All appears set for the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State as campaigns for who occupies the Akure Government House intensify. James Sowole in Akure unveils the profiles, strengths and weaknesses of the 12 candidates jostling for the post as well as the general readiness for the election
Less than a month from now, the anxiety created by the pending governorship election in Ondo State would have fizzled out, albeit not completely. Despite the assurances of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies that the election will be hitch-free, there are anxieties among various stakeholders as the October 20 governorship election in the state approaches. The concern is borne out of the untoward incidents that have dogged the campaign; from violent clashes to recriminations among the political parties.
Although, the tide of violence has increased significantly with time, Ondo, unlike what usually plays out in other places, has been able to subdue the politics of killing those perceived as having constituted threats in one way or the other.
But while INEC has cleared 12 candidates for the race, only three appear to stand out, thus making the election a three-horse race. The frontline candidates are those of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu; ruling Labour Party (LP), fielding Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who is also seeking re-election, and the People Democratic Party (PDP), which has pushed forward its immediate past National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke.
The remaining nine candidates cleared for the election are: Mr. Adeoti Taye of Allied Congress Party (ACP), Mr. Adeyemi Bolarinwa of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Mr. Ayodele Olusegun of Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP) and Omoyele Olorunwa of Change Advocacy Party (CAP).
Others candidates are: Mr. Olusoji Ehinlanwo of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Oladipo Lawrence of National Conscience Party (NCP), Abikanlu Olusola of National Solidarity Democratic Party (NSDP), Victor Adetusin of Peoples Progressive Change (PDC) and Mr.. Omoregba Olatunji of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).
Concerns have also heightened on the level of preparations by the critical institutions for the exercise. First, questions are being raised on the readiness of INEC to ensure a remarkable departure from the Edo election of July 14. This is because despite the sufficient notice at the disposal of the electoral body whenever such events are coming up, there are usually hitches associated with delayed materials, insufficient supply of polling requirements and unavailability of enough electoral personnel to supervise the election.
Closely following this is the issue of security during the exercise. Events preceding the exercise have proved to be volatile; as such, observers expect that the police and other relevant security agencies would be ready to ensure the success of the exercise. Although, the Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, has promised an improved policing during the election, many are sceptical of the preparedness of the police for the exercise.
Of course, analysts have also identified the cooperation of the political parties as well as their respective candidates with these institutions as key to a successful election. Where parties, their candidates and supporters alike are not cooperative, it could have a spiraling effect on the general outcome of the exercise.
As part of efforts to ensure the success of the election, public enlightenment is imperative to ensure that voters know how to cast and protect their votes and the need for parents and guardians to protect their children and wards from being used as thugs.
With that settled, events of the last few weeks, especially as campaigns enter top gear, have shown that none of the three leading candidates is a push over as far as the October 20 election is concerned. Each of the candidates has his area of peculiar strengths and weaknesses- both of whom would ultimately determine their fate on the day of election. That apart, the profile of each candidate has also attested to the fact that none of them can be dismissed in terms of intelligence given their background, education and achievements.
Dr. Rahman Olusegun Abayomi Mimiko is not just the candidate of LP in the October election; he is the governor of Ondo State. Born in October 5, 1954 into the Famimikomi family of Ondo town, he started his primary education in Aponmu before attending St. Joseph’s College in Ondo from 1966 to 1970 and later Gboluji Grammar School, Ile Oluji, for his Higher School Certificate (HSC) between 1971 and 1972.
He attended the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1972 where he trained as a medical doctor. After his internship as House Officer at the General Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, he worked in two private establishments in Onne, Rivers State and Lagos, and returned to public service. By 1985, he started his own practice and established the Mona Clinic in Ondo.
In 1992, he became the state Commissioner for Health in the old Ondo State, a position he also occupied when the military left governance in 1999. He resigned from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) government of late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, when he was allegedly schemed out of the party’s governorship primary and pitched tent with the PDP under which he was made the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in 2003.
A vacancy in the slot for Ondo in the Federal Executive Council brought him into national limelight when he was appointed Minister of Housing and Urban Development in 2005. He held the office until he resigned in 2006 to join the LP under which he contested and subsequently won the April 14, 2007 governorship election after 22 months of legal tussle.
As governor, the power of incumbency is first a major advantage for him as his party controls two out of three senatorial districts in the state having lost one to CAN following the defection of Senator Robert Borofice; seven out of the nine House of Representatives members and the 18 local government areas of the state.
Mimiko’s achievements in various sectors of the state in the last three-and-half years are widely regarded as key in his re-election bid. For each local government that Mimiko visited for his campaign, he did with the inauguration of projects as a testimony to how he has been able to bring development to various parts of the state. In addition, he also received new members on each of virtually all the trips from either the ACN or PDP into the LP.
Mimiko is believed to have a firm grip of Ondo Central Senatorial District where he hails from and commands significant support in the two other senatorial districts in the state.
Consequently, Mimiko’s endorsement by various groups, including the organised labour, traders, transport unions, artisans and other interest groups is seen by many as a confirmation of the people’s support for his government. With various political appointees spread all over the state, Mimiko also has the reach that others do not have.
There is also the belief that some opposition leaders, particularly the PDP who though, have not declared openly for the LP, are working quietly for him. Besides, the cooperation and support openly expressed for him by traditional rulers is an edge much as it is difficult to wish away the influence of his running mate, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, in the Akoko area of the state which in Ondo North.
Unfortunately for Mimiko, there seems to be some of the elite who do not fancy his ideas as well as his style. They consider his projects as mere cosmetic. Particularly, they harp on the non-impressive performance of the administration in terms of developmental projects in the riverine Ilaje and Ese-Odo Local Government Areas of the state. These, they consider as a minus for him.
The areas that are the stronghold of the PDP since the advent of the present political dispensation were being catered for by the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC). But the commission is believed not to have lived up to expectations when compared to what the immediate past administration of the PDP did in the area.
Mimiko is also running against the tide of history in a state where no governor has ever been able to secure re-election. However, the governor has always reminded those pushing this idea that those that came before him contested for second term but were defeated. As such, the antagonists of his second term bid should leave the electorate to decide his fate.
Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, was born to Reverend J. Ola Akeredolu of Akeredolu family in Owo and Lady Evangelist Grace B. Akeredolu of Aderoyiju family of Igbotu, Ese Odo, on July 21, 1956 in Owo, Ondo State. He started his primary education at Government School, Owo before proceeding to Aquinas College, Akure; Loyola College, Ibadan and Comprehensive High School, Ayetoro, for his secondary school education and Higher School Certificate, respectively.
Fondly called Aketi by his admirers, a nickname he earned from his secondary school days, Akeredolu, like Mimiko, went to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study Law. At Ife where he graduated in 1977, he was elected as the Vice-President, Students’ Union Government for the 1975/1976 academic sessions. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978.
Akeredolu was appointed Attorney General of Ondo State between 1997 and 1999 and was made SAN in 1998 during the tenure.
As an activist lawyer, he served the NBA 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 also a member of Legal Aid Council of Nigeria from 1989 to 1991 before he became its chairman in 2005.
He was also a member of the Governing Council, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies between 2008 and 2010; member, Council of Legal Education; 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 (NJC).
The strength of the ACN candidate in the election lies mainly in his party. Apart from Ondo, the ACN is in control of the other South-west states of Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Osun and Lagos and even Edo State in the South-south. The party is selling his candidate with the campaign that Ondo should be brought to the mainstream of South-west politics. Many people believe that Akeredolu would ride to victory on the back of ACN National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is passionate about unseating Mimiko.
Making regional integration a campaign issue may also work in favour of Akeredolu especially that the ACN is saying the idea is only feasible when all the states in the South-west come under the same party. This being the unique selling point of the party carries some weight and has been sold to the teeming electorate in the state that Ondo cannot and should not be different from other states in the region.
The ACN is also believed to be banking on the sentiment that none of the governors from the state had succeeded in getting re-elected.
To the credit of the ACN candidate is his professional calling as a legal luminary. There is a growing thinking that should the election result end in litigation, Akeredolu, would count on the court to come to his rescue, more so that his ability to clinch the party’s ticket was believed to have been made possible by a senior and prominent jurist in the country.
Akeredolu’s major weakness is the circumstances under which he emerged candidate of the ACN. His emergence had caused major disaffection amongst other aspirants of the party numbering over 30, who felt that he was imposed on the party. For this reason, many aspirants, including Akeredolu’s kinsmen and their supporters, had dumped the ACN for LP while some refused to declare openly for either PDP or LP but vowed to work against the ACN candidate.
Apart from this, other notable indigenes of Owo, Akeredolu’s hometown, had also declared openly for LP while others, including Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, are believed to be working for the PDP candidate. Also critical is the person of Akeredolu, who is considered new in Ondo politics. As it is today, Akeredolu is about the only one amongst the three leading candidates who cannot boast of having a firm grip of his Ondo North Senatorial District.
Also, there is the sentiment that an Akeredolu’s victory would be part of the agenda to make Ondo part of Tinubu’s fiefdom as ACN opponents have sold the idea to the public. Besides, his candidacy is seen as a proxy war between Mimiko and Tinubu, who is riled by the refusal of the governor to honour an alleged deal to defect to ACN if the party helped him to retrieve his ‘stolen mandate’ which it did.
Olusola Nathaniel Oke, the PDP candidate for the October 20 governorship poll, was born on April 7, 1956 at the little fishing settlement of Ilowo located on the Ilaje coastline of Ondo State. He started his early education at the UNA Primary School in the community in 1961 but had to break schooling for 10 years for “financial reasons”. He spent the interregnum fishing, which is the mainstay of the area.
He resumed schooling at Methodist Primary School Ilepete, a neighbouring community in 1973 where he was admitted to Primary 6 and became the oldest pupil in his class. He also attended Methodist Modern School, also at Ilepete between 1976 and 1977 and Ilaje Grammar School, Atijere. He later taught at Teacher’s Catholic College, Ayetoro and Methodist School, Okitipupa until 1981. He enrolled at the then University of Ife and bagged LLB in 1986 before he was called to the Bar on October 22, 1987.
Oke ventured into politics and was initially a member of the Ondo State Board of Internal Revenue in 1991 before he was elected into the House of Representatives to represent Ilaje/Ese-Odo Constituency in 1992 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). When the nation returned to democracy in 1999, he became a member of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) representing Ondo State.
However, when the tenure of the board expired, Oke became the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil-Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), and in the 2003 general election, he was denied a chance to represent his people of Ondo South Senatorial District in controversial circumstances after securing his party’s (PDP) ticket and winning the election where he garnered almost 80 percent of the total votes and presented with a Certificate of Return.
Oke was a member of the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) of 2005 and had served as Chairman of the Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida and the Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency, Kaduna. He was also a member of the Technical Committee of the Federal Government on Niger Delta. He is the immediate past National Legal Adviser of the PDP.
Being a candidate of a party that controlled the immediate past administration in the state and which still has structure all over the state, Oke might still leverage whatever is left of the PDP and could also count on support of the Federal Government, which is controlled by his party.
Since the commencement of the current dispensation, Oke has been a major factor in the party and is noted for his doggedness, vibrancy and respect just as he enjoys support from party members and people of the state.
Being an indigene of the riverine area of the state, his victory would be seen as an opportunity for that part of the state whose votes have always determined the outcome of major elections in the area to have a shot at the governorship race in the state.
Equally, the various developmental projects of the PDP government during Agagu’s six years reign are now campaign issues in all the places visited by the Oke and his team.
Worthy of note is the choice of Mr. Saka Lawal, an embittered aspirant of the ACN, who many people believed wields huge influence in the Ondo North Senatorial District, particularly the Akoko area, as running mate.
The factional crisis in the PDP is a major threat to his possible victory. Also, the lack of mutual trust between the people of the riverine Ijaw and Ilaje due to the last ethnic war is another thing that could work against his interest. There are many people from Oke’s local government in the Mimiko administration, who would be under pressure to deliver their areas to the LP.
On the whole, the odds still appear to be in favour of the incumbent. Besides, Mimiko, having worked intimately with virtually all the parties, is believed to understand their antics and strategies and may be working more from the position of strength than the others. He is said never to take anything for granted as far as the election is concerned.
For instance, Oke’s emergence as PDP candidate was initially said to have upset the Mimiko camp, which had to restrategise to ensure that his emergency does not affect the second term bid of the governor.
Given the political equation in the state, analysts believe that the LP is still the party to beat in the three-horse race. But it is certainly not going to be a walkover for any of the three major candidates as the days ahead promise to throw up more upset.