The outcome of tomorrow’s governorship primary of the All Progressives in Ondo State will determine to a great extent, its chances in the November election. Tunde Rahman writes

The race towards the November 26, 2016 Ondo governorship election has its own defining features worth recalling from the get-go. Firstly, unlike the 2012 election in the state that could be said to be a three-pronged affair among Labour Party, Peoples Democratic Party and defunct Action Congress of Nigeria – the extant contest is clearly a two-way horse race between the All Progressives Congress, a rainbow coalition, which emerged from the ACN and other legacy parties and which eventually ousted the PDP government of President Goodluck Jonathan, and the same PDP.

Labour Party, which won the 2012 governorship poll in the same state, has been emasculated by the same forces that threw it up in Ondo at the time. PDP’s candidate in that election, Chief Olusola Oke, who some analysts reckoned could have carried the day if supported by the powers-that-be in Abuja, was spurned by the government in Abuja, produced by the same party, and its apparatchik, for Labour Party’s candidate, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, all because of a tenuous alliance that failed to engender Jonathan’s re-election in 2015.

Now divided down the line, it is doubtful if the PDP with two governorship candidates for the election can re-invent the wheel. Again, ironically, the same Oke, the former PDP National Legal Adviser, has since pitched his tent with APC and is also in the race for the party’s ticket.

Secondly and more importantly, the 2012 poll was framed at the time by many commentators as a straight fight between former Lagos State governor and now APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and Mimiko, who was then seeking a second term in office.

On the lips of the pro-Mimiko campaigners was the phantom allegation that the ACN, which by then had regained control of the South-west, was out to siphon Ondo’s oil resources to Lagos. Those who believed the propaganda at the time now know better, given the wide disparity between the state’s oil wealth and the standard of living of the people of the state since after that election.

Meanwhile, Lagos is working. Under former governor Babatunde Raji Fashola and now Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the state remains a model that other states are copying. The performance of Governor Mimiko in office has remained confounding, according to analysts, given the oil resources of the state.

Mimiko seemed to have squandered the goodwill he garnered over the years. At present, the state owes civil servants five month salary arrears, resulting in a low morale among workers in Ondo. The governor has been accused of erecting white elephants projects while most of the beautification projects are said to be centered in Akure, the state capital, where his PDP faction, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, picked its candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).

The calculation in picking Jegede, Mimiko’s former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, who hails from Ondo Central Senatorial District, which already produced Mimiko for two terms, is because of the district’s high voter-population. But Akure is an urban centre inhabited mostly by people from other two districts, many of whom are said to be rooting for a change. They fear that Jegede, if elected, may be an extension of Mimiko’s years, which they alleged had failed to uplift the standard of living of the people in the state.

The APC, on its part, is not without its problems, some of them self-imposed. The build-up to its primary election, now rescheduled for tomorrow, September 3, has been marked by accusations, counter-accusations and bitter intrigues. The accusation that the APC leadership had endorsed one of the aspirants in the race has been laid to rest, as the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has denied any such endorsement, while noting, however, that endorsement is not the same as imposition and promising a level-playing field at the primaries.

But some aspirants are seeking the ouster of the party’s chairman in the state, Chief Isaacs Kekemeke, in order to properly position themselves for the ticket. A new dimension was added to the matter on Monday, when some fetish objects were planted at the gate of the party’s secretariat in Akure by some people suspected to be the aggrieved parties.
In the midst of the crisis being perpetrated by those described as would-be-losers in the race is the seeming consensus that the party had ceded the governorship slot to Akokoland in Ondo North Senatorial District. From Akokoland are at least three of the prominent aspirants in the race – Dr. Segun Abraham, Senator Ajayi Borrofice and Dr. Tunji Abayomi.

Abraham is a successful international businessman and philanthropist. He is said to have a load of integrity and the required financial muscle for the race. Many see him as a professional in politics because, for him, politics is a way of impacting the lives of the people positively as opposed to self-enrichment.

Abraham from Ikare in Akoko North-east had long engaged in philanthropic gestures in Akokoland and across the state, running a scholarship programme for indigent youths in the state in the last 14 years.

In 2012, when he joined the defunct ACN governorship race, he was prevailed upon by the party leaders to step down for legal luminary, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) aka Aketi from Owo Division, who eventually became ACN candidate in that election.
Akeredolu, who benefitted from that gesture, surprisingly is also in the extant APC governorship race. Abraham had accepted to step down, believing his own time would come. Many believe perhaps that time has come given the generous endorsement he has received from the elders and youths in Akokoland and beyond.

Boroffice, the Asiwaju of Akokoland and former university don, is the Senator representing Ondo North in the National Assembly. He was alleged to have indicated that if he returned to the Senate in 2015, he would not bother to run for the governorship again. On his part, Dr Abayomi, a progressive-minded lawyer, is still trudging on in the race like a lone ranger. Other notable aspirants like former Commissioner for Finance, Senator Tayo Alasoadura from Ondo Central, former Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Chief Victor Olabimtan, and former deputy governor Ali Olanusi, both of whom are from Akoko South, are also in the APC race.

But, in the final analysis, the way and manner it comes out of its primary election will determine the ultimate fate of the APC, believed to be the party to beat in the governorship race. Will the APC fritter away its golden opportunity on the altar of unbridled ego and ambition as opposed to the collective good of the party? Will Ondo electorate fail to embrace the much-needed integrity in the governance of the state?
-Rahman, former Editor, THISDAY on Sunday, is the Managing Editor of Western Post Newspaper