James Sowole, in Akure, reports on the praises, celebration and knocks that trailed the Ondo governorship poll
Like in any competition, a winner must emerge, just like a loser or losers. Equally, two reactions are constant in any competition: rejoicing in the camp of the winner and desolation in the camp of the loser.
Though, the Independent National Electoral Commission cleared 13 political parties and their candidates for the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State, the race was actually among three major parties – Action Congress of Nigeria with Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, as its candidate; Peoples Democratic Party, which fielded Chief Olusola Oke; and the ruling Labour Party on whose platform the incumbent governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, contested.
Mimiko won, and, expectedly, there have been celebration, complaints, and despair in different political camps in the aftermath of the poll.
Though, results from several polling units were still being exchanged, feelers that Mimiko would win started emerging about 2am on Sunday, October 21 at the INEC headquarters, when returning officers from various local governments started to present the outcomes of the election in their different areas of coverage. By 5am when the INEC-appointed Returning Officer for the election, Professor Adebiyi Daramola, who is the Vice -Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, (FUTA), announced the suspension of the announcement of results, it was clear that the incumbent would coast to victory.
At that time, Mimiko was already leading in 12 out of the 15 local governments that were ready while his counterparts in the ACN and the PDP came tops in two and one councils, respectively.
As expected, the agents of ACN and PDP became moody in the conference room of INEC, from where the announcement was transmitted live by the Africa Independent Television (AIT), the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), and Channels Television, the LP agent, Dr. Benson Enikuomehin, was lively, as he kept in touch with the party leaders.
Even while waiting for the final result, it was obvious that Mimiko had won the election. Those present at the INEC conference room were surprised when the LP agent, Enikuomehin, protested over the results of the poll in some wards in Ilaje Local Government Area, even when it was obvious that his party was leading convincingly. The action of Enikuomehin was greeted with murmuring from the stakeholders inside the conference room, as they saw his protest as unnecessary.
Victory at Last
“Dr. Rahman Olusegun Mimiko, having satisfied the requirement of the law and scoring the highest number of votes, is declared the winner of the poll and he is hereby returned elected as governor.”
With those words, Professor Adebiyi Daramola, pronounced Mimiko, as re-elected for another term of four years.
Mimiko polled 260,199 votes and won in 13 local councils; Oke came second with 155,961 votes and won two local councils; while Akeredolu scored 143,512 votes and won in three local councils. The governor was returned with 44 percent of the 594,244 valid votes cast from a total voter population of 1.6 million. 30, 415 votes were invalid.
Akure, the state capital, went into wild jubilation at the announcement of the final result. The singing and dancing started in the premises of INEC. LP supporters gathered at the garden opposite the Government House, Alagbaka, where the re-elected Mimiko addressed them and thanked the people of the state for the confidence reposed in him.
The crowd later moved to the streets of Akure in convoy of vehicles, singing and dancing, a situation that caused a traffic snarl on the popular Oyemeku/Adesida Road. Equally, drinking joints were filled with LP supporters as their leaders bought them drinks in abundance. While the singing and dancing went on, the security agents remained at their duty posts to forestall any breakdown of law and order
Gloom in the Opposition Camp
However, ACN and PDP, which accounted for about 50 per cent of the votes, said they were studying the results to decide on the next steps to take.
The National Publicity Secretary of ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and spokesman of the Akeredolu campaign team, Idowu Ajanaku, said the party would react formally and appropriately.
Similarly, the State Returning Officer for the ACN, Hon. Idowu Otetubi, said the leadership of the party would study the results of the election and take appropriate decision.
Reacting to the outcome of the election, Afenifere leader Reuben Fasoranti, whose support for Mimiko had drawn flaks from the ACN, said Mimiko’s victory was well-deserved and that his government had justified that democracy is the best system of government.
Another Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, said, “We have said it and it has come to pass that Mimiko will win. There is no way any other party could have defeated Mimiko in Ondo.”
Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Church, whose prediction that Mimiko would emerge victorious was criticised by the opposition, said, “The victory was nothing new to me, as I predicted it over three weeks ago but my worry is that Mimiko should not take the peoples mandate to the PDP.”
Afenifere Celebrates Mimiko
Afenifere described the outcome of the Ondo State governorship as a signal of the imminent death of ACN in the South-west geopolitical zone. The group’s position was expressed in a congratulatory letter sent to Mimiko. It said the result of the poll showed that Yoruba people were tired of the ACN and would be ready to kick them out at the appropriate time.
The letter, titled “Afenifere salutes Mr. Governor and wishes him well,” and signed by the leader and secretary of the association, Chief Reuben Fasoranti and Seinde Arogbofa, respectively, added that the victory of Mimiko at the poll was a testimony that people of the zone were tired of political godfatherism.
The letter from Afenifere to Mimiko read, “We need to remind you that this victory, amongst other things, is victory over godfatherism, a rejection of political imposition and slavery from outside the state and the people’s hope of a better deal to come.
“One or two of your predecessors in office as governor of Ondo State have one way or the other broken the jinx of second term in office. But yours is unique and not associated with rancour or political upheaval. We appreciate God for you.”
The group advised Mimiko to justify the confidence reposed in him by the electorate through provision of employment and social services for the people.
“There is need for the exhibition of fair play and justice to all, and carry the banner of progressive politics into national politics, now that the eclipse of the ACN is unavoidable.
“We entered into electoral cooperation with you on the election for mutual respect in all ramifications, for you to give better governance to our people, and for the creation of a forum for the emergence of a healthy third force to counter an emerging group, under the leadership of few disrespectful, snobbish, arrogant, ravaging and power thirsty politicians,” Afenifere told Mimiko.
Similarly, Dr. Ayokunle Fagbemi of CePSERD, a non-governmental organisation, which monitored the election, commended the voters of Ondo State for preserving the “rainbow coalition” of political parties in Nigeria. Fagbemi said the victory of Mimiko and LP would send home a message that politicians should not approach electoral contests with the kind of caustic language that some politicians deployed in the weeks before to the poll.
PDP Rejects Poll
However, the PDP candidate, Oke, rejected the results of the election and vowed to seek redress through lawful means.
Presenting the official reaction of the party, the director general of the Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, Dr Dare Bada, said what INEC announced was a decimation of the people’s avowed march towards enthroning integrity, transparency, modesty, focus and action.
“In our humble view, therefore, the outcome of this election as announced by INEC today was predetermined, predestined and organised to be like this.
“We are convinced and we say this to the whole world that the factors leading to this eerie experience today were well known to INEC, security forces, Labour Party and Ondo State Government beforehand. Sadly, both INEC and security agencies choose to ignore them,” Bada stated.
Bada said INEC delayed the supply of election material to the local governments, wards and units considered PDP stronghold but did otherwise to the LP comfort zone.
“Our position is that this election is not only marred with irregularities and massive corruption, it has failed to reflect the true desire of the good people of Ondo State, who were looking forward to this election with high hope of bringing an end to brigandage, waste, corruption and rudderless leadership,” Bada added.