Having written an analysis on the Ondo governorship race published in the Friday, September 2, 2016 edition of Thisday, wherein I highlighted the changing political landscape in the state and how the 2016 race has been remarkably different from the 2012 contest, I felt I was done with that impending electoral debacle. That was until I heard that piece of devastating news from the Peoples Democratic Party camp. Before that incident, the All Progressives Congress in the state had dominated the airwaves and the pages of newspapers with the angry vituperations, accusations and counter-accusations from some of the party’s aspirants in the race and the attendant efforts by the party leaders to pacify them and douse their fears, real and imagined. The party’s National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, had assured the aspirants of a level-playing field and had taken every measure to ensure a free and fair exercise as the party conducts its governorship primaries today in Akure. President Buhari had also delved into the matter, assuring the aspirants that he had no preferred candidate among them. During the week, however, some of the aggrieved parties, within and outside APC, did the unthinkable: they placed at the gate of the party’s secretariat in Akure, the state capital, some fetish objects to create some effects and further stoke the controversy.
And as if out to ensure that PDP is not defeated by APC in the battle for attention, some despicable persons went after one of Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s main allies in the state, Evangelist Niyi Pirisola, whom they shot dead in his country-home in Okitipupa on Friday. Pirisola was the immediate-past Chairman, Caretaker Committee of Okitipupa Local Government Council. The message perpetrators of the dastardly act would want to send across with the killing is that the race to Alagbaka Government House, the seat of government in the state, is now a matter of life and death. This should n’t be the case; whether at the level of intra-party or inter-party election, the contestation should be on the basis of ideas and programmes. It should be about the contenders moving to persuade the delegates or the voters on how their ideas are superior to those of others, and the people then left to choose among the competing forces in the end.
Indeed, as the APC’s plethora of governorship aspirants go into battle today at its primary election, the delegates, as they make their choice, should think of that aspirant who has the best plan for the people of the state, who would make the APC banner soar higher, who has the integrity to deal with the job and is generally best suited to take Ondo to the next level. The aspirants themselves should eschew the bitter controversy and intrigue that had predated the primaries, keep an open mind and rally round whoever the process throws up because, divided after the primaries, they are headed for electoral peril, but united the party becomes stronger in the real battle come November 26.
The PDP water is not any calmer either. The more popular Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led camp has picked former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of the state, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, as the party’s governorship flag bearer while the camp of the recalcitrant factional chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, allegedly elected businessman, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, as its candidate. Only on Thursday, Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Abuja declined to hear Ibrahim’s suit seeking a court order to compel the electoral body, INEC, to recognise him as the authentic candidate of PDP. Like the matter between Sheriff and PDP, which is likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court, the issue of who the authentic PDP candidate in Ondo election is may ultimately be decided by the apex court. Are we likely to witness a replay of Governor Amaechi scenario if per chance the court declares Sheriff the authentic PDP chairman and if per chance again PDP wins the Ondo election?
• Rahman, former Editor, Thisday on Sunday, is Managing Editor of Western Post. Follow him on Twitter @tunderahmanu