By Yinka Adeosun
Following the decision of the Supreme Court and the earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal, the coast is now clear for Saturday’s election in Ondo State. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has no option but to replace Jimoh Ibrahim with Eyitayo Jegede as the bonafide candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election. While Jegede is the standard bearer, this battle is that of the incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. The outcome of the election will determine his political future and relevance when he eventually leaves office.
As party faithful and supporters across the state continue in celebration mode over the verdict, the storm is not yet over for the outgoing governor, whose tenure elapses on February 23, 2017. Governor Mimiko is not a happy man. Rather, his disposition is occasioned by his seeming needless battle within his own party in the political calculations of the state. Some spoilers are headed for a showdown to ensure that he loses grip of who becomes his successor. Having served as governor of the state for eight years, his dream of handing over to a successor of his choice may hit the rocks. The joy of any leader is to have a credible successor, who will not only continue his good works, but one who could also cover perceived shortcomings. After all, there is no success without a successor.
Mimiko’s greatest fear is the continuity or otherwise of all the innovations that he introduced in the state. The Mother and Child hospital, the University of Medical Sciences, Trauma and Surgical Centre. These are good projects which he personally conceptualised to fruition. In spite of criticisms from the opposition, the governor has sustained these institutions, for which he received international recognitions and awards. Quite understandably, there is palpable fear among the staff of these institutions who are uncertain of the future should another candidate, not supported by the Gov. Mimiko, emerges as his successor, which was why there was disquiet and uneasiness since Justice Okon Abang ordered INEC to publish Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Not a small fry in electoral battles, Mimiko appears battle ready for the contenders and pretenders who want to succeed him. The battle line is now drawn. With Jegede’s approval, Mimiko’s machinery has less than 48 hours to turn around the tide, especially as many of the party’s supporters have pitched their tent with other political parties amid the uncertainty of the outcome of the court cases.
In other climes, government is a continuum. The next government continues the development of the state from where his predecessor stopped. Sadly, this is not always the case in Nigeria. Politics of bitterness has beclouded our sense of reason and good governance. Opposition governments who ride on to become incumbent are known to rubbish what former governments did.
Since it failed to return to power in 2003, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) has been moribund in the Southwest where it once held sway. The crack in the All Progressives Congress after the contentious primaries that produced Rotimi Akeredolu have suddenly resurrected the A.D. Its candidate, supported by aggrieved leaders of the APC, is spoilt for a showdown. Olusola Oke has suddenly become the beautiful bride, especially in Ondo Southern Senatorial district, where he has the bulk of his supporters.
He is also banking on the votes of the Muslim community and a good percentage of the four Akoko local government areas, where his running mate hails from. He goes with his political structure in every party he has crossed to: PDP-APC-AD. Going by his performance at the last election, he has a large followership and can pull a surprise though his party is not very popular.
For Akeredolu, the winner of the controversial primaries of the APC, his forte lies in the might of the ruling federal government. He has the backing of President Buhari and other leaders of the party at the federal level. However, his undoing might be the polarisation in the party. If federal might is anything to go by, Aketi may want to ride on this horse to achieve his ambition of ruling the sunshine state, having failed in 2012. Considering the petering popularity of the ruling party at the centre, the APC surely has a lot of work to do to redeem its image and convince the people.
It is disheartening that the electorate has been reduced to beggars. Popularised by Ayodele Fayose, “stomach infrastructure” has been modified and expanded as politicians dole out cash, rice, bread, petrol (yes, petrol!), among other items, in exchange for votes. Being a state where the electorate are enlightened and well informed, it is disturbing that electorate struggle for this seeming largesse from the politicians. But when you realise that these are people who are being owed five to six months salary after service to the state, your worry evaporates and you can only imagine the impact of impoverishment which the incumbent governments (state and federal) have reduced the populace to.
It is worthy of note that the leading contenders are all eminent legal practitioners who have distinguished themselves in their profession. Wherever the pendulum swings, it is almost a certainty that the battle will shift to the courts, their first love. Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, Ondo state has enjoyed relative peace during transition times as this. The candidates should therefore caution their supporters in order to avoid an orgy of violence and a replay of operation weti e in the Wild, Wild West of 1983.
Elections are a means to capture power, and the winner takes-it-all attitude has made it fierce in Nigeria. As November 26 approaches, there is so much apprehension in Ondo State. The battle line is drawn and none of the contestants is leaving any stone unturned in a bid to capture the hearts of voters. It is clearly a power tussle of the godfathers and the unmistakable calculation towards 2019 in capturing the oil-producing state.
Adeosun writes from, Ondo State