Ondo 2016 and the Clamour for Power Shift


With the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress in Ondo State fixed for Saturday, August 27, 2016, certain factors remain expedient in the choice of its candidate, writes Femi Ogbonnikan

Exciting as the political climate may be, the jostling for the number one seat in Ondo State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), with new entrants signifying intentions, seems to have presented a comical rehearsal of sorts. However, two factors appear to determine who may coast home to victory at the end of the day.

Chiefly, the governorship contest of the Sunshine state is clearly between two camps – the legacy (between 60 and 70 years of age) and the fresh ideas (between 40 and 50 years of age) groups. Despite the vintage position, which Ondo State ought to occupy in terms of development, the opposition still holds the belief that the state is still lagging behind in terms of development, not just as an oil producing state, but also as the home of cocoa, timber and oil palm.

The bane, as identified, is not the absence of natural resources, but the dearth of quality leadership. Though the state has had some good leaders in the past, these were mostly men in the twilight of their lives.

It is believed, therefore, that while death is no respecter of age, it is also viewed that if men were given chances in their prime to lead, they would still be alive to serve the interest of the state, after leaving office. Why has the question of agility and fresh ideas come to the fore? It is near impossible, a school of thought postulated, to solve an emerging problem of today with old ideas.

As the world changes, the emerging issues cannot be solved with knowledge acquired over 30 years ago, for an instance. Hence, the reason leaders are chosen in their prime, when they are current with issues and able to work under severe pressure.

As evident in most states of the federation, where younger generations have taken over leadership, with positive results, Ondo, observers reckon, cannot be left out in the emerging generational shift of power to conform to the demands of time and challenges. Governance is a collective responsibility and there should not be a barrier between the governed and the leaders.

As a result, the clamour for generational shift in Ondo State is seen as a major leverage to help galvanise the various interest groups, already polarised by status, class and ethnic interests. In the past, a few politicians, in an attempt to score political points, have always equated age with experience. However, history has also shown that experience is better served through knowledge acquired, rather than through the age of the leader.

The Ondo State PDP has an array of young aspirants like Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), as its governorship aspirant, while the APC has a mix of both the old and young elements in the race. The dominance of the oldies in APC, however, is unsettling the youths, who are clamouring for a generational shift, as an important factor to move the state forward and as well, exclude professional politicians from the pack.

There is no doubting the fact that the APC is the party to watch out for in the forthcoming governorship election, but the various stakeholders in the state have opined that the success of the APC at the poll depends largely on the character of the candidate the primaries will throw up. It is the belief that a young, agile and dynamic candidate of impeccable character will most likely appeal to the electorate.

The top, young and dynamic aspirants on the upscale include Boye Oyewumi, Adeniyi Adegbonmire, Akinfehinwa Awodeyi (aka Apata), Niran Sule, Foluso Adefemi, Moyosore Niran-Oladunni and others.

Prominent among aspirants, who have expressed interest in the Alagbaka, Akure Office are Foluso Adefemi (a shipping magnate), Victor Olabimtan (a former Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly), Sen Ajayi Boroffice (a two-time serving senator), Mr Akinboye Taiwo Oyewumi, Chief Segun Abraham (Lagos-based businessman), Ganny Dauda (a Labour Party decampee), Nat Adojutelegan, Dr Tunji Abayomi and Niran-Sule Adesuyi (a former Commissioner for Special Duties under Governor Olusegun Mimiko).

Others are Bukola Adetula, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN (candidate of the ACN in 2012), Mrs Jumoke Anifowose (daughter of late Pa Adekunle Ajasin), Alhaji Jamiu Ekungba, Akinfehinwa Awodeyi, Bode Ayorinde, Adeniyi Adegbonmire, Tunji Ariyomo, Sen Tayo Alasoadura (serving senator), Derin Adesida, Ademola Adegoroye, Akinyinka Akinnola, Chief Olusola Oke (a former PDP flagbearer in 2012), Dapo Adelegan, Akinrinsola Odunayo and Chief Paul Akintelure (a former APC Deputy Governorship candidate in 2012).

But the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the development levy of N2 million the party asked each aspirant to pay a fortnight ago. An informed source within the leadership of the Ondo APC hinted that eight gubernatorial aspirants were able to meet the requirement while the rest fell by the way side, thus pruning down the number of aspirants to a manageable number.

The development levy is said to exclude the nomination form fee of N5.5 million, which each aspirant will be required to pay before the primary of the party slated for August 27. It has been the yardstick used to measure serious and unserious aspirants in the race.

With the recent pronouncement by the National Vice Chairman, South-west zone of the APC, Chief Segun Oni, that zoning will not be applied in picking its candidate for the Ondo election, the stage is now set as aspirants, in their individual capacity, have gone back to the drawing board, mapping out strategies in their bid to clinch the governorship ticket.

Ranking high among the first set of aspirants with brighter chances of clinching the governorship ticket, as political watchers have identified, are Oke, Boroffice, Alasoadura, Oyewumi, Akeredolu and Niran-Oladunni. But, it is feared, that a lot of other factors are likely to affect the fortunes of each of the aspirants. Importantly, the interplay of forces as well as the application of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will serve as determinant factors at the primaries.

In the case of Oke, a former standard-bearer of the PDP in 2012, who defected to the APC shortly after the defeat of his party, though with his intimidating profile, his loyalty is believed to be in doubt, especially with references to the dispositions of persons like the Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye and the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yaya Bello, all of whom are believed not to be on the same page with the party.

The gubernatorial chances of Oke, who was once the National Legal Secretary of the PDP might therefore suffer a setback if weighed against the instances cited above because the national leadership of the APC could weigh its options in order not to fall prey to the antics of serial defectors or experience a repeat of those they have sponsored to elective offices and later betrayed them.

Age is believed to be an odd against the aspiration of Boroffice. He is said to be in his late 60s, though a two-time serving lawmaker at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. Other aspirants that have fallen into the age barrier category include Abraham, Akeredolu, Anifowose, Ayorinde and a host of others.

On his part, Akeredolu, who was the Ondo State ACN standard-bearer in 2012, is said to be losing grounds, as the leadership of the party is not favourably disposed to fielding him again. The former NBA President is said not to be a grassroots politician, thus, fielding him again may not change the result from the last exercise, which reproduced the outgoing governor, Mimiko.

However, Oyewumi, whose entry into the governorship contest four months ago is believed to have caused a stir, is one of those presently stealing the show. The 52-year-old business mogul, who hails from Oke-Igbo town, Ondo South senatorial district, is an ex-member of the NADECO, a political organization, which fought for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election as well as the declaration of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as winner.

His membership of NADECO and close working relationship with the national leadership of the party, age (52), vibrancy, agility, pedigree, exposure and academic qualifications may give him some edge over the older aspirants.

Niran-Oladunni, a 45-year old aspirant is perhaps the youngest in the race. A former Assistant General Manager at Cards Technology Limited is an alumnus of the Lagos Business School. With a formidable legacy and enviable antecedents, having come from a politically inclined family stands an equally good chance against anyone.

He is an entrepreneur and about the only aspirant in private business. He is generally considered a pro-active and cerebral young man, who cuts across the various groups within the state and party because he is indigenous – born and bred in the state. With a relatively comfortable war chest and supports that cut across the many divides, he is certainly one aspirant to keep a tab on.

These factors aside, it is the final decision or the prerogative of the delegates to the primaries to decide who in their wisdom the cap fits, when they take the decision on Saturday, August 27, 2016.