Akeredolu campaign train
Beyond the incumbency factor and understanding of the political terrain of the Sunshine state, which are believed to have immensely contributed to the victory of Governor Olusegun Mimiko, inconsistency and poor strategy also helped to frustrate the ambitions of the candidates of PDP and ACN, to the advantage of the governor, Raheem Akingbolu writes
The political atmosphere in Ondo State was tense on the eve of the just concluded governorship election, as supporters of the three leading parties – Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, and Action Congress of Nigeria – hoped that their flag bearers would occupy the Alagbaka Government House.
While Mimiko built his campaign on his performance in the last four years, PDP built its own on former Governor Olusegun Agagu’s achievements and the need for the state to return to mainstream national politics through PDP. For ACN, a party that has consistently maintained that PDP or any other party means no good for the South-west, the supposed vibrancy of Governors Babatunde Fasola of Lagos State, Adams Oshiomole of Edo State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, and others were cited as reasons for the people of Ondo State to join the train. In furtherance of the campaign, the party also reminded the people of the need to be integrated into an economic partnership among the South-west governors, with the aim of transforming the region.
In the build-up to the election, various parties employed different strategies to sell their candidates. Of course, this came with a lot of political razzmatazz and colourful campaigns, which made it somewhat difficult for anybody to predict where the pendulum would swing. Observers, who were still conscious of the do-or-die politics of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo era thought PDP might want to win the state by all means, to use it as a launch pad for a comeback mission in the region.
Meanwhile several political pundit and commentators, who were familiar with the political prowess of the ACN in the area of moblilisation and use of the media, saw the party’s candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, as the candidate to beat in the election. Yet, patrons of Mimiko, who believed he combined both the doggedness of ACN and political understanding of the PDP, told anybody that cared to listen that he would come out victorious.
These debates were on, until the evening of the Election Day, when reports from various quarters, which pointed positively at the performance of LP, changed the story.
Today, the story has gone beyond who won to how the winner emerged and factors that worked for or against the candidates.
PDP: Since 1999, when the party lost to the then Alliance for Democracy (AD), it has remained a troubled brand in the South-west. Though it recorded success in 2003, when it won in all the states in the region, except Lagos, the controversy that trailed the election and lack of coherence among its leaders again crippled its profile.
Among other factors, division within the party hierarchy and lack of a rallying figure that could coordinate its affairs in Ondo State prior to the time it decided to field a candidate for the governorship race, made the war difficult for PDP to win. Since February 23, 2009 when an Appeal Court ruling in Benin sacked Agagu from the governorship seat, the state’s PDP chapter has not gotten it right. This is so because nobody cared much about the future of the party until last year when a few of its leaders suddenly came out of their shells to contest national assembly elections. As a result of the lull in the party before the electioneering, the outcome for them was predictably poor. Even Agagu lost his area to his former aide, Boluwaji Kunlere.
Having been a bed fellow to many PDP members before and after the judicial ruling that restored his governorship mandate, Mimiko leveraged on PDP’s inertia and attracted many of its members. This development didn’t only polarise the party, it weakened its structure further.
In an interview with THISDAY in Ifon, an Ondo indigene, Mr. Ojo Arosoye, described the state branch of PDP as a party without direction. “The truth of it all is that PDP behaved like a farmer who left its garden for years without nurturing, only to come back during harvest period and expect to reap where he didn’t sow. The way I see the whole thing, PDP thought it could use a few months to mobilise and win election. It doesn’t work that way,” he asserted.
ACN: If any party will learn a lesson from the last election in the state, it should be ACN because from any angle one chooses to look at it, the party’s most celebrated strategy worked against it. Aside the fact that its candidate in the election was considered a stranger in the land, its combative campaign made the people of the state think the party was desperate for power.
One of the LP leaders in Ose Local Government Area, who was also the party’s local government agent, Akogun Adetokunbo Modupe, linked the failure of ACN at the poll to the way it built momentum around scores of contestants without putting structures in place to market its candidate.
Modupe, a Marketing Communication practitioner, said, “ACN failed because its strategy failed. Like a product that was built with a jamboree without relevant point of sales, ACN built momentum around its arrays of contestants, with little or no structures across the state. At the end, it came out with a candidate that was generally unacceptable to the generality of its members and instead of crossing the Ts and dotting the Is, it resorted to propaganda, which again boomeranged. With the election, Ondo people have simply told the world that they cannot be pushed around.”
LP: As it happened in 2007, when the hardly known LP surprised Nigerians by making a strong showing before and during the election in the Sunshine State, the result of the last governorship election shocked many observers. Unlike the candidates of the other parties, Mimiko, popularly called “Iroko” by his admirers, is known to be a grassroots man with tentacles in every nook and cranny of the state.
Among other factors, innovative campaign ideas, diplomacy and the performance of Mimiko in the last four years made it easy for him to win the favour of his people.
THISDAY findings in the state also revealed that the personality of the former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which was used successfully to campaign in Osun and Ekiti for elections, was a burden to Akeredolu in Ondo. While ACN stalwarts were pointing out the positive side of their leaders, LP and some stakeholders in the state took time to remind indigenes that ACN did not mean well for the state. They pointed out that their cherished resources would be transferred to an ACN national leader based outside the state.
The campaign activities also showed that ACN, unknowingly, made the LP candidate the underdog and won sympathy for him through this approach.
Reacting to this development, a Lagos politician, Chief Adekanmi Fadare, called on the other parties in the state to re-jig and think of fresh ideas that would sell their parties to the electorate.
Fadare, who described the Ondo election as a watershed, said, “With the outcome of the election, it is obvious that Governor Mimiko has entered a special political bond with his people and anytime such thing happens in any political environment, people favour personalities ahead of parties. That is why we saw a lot of PDP, ACN and people without any political affiliate drumming support for the man they call Iroko. Parties, especially, the ACN should go back to the drawing board because it is currently facing a serious perception problem.”