By Willy Eya
All eyes are on Ondo and the Sunshine state is currently the focus of many power brokers in Nigeria. Tomorrow, people of the state would be confronted with one simple task – choosing who governs them in the next four years. But the assignment before voters of the state is not as simple as it appears.
Among the contending political parties, the battle line is drawn and as the voters file out in the next 24 hours to take that important decision, the concept of democracy, free and fair elections would resonate among the people. And as they perform that civic duty, three major candidates are likely to occupy their minds among others. They are Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress(APC), Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy(AD) and Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
In terms of resume, many would agree that the three top candidates are eminently qualified to govern the state. All the three are lawyers with two as Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Akeredolu who is a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) and Jegede are both SANs. But in the estimation of critical observers, winning elections especially in Ondo is more than just having beautiful credentials.
For the informed, tomorrow’s exercise is more than just an election. It would be a battle among three contending power brokers. One of the battlefronts would be controlled by President Muhammadu Buhari and his loyalists who obviously would be working for the emergence of Akeredolu, the APC candidate. Another camp would be spearheaded by former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his legion of supporters. Majority of the people here who are aggrieved members of the APC would be doing everything possible to ensure that Olusola Oke wins the election. The other group is that of Governor Olusegun Mimiko whose supporters are fully behind Jegede.
With the picture above, many insist that Ondo State is surely going to be one huge theatre of power, influence and money. There is a consensus among critical observers that none of the three candidates would be in short supply of what it entails to prosecute the election.
The argument in many quarters is that even though President Buhari may not be disposed to supporting Akeredolu with government funds, his close associates would ensure that the APC candidate is not in short supply of anything.
In the case of Mimiko who is currently the governor of Ondo State, he is the major financier of Jegede’s election. As the incumbent, money is not likely to be his major headache. It is one battle he would not like to lose.
The same could also be said of Olusola Oke who enjoys the backing of Tinubu who is believed to have enough resources to embark on any political battle. The governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode and his Osun State counterpart, Rauf Aregbesola who are close associates of Tinubu are also in support of Oke’s ambition.
So, with the political portfolios of the three candidates, tomorrow’s election would be a battle of the titans. However, the ultimate decision is for the people of Ondo State to make.
But as the former United States President and great thinker Abraham Lincoln: would say “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
Race to Alagbaka House: The contenders, their strengths, weaknesses
By Taiwo Amodu and Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Ahead of tomorrow’s election in Ondo, political gladiators, especially the contestants for the governorship seat in the state have intensified efforts at ensuring victory at the poll.
They are deploying various strategies to realise their ambitions. In the race, no fewer than 30 candidates from various political parties have signified intention to contest the election, even though three of the political parties appear to have leading candidates for the exalted position: the PDP, AD and the APC.
But while the AD and the APC had been set for the race with their governorship candidates, Chiefs Olusola Oke and Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) respectively moving across the local government areas to solicit the support of the voters, the PDP just on Wednesday had its candidate changed by the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja.
On that day, the Court of Appeal in Abuja declared Eyitayo Jegede of the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP as the rightful candidate for the election. By the decision, Jegede replaced Jimoh Ibrahim of the Modu Sheriff faction who earlier held tenaciously to the ticket of the embattled party.
Before the latest judgement of the appellate court, the crisis rocking the PDP in the state had left the average electorate confused on the authentic candidate of the party with discerning observers not bemused about the development in the
erstwhile ruling party. The Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) had in obedience to a federal High court judgement by Justice Okon Abang announced business mogul, Mr Jimoh Ibrahim as the governorship candidate of the party, while former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Jegede (SAN) had approached the court to challenge the INEC’s decision. So, on Wednesday, the court of appeal set aside the judgment of the federal High court which mandated INEC to accord Jimoh Ibrahim recognition.
Ibrahim emerged at the primary election conducted by the Senator Alli Modu Sheriff faction of the party in Ibadan, Oyo State, while Jegede emerged at the primary election conducted in Akure, the Ondo State capital, by the Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi faction of the party.
Both Jegede and Ibrahim who had formally flagged off their campaigns are bigwigs in the politics of the state. With the emergence of Jegede, it is certain that the PDP has a formidable structure in the state, especially with the incumbent Governor Dr Olusegun Mimiko seriously working for his victory .
The three major parties, no doubt present competent, popular and vibrant candidates who have a grasp of the political happenings in the state, having been active players for quite a period of time.
Daily Sun examines the chances of the leading contenders, their unique selling points and weaknesses.
The candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), is not new in the politics of Ondo State as he was the former National Legal Adviser of the PDP who also contested the 2012 election in the state on the platform of the party (PDP).
Oke had served as the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (OSOPADEC) and a federal commissioner at the Niger Delta Development Commission at different times.
He came second in the 2012 gubernatorial election in the state, while the incumbent, Dr Mimiko emerged the governor and the current candidate of the APC, Chief Akeredolu who was at that time the standard bearer of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) came a distant third.
Oke was one of the 24 aspirants of the APC who contested the last September governorship primary election of the party. However, the controversy thrown up by the exercise led to his defection to the AD where he was eventually made the party’s candidate.
The governorship hopeful who hails from Ilaje local government area in the Southern senatorial district of the state, is believed to have led many of his followers in the APC to his new party (AD), just as he made away with some members of the PDP to the ruling party, having been a leader of the erstwhile ruling party before. He is believed to be the choice of the people of the Southern senatorial districts with six local government areas.
A lawyer by training, Oke is believed to have the backing of the estranged national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode and the governor of Osun State, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, who were said to be displeased with the controversial primary poll that produced Akeredolu.
This is evident in the choice of the Director General of Oke Campaign Organization, Mr Bola Ilori who is a close ally of Tinubu and political associate of Aregbesola. Ilori was the Special Adviser to Governor Aregbesola on Environment. It is being speculated that Tinubu was funding the campaign of Oke, just as Aregbesola is also alleged to be one of the major financiers of his campaigns. Some believe that Oke may be the ultimate beneficiary of the crisis which bedevilled the PDP in the state.
In his political sojourn, he has associated with the major political parties: the PDP, APC and now the moribund AD which was revived as a result of the internal crisis in the ruling party. But the AD candidate may have difficulty in winning the election in the Northern senatorial district where Akeredolu comes from. The Ondo North senatorial district which comprises of Owo and Akoko divisions is predominantly APC. But he may certainly reap from the votes from the central districts which comprises Ondo and Akure divisions which have no strong candidate from the district.
Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, (SAN) was a former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in Ondo State. He is the governorship candidate of the APC, having emerged victorious in the primary poll held last September.
His emergence as the APC standard bearer has generated serious leadership crisis in the party. While the National Chairman of the
party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun and some other leaders of the party were believed to have given tacit support to Akeredolu, the National Leader of the party and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu threw his weight behind the candidature of Dr Olusegun Abraham who eventually came second in the primary election.
Daily Sun gathered that Akeredolu’s emergence has created disaffection, as aggrieved aspirants who lost out in the primary election and their supporters are not ready to work for his victory.
Dr Abraham has also instituted a legal case against Akeredolu before an Abuja Federal High Court, claiming that he was the authentic winner of the primary election having polled the highest number of lawful votes. Abraham further claimed that the primary election that produced Akeredolu was marred by irregularities and demanded for its cancellation.
The APC in the state appears to be in disarray few days to the election, with members of the party in different camps. Akeredolu has however continued to dialogue with aggrieved members of the party, soliciting for their support and has succeeded in wooing some of the governorship aspirants to his camp.
One major factor believed to be the strength of Akeredolu is the support of the Presidency which he enjoys. The APC candidate who hails from Owo, headquarters of Owo local government area in the Northern senatorial district of the state has his major strength in the district where the party is widely acceptable. The people of Ondo North senatorial district are believed to be die-hard supporters of the APC and they have demonstrated this in previous elections in the state .
But the APC gubernatorial hopeful may have difficulty in garnering appreciable votes in the southern senatorial district, being the stronghold of the AD candidate. But Daily Sun gathered that certain grassroots politicians in the zone are already working to sway voters in the southern district to support him. According to an APC source, primordial sentiment will count as Akeredolu’s mother is from Ese-Odo local government while his deputy, Agboola Ajayi is also from the area.
The APC also parades politicians of influence in the area. The list includes, Akpoebi Lubi, the immediate-past chairman of the council. To further boost his chances are the immediate past lawmaker from the area, Honourable Afolabi Iwalewa and Senator Yele Omogunwa, current senator representing Ondo South. The duo recently defected to the APC.
Ilaje appears not too comfortable for Akeredolu but he hopes to take advantage of the age long oil politics-induced dichotomy between the Ugbo and Mahin enclaves of Ilaje local government. He will also exploit to his political advantage, the frosty relationship between the AD candidate, Olusola Oke and the paramount ruler of Ugbo kingdom, His Majesty Fredrick Akinruntan. Further checks revealed that Odigbo is the traditional APC stronghold and most of those who control the area are entrenched traders from Oyo, Osun and Kwara states.
Jegede alters permutation
The pronouncement of the justices of the Court of Appeal which restored Eyitayo Jegede, (SAN) as the standard bearer of the PDP for tomorrow’s election has certainly altered the power game in the race to the Alagbaka Government House.
In a unanimous judgment, the three man panel led by Justice Ibrahim Salauwa dismissed the initial verdict of Justice Okon Abang as a charade. It further noted that the judgment of the lower court negated the doctrine of natural law of justice, since Jegede “was not heard prior to determination of the case.”
The declaration of the court elicited spontaneous excitement in the camp of the outgoing governor, Dr Segun Mimiko and the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP in the State.
It has however altered the contest which was initially perceived as a straight fight between All Progressives Congress, (APC) candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu and Alliance for Democracy, (AD) candidate, Olusola Oke.
Until Wednesday judgment of the Court of Appeal, the APC was no longer threatened by the compelling factor of incumbency as Eyitayo Jegede, the anointed candidate of the incumbent governor, Segun Mimiko had been technically displaced.
But with the restoration of his ticket by Justice Ibrahim Salauwa-led panel, the APC had to return to the drawing board to confront frontally, the awesome political machinery of Mimiko.
In the same vein, the AD candidate, Oke was smarting to exploit the predicament of the PDP, as aggrieved Ondo electorate were bent on indulging in protest votes, as the Presidency and the ruling party were accused of allegedly using Jimoh Ibrahim, candidate of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the erstwhile ruling party to destabilise the PDP and ultimately frustrate Mimiko from producing his successor. Despite his sustained denial, Ibrahim was daubed in crimson as playing a spoiler’s role.
Oke and Jimoh Ibrahim are from the same South senatorial district. PDP stalwarts from the zone not pleased with the business magnate were plotting to back Oke but with the window provided by the court for Jegede, the AD candidate may be ditched as Mimiko’s foot soldiers have reportedly embarked on last minute mop up operations.