Ondo PDP and the Burden of Mimiko’s Successor

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The jostling for the 2016 gubernatorial election in Ondo State is gathering momentum, but the rather uninspiring activities among the intending governorship hopefuls in the Peoples Democratic Party are already eliciting insinuations amongst members. James Sowole writes

For reasons anybody can think of, one of the wishes of any ruling political party is to remain in power for as long as it is possible to do so. Also, a major wish of any person at the helm of administration in a democratic setting, either as governor or president is to install a credible and trust worthy successor.

In Nigeria, the period of searching for somebody that will take over power from an incumbent governor of a state or a president, who is about to complete the two terms allowed by the constitution is always a sensitive one, which always involves consideration of several factors.

The burden becomes more complex when the popularity of the ruling political party is dwindling or when the people feel that the person at the helm of the Executive arm of the government is no longer living up to his billings.
It is a known fact that when a situation like this arises, opposition party becomes more emboldened to explore all avenues that will ensure that the ruling party loses the next election. Naturally, the ruling party on the other hand would not fold its arms and fall prey to the roaring lion and as such, permutation, maneuvering and sometimes impunity become the remedy.

In Ondo State, choosing a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate that can match the roaring All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 2016 gubernatorial election in the Sunshine State of Ondo has become one issue that is already generating discomfort, not only among leaders and members of the party but also in the circle of the opposition party and the politically conscious populace.
As at the time of filling this report, not less than six persons have indicated interest to jostle for the PDP ticket ahead of the pending election.

They are former member of the House of Representatives, who represented Akoko North East/Akoko North West between 2007-2011 and former Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Hon Gbenga Otolorin wElegbeleye; former Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon Bakita Bello; the current Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Bamiduro Dada and the former Deputy Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon Dare Emiola.

Other aspirants are the Ondo State Coordinator of the Private Public Partnership and Owo Prince, Nekan Olateru-Olagbegi, Senator Remi Okunrunboye, the current Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Chief Sola Ebiseni and the current Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, Mr Eyitayo Jegede SAN.

A major burden is the question of which senatorial district should produce the next governor. The question arises because the three senatorial districts had produced the governor at one time or the other.
Some people were of the opinion that since the first governor produced at the beginning of this current Fourth Republic in 1999 came from the Northern Senatorial District with the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati at the helms of affairs before it moved to the Southern Senatorial District in 2003, when the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu was elected and now Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the Central Senatorial District, the arrangement should be maintained.

On the other hand, some were of the belief that since the governorship had gone round the three districts, the next arrangement can start from any of the three districts. Interestingly, all those that have indicated interest in the race cut across the three areas.

While Bakkita Bello, Gbenga Elegbeleye, Bamiduro Dada and Dare Emiola, Remi Okunrinboye and Nekan Olateru-Olagbegi are from the Ondo North, Sola Ebiseni hailed from Ilaje Local Government area in Ondo South while Eyitayo Jegede is an indigene of Akure in the Central Senatorial District.

When talking of the Ondo North, it is sub-divided into Akoko and Owo/Ose areas. Thus, while Elegbeleye, Bello, Dada and Emiola are of the Akoko extraction, Okunrinboye and Olateru-Olagbegi are from Owo that produced the first governor of the state in 1979 in the person of the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin. And since Owo and Akoko had produced the number one citizen at one time or the other, it is being canvassed that Ose should have its shot at the governorship.

Also, the Akure Agenda which aimed at promoting the current Commissioner for Justice, Eyitayo Jegede had generated controversies among the people with complaints that those calling for the agenda were being unfair to other areas as the Central Senatorial District was the only one that had produced the governor back to back and set the record of completion of two consecutive terms.

Another burden confronting the PDP is the issue of dichotomy between the old PDP members and the New PDP members. Though the dichotomy seems to have been resolved at the State Delegate Congress of the party with the sharing of party’s elective positions, the issue is still in the consciousness of members.
According to the people, the old PDP members were those who had joined the party before Mimiko came into the party while the New PDP members were those that moved particularly from the Labour Party (LP) under which Mimiko contested and won election for the two terms.

Looking at the current list of aspirants, it is only from the Northern Senatorial District and Akoko to be specific that old PDP members showed interest in the race as at the time of filling this report while the two from Owo are of the New PDP like the only aspirant from Ilaje, Ondo South.
Another issue believed to be bothering the PDP ahead of the next gubernatorial election is the body language of the incumbent governor himself. Though some of the aspirants have started holding consultations over their ambition, none of them has been bold enough to come out in full blast.

As at the time filling this report none of the PDP aspirants had opened a visible campaign or coordinating office or embarked on any open campaign unlike what is being witnessed in the fold of the opposition APC. APC aspirants had taken over vacant apartments in most buildings on the stretch of the popular Oyemekun-Adesida Road. All that some of them had done were the production and pasting of posters, stickers early this year, which had faded out and the use of social media as an avenue for campaign.

When asked the PDP aspirants when they would launch their campaign, the response has always been “We are still watching the Oga, the Governor”. The reason for the waiting for the master may not be far- fetched. All of them, apart from Elegbeleye and Emiola, are members of the current administration in the capacity of commissioner or coordinator of one thing or the other.

The dwindling popularity of the incumbent PDP administration occasioned mainly by the nationwide downturn in the economy which had made many states including Ondo not to fulfill the expectations to their workforce has constituted a major issue on the neck of the party.

Though the issue is not peculiar to PDP states as many states under the APC control also have problems paying salaries of workers, the case of Ondo became more worrisome because of the approaching election and the increasing propaganda of the opposition party.

Directly related to the above is the consideration of who among the aspirants can muster the necessary financial resources required for a gubernatorial election project. However, getting financial muscle is one thing and the acceptability of the person by the majority is another matter.

Despite these concerns, it is generally believed that the Master of Game himself, Iroko is keeping his cool to avoid pre and post primary crisis, which may arise should he give an open directive to all to embark on elaborate campaign, more importantly majority of aspirants are part of his administration. THISDAY gathered that the governor was considering a situation whereby the number of aspirants would be pruned down considerably or if possible, a situation that would produce a consensus candidate.