James Sowole, who has been following the campaigns of the political parties contesting the governorship election, reports that only three of the 13 parties cleared for the poll are really in the race
Though the Independent National Electoral Commission has cleared 13 candidates for the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State, events have shown that only three are actually in the race. The seriousness of the three candidates has been demonstrated by their activities, particularly the campaign for votes from electorate in the 18 local government areas of the state.
The candidates that are really in the race for Alagbaka Government House are those of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu; the ruling Labour Party, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who is seeking re-election; and the People Democratic Party, Chief Olusola Oke, who is the immediate past national legal adviser of the party.
The other candidates include those of the Allied Congress Party, Mr. Adeuti Taye; All Nigeria Peoples Party, Mr. Adeyemi Bolarinwa; Better Nigeria Progressive Party, Mr. Ayodele Olusegun; Change Advocacy Party, Omoyele Olorunwa; Congress for Progressive Change, Mr. Olusoji Ehinlanwo; National Conscience Party, Mr. Oladipo Lawrence; National Solidarity Democratic Party, Mr. Abikanlu Olusola; People for Democratic Change, Mr. Victor Adetusin; and Progressive Peoples Alliance, Mr. Omoregba Olatunji.
Each of the three leading candidates is a successful professional in his own wise. But in politics, they have their areas of strength and weakness.
Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN
Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu was born on July 21, 1956 in Owo to the family of Reverend J. Ola Akeredolu of Akeredolu family in Owo and Lady Evangelist Grace B. Akeredolu. He started his primary education at Government School, Owo, before he proceeded to Aquinas College, Akure, Loyola Colege, Ibadan, and Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, for his secondary school education and Higher School Certificate, respectively.
Fondly called Aketi by his admirers, a nickname that he took from his secondary school days, Akeredolu went to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study Law. At Ife where he graduated in 1977, he was elected Vice President, Students’ Union, for the 1975-1976 academic session. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978.
Akeredolu was Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Ondo State from 1997-1999, and he became a SAN in 1998.
He served the Nigerian Bar Association at various levels, starting as secretary general of the Ibadan branch in 1985 and has been a member of the national executive council of the association since then. He was a member of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria from 1989 to 1991 and became its chairman in 2005.
Akeredolu was a member of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies between 2008 and 2010. He was member of Council of Legal Education and member of Council, International Bar Association and Pan African Lawyers Union during the same period. He currently serves as NBA representative in the National Judicial Council.
Platform: As demonstrated during the “Redemption Rallies” of the ACN, which took place in three major towns spread across the three senatorial districts of the state for three consecutive days last week, a major strength of Akeredolu is his party.
The rally was held at Ikare in Ondo North senatorial district, Ore in the Ondo South, and Ondo Town in Ondo Central, where the incumbent hails from.
The support of the South-west governors, who are all of ACN, was demonstrated by their physical presence at the rallies. Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Dr Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State demonstrated their commitment by coming to the rallies to campaign openly for Akeredolu. Also, the arrowhead of the campaign, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Governor of Osun State, has tried to live up to his position as coordinator of the “Operation Chase Mimiko Out of Government House” campaign.
Besides, the presence of the national leaders of the party, such as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Aremo Segun Osoba, and chairmen of the party in the South-west states at the campaigns was, no doubt, a big boost to members ahead of the forthcoming election.
Regional Integration: The issue of regional integration, which the ACN said can only be possible and meaningful when all the states in the South-west geopolitical zone come under the same party, as was the case in the First and Second Republics and during the first four years of the Fourth Republic, has been a unique selling point of Akeredolu. The party has been drumming it in the ears of the Ondo State electorate that the state cannot be different from its geopolitical cousins. The message has seemed to make sense because of the enormous economic and political progress the region had recorded when it was under one political party.
Party Unity: There has seemed to be a return of unity to ACN after the standoffs following the controversial emergence of Akeredolu as governorship candidate. This has been demonstrated by the presence of the former aspirants at the rallies. Some former commissioners in the Mimiko cabinet have also defected to ACN, in what the party sees as a demonstration of confidence in its candidate. Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who was a major critic of Akeredolu’s candidature, and Mrs. Jumoke Ajasin, daughter of the late sage, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, have openly declared their support for Akeredolu, and Mr. Diran Iyantan, a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters in Mimiko’ cabinet, defected to ACN.
Disaffection: Though, some former aspirants of the ACN, who felt aggrieved over the choice of Akeredolu by the party, were already putting the issue behind them, the matter remains an obstacle to the party and its candidate. Many of the aggrieved aspirants, including Dr Olu Agunloye and Chief Segun Ojo, have demonstrated their annoyance over the matter by declaring openly their rejection of Akeredolu’s candidature. Some of the aspirants and their supporters have dumped ACN for LP while some refused to declare openly for either PDP or LP but vowed to work against the ACN candidate. Apart from the aspirants, other notable indigenes of Owo, the hometown of Akeredolu, have declared openly for LP, while others, including Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, are working seriously for the PDP candidate.
Another drawback for Akeredolu is the fact that he is considered a greenhorn in Ondo politics.
Dr Rahman Olusegun Abayomi Mimiko was born on October 3, 1954 into the Famimikomi family of Ondo town and had his primary education at Aponmu before attending St. Joseph’s College, Ondo, from 1966 to 1970, and later Gboluji Grammar School, Ile Oluji, for his Higher School Certificate (HSC) between 1971 and 1972.
Mimiko was admitted into the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo) in 1972 where he got his B.Sc. Health Sciences in 1976 and went on to earn the MB; CHB in 1980. After his internship as House Officer in the then Ondo State Health Management Board at the General Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, he worked in two private establishments at Onne, Rivers State, and Lagos, before returning to the public service. By 1985 he started his own practice and established the Mona Clinic in Ondo. He was involved in politics during the military period and in 1992, was made the Commissioner for Health in the old Ondo State, a position he again occupied when the military left governance in 1999. He resigned from the government of Chief Adebayo Adefarati and left the Alliance for Democracy, when he, allegedly, was schemed out of the party’s governorship primary, and joined PDP under which he was made the Secretary to the State Government in 2003.
He became Minister of Housing and Urban Development in 2005, a position he held till 2006 when he resigned from government and the PDP to join the LP under which he contested and won the April 14, 2007 governorship election. But it took him 22 months of legal tussle to reclaim the 2007 mandate and on February 23, he was sworn in as the governor of Ondo State.
Incumbency: For Mimiko the power of incumbency is an obvious advantage. LP also has two of the three senators in the state, and seven out of the nine House of Representatives members. It controls key political structures in the 18 local government areas of the state.
Performance: Many in the state acknowledge that Mimiko has performed well in the various sectors of the state in the last three and half years. The commissioning of popular projects has been a major highlight of Mimiko’s campaign train at every local government he has gone since the governorship campaign.
Critical Endorsement: Mimiko, popularly called ‘Iroko’, has received endorsement from critical groups and individuals, including the organised labour, market women, transport unions, and artisans.
The governor has also been openly endorsed by prominent South-west leaders like national leader of the pan-Yoruba group, Chief Rueben Fasoranti, leader of the Social Democratic Mega Party, Chief Olu Falae, leader of the O’odua Peoples Congress, Dr. Fredrick Faseun, Ayo Adebanjo, and former Bishop of the Akure Anglican Diocese, Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi.
Many former members of ACN and PDP have also defected to LP to boost Mimiko’s re-election bid.
Moreover, unlike Akeredolu, many of whose kinsmen have left to back other candidates, Mimiko has a firm grip of the Ondo Central senatorial district. His running mate, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, is also believed to be popular in the Akoko area of Ondo North.
Mimiko also has the advantage of the goodwill of his appointees from across the state who would be keen to deliver their areas.
Traditional Rulers: Some major traditional rulers in the state have expressed support for Mimiko and this is an apparent source of strength.
Ondo One Term Jinx: A sentiment being played up by opponents of Mimiko is the fact that none of the governors that had ruled the state in the current democratic dispensation had succeeded in governing for a second term, even though they all sought re-election.
Mimiko’s opponents have also criticised some of his administration’s projects, particularly the road, stadium and dome projects, as having little bearing to the well-being of the people.
Olusola Nathaniel Oke was born on April 7, 1956 at the little fishing settlement of Ilowo located on the Ilaje coastline of Ondo State. He was admitted to UNA Primary School in the community in 1961 but had to break schooling for 10 years when he was promoted to Primary Three in 1963 for “financial reasons”.
Oke resumed schooling at Methodist Primary School Ilepete, a neighbouring community, in 1973 where he was admitted to Primary Six. He attended Methodist Modern School, also at Ilepete, between 1976 and 1977, and Ilaje Grammar School, Atijere, after which he taught at Teachers Catholic College, Ayetoro, and Methodist School, Okitipupa, till 1981.
Oke enrolled at the then University of Ife and bagged LLB in 1986 and was called to the Nigerian Bar on October 22, 1987. He was a member of the Ondo State Board of Internal Revenue in 1991 before he got elected into the lower chamber of the National Assembly as representative of Ilaje/Ese-Odo constituency in 1992 on the platform of Social Democratic Party. In 1999, he was appointed member of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, representing Ondo State.
When the tenure of the board expired, Oke became the chairman of the Ondo State Oil-Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC). In the 2003 general election, he was, allegedly, denied the seat of the Ondo South senatorial district under controversial circumstances after he had gotten his party, PDP’s ticket, and was announced winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission in an election where he got almost 80 per cent of the total votes, and was presented with a Certificate of Return.
Oke, a member of the National Political Reform Conference of 2005, has served as Chairman of the boards of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, and the Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency, Kaduna. He was a member of the Technical Committee of the Federal Government on Niger Delta. He is the immediate past National Legal Adviser of PDP.
Platform: Being the candidate of a party that controlled the immediate past administration in the state and which still has structures all over the state, Oke, certainly, needs no introduction in the politics of the Sunshine state.
The development projects of the PDP during the six years administration of Dr Olusegun Agagu have been major campaign issues for Oke and his team.
Also, being the candidate of the party at the federal level, Oke enjoys the support of the PDP-led federal government, which has shown enormous interest in winning back the South-west.
The PDP national leadership has appointed a campaign committee for the Ondo State governorship election, headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo. At a recent rally held at the Democracy Park, Akure, Sambo and led other national officers of the party, including the national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, were on hand to rally support for Oke.
Director General of the campaign organisation for Oke, Dr Dare Bada, said the rally was significant in view of insinuations that the national secretariat of PDP had decided to support another party’s candidate for the election.
Speaking on the chances of the party, the PDP state chairman, Mr. Ebenezer Alabi, said, “Our chances are very bright, we are the party to beat because we have the structure, we have the numerical strength, and we have the resources. We have done it once and we are still going to do it again.”
Since the commencement of the current republic, Oke has been a major factor in the party, particularly, in the Southern senatorial district, in terms of doggedness, vibrancy and respect he commands among members of the party and even beyond.
His political strength earned him the position of National Legal Adviser of the party and also gave him the courage to contest for the position of PDP national secretary at the last convention of the party.
Origin: The emergence of Oke, an indigene of the riverine Ilaje Local Government Area, which has traditional political affiliation with another riverine council of Ese-Odo Local Government Area, may be viewed by many in the councils as an opportunity for the people, whose votes have always played a determining role in the outcome of major elections, to have a shot at the governorship seat.
Intraparty Squabble: Though, the internal wrangling, which had led to the factionalisation of the party, is being played down, the aggrieved leaders appear to continue to work underground for the candidate of the LP. Also, there are many indigenes of Oke’s local government in the administration of Mimiko, and they would be left with no option but to deliver their areas to the LP.
Going by the reality on the ground, there is no doubt that the battle for who occupies the Government House, Alagbaka, would be a tough one among the three major political parties and their candidates. However, the incumbent still tends to stand a better chance.