Nseobong Okon-Ekong and James Sowole write that Goveror Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State would still have been re-elected even if his two major opponents, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party and Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi of Zenith Labour Party had joined forces against him. Their combined votes was not enough to stop Akeredolu
Idowu Oladapo left her Ore in Odigbo local government area home to Kiribo her homestead late afternoon on Friday. She rounded up the business of the day early to embark on the trip. She did not want to miss out on the opportunity to vote for her favourite candidate in the Ondo State governorship election holding the next day, Saturday. Most people from Kiribo had been sufficiently sensitized on the critical nature of this particular election. Their son, the Deputy Governor of the State, Mr. Agboola Ajayi was running for office on the platform of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). Ajayi had been embroiled in a long battle with his principal, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. The people of Kiribo and the surrounding communities in Ese Odo local government area of the state were schooled to believe that Ajayi was victimized by Akeredolu for daring to ask for a fair share of the dividends of democracy for his people.
Ajayi had frequently told them that Akeredolu had made governance of the state a family affair such that state functions which ordinarily should be carried out by him on behalf of the governor were assigned to either his wife or his sons. The sidelining of the Deputy Governor coupled with the neglect of the area naturally provided good grounds for a grouse against the Akeredolu administration.
However, when the opportunity came to deploy the legal instrument of the ballot to remove Akeredolu and install Ajayi as governor, the people of Ese Odo could not garner enough votes to express their dislike of Akeredolu and what he represents. The frequent complain of the people includes the fact that for close to 15 years, they had been disconnected from the electricity national grid. They were hopeful that an Ajayi government in Ondo State would prioritise that critical need.
Seeing that they were very vociferous about this particularly need, why did their agitation not express itself through massive votes to Ajayi, at least, in his local government of origin? His poor performance at the ballot in Ese Odo was very revealing. Ajayi could only secure 4,760 as against the 13, 383 votes scored by the APC candidate, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, while the PDP scored 4, 680 votes.
Different schools of thought have blamed the dismal performance of the two main opponents of Akeredolu, Ajayi and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede on the widespread incidence of vote buying. The APC was alleged to be offering between N1 million and N1.5 million throughout the 3,009 polling units in 203 wards of all 18 local government areas in the state. The PDP made available N500,000 per Polling Unit, while ZLP could only muster N50,000 in each Polling Unit.
The overriding role played by money in the Ondo governorship election can’t be ascribed to one particular political party. Though there were 17 political parties on the ballot, only three-APC, PDP and ZLP- were clearly visible through representation by agents in almost every Polling unit.
Speaking on ARISE News Television Akeredolu accused Ajayi of deploying huge resources acquired from the state to give former governor Olusegun Mimiko political resurrection. Dr. Mimiko is the promoter of ZLP on whose platform Ajayi contested the election . Jegede’s campaign was believed to be funded by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Vice President and the 2019 presidential candidate of the PDP and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, who was the arrowhead of the PDP campaign for Jegede. Funding for Akeredolu is suspected to come directly from the coffers of the state government, augmented with generous support from the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State.
Leading independent election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa in its post-election assessment of the Ondo governorship election stated, “Nigerian elections are signposted with practices that compromise the freedom of choice and undermine political legitimacy. Yiaga Africa notes with great concern the menace of vote-buying and the impunity exhibited by major political actors in procuring votes with huge amounts of cash during the Ondo governorship election. Across several polling units, the secrecy of the ballot was severely compromised despite attempts by polling officials to prevent voters and party agents from showing how ballot papers were marked. On election day, votes traded between N1000 and N7,000 at the polling unit. It is Yiaga Africa’s opinion that the massive vote buying employed by political actors in the election made it difficult for voters to freely cast their ballots in the polling units where they occurred. It is disappointing that elections are largely defined by the highest bidder and spender.”
However, the organisation concluded that the incidence of vote-buying, though distasteful and not to be encouraged may not have significantly altered the outcome of the election. According to the report, “The INEC official result for the 2020 Ondo State gubernatorial election falls within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimate. Had the official results been changed at the ward, LGA or state collation centres, the official results would not have fallen within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimated ranges. Because the official results fall within the estimated ranges, governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence that INEC’s official results for the 2020 Ondo gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units. It is important to highlight that the counting process at polling units was transparent and included representatives from the three political parties that received the most votes.”
Yiaga further posted that, “INEC’s official results for turnout and rejected ballots also fall within Yiaga Africa WTV estimates. Yiaga Africa is able to estimate that turnout is 33.4% with a margin of error of ±1.3% (between 32.1% and 34.7%) while INEC’s official turnout is 32.6%. Similarly, Yiaga Africa estimates rejected ballots are 2.8% with a margin of error of ±0.3% (between 2.5% and 3.1%) while INEC’s official result for rejected ballots is 3.1%. This can be compared to the Ondo 2016 governorship turnout rate of 35% and Ondo state turnout rate of 33% in the 2019 presidential election.”
Based on reports from 97% (291 of 300) of sampled polling units, Yiaga Africa’s statistical analysis shows that the APC should receive between 48.9% and 54.1% of the vote; the PDP should receive between 31.2% and 36.6% of the vote; ZLP should receive between 10.5% and 13.3% of the votes, while no other party will receive more than 1% of the vote share.
Mr. Debo Ologunagba, the State Collation Agent of the PDP described the wide and inducement of voters with money “weaponisation of poverty.”
“It is unfortunate the governments we have both at the state and the federal levels have weaponised poverty, it is almost becoming a weapon of mass destruction,” he said.
“They have destroyed the consciousness and the ability of the people to reason positively.
“That is what you saw and witnessed in the distribution and purchase of votes
They targeted the poor with N2000, N3000 and they fell for it because they are poor.”
He also said he had reservations on the conduct of the election in areas where there was violence, where INEC and security officials refused to act appropriately.
“It seemed to me that there was a collusion between some INEC officials and security agencies to create that problem,” Mr Ologunagba added.
By not mentioning the involvement of his party in the incidence of vote buying, the PDP Agent was playing the ostrich, with his head buried in the sand, while his exterior is exposed
Expectedly Mr. Donald Ojogo, Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy believes that the people have opted for continuity because they are confident in the direction that Governor Akeredolu is leading the state. “They know that the logical way to go is to give another four years to the governor to allow him finish what he has started in many sectors and take the state to an irreversible path of progress. Nobody is saying that Akeredolu or indeed any government can do everything. Governance is always work in progress. What no one can deny is that this administration has been able to manage the resources of the state in a prudent manner, while recording landmark achievements.”
APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena signed a statement thanking the people of Ondo State for coming out enmasse to reelect Akeredolu. He said, “While we thank the Ondo electorate for voting for good governance, industrialisation, security, empowerment and general welfare of the state, we will continue to advocate for and support safe, free and credible elections that guarantee that valid votes count and the people will prevail.
“The APC particularly thanks President Muhammadu Buhari as leader of the Party and Governor Mai Mala Buni as Chairman of the Party’s Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee for rallying our supporters, members and leaders, particularly our governors in total support of our governorship candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu.
“We also recognise and appreciate the tireless efforts of the Ondo State APC Reconciliation Committee chaired by the Governor of Niger State, H.E. Abubakar Sani Bello and the APC Ondo State Governorship National Campaign Council chaired by the Governor of Lagos State, H.E. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
“Governor Akeredolu’s reelection is indeed testament to the inclusiveness, genuine reconciliation and peace the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC Caretaker Committee has ensured among party ranks in Ondo State, other chapters and the Party in general,” he said.
Indeed the people of Ondo showed enthusiasm to carry out their civic duty. INEC disclosed that turn out was a little over 32 percent, but people did not mind the weather which became inclement for a better part of the day. The resulting rain led to extension of voting period and caused the exercise which would ended on time to drag in many areas.
Implications of Akeredolu’s Remarks on Jegede
One thing that anybody cannot take away from the re-elected Governor of Ondo State, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, is his frankness and down to earth attitude. Akeredolu is one individual, who does not hide his feelings about any individual or issue. This is the main reason, his supporters, gave him an appelation of “Mr Talk and Do” during the electioneering for his second term.
For this reason and other matters that may not be known to everybody,, some people had been wondering about the likely implication of many sweet remarks that Akeredolu made about one of his opponents in the just concluded governorship election, and in fact the main challenger, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, of the Peoples Democratic Party, that emerged the first runner-up in the election.
Despite seeing Jegede as a major threat to his re-election, Akeredolu, in the heat of the campaign, described him (Jegede) as a friend and somebody eminently qualified to be the governor of the state not just once. This remark of Akeredolu on Jegede, was not that pleasant to many of his supporters who regarded those words as cheap promotion for one’s “enemy”.
Not done yet, Akeredolu’s commendation in his speech after he was declared the winner of the poll, was also seen by many, as suggestive that the governor may have further relationship with Jegede who is not only a lawyer like the governor but share the distinction of being a Senior Advocare of Niger, as well.
In his address to the people of the state on his victory and the contest, Akeredolu, described his main challenger, Jegede as a worthy adversary.
Akeredolu said Jegede’s participation in the electoral process, was historic.
He said: “Jegede patriotism is not in doubt. His love for the people is unassailable. He is indeed a worthy adversary. Our State is indeed blessed for having people of his quality.”
The suspicion of the people, may have also been heightened by the fact that Akeredolu, did not defer by any means, to any other candidate in the election not even those who declared support for him at the last minute of the campaign.
Though, Akeredolu in the same speech, noted that his re-election would pose more challenges for him to do more good things for the state and the people, he would need to act the talk and demonstrate his new apelation as “a talk and do” personally.
“It affirms that the confidence reposed in our Administration remains unshaken. It is a statement on your assessment of our performance in the last three and a half years.
“It is unequivocal, direct, inspiring and soul lifting. It is awesome. It is a reward for hard work, dedication, focus, honesty and patriotism.
“It is also a challenge to us for rededication to service in the interest of our people. On this, we shall not relent,” Akeredolu said.
He said the administration, has not relented in the promises made when he was elected for the first time adding that the achievements in various sectors, are testimonies for the dedication to serve the people.
The re-elected governor would have to act the talk, because some people did not want Akeredolu’s re-election, not because his first term was a failure but because of the fear that many second term experience, is not always cheering..
Political Grave of Prominent Politicians
The Ondo State governorship election may have finally dug the political grave of Mimiko, who was once revered as invincible. In times past, it would have been unthinkable that the immediate past governor of the state can be defeated anywhere in the state. But he was trounced by the APC in his backyard, in his local government. The ZLP candidate, Ajayi suffered thesame fate, losing in his local government.
Ajayi’s desperate ambition to rule Ondo State may be his undoing. It is doubtful if he will be welcome in either the APC or PDP. Having lost in the PDP governorship primary to Jegede, many believe he should have remained in the party to build a stronger platform, but he felt he was a giant and had an Iroko in Mimiko watching his back. Albeit, Ajayi’s strength was small. His seeming toughness will be tested in the coming days when the Ondo State House of Assembly resumes its suspended impeachment process against him.
For Jegede who Akeredolu has spoken kindly about, the future may require forging new political alignments in order to achieve his ambition of becoming governor of Ondo State. As the result of the election show, he could only win in three of the 18 local governments. And even if he had an understanding with Ajayi, Governor Akeredolu would still have triumphed against their combined votes.
Commendation for INEC
All stakeholders in the election including the leading political parties Md their candidates commended INEC in the area of deployment of materials and coordination of the process.
Yiaga Africa commends INEC for its efforts to improve on the election day process and efforts to comply with the COVID-19 protocol with respect to providing disinfectant/hand sanitizers in all polling units. Yiaga Africa however, believes that there are opportunities for improvement in our elections and calls on INEC to conduct a post-election audit on both the Edo and Ondo governorship elections in order to enable the Commission to assess its performance, identify operational areas for improvement and drive policy reforms to effectively plan for future elections. Additionally, the National Assembly should accelerate reforms to the Electoral Act to legalize the effective deployment of technological tools to promote citizen’s participation and enhance transparency in the electoral process. The INEC Result Viewing portal deployed for the election has demonstrated how citizens’ access to polling unit results increases the integrity of the electoral process and encourages acceptability of electoral outcomes
Ajayi’s desperate ambition to rule Ondo State may be his undoing. It is doubtful if he will be welcome in either the APC or PDP. Having lost in the PDP governorship primary to Jegede, many believe he should have remained in the party to build a stronger platform, but he felt he was a giant and an Iroko in Mimiko watching his back. Albeit, Ajayi’s strength was small. His seeming toughness will be tested in the coming days when the Ondo State House of Assembly its suspended impeachment process against him. For Jegede who Akeredolu has spoken kindly about, the future may require forging new political alignments in order to achieve his ambition of becoming governor of Ondo State. As the result of the election show, he could only win in three of the 18 local governments. And even if he had an understanding with Ajayi, Governor Akeredolu would still have triumphed against their combined votes.
Leading independent election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa in its post-election assessment of the Ondo governorship election stated, “Nigerian elections are signposted with practices that compromise the freedom of choice and undermine political legitimacy. Yiaga Africa notes with great concern the menace of vote-buying and the impunity exhibited by major political actors in procuring votes with huge amounts of cash during the Ondo governorship election. Across several polling units, the secrecy of the ballot was severely compromised despite attempts by polling officials to prevent voters and party agents from showing how ballot papers were marked. On election day, votes traded between N1000 and N7,000 at the polling unit. It is Yiaga Africa’s opinion that the massive vote buying employed by political actors in the election made it difficult for voters to freely cast their ballots in the polling units where they occurred. It is disappointing that elections are largely defined by the highest bidder and spender