The Ondo State governor-elect, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, on Wednesday, said he did not acknowledge a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in his victory speech on Sunday because it was not expedient to do so.
He said having acknowledged President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the recognized national leader of the party, and the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, it was safe to infer that he had acknowledged all the party’s leaders.
Akeredolu said this while answering State House correspondents’ questions shortly after he and his deputy, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, met Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
They were led to the meeting, which was their first after their victory, by the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Campaign Council in Ondo State, Governor Simon Lalong.
The governor-elect, who said the relationship between him and Tinubu was cordial, explained that mentioning the name of the former Lagos State governor specifically would have amounted to him mentioning the names of about 37 other leaders of the party.
He said, “On the names that were mentioned in my speech when expressing gratitude and that I didn’t specifically thank Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I thanked the President and the leader of our party profusely for the leadership which he showed leading to this election.
“I also thanked our indefatigable chairman for standing by the truth and for his position on this matter that led to this election. I have no reason to do otherwise.
“Party structure, to the best of my knowledge, is very clear. You have the leadership of the party and that is represented by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
“After an election, a chief executive emerges, he becomes a leader of the party, you don’t have to personalise and be looking for leaders all over the place.
“If we have to do that, then I will have to mention 36 or 37 leaders. So, I believe the leadership as represented by the President covers all leaders and that tells me it would include Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it would include even Baba Akande, (Ogbonnaya) Onu, and so many leaders.
“But President Buhari is the leader of the party. So, that is my position there.”
Akeredolu, however, added that Tinubu remained one of the leaders of the party, noting that he (Tinubu) had since sent congratulatory message to him after he won the election.
“For me, as a person, I believe he is one of the leaders of the party and I don’t see any strained relationship between us. And you would observe that he has sent in his congratulatory message after the election, so what else do you expect?
“I mean all of us see this as a victory for the APC, not for Akeredolu, not for us an individual but for the party as a whole. I believe he is a member of the party. Mr. Femi Adesina had issued a release but you journalists just want to put words into our mouths,” he said.
Akeredolu also said despite his decision not to probe the administration of the outgoing governor, Olusegun Mimiko, he would not close his eyes if he stumbled upon established cases of wrongdoing in the course of carrying out his responsibilities as governor.
He explained that what he said on the matter was that he would not deliberately go out to probe Mimiko’s administration.
He said, “At the centre, the government of President Buhari said we must look back in order to move forward, he has been there for over a year now, has he instituted a probe?
“Looking back is not a probe and I maintain that I will not probe any administration. This is responsible leadership and I am elected to lead the people.
“The task ahead of us is enormous than for us to start instituting probes. My own is not to institute any probe against the last administration and that is what President Buhari has done.
“But if we find out that wrongs were committed, we have enough laws of the land to take care of people who have committed wrongs.
“As we start our work, as we go ahead, if there is any semblance of ‘Dasukigate’ in the state, the law will take its course. That is different from probing. We will follow what Mr. President is doing at the centre.”
The governor-elect also promised to implement his manifesto in line with the reality on the ground.
That, he said, did not mean that he would not deliver on all the five cardinal programmes he promised the people.
On Senator Yele Omogunwa who left the PDP for the APC, Akeredolu said the lawmaker had joined his campaign trail and that he only formalised his defection on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
He said it would have been wrong for the lawmaker to remain in a factionalised party like the PDP.
Lalong had earlier said that he was in the Presidential Villa to present the governor-elect and his deputy to the President.
He said he would also be visiting the national headquarters of the APC to do the same thing to party leaders.
The governor-elect again said the APC was not responsible for the confusion over the candidacy of the PDP ahead of the election.
He said, “It was not the APC that went to court neither was it the APC that gave the judgment, all we saw was friction or conflict between the PDP and the PDP.
“If that judgment was going to help the APC, so be it. But we were not parties to the case for somebody to even assume that the APC was responsible for denying somebody.
“The APC is not the court; the court is a separate arm. I am saying that as far as we are concerned, the APC was not responsible for denying anybody the right to contest that election.”
Meanwhile, Akeredolu on Wednesday pledged his loyalty to Odigie-Oyegun, whom he said he owed a debt of gratitude.
Akeredolu said this at the APC national headquarters, Abuja, where he presented his certificate of return to the leadership of the party.
Akeredolu also promised to work towards ensuring that the party repeats the same feat during the next governorship election in neighbouring Ekiti State.
He said, “I owe you, my national chairman, a lot. You have done well, I will be loyal. I remember during my campaigns; I said that immediately we win Ondo, we will move en mass to win Ekiti.”
Responding, Odigie-Oyegun urged the governor-elect to ensure prompt payment of outstanding workers’ salaries as soon as he resumes duty.
Odigie-Oyegun said, “People who work deserve their pay and I hope that would be your first priority.”