Ondo Governor-elect, Rotimi Akeredolu, said all the right things as he emerged from the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday.
But his cold war with APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was difficult to miss through his ‘beard gang’ facade.
Akeredolu won the Ondo governorship election which held last weekend, without the support of Tinubu, the self acclaimed Jagaban of Borgu.
Tinubu penned an explosive letter after the Ondo primary election which threw up Akeredolu, asking party Chairman Oyegun to take a walk.
The thrust of that letter was that the party’s choice wasn’t Jagaban’s choice.
For Aketi (as Akeredolu is nicknamed) the days leading up to the election must have felt like heading to battle without some of your best men.
A handful of South West Governors also boycotted Aketi’s campaign rallies in deference to Tinubu.
Now waiting to be sworn-in, Aketi is allowed some smugness.
With cameras and tapes rolling on Wednesday, journalists asked Aketi why he didn’t mention Tinubu by name in his victory speech.
Silver beard glistening in the Abuja sunshine, Aketi said there was no need to single out Tinubu for praise.
“I thanked the President and the leader of our party profusely for the leadership which he showed leading to this election”, he shot back.
“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 the 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, Onu, and so many leaders.
“But President Buhari is the leader of the party. So, that is my position there.”
Let’s attempt to cut through the clutter here.
Aketi was lumping Tinubu with ‘other leaders of the party’. In normal times, this won’t be the case.
Tinubu never shares the spotlight with “36 or 37 leaders” of the APC.
Tinubu is the out-sized persona in the APC. He played a significant role in forging the APC.
The APC is Tinubu and Tinubu is the APC. Or that used to be the case.
But these are not normal times. The Buhari cabal has since restricted Tinubu’s role in the APC to a marginal one.
There’s a rift in there between Aketi and Jagaban. There’s some cold war going on if you look hard enough.
Aketi may deny the cold war all he wants and Tinubu can pen as many congratulatory words to Aketi as he can muster, but APC chieftains can tell that the primary election wounds haven’t healed just yet.
The more Aketi tried to conceal those wounds on Wednesday, the more visible there appeared from the corner of his lips and his beard gang.