Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Ahead of the October 10 governorship election in Ondo, political gladiators are getting set for a major battle for the number one executive seat in the state.
For those conversant with the politics of the Sunshine state, the three leading parties in Ondo include the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). However, of the three parties, the APC and the PDP are already embroiled in serious intra-party crisis which has polarized them even as factions have emerged with some party faithful already defecting to the opposing parties almost on a daily basis.
But for the Corona Virus pandemic which has prevented the various political parties to engage more in internal activities, politics would have been at the highest pitch.
The governorship aspirants of both the APC and the PDP are not leaving any stone unturned regarding their campaigns ahead of their party primaries even as their campaign trail moves from ward to ward and local government to local government. There is a frenzy to win the support of the party delegates to the primary even as the number of aspirants continues to increase across various political parties.
Both the APC and PDP have fixed dates for their parties’ primaries and the nomination forms have also been released for interested members of the party.
The APC appears to parade the highest number of aspirants as no fewer than 10 persons have indicated their interest in the governorship primary of the party.
Political watchers, however, say that not all the aspirants are serious with the contest, as some only want to use their indication of interest to negotiate or lobby for positions.
Some of those considered as serious contenders within the APC include the incumbent Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, the senator representing Ondo North Senatorial District, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, former chairman of the party in the state, Isaac Kekemeke and Chief Olusola Oke, who contested the 2016 governorship election in the state on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The incumbent Deputy Governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi is rumoured to also be interested in the governorship race though he has not made his position known to the public. This is even as there is controversy surrounding his membership of the APC, as it is being speculated that he may contest under the PDP.
Although Ajayi is still in the APC, there are rumours that he may leave the party any time before the primary. The Deputy Governor is also reported to have got membership card of the PDP.
The relationship between Akeredolu and Ajayi has been frosty since last year when Akeredolu took ill. Although both of them have been silent on the matter, political observers are of the view that the two gladiators are not on the same page and the reason for this is the forthcoming governorship election.
There are indications however that Governor Akeredolu and Oke are the front runners in the APC contest as they parade the highest number of followers across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state.
While the mainstream of the party led by the state chairman, Mr Ade Adetimehin is reportedly in support of Akeredolu, a faction of the party known as APC Unity Forum has endorsed Oke as its preferred choice for the gubernatorial position.
The APC Unity Forum led by the former Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Alli Olanusi was until recently a force within the APC in the state, with many strong politicians within its fold.
However, the bonds in the faction may have been broken with the recent pronouncement of Oke as the faction’s preferred choice to carry the ticket.
Strong politicians like Kekemeke and Boroffice, are said to have withdrawn their support for the faction.
Akeredolu stands a better chance to emerge as the party’s flag bearer, following his endorsement by the ousted National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. It was also gathered that Oshiomhole and the governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi are working round the clock to sell Akeredolu into the mind of the former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Political observers believe that Akeredolu needs the support of Tinubu, who rumour has it prefers Oke, who he allegedly sponsored in 2016 governorship election.
Political analysts in the state are of the view that it will be easier for Akeredolu to win the party primary now that he is governor and leader of the APC in Ondo State than it was for him four years ago with or without the support of Tinubu.
Moreover, the APC structure in Ondo State is controlled by the Akeredolu faction. It is the belief of observers of political event s in the state that Akeredolu’s control of the party structure is an added advantage for him to secure the APC ticket.
Oke was reportedly sold to Tinubu by the Minister of Interior and former Governor of Osun State, Mr Rauf Aregbesola who is banking on the support of Tinubu and members of his APC Unity Forum that has endorsed him.
He is a strong politician, who has since his days in the PDP been struggling to rule the state. As national Legal Adviser of the PDP, he was said to have garnered much experience, little wonder he came second in the APC’s governorship primary of 2016, having been defeated by Akeredolu with a narrow margin.
Oke, who hails from Ondo South senatorial district, unlike Akeredolu who is from the North believes he has strong followership to contest the governorship position regardless of his political affiliation, hence his defection to the AD, the same platform under which he contested the 2016 gubernatorial election and came third behind Akeredolu of the APC who won the election and Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP who came second. He is banking on the support of Tinubu, the Unity Forum and his level of acceptability in the party.
Kekemeke served as chairman of the party for about six years and believes he has what it takes to emerge the candidate of the APC and he has been working round the clock to realize his dream.
Kekemeke, like Oke, hails from Ondo South Senatorial district and served as the state Commissioner for Works and Transport and also the Secretary to the State Government. He was until recently a member of the APC Unity Forum and strongly opposes Akeredolu’s re-election.
It was alleged that in 2016, as state chairman of the APC, he worked against the party and supported Oke of the AD on the instruction of Tinubu. He was suspended from the APC based on the accusation, but challenged the suspension in court and won. During his formal declaration of interest to contest the governorship primary, he vowed not to step down for any of the other aspirants, not even Oke who has been endorsed by the APC Unity Forum, and whom he allegedly worked for four years ago.
Senator Ajayi Boroffice representing Ondo North senatorial district has at different times shown interest in the governorship position but to no avail. He is said to be a close associate of Tinubu and former Governor of Osun State and former National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande. A third term senator and former member of the Labour Party (LP), Boroffice also belongs to the APC Unity Forum but left the faction due to the endorsement of Oke. He has been reaching out to other aspirants to team up with him and to fight Akeredolu.
The PDP currently parades three strong aspirants and some others who are categorized as pretenders. The most prominent aspirants are Mr Eyitayo Jegede, the party’s governorship candidate in 2016. Reliable sources say he has the blessing of former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar.
An Indigene of Akure, Jegede was Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General during the eight years rule of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko. He is playing on the sentiment that no indigene of the town has ever governed the state.
Dr Eddy Olafeso is the National Vice Chairman (South West) of the party. His influence in the party at both the state and national level is one major advantage for him and he is already capitalising on it. A former Commissioner in the administration of former Governor Mimiko, Olafeso said he’s in the race to right the wrongs of the APC-led government, adding that he would do everything possible to ensure that the PDP unseat the APC.
Mr Banji Okunomo, the publicity Secretary of the party for many years is from Ondo South senatorial district and his campaign trail has been moving from Ward to Ward since he declared his intention.
He is a close associate of former Governor Mimiko but he remains in the PDP despite the defection of Mimiko to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), the platform from which he contested and lost the senatorial election.
The SDP and its candidate
Dr Olu Agunloye, who has again signified intention to contest the October governorship election in the state has been working round the clock to emerge the governorship candidate of the party.