Ondo 2020: A Rematch of Men of the Silk

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Jegede and Akeredolu

As though a reenactment of the 2016 governorship battle in Ondo State, the October 2020 election in the state, is again a two-horse race between two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress and Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party, writes James Sowole

With the conduct of the primary elections of the two dominant political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the stage is now set for a rematch between the two legal practitioners.

The APC had on Monday, July 10, 2020, elected the incumbent Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, as its standard bearer while a former State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, on Wednesday, July 22, emerged the candidate of the PDP.

Interestingly, the candidates of the two major parties were the 2016 top contenders for the office of the governor and won by Akeredolu.
Another top politician and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Olusola Oke, also contested under the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), after losing the APC primary to Akeredolu. Though Oke has yet to disclose his next line of action on the 2020 gubernatorial poll, his interest cannot be wished away, considering his political popularity in the Ondo South Senatorial District.

To Akeredolu, securing a second term in the state though not on a platter of gold, should be possible since the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended allows it and the fact that his immediate predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, had laid the foundation for such.

Going by various messages on the social media as well as the conventional private and government owned media organisations, where achievements of Akeredolu were aired intermittently, second term ambition could also be a mission possible for the continuation of a good job.

At every available opportunity, Akeredolu always reminds the civil servants that he had never denied them their salaries while the state pensioners rate him as their friend as one of the few governors, who pay pension along with workers’ salaries.

In the areas of infrastructure development, Akeredolu has many road projects he could showcase as parts of his achievements. In the three senatorial districts of the state, particularly, there are ongoing and completed dualised road projects, some of which had become challenges for the administrations before his.

One of the most cherished infrastructural and developmental projects by many indigenes and residents of the state from the Southern Senatorial District, is the Ore Flyover/Interchange on Benin-Ijebuode Expressway

On the day the flyover was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari, many motorists that had course to cross the expressway narrated their ordeal, while passing through Ore Junction, which the flyover has solved.

In the area of education, the renovation and reconstruction of primary school’ buildings while the government’s interventions in the health sector are also noticeable.

The popular Ondo Lying Industrial Park, Ore, where no less than five industries are already producing various products is another project facilitated by the Akeredolu administration and which he is using as campaign instrument.

There is the power of incumbency as a major factor that could work for Akeredolu, beyond the Executive arm. Specifically, members of the state House of Assembly are first timers and they know that if they work well for his (Akeredolu) return, they may also get the ticket of the party to return to the House.

The case is also the same for many commissioners and other political appointees. Moreover, should government hold a local government election today, both the chairmen and councillors would also want to keep their jobs beyond the first term of Akeredolu and even if they were not elected.

The Federal Might factor combined with the ability to muster financial resources for the new politics of “See and Buy” is a major strength of Akeredolu in his quest for second term.

However, obstacles against Akeredolu’s second term project, started from the inauguration of his cabinet and other appointees as some leaders and members of the party felt excluded from the administration and patronage, because they were not in his group before the primary that produced him as the candidate of the party.

Some of these people are still aggrieved and which was one of the reasons for many aspirants that contested the party’s primary.

To worsen the situation, all the aspirants that contested against Akeredolu believed that the indirect mode of primary that gave him the second term ticket was scripted to favour the incumbent, as he was the one in charge of the process that produced all the delegates that participated in the primary. The fear has been that the people might remain in the party and work against his reelection.

Another factor that may also work against him is his failure to appoint people into statutory boards, corporation and parastatals as a way of patronage for politicians and their followers.

It was the belief of these people that Akeredolu that did not give them anything during his first time, when he needed them for his second term, would never consider them after winning his second term.

The greatest obstacle against Akeredolu’s chance is the popular campaign by the people of the state that second term cannot bring anything better than the first term. Therefore, his second term should not be allowed for any reason.

The campaign against his second term is, however, a major strength of Jegede, the PDP candidate.

Expectedly, the pressure is always on the incumbent, because people will always have one thing or the other against the holder of an office and the administration. So, many people believed in the expectation that if a new person was given the opportunity, he could do better.
The transparency, credibility and competitive nature of the primary that produced Jegede are a major strength of the PDP candidate and acknowledged by all the aspirants.

Another major strength of the PDP candidate is the opportunity that Jegede has to claim all the achievements of the administration of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko under whom he served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

The people of the state would not forget in a hurry the performances of the Mimiko administration in various critical sectors like education, healthcare delivery, community development and agriculture among others.

It is the belief of the people that things have nose-dived in these many critical sectors with an increase in school fees payable by students of state tertiary institutions, even as people are not happy that free maternal and child healthcare was no longer available.
Though, Jegede as a successful legal practitioner could as at now be seen as an innocent person, who intends to bring fresh idea into governance, a major obstacle is the area of the state where he comes from.

Though, there’s nowhere in the Constitution, where it was stated that power should be zoned at any time and in any order, zoning formula is already a convention in the mindset of the people.

It is a general view of the people that it is not the turn of the Central Senatorial District to produce the governor since Mimiko, who was the first governor to successfully complete two terms tenure of eight years, is from the zone. Therefore, having an Akure man, who is from the same Central District as Mimiko, will amount to injustice.

The need to move power to the Southern Senatorial District was one of the major reasons for many people to support the ambition of the Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi’s ambition to displace his boss.

The people saw Ajayi as the only one that could give Akeredolu a good fight in order to stop his re-election.

But some people believed that rather than voting another person from Central into power, it is better to allow Akeredolu, who is from the North to complete his eight years so that the South can take its turn after Akeredolu.

This is a major factor that may work against the PDP candidate unless there is a concrete understanding between the leaders in the Central and Southern districts on the future political arrangement between the two zones.

The need for this understanding between the South and the Central, was hinted by one of the aspirants, who is the immediate past National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, who said the support for the party’s candidate would not be blanket but would come with proper understanding and agreement.

However, beyond zoning, the PDP candidate has always said it at different fora that people should not look at him from where he comes from, but from the angle of his competence, personality, integrity and what he could offer the state in terms of good governance.

Hours after he was declared winner of the PDP ticket, Jegede had immediately visited co-aspirants to woo them for the big contest of October 10, 2020..