By Wasiu Popoola Contrary to the expectation of a mammoth crowd who thronged the Democracy Park in Akure on Thursday for the flag off of the 2016 governorship campaign of the All Progressives Congress, APC, President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo failed to attend the event.
The campaign rally, which effectively kicked off at about 11 a.m., was however attended by some APC governors, federal ministers, and chieftains of the party across the country.
The officials of the Akeredolu 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.
This medium also gathered that President Buhari could not make the event because of the swearing in of the New Chief Justice Nigeria, Justice Walter Onoghen.
An online medium, Premium Times reported that the Ondo event was never on Mr. Buhari’s itinerary for Thursday.
Mr. Adesanya, however, said President Buhari would be in Ondo State for the grand finale of the campaign, scheduled tentatively for November 19.
Buhari and Osinbajo were not the only obvious absentees from the rally.
A national leader of the Party Bola Tinubu, and top politicians close to him, also failed to attend the event. Tinubu’s allies who were absent include the current Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, and the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola and Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi.
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.
Mr. Tinubu, the APC’s most influential member 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.
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 said Ondo State was strategic to the federal government and a vote for APC would place the state in a vantage position.
Other notable people at the flag off ceremony rally were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir David Lawal who represented President Buhari, Governors of Bauchi and Ogun State, Mohammed Abubakar and Ibikunle Amosun, Ministers of Solid Minerals, Labour and Productivity and Communications, Kayode Fayemi, Chris Ngige and Adebayo Shittu.
Others were Ministers of Health, State for Niger/Delta and Defense, Professors Rufus Adewole and Cladius Daramola and Mansur Mohammed Dan Alli and former governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Ambassadorial Nominee, Senator Olorunibe Mamora and Senator representing Ondo Central in the senate, Chief Tayo Alasoadura .
Also at the event were former Ondo State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Alli Olanusi, Senator Representing Osun East in the senate, Chief Isiaka Adeleke, APC National Vice-Chairman in South west, Chief Pius Akinyelure, chairman of the party in Ondo State, Hon. D.I kekemeke, Human Rights Lawyer, Tunji Abayomi, Director General, Akeredolu Campaign Organization, Rt. Hon. Victor Olabimtan and several others.