President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday disappointed a mammoth crowd who thronged the Democracy Park in Akure for the flag off of the 2016 governorship campaign of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The event, which effectively kicked off at about 11 a.m., was however attended by some APC governors, federal ministers, and top echelons of the party.
Officials of the campaign kept informing the crowd at the earlier part of the event that the president and his deputy were on their way; but as time went on, it was soon clear that they would not be coming.
The publicity secretary of the party in Ondo State, Abayomi Adesanya, said the president and his deputy encountered an emergency situation that they needed to attend to on Thursday.
“The President and the Vice President had an emergency state matter they had to attend to and so could not turn up,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES check, however, revealed that the Ondo event was never on Mr. Buhari’s schedule.
Mr. Adesanya, however, said President Buhari would be in Ondo State for the grand finale of the campaign, scheduled tentatively for November 19.
Messrs. Buhari and Osinbajo were not the only obvious absentees from the rally the party hopes to use to jumpstart its troubled campaign.
A national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, and top party leaders close to him, also boycotted the event. Mr. Tinubu’s allies who were absent include the current Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, and the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola. Vice President Osinbajo is also an ally of Mr. Tinubu and was reportedly nominated for his position by the former Lagos governor under whom he served as justice commissioner.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Messrs. Tinubu, Ambode, and Aregbesola would be absent from the event.
Mr. Tinubu, the APC’s most influential politician in south-west Nigeria, is opposed to the candidacy of Rotimi Akeredolu, the party’s flagbearer for the November 26 election. He had also publicly accused the APC national chairman of manipulating the party’s primary process in favour of Mr. Akeredolu and against his preferred candidate, Olusegun Abraham, who was also absent from the rally.
Although party officials kept telling the attendees at the event that Mr. Tinubu and his allies would attend, that was not to be.
At the rally, the National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, formally presented the flag to Mr. Akeredolu.
Mr. Odigie-Oyegun said Ondo residents should effect a change in the government by voting Mr. Akeredolu on November 26.
He advised them to turn out on election day to vote for the APC candidate.
He said Ondo State was strategic to the federal government and a vote for APC would place the state in a vantage position.
While speaking, Mr. Akeredolu said he would provide jobs for the youth through agriculture and entrepreneurial development.
He urged the people to vote for him and said he would ensure prompt payment of salaries.
The rally was attended by Governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Simon Lalong of Plateau, Ahmed Abubakar of Bauchi, Kashim Shetima of Borno and the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom.
Also present were the ministers of solid minerals, defence, health, and labour and productivity. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, was announced as representing the Vice President.
The APC is expected to be a major challenger to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo which is also engaged in an internal tussle on who would be its candidate between Eyitayo Jegede and Jimoh Ibrahim.