Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
With almost a year to the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, political gladiators and stakeholders in the state have started regrouping ahead of the task of delivering the state for their preferred candidate and political party.
Already, members and loyalists of the three major political parties in the state -the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) have started meeting ahead of preparations for the next year’s poll. The three political parties appear to be the major ones getting set for the poll and they hold meetings virtually on a daily basis.
Supporters of the incumbent governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu have started regrouping ahead of the election, an indication that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria is prepared to contest for a second term in office. The only snag in his ambition is that Akeredolu may not be the only one in the race from his party and would likely dig it out with other aspirants.
The party is already divided with Akeredolu leading a group and a former Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Alli Olanusi leading another.
While Akeredolu is the only one who has signified intention to contest in his faction, a former state chairman of the party, Mr Isaac Kekemeke, a serving senator, prof Ajayi Boroffice and the governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the last governorship election, Chief Olusola Oke have also signified intention to contest in the other faction.
Although other aspirants may later spring up as time ticks, only Akeredolu, Kekemeke and Oke have formally made known their ambitions and have their posters and handbills pasted in strategic places in major towns across the state. Also, the three gladiators are said to have been meeting with stakeholders in the party across all the Local Government Areas in the state, even as they are said to be already planning to open campaign offices.
The senator representing Ondo North district, Prof Ajayi Boroffice was said to have made his decision to contest the governorship position known during a political meeting at his Oka-Akoko hometown.
However, political observers believe that the intention of Boroffice to contest will be subject to the position of the former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is believed to be his political godfather.
Akeredolu who returned to the state recently after he had stayed outside the state for over a month due allegedly to health challenges was said to be funding various meetings held at his instance among politicians of the APC extraction in the state. Despite his purported health condition, he was said to have been moving round to meet leaders of the APC both within and outside the state for the realisation of his second term ambition.
Although the governor has not formally declared his intention to contest for a second term, it was gathered that he was gathered that because of his ambition, he has been making efforts to reconcile the party which is already polarised. He was said to have allegedly influenced a reconciliatory meeting held with the two groups by the national leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former Governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande at the Heritage Hotel, Akure recently.
Tinubu, it was learnt pleaded with the two factions of the party during the meeting on the need to allow peace reign in order not to lose out to the opposition political party in the long run. He said the opposition parties especially the PDP was capitalizing on the divisin within the party (APC) to further their interests.
One of the key loyalists of Akeredolu who is also the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ifedayo Abegunde was said to have mobilised members of the APC in Akure South and Akure North Local Government Areas for the re-election bid of Akeredolu as he recently met with all the leaders of the party in the local government areas.
Abegunde, who gathered the party members at his residence, said the purpose of the meeting was to keep them abreast of happenings and for progress of the party.
At the meeting held at his residence in Akure, the SSG said “this meeting was called to awake us from slumber and to energize us. There must be regular meetings at least once every month because meeting is the engine of any political party.
“This will enable us to be active and it will create a platform of baring out our minds so that we can present our needs and concern to the governor. Election is coming next year and we, as drivers of the party, must get prepared for the party supporters outside there who rely on us. We are doing it in order to give full support to our governor. This meeting is called to awake us from slumber and to energize us, for there must be regular meeting at least once every month because meeting is the engine of any political party.
“This will enable us to be active and it will create platform of baring out our minds so that we can present our needs and concern to Mr Governor. I, as an experienced politician who has worked with three different governors of the state, can boldly say we have never seen a governor being passionate about welfare of his people like Akeredolu.
“He has performed very well. Infrastructural development is obvious across the state and the roads being done by this administration can stand the test of time. He has renovated public primary schools across the state as well. In fact, this is the first time that we are serious in the state about industrialisation. In Ore, the Southern part of the state, an ethanol plant is already producing along with other industries there,” Abegunde added.
Pleading, Chief Olu Ojo, the Chairman of APC in Akure South Local Government Area, asked the members to bring the party together, saying that love was needed to actualise the victory of Akeredolu come next year.
Ojo enjoined the party faithful to put behind all past issues and move it forward towards actualising the re-election bid of the governor.
Others at the meeting include: Simeon Borokini, a member of the state House of Assembly representing Akure Constituency 1, ward chairmen, women leaders and supervisory councilors in the two local governments.
Also in the PDP camp, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Mr Eyitayo Jegede has commenced intensive meetings with leaders of the party across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state. This, he began after he had signified his intention to contest the next year’s governorship election on the platform of the PDP.
Jegede who was the flagbearer of thePeoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2016 governorship election served under the administration of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko but the two of them are now in different political parties.
A legal luminary, Jegede who hails from Akure, the state capital believes it is the turn of Akure to produce the next governor of the state as the town, despite being the state capital has never produced the number one person in the history of the state.
The former Justice Commissioner said he has commenced consultations with stakeholders in the party ahead of the election which holds next year.
Speaking at a sensitization meeting with PDP leaders in Idanre and Akure South Local Government Areas yesterday, Jegede said he was in the local governments to thank the leaders for their unflinching support during the 2016 governorship election.
He also appreciated them for the efforts during the last National Assembly and Presidential election which gave the PDP two senators and House of Representatives members in the state.
While reminding them of the need to build a solid party ahead of the coming governorship election, the legal luminary urged PDP leaders in the state to be determined to work for the success of the party.
He said the task of taking back the reins of government in the state has started, urging all members of the party to be united and determined to wrest power from the All Progressives Congress (APC).
While soliciting for the support of party leaders in his desire to win the party’s ticket, Jegede said: “I am here to thank you for the support you gave me during the 2016 governorship election. I see myself as somebody who is ready to serve. I contested the last
gubernatorial election and we knew the result, the following day we went to church to thank God for how far He helped us. Now, I consulted God Almighty again, I asked if I should go forward on this project, He answered me that I should go ahead.
“I am asking you whether to go ahead or not? This is not the time for campaign. We will surely come back when the time comes. I seek your support for our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party,” he added.
A Former Chief of Staff to ex Governor Mimiko, Dr. Kola Ademujimi who also spoke during the meeting lamented that the people of the state are suffering under the present administration.
Ademujimi who added that things are not the same again since the exit of the PDP-led government in the state, urged members to remain loyal to the party ahead of the coming election.
The former Chief of Staff noted that the party is more formidable under the current leadership and enjoined other aspirants to join hands together to build the party.
Also, within the PDP, the National Vice Chairman (South West) of the party, Dr Eddy Olafeso recently declared his intention to contest the election on the platform, of the party, saying that his intention to contest was to consolidate on the achievements of former Governor Mimiko.
He said at a programme held at the PDP state secretariat in Akure that the present APC-led government has brought untold hardship and sufferings to the state, hence the need for the people to vote the party out in 2020.
The Zenith Labour Party led by Mimiko may have also concluded arrangements to field candidates for the next governorship election as the party recently held a stakeholders meeting in Akure.
It was speculated that the party was planning to present either the former Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Azzes Oluboyo or a former Commissioner for Works and Transport, Mr Adegboye to contest the governorship poll.
However, not much has been heard about other political parties but their participation in the election may not be totally ruled out as the election is still about one year away.