The immediate past Secretary to the Ondo State Government and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state, Mr Sunday Abegunde, speaks to ThePunch on why he resigned from the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu-led government recently, the forthcoming governorship primary of the APC, among other issues
You just resigned your appointment as the SSG of Ondo State, there have been insinuations that you are defecting to the PDP. How true is that?
It is not true; I remain loyal to our party – the All Progressives Congress. I want to correct one thing: many people have been speculating that I am defecting to the PDP. I have never said so in the previous interviews I granted journalists. I am not defecting. I remain loyal to my party. Although I have resigned from Akeredolu’s government, it does not translate to defecting to the PDP.
Since you are not leaving the APC, what is your next line of action?
As I have said, I remain a loyal member of the APC. At this time, in moving forward in my political career, I have made up my mind after consulting with my followers that we are going to pitch our tent with one of the aspirants who I believe will lift our state from where it is. I and my supporters across the state will begin to campaign for him. I pray that God will make him the next governor of Ondo State.
Why do you prefer that aspirant?
He will not personalise the government like Akeredolu. Akeredolu has personalised the government and he thought it is a government for his own family alone. After all, it was not only him that won the election that brought him to power; all of us won the election for him. It was the steady and concerted efforts of loyal party stalwarts among whom I was prominent, that won the election for him in 2016. The aspirant is contesting for the third time. He is a technocrat, a businessman-cum-politician. When he contested in 2012, the leaders prevailed on him to allow Akeredolu run for the election, and he agreed. That was when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu asked me to work with Akeredolu and I have been with Akeredolu since then. The aspirant contested again the second time in 2016 but I was consistently a friend of Akeredolu and his loyalist. I got to know through insinuations on social media that Asiwaju was supporting the aspirant; and I said (to myself) that if Asiwaju was supporting the aspirant, he should have called me to support him. Owing to my political inexperience then, I didn’t ask Asiwaju ( for direction) when I did not hear from him. That was the mistake I made.
You think it is still a mistake?
But I can’t call it a mistake because if God wants to make somebody a governor, He will push people to him so that His (Lord’s) wish can manifest. At that time, people wanted me to leave Akeredolu but I said no. I told them I had not heard from our leader. I did not follow what I heard but I supported Akeredolu. What I am trying to say is that the aspirant lost the election with only 34 votes but did not defect from the APC. He has been a progressive, a knowledgeable person and what he did after he lost that election was that he went to a seminary school to learn about God.
You had a cordial relationship with the governor at the beginning of this administration, why did you suddenly fall apart with him?
It was our party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, that introduced Akeredolu to me in 2012 as the candidate of our party, the then Action Congress of Nigeria. Since then, I have been working with him diligently. At the beginning of this administration, he appointed me as the SSG. But I later discovered that the welfare of the people of the state was deteriorating and he didn’t do anything about it.
This is of a serious concern to me. It is public knowledge that my office was ripped off a lot of responsibilities for reasons well known to the governor. Despite this, I would have stayed on if the governor had united our party and paid attention to the welfare of the people. I have tried to use my office and my personal relationship to appeal to Mr Governor to allow a human face in his administration but all to no avail. How will I continue to serve under an administration where the great family of progressives have been short-changed? I can feel the suffering of the people. Unfortunately, it is disheartening that I have been incapacitated by Mr Governor as I could not do anything to salvage the situation. Akeredolu is a friend that I have but I have lost him. I lost him because power took him over and he could not manage power.
Should the governorship primary of your party favour the governor, what will be your next decision? Will you work for him?
As a loyal party man if he wins the primary election, I will work for the party, not for him.
You alleged that Akeredolu has personalised the government. You have been in his government for over three years, why did it take you this long to resign from the government?
You know that when you are in politics, you are not there alone. You know my antecedents, the people of my federal constituency (Akure North and the Akure South) voted for me twice as a member of the House of Representatives. So, what I am saying is that I do not take decisions alone. Because I have supporters across the state and I carry them along on my day-to-day political actions and decisions, I couldn’t have done it without them. It took us so long to decide and I believe it is the (best) time for me to quit his government.
Did you at one point or the other sit him down to counsel him that what he was doing was not good?
I tried my best. There was a time I went to talk to the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, about the matter and I also went to talk to him (Akeredolu) too, in Owo. He didn’t listen. Since he did not change, I decided I would not continue to be his political ally again. Like I said, this decision at this time is the decision of my people, and not only mine.
When you went to talk to him, what was his response? Did he say the welfare of the people and that of the party members did not matter?
I will not want to disclose what we discussed at the meeting.
Did the national leadership of your party intervene in this matter?
You know the way politics works. The governor is ascribed as the party leader in the state. So, they would have expected him to manage the state very well; but you know that his (Akeredolu) management skill is very low. He has lost his deputy governor and he is now losing his SSG. He will still lose many people. Many people are still coming out of his government because he can’t manage the crisis. In a few days from now, you will see what will happen. - Punch