Except anything changes, which is most plausible, Ondo State’s governorship election may go on as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission for tomorrow and one of the three main gladiators in the state from the APC, PDP and AD will emerge its new governor. But who is the question whose answer lies in the belly of time, writes James Sowole
The day is tomorrow. The battle field is set. The players are ready. The referee, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is fired up. The name of the game is politics and the coveted trophy is the Ondo State governorship.
In the last three months, Ondo State has become a beehive of political activities to elect a successor to the incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who will complete the constitutionally allowed two terms tenure of eight years on February 24, 2016.
The state, therefore, had been in the news and wherever the pendulum swings among the three major contenders would be a reference point in the history of elections, not only in the state but in the entire country due to the many controversies that had strewn the nomination of each of the main candidates for the election.
Though 28 political parties had nominated candidates and their running mates for tomorrow’s election (although the date could change now given the present circumstance), three major parties stand out. They are the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
Interestingly, the three candidates are familiar to one another and they belong to the same profession, Law. While two of them, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC and Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP are of the silk category, Chief Olusola Oke of the AD is yet to be conferred with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), even after being nominated at three different times. He, however, knows the game of politics than the two others.
An important feature of the contest is that the nomination of the three candidates was characterised by controversies, which will no doubt have effect on the outcome of the election. Also, going by the immediate personality of the real contenders and major interests in the contest, it would be safe to conclude that the election is a rerun of the 2012 governorship election, with only Mimiko running through proxy.
Akeredolu was the candidate of the Action Congress (ACN) in 2012 while Oke was the PDP candidate at that time just as Mimiko who is sponsoring Jegede, the current PDP candidate contested under the platform of the Labour Party (LP).
Another characteristic of the Saturday election is the fact that each of the candidates is representing a senatorial district of the state. While Akeredolu is from Owo in the Northern Senatorial District, Jegede is from Akure in the Central Senatorial District and Oke is an indigene of Ilaje Local Government in the Southern Senatorial District.
With the standing of the these three candidates, who had been moving from one part of the state to another to canvass for votes from the electorate, it is a free for all exercise – any of the three can win the election with very little margin because each of them holds sway in their own area. What therefore would be needed to win the election would depend on how much each can penetrate the areas that biologically belongs to his rivals.
Initially, political calculations were said to have tilted in favour of the PDP candidate, Jegede, having come from the local government and senatorial district that has the highest number of registered voters and because the primary election that produced him had less controversies.
Also, Jegede’s unblemished record as the former Attorney General of the state is an added advantage for the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who hails from the state capital that had not produced an executive governor since the creation of the Sunshine State in 1976.
However, the four-week legal tussle between the two factions of the party, one led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi and the other by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, over who should fly the party’s flag at the poll, may have serious effect on the hitherto bright chances of the ruling party.
Until Wednesday, the business mogul, Jimoh Ibrahim, was recognised as the candidate of the party following the October 14 judgment of the Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, who ordered that Ibrahim was the party’s candidate.
With the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Salauwa of the Court of Appeal, the contest has opened up again to be won by any of the three candidates contrary to the situation when Oke and Akeredolu were the two major contenders as Ibrahim was written off from the race by many observers.
It was also believed in some circles that Jegede’s travails may be a blessing in disguise as it had elicited sympathy from many people, which if translated into vote would be good for him.
Though Jegede had lost some grounds due to the disruption of a well- planned campaign strategy, the legal clearance had once again raised the hope of his supporters and in addition to some stakeholders, who clamoured for the postponement of the election by at least two weeks.
For the AD candidate, Olusola Oke, the support of four out of the six local government areas that make up the Ondo South Senatorial District was super. The local governments are Ilaje, Irele, Ese Odo and Okitipupa. The people of these council areas had always voted for the PDP since 1999. Oke is a former chieftain of the PDP before his defection to the APC and lately the AD.
Some of his supporters in the PDP reportedly followed him to the AD while other members of the party, who are either for Jegede or Ibrahim, were earlier expected to vote for the former PDP National Legal Adviser in protest if Jegede had failed to be on the ballot.
Oke may also get substantial votes from the Akoko North-West Local Government Area of the state because his running mate, Mr. Gani Dauda, is from the council. He is believed to be enjoying the support of Tinubu and the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, and some aggrieved APC leaders in the country for the election.
Analysts noted that Oke, a candidate of the PDP in 2012 governorship election had gained greatly from the legal tussle between Jegede and Ibrahim. Aside from all these, Oke, among the three candidates, is the most experienced politician with solid structure that cuts across the three senatorial districts. With the structure of the old which many people would be for him, Oke would get considerable votes from all parts of the state.
However, there are complaints and insinuations that Oke defected to the AD after losing the party’s primary to Akeredolu out of his desperation to contest the governorship of the state. It was being alleged that the national leadership of the APC, and some people in the presidency would do everything to stop Oke because they expected him to join the winner of the APC primary. This, put together, could count against him greatly especially that he might be running against the machine of the federal government.
Akeredolu, who was also the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in the 2012 governorship election in Ondo State, has been making efforts to make peace with the aggrieved members of the APC in a bid to emerge victorious in the Saturday poll.
Akeredolu, a no-nonsense character, bold and courageous, would no doubt secure support from his own Ondo North Senatorial District. It is also expected that he would also make an appreciable impact in some local governments in the South as his running mate is from the Ese-Odo Local Government while Odigbo Local Government is traditionally an APC council.
Owo is one of the local government areas with large voter population in the state while Odigbo is dominated by APC members.
Also, the mother of the APC candidate is said to be an indigene of Ese Odo.
Also, the mother of the APC candidate is said to be an indigene of Ese Odo.
However, the people of Akoko area of the state in the Northern senatorial district are said not to be happy that Dr. Olusegun Abraham lost the party’s primary to him in a controversial circumstance. Prior to the primary of the party, the people of Akoko had declared that they would vote for any party that fielded an indigene of the area.
Should the people made good their promise, it means Dr. Olu Agunloye would have the votes from the four local governments in this area and which would be a minus for the APC candidate. Though Senator Ajayi Borrofice has not left the APC, his closeness to the family of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu may not make him work as expected for Akeredolu.
Generally, the contest is still open and should INEC yield to the call for a postponement of the poll, it is expected that Jegede would cover the lost grounds and this might naturally heighten the edge he already has, coupled with the weight of incumbency that tilts in his favour in the state. But that still does not guarantee his victory but how much more work he is able to do between now and the time of the election and the same scenario applies to the two main other contenders.