The Message from Ondo

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With the victory of the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, comes its inherent message, writes James Sowole

The Ondo State governorship election has come and gone, but the dusts raised in the wake of it are yet to settle. While the winner and incumbent, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), are celebrating and thanking the electorate, the losers and their parties are already counting their loses and reviewing how things happened.

One fact that has been established by both local and international observers, was that the three major political parties: the APC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), induced voters with different amount of money ranging between N2,000 and N7,000 at polling units.
It was gathered that money as much as N1.5 million, was allocated to a polling unit, depending on how desperate a particular political party was to win the unit.
Commentators have described it as probably the most expensive governorship election to be conducted in the history of the state.

Apart from the vote-buying factor, which is common to the three political parties, the power of incumbency and the heavy presence of structure of the ruling APC at the grassroots, contributed immensely, to the success of the party.

The state, in August, conducted its local government election and in which APC candidates, were returned in 203 wards and chairmen in the entire 18 councils. It was the usual practice that all the elective officers at this third tier of government, would be dissolved, should opposition party, win the gubernatorial election. Therefore, it was expected that all the councillors and the chairmen, must defend their offices.

Apart from the elective officers at the local government levels, the APC, has the overwhelming majority in the State House of Assembly just as all appointees of Akeredolu, the commissioners in charge of ministries and statutory commissions and parastatals, were also expected to defend their constituencies, though some of them lost, even in their units.

The spread of the candidates and their running mates for the election, also contributed to the outcome of the election. While Akeredolu, who is from the Northern senatorial district chose his running mate from the South, both the PDP and the ZLP left the entire Northern Senatorial field for Akeredolu.

Specifically, Akeredolu has the entire North to himself, he has his running mate from the South Senatorial District, where the ZLP candidate, hails from. On the other hand both the ZLP and the PDP, shared the votes at the Central as the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, is from Akure, in the Central while ZLP candidate running mate, Gboye Adegbenro is from Ilara, also in the Central, whereas both APC and PDP running mates are from Southern senatorial district.

In addition to the spread of the candidates and their running mates, while all the aspirants that contested the APC primary against Akeredolu from both the North and South, openly declared their support for Akeredolu, Jegede, did not enjoy the support of most PDP aspirants.
The ZLP candidate, Agboola Ajayi, came second in the primary that produced Jegede just as another aspirant, Banji Okunomo, dumped PDP for ZLP.

The unwritten zoning arrangement, which was a subject of reconciliation between Akeredolu and other APC aspirants from the South, contributed immensely, to the success of the APC candidate. It was gathered that an agreement had been reached that politicians from the Southern Senatorial District, would automatically, get preference in 2024, when the zone, is expected to produce the governor of the Sunshine State.

However, violence, which was noticed during campaigns in many local governments, was replaced with the use of money apart from some isolated cases in Akure South and Idanre Local governments.
Considering the factors so enumerated, the APC candidate at the end of the collation of results, won in 15 out of 18 local governments while the PDP candidate won in three local governments.

The PDP candidate, won in three out of six local governments that constituted the Ondo Central while the APC candidate, won in all the six local governments in the North, six in the South and three in the Central.
That the PDP candidate is popular in the Central and most loved by the people cannot be over-emphasised. Akure, the state capital witnessed an unusual silence from the Saturday evening when the collation of results started till Monday morning.

On the other hand, Owo town, where the governor, hails from, witnessed Jubilation as residents of the ancient town trooped to the streets cheering the re-elected governor, who moved round the town in a motorcade.
There was not much celebration in other parts of the state except in some few places, where leaders and chieftains provided fund for the purpose, two days after the declaration of the results and the winner of the election by the returning officer.

The loss of Jegede, was seen as the loss for the entire Akure Kingdom and the old Akure Division, because the just concluded election, was seen as an avenue to liberate the state capital as the highest elective office, occupied by an indigene, was the deputy governor. Thus, the last election was seen as the project of the entire area, unlike in 2016, when the people, were not that united for the project.

The remarks of Akeredolu about his score in the three Akure dominated local governments, added salt to the injuries of the people, when he expressed disappointment that Jegede won in those local governments, despite all his administration did in the areas.
The people were not happy that the governor could expect Jegede to lose in Akure Kingdom, despite their high hope, that an indigene of the town would become the governor.

As Akeredolu was declared the winner, the PDP that issued a statement, only said it was studying the results and would make the position of the party known at the appropriate time.
For the ZLP and its candidate, nothing had been heard, apart from the thank you message in a statement issued by the Director General of the Campaign Organisation, Dr. Kola Ademujimi.

Of all the candidates, Ajayi, who ran against his boss, was seen as the one that would be most affected. Ajayi, who many people believed had deployed personal resources into the race, is also expected to face a fresh process by the House of Assembly to remove him from the office as the deputy governor.

Akeredolu, had during his visit to President Muhammadu Buhari after receiving his Certificate of Return, said he expected Ajayi, to resign from his position as the deputy governor, if he had honour. Also, the expulsion of the only female member of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon Tomomewo Favour representing Ilaje II Constituency, was part of the aftermath of the governorship election.
Tomomewo was expelled by APC in Mahin Ward II for allegedly mobilising, supporting and financing those, who worked for Ajayi during the election.

The immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko ass also being mocked by both APC and PDP leaders, for supporting Ajayi’s ambition, which was seen as betrayal, as a friend of Akeredolu. However, some loyalists of Mimiko said he had not done anything wrong, since they were not in the same political party. Mimiko’s supporters, also noted that if supporting candidate of his ZLP, was wrong, it was Akeredolu, that first betrayed Mimiko, by contesting against him (Mimiko) in 2012, when he was seeking re-election.

Meanwhile, a new twist was introduced to the mix on Thursday, when one Samuel Omotosho, who claimed that he was the authentic candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), alleged that his name was missing on the ballot.
Omotosho said Akeredolu, should not celebrate yet, as he was not listed as one of the candidates for the election despite winning his party’s ticket. Describing the October 10 poll as a mere rehearsal, the AAC candidate urged other gubernatorial candidates of other 16 political parties that participated in the election to get prepared for the real poll, when his name would have been inputted on the ballot by INEC.

Omotoso, in a statement made available to newsmen in Akure, said he was the one that won the party primary conducted in the state, but his name was substituted, when INEC released the final list of candidates for the election.
According to him, he approached the court to rectify the error, when all efforts to make INEC do the needful, did not work.

He said: “INEC omitted my name on the ballot. I have all it takes to win the governorship race, but INEC didn’t do the right thing. The election will definitely be conducted again for I am certain that I will win the governorship race.”

Speaking on his chance in the court, the AAC candidate affirmed that “justice will surely prevail and the mandate of the people will be restored and the re-election will be done faster than the opposition thinks.”
He had dragged Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), his party’s national chairman, Dr. Leonard Nzenwa, and the state chairman of the party, Comrade Israel Oluwatosin Ayeni and Mr. Adeleye Adekunle Peter, his running-mate who was listed as the governorship candidate of the party to court for swapping his name as the standard bearer of the party with that of his running-mate. Omotoso wanted his name as the gubernatorial candidate of the party and Adeleye Adekunle Peter removed.

At the last hearing of the case of error in listing at the Federal High Court sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, on October 5, 2020, the presiding judge, Justice A. Onabanjo adjourned the hearing to October 26, 2020, because attorneys to the respondents filed their responses to the matter before the court on the same day.