James Sowole writes that Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress is going head-to-head against two major contenders; Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party and Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party in the October 10 gubernatorial election in Ondo State
Though, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cleared 17 candidates and their political parties to contest the October 10, 2020 gubernatorial election in Ondo State, three major candidates as at now stand head and shoulder above the pack.
Going by their activities on the field as they are marketing their manifestoes, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), with the incumbent, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as its candidate, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) as the flagbearer and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), with the incumbent Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi as the candidate, are the major contenders in the contest.
Considering the characteristics of the political parties, their candidates and their senatorial spread, the contest may not be different from what has been witnessed in the state since 2012, when the incumbent governor first contested.
While the incumbent is from Owo in the Northern Senatorial District, Jegede of the PDP is from Akure in the Central Senatorial District and Ajayi of the ZLP hails from Kiribo, Ese-Odo Local Government in the Southern Senatorial District.
As at now, the contest, is open for any of the three candidates to win, as nobody can say emphatically, how it would go in line with the popular saying that 24 hours is a long time in politics and in an election.
But among the three candidates, the incumbent remains the closest to the crown going by many factors including financial and human resources.
A major factor that will be of advantage to Akeredolu, is the fact that he has many projects in the three Senatorial districts of the state as his achievements in office. The Akeredolu administration, has many infrastructural projects including roads, school buildings, water projects, industrial projects among others, which are being used to campaign while his opponents can only promise what they will do.
As the incumbent governor with huge financial resources at his disposal, more people are ready to work with him to ensure his re-election. As the party in power, Akeredolu’s party, APC has a structure in all the nooks and crannies of the state. All things being equal, it is expected that all political office holders including the newly elected local government councilors and chairmen that are spread across the 203 wards, would deliver their units in favour of the APC.
The council officers, who were elected for a three-year tenure, are not oblivious of the fact that their stay in office, depends largely on the outcome of the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
Also, the incumbent as at now, still has his commissioners and majority of the members in the Ondo State House of Assembly with him. They are expected to deliver their various constituencies.
In addition, the support promised by majority of the former APC governorship aspirants, who have collapsed their structures to ensure the return of Akeredolu in the hope for future benefits, may be a major advantage for the incumbent.
The incumbency factor and the expected support from Akeredolu’s counterparts in other states, is another advantage that can not be joked with particularly, with the outcome of the recently concluded Edo State election.
A major discussion among the people, is that as governors worked and secured the APC ticket for Akeredolu after seeing what befell Governor Godwin Obaseki prior to the party’s primary, they will complete the assignment, by supporting him during the real election.
Despite all these factors that are of advantage to the APC candidate, the power of the real voters, who have been emboldened by the results of the Edo governorship election cannot be overemphasised. Apart from the fact that many people were already of the opinion that a second term for Akeredolu, was not a good one, the recent increase in electricity tariff and pump price of petrol, with attendant increase in prices of goods including food items, has affected adversely, the image of the APC and all that concerns the party.
For the PDP, the personality of its candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, is a major factor that endears him to many people, particularly, the elite.
The PDP structure, spread across the 18 local governments and which Jegede used in the 2016 election is available to him.
The PDP candidate, is also leveraging on the performance of the party in the 2019 national election in which it won the presidential election and two out of three senatorial seats in the state. Moreover, the people of the Central Senatorial District, where Jegede hails from, are more determined than 2016 to vote for the PDP candidate.
Also, Jegede is relying on huge votes from Ondo South where his running mate, Hon Ikengboju Gboluga, who is House of Representatives member representing the Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency, hails from. The PDP won two out of the three House of Representatives seat in Ondo South. It is also expected that PDP governors would support their own in the forthcoming election in the state.
However, the emergence of the former Commissioner for Works in the state, Mr Gboye Adegbenro, who is from Ilara, a town near Akure, as running mate to the ZLP candidate, may affect Jegede’s votes in the Central Senatorial District which is supposedly his stronghold.
Another major issue that may affect the chances of Jegede is the sentiment that the immediate past Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko is from the Central and having another governor from that Senatorial District, would be unfair to other areas.
Jegede has debunked this insinuation by telling the people that a governor has a whole state as his constituency. He frequently tells the electorate not to judge him by his place of origin , but what he can offer.
Going by the trend of the contest since 2012, there is no concrete arrangement about zoning because there was never a time that politicians from a particular disitrict deliberately withdrew from the Ondo governorship race.
For the ZLP, the strength of the party lies in the grassroot nature of its candidate and the Deputy Governor of the state, Mr Agboola Ajayi. Ajayi started his political career as a councillor and rose through the ranks to become the deputy governor after he served as a House of Representatives member. While serving in various capacities, he had endeared himself to many, especially among the old PDP leaders and members, who later moved to the APC.
Some of those who do not want Ajayi are afraid that he would automatically send them into political retirement should he become the governor before them who were formally his leaders. As a likeable personality, it was not surprising that some APC and PDP leaders left their previous parties and joined Ajayi in his quest to govern the Sunshine State.
Moreover, the support of Mimiko, who is the National Leader of ZLP, is a major booster for Ajayi’s ambition as many former political office holders that served during his tenure, have joined the crusade to actualise Ajayi’s governorship ambition.
In addition to that fact Ajayi is from the Southern Senatorial District. To many pundits, that is an added advantage for the ZLP as people of the area, have adopted his project as their own.
Another reliable source said some state governors, who do not want to be identified are backing Ajayi in preparation for the 2023 presidential election.
However, the ZLP candidate carries a moral burden. He is perceived to be slippery, having traversed three political parties within one month. This is an albatross that he has to contend with. The ZLP candidate may also have to convince the elites that he can deliver on his promises to provide more democratic dividends than other candidates.
As at now, the contest, is open for any of the three candidates to win, as nobody can say emphatically, how it would go in line with the popular saying that 24 hours is a long time in politics and in an election. But among the three candidates, the incumbent remains the closest to the crown going by many factors including financial and human resources