeredolu, Bello enjoyed unhindered freedom to market the APC candidate and turn the tide against Iroko. This is the first major political battle of Yahaya Bello outside Kogi State and he delivered effectively.”
The role of Governor Bello in the APC’s victory in Ondo demonstrates the Governor’s intelligence and pragmatism. You don’t win elections without doing the rough, ground work and the Governor employed his youthfulness to devastating effects. He went on a didactic and solo campaign through the fringes of the northern senatorial district of the state and this penetration of the grassroots absolutely sold the candidacy of Akeredolu to the non-indigenous population in that area – comprising mostly people from Kogi State.
Yahaya Bello is a pragmatic leader who understands the need to be practical for policies and decisions to meet the people’s expectations and have a tangible effect on the polity of the state. He takes practical steps in the quest to solving his people’s problems. A close look at his governance of Kogi state will reveal that his motto: New Direction, is not just another fancy slogan but a practical policy statement being implemented in every sphere of his administration.
His active role in Ondo underlines his characteristic as a leader who communicates efficiently with his people; he engages them laterally and directly wherever they are in the world and gives them a sense of belonging by making himself accessible and furnishes them with feedbacks. He also takes full advantage of the new media to reach his people.
The Governor has the reputation of leading from the front lines. He is not one to just sit in his office and dish out orders, he leads from the front. Whether it is leading the sanitisation exercise of the state or rushing to the Abuja – Lokoja expressway at night to resolve a security issue that has been causing great inconvenience to travelers, you will find him in the tick of things.
The people of Kogi are witnessing what it means to have a youthful governor who puts the zest of his age into full use. He is nicknamed The Digital Governor in some quarters. Recognising the relevance of the youth, the governor’s cabinet is made up mostly of youthful officials who are sharp and can keep up with his innovative ideas aimed at transforming the state.
Below is a compendium of the other notable personalities who contributed immensely to the uprooting of The Iroko of Ondo politics, also profiled in the report:
Bukola Saraki, 53
Saraki, who is said to be related to Owo (same as Akeredolu) through his mother took the plunge to support the APC candidate and his presence was central to the building of public confidence that the full weight of the federal government was behind Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC. Speculations is rife that the Senate President was instrumental to resolving differences with many aggrieved aspirants. Saraki’s presence mitigated the absence of Lagos while the ultimate intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari sealed the victory.
Kayode Fayemi , 51
Dr. Olukayode Fayemi, one time governor of Ekiti State was the arrowhead of “Operation Sunshine”, a codename for the political project of 2016 which sought to ensure that Ondo State was brought to the progressive fold of the APC. Fayemi assumed the role of the tactical commander who plotted and managed the behind the scene activities of the APC with the support of other APC chieftains that included Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Babatunde Fashola.
Rochas Okorocha, 54
His presence was short but tactical. He swayed the Igbo votes in Ondo State and took the steam of Iroko among the sons and daughters of Ndigbo when he engaged the leadership of the Igbos in Ondo State through their Eze Ndigbo. On that day, the Igbo’s support for Rotimi Akeredolu was sealed.
Agboola Ajayi, 57
Agboola Ajayi is the Deputy Governor elect to Akeredolu. A former member of the lower arm of the national assembly, Ajayi is a behind the scene operator who knows how to get results and make things happen. It has been rumoured that he was instrumental to securing the support of many high net-worth individuals that came to support the campaign with the needed financial muscle.
Soft spoken wife of Akeredolu was a formidable silent force that operated at the background throughout the campaign. She was rumoured to have quietly but purposely traversed the 18 local government areas directly and through proxies – raising the roofs among women while connecting with different women demographics that included young business women, market women and widows. Her role cemented people’s love for her husband among such voters who saw an accessible first lady that shared many things in common with them.
Victor Olabintan, 57
Honourable Victor Olabintan, a former school teacher and Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly stood by Akeredolu throughout the campaign as the Director General of the Akeredolu Campaign Organization. Olabintan utilized his experience as a political organizer to bring the contending interests together.
Tunji Ariyomo, 44
Popularly called ‘Imole’, Tunji Light Ariyomo, is an infrastructure and energy engineer who once served as Special Adviser on Technology to former governor Olusegun Agagu in the state. The highly cerebral Akure born politician was also one of the 24 APC guber aspirants that contested the September 3rd 2016 primary election with Akeredolu. He was however quick to congratulate and align with the winner while making his structure available throughout the state.
Jimoh Ibrahim, 49
Popularly called Araba in Ondo State politics, he has been dubbed the ‘spoiler in chief’. Jimoh Ibrahim CFR is an Oxford and Cambridge trained business mogul whose tango with Eyitayo Jegede, the Iroko sponsored candidate of the PDP, successfully stifled the preparedness and concentration of the latter.
Tunji Abayomi, 66
Dr. Tunji Abayomi’s strategic role was in rallying support for the APC candidate at the trying period when the primary election was in dispute. His epic confrontation of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu emboldened supporters of Akeredolu. He too contested the September 3rdgovernorship primary of the APC.
Tayo Alasoadura, 67
Senator Tayo Alasoadura stood firmly behind Akeredolu and was instrumental to the victory recorded by the APC in Akure North Local Government. He too contested the September 3rdgovernorship primary of the APC.