Ondo 2016: Is Jegede the Anointed One?

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Executive Briefing

Determined not to gamble with his legacy, there are indications that Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State may have settled for his immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Eyitayo Olayinka Jegede, as a likely successor. Davidson Iriekpen writes

After months of speculations and intrigues on who might succeed Dr. Olusegun Mimiko as the governor of Ondo State, when he vacates office in February 2017, Mr. Eyitayo Olayinka Jegede (SAN), the immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the state, has finally stepped forward.

Jegede, penultimate week, took a step further to actualise his aspiration when he obtained his expression of interest and nomination form to participate in the November 26 governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He obtained the forms in Akure amidst fanfare and solidarity from former colleagues in the state executive council, party leaders, well-wishers, family members and supporters in their hundreds across the 18 council areas of the state.

Speaking after picking the two forms, the former AG said he was overwhelmed with the massive show of love and support by the people of the state, which transcend religious, ethnic and party affiliations, and promised to justify the confidence reposed in him by offering good governance, which will consolidate and improve on the achievements of the Mimiko administration.

To confirm Jegede as Mimiko’s likely choice, dignitaries who followed him to the ceremony included the Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Fatai Olotu, who led about 10 of his colleagues to the event.
Others were Commissioners for Transport, Nicholas Tofowomo; Culture and Tourism, Femi Adekanmbi; Community Development and Cooperative Services, Mrs. Yetunde Adejanju, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), Ambassador Olu Agbi, members of the working council of the party and heads of boards and parastatals.

Speaking with journalists in Lagos last week, Jegede said he wanted to be the next governor of the state because the current challenging times in Nigeria require people with extraordinary ideas, adding that he was in a better position to transform the state’s economy.

“I came into the Mimiko government from the inception in 2009 up till when I resigned in July and with all sense of decency, I was actively involved in the achievements of the government. As a result, I am in a better position to continue with our attainments in the health sector, education, agriculture, social services and many more, and even raise the bar if I’m eventually elected the governor of the sunshine state,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.

He promised that his focus if elected would be raving up the economy of the state. “My priority if elected will be the economy. Mimiko has done so well in the areas of healthcare delivery, urban renewal and education. So, I will sustain that momentum and at the same time concentrate on revamping the economy of the state, without necessarily overburdening the people,” he added.

The emergence of Jegede may have however put to rest, speculations about Mimiko’s choice candidate. Among some of his close aides, the scheming over, who succeeds the governor in the last one year has been so intense, thereby causing deep mutual distrust that threatened Mimiko’s camp.

No doubt, the PDP is currently in control of the state but there are fears that the party may lose its grip on the state if it eventually presents “unacceptable” candidate for the election. THISDAY gathered that it is against this background, including the fact that the party is enjoying his legacies and affection in virtually all the local government areas of the state that the governor settled for Jegede as the choice candidate.

Though the choice of the former AG has not gone down well with some close associates of the governor, who are also interested in the job and are said to have set up structures across the state in pursuit of their ambition, their boss seemed to spoken through his body language and that may be final. Fiercely opposed to Jegede’s likely candidacy is Rotimi Adelola, Secretary to the State Government (SSG).

Apart from the fact that Mimiko is believed to like Jegede, who has been in his cabinet since 2009 and contributed to the success of the government, sources in the state disclosed that the governor’s alleged preference for his former AG was influenced by a national leader from the North-east, where he had lived and practised his law profession for over 26 years during and after his mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

Sources further hinted that it was the same national leader that first recommended Jegede to the governor for the position of attorney-general and commissioner for justice of the state eight years ago. The relationship between the political godfather and Jegede dates back to all the years that Jegede spent in the North-east.

The leader is believed to be resuscitating his political structures well ahead of the 2019 presidential elections and is said to be reaching out to associates across the country, while silently putting together a new political party that would comprise of heavy weight across all political persuasions and divides.

In convincing Mimiko to settle for Jegede, the political leader was alleged to have dangled the running mate slot to the outgoing governor. The offer was simple: “pick Jegede as your successor in return for the vice presidential slot.” As an added bait, the top politician is also alleged to have “made a commitment” to bankroll Jegede’s governorship campaign.

Investigation by THISDAY further revealed that Jegede’s choice was partly to succumb to the yearnings of the people of Akure, who have since 1999 been agitating for the governorship seat. He is also favoured with the clamour by the Akures to present the next governor of the state under the slogan ‘Akure agenda.’

Prominent Akure people, particularly the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi had on several occasions declared that an indigene of Akure should be the next governor and called on the people of the town to support any candidate from the town. He boasted that Akure kingdom which includes Ifedore, Akure South and Akure North local government areas have political voting strength to decide who rules the state.

It was equally revealed that Jegede’s apolitical disposition placed him far above his contemporaries in the choice of candidate. While other members in the Mimiko cabinet were busy setting up structures in the last one year, Jegede was said to have felt unconcerned about his future in government. Instead, he was preparing to go back to his law practice, a good quality, sources said, drew the attention of the governor to him.

Jegede is considered not to be politician but a technocrat, who would concentrate on governance and leave politics for the governor unlike many others who are full time politicians, who may challenge the governor when he leaves office on many issues.

As it is expected, Jegede being from central senatorial district, might face a herculean task in getting supports from the other two senatorial districts due to the fact that the incumbent governor is also from the central senatorial district.

The late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, who was from the northern district, became the governor in 1999 but he was unseated by the late Olusegun Agagu, who was from southern district in 2003.

Agagu spent six years before he was sacked by an Appeal Court sitting in Benin in 2009 and Mimiko, who is from the Central district, was sworn in as governor. Although the rotational system has no constitutional backing, political observers believed that the northern senatorial district should produce the next governor.

Another source informed THISDAY that the governor’s younger brother, Prof. Femi Mimiko, a former Vice Chancellor of the state university and an influential power broker in the state is not favourably disposed to Jegede’s emergence. Femi is alleged to be backing Adelola’s aspiration to succeed his brother in 2016. They have both come a long way from their childhood days, sources further stated.

Added to this, THISDAY gathered that both in Governor Mimiko’s camp and the PDP, people of the Ondo North are not happy over the emergence of Jegede. They had thought that having served eight straight years, the governor would rotate the zoning formula back to them. Among those said to be disenchanted are the people of Owo and Ose. The only governor to have come from the zone, Adefarati served one term. Besides, he is from the Akoko part of the northern senatorial district.

But reacting to claims that his ambition will disrupt the zoning arrangement among the three zones – north, central and south – in the state since he is from the same central senatorial zone as the incumbent, he also said zoning has never been a consideration for electing governors in the state.

“Election in Ondo State is never won on the basis on zoning but on merit. Argument about zoning is being planted and spread by small people, who don’t believe in merit. It is an argument that is deceptive and should be discountenanced by those who want the best for the state. Competence, efficiency and integrity should be the requirements and those are what I am offering.

“My governorship ambition is not an ethnic agenda; it is Ondo State agenda. The real voters don’t know zoning; it is a contraption of some politicians, who are afraid of merit. I see myself basically as somebody from Ondo State, somebody interested in service.

“The argument against me is that I come from the central zone and that I am not a politician. But rather than being a minus, those are my strengths because integrity and merit are going to count. I have these and I am bringing them on board in the interest of the generality of the entire people of Ondo State.”

Sensing that the governor might disappoint them due to his body language, his camp has been suffering some high profile defections, a development that reportedly caught him napping. Prominent among the defectors are a senator in the seventh National Assembly, Senator Patrick Akinyelure and the Director-General of the Technical Aids Corps, Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi, both of whom announced their decisions to quit the PDP some days ago along with their supporters.

If Jegede finally gets the PDP governorship ticket come August 22, when the party would conduct its primary election, one of the greatest challenges he would face may likely come from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Though the party lost to Mimiko, then of the Labour Party in 2012, having won the presidency last year, it is currently seriously strategising on how to take over Ondo State this time.

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If Jegede finally gets the PDP governorship ticket come August 22, when the party would conduct its primary election, one of the greatest challenges he would face may likely come from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Though the party lost to Mimiko, then of the Labour Party in 2012, having won the presidency last year, it is currently seriously strategising on how to take over Ondo State this time