The major political parties are on the last lap of their campaigns for votes in Ondo State. The battle, which was earlier seen as a three-horse race, following the entrance of Chief Olusola Oke into the race on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), is looking like a straight fight between the AD candidate and his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu. In this report, Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI looks at how the parties stand in some critical local government areas that may swing the vote.
THE battle for Ondo State governorship is in its final phase. The the major candidates are making frantic efforts to consolidate their hold on their strongholds and making inroads into areas regarded as battlegrounds.
The crisis facing the two frontline political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – has altered the calculation for Saturday’s governorship election in the Sunshine State. The situation within the APC is may slightly be better than that of the PDP, because Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu is recognised as its candidate. For the PDP, the uncertainty over who is going to fly the party’s flag in the election has put it on a tight rope, where it can no longer canvass for votes. The ruling party may have given up in the race for the Alagbaka Government House.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that jolted the political calculation with the substitution of the name of the flag bearer of the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede with that of Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim of the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction, on the strength of a court order. Though Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who leads the Makarfi faction in the state kicked, but Ibrahim remains the candidate on INEC’s list. The unresolved dispute over who flies the party’s flag in the election has further complicated the chances of the ruling PDP in the election.
The APC has also been embroiled in crisis, following the emergence of Akeredolu as its candidate for the election. According to observers, what the party needed was a consistent and well-articulated formation within its ranks to wrest power from the ruling PDP. But observers say the defection of Oke to the AD and the resolve of Mr. Segun Abraham and Senator Ajayi Boroffice to dissociate themselves from Akeredolu’s campaign has dealt a heavy blow to the party’s effort to win the election.
On the other hand, the defection of Oke to AD has literarily given a new lease of life to the hitherto moribund party, which has now emerged as a third force in what many had thought would be a two horse race between the PDP and the APC.
At the outset, no one gave Oke much chance of winning the contest. But, the crises rocking the PDP and the APC may have worked in his favour, as the electorate may have no other choice but to vote for the AD candidate, to put an end to the involvement of political godfathers in Ondo politics. Oke hinged his determination to contest the election on the injustice perpetrated by some leaders of the APC during the September 3 governorship primary.
In the cofusion triggered by the primary and the inability of the party leadership to resolve the issue amicably, the party may have shot itself in the foot. The party was initially tipped to win the contest, but the misunderstanding that arose from the shadow poll compelled Oke to dump the platform. Other major contenders, particularly Abraham and Boroffice, may have elected to remain in the fold, but disagreement over the outcome of the primary has cast a long shadow over the campaign for the election. Abraham has stated that he and his supporters would not back the APC candidate in the contest. The APC, which was expected to be the beneficiary of those opposed to the leadership style of the Mimiko-led administration, failed to rise to the occasion with the crisis that marred its primary.
As things currently stand, Mimiko’s political family is in a disarray. Expectedly, the faction is blaming those it regards as enemies of the governor as being behind Jegede’s travails. The plan is to frustrate his succession plans.
According to an insider, the choice of Jegede was a very good one and it had already sealed the fate of the other parties before the INEC hammer fell on him.
The source said: “With Jegede, Mimiko got it right. He went for someone the people of Ondo are happy with. Many people see Jegede as the man to complete our party’s dream for the state. The acceptance was massive and it was certain that he will win the election. But the enemies struck and through Jimoh Ibrahim and his cohorts, they threw spanner in the works, creating confusion in our camp.”
But, the ongoing dispute over the ticket has removed the party from reckoning in the race for the governorship.
It added: “Most worrisome is the disruption of our campaigns. The time is ticking and we are worried, very worried. But the governor is still very optimistic that Jegede will make it and contest the election.”
There are allegations that Mimiko is already perfecting his plan B by supporting another candidate to ensure that he is not caught napping, if he fails to get the desired result from the court room. But, an aide to the governor debunked such rumours. He said while there are talks about the necessity and possibility of such an action now, or later, convincing the governor to buy into such plan, given his confidence in Jegede, remains a serious dilemma.
The aide said: “The governor is hopeful and we share his assurances, but quite a number of our people are impatient with the court process which Jegede is hoping to benefit from. To this end, we are already having talks about the need for an alternate plan. What is difficult now is convincing the governor to key into this and then deciding who that could be.
“It is not true, as at today, that Mimiko, or his faction of the PDP is supporting any of the candidates out there. Yes, there are talks, but we are in a dilemma as to how to go about it. It is not an easy decision, especially for governor Mimiko. But those who are worried are justified because our succession plan is obviously threatened.”
Our source also confirmed the fact that several overtures have been made to the governor’s political camp by various parties and individuals within and outside the state, since the substitution of Jegede’s name with Ibrahim’s, but quickly added that Mimiko is yet to promise any of the parties or candidate his support.
The source went on: “The truth is that people, within and outside the state, have been talking to him about the election on the strength of the removal of Jegede’s name. They all want his support for their candidates. He is the political leader of the state and they all know this. They know they cannot win in Ondo without Mimiko. But he hasn’t promised anyone of them his support.”
One thing that is sure is that Mimiko will never work for Ibrahim as the PDP candidate.
Ibrahim’s half-hearted campaign for the election is not helping matters. According to observers, a situation where a flag bearer of the PDP would face the audience at campaign grounds, condemning the Mimiko-led administration leaves much to be desired. The Publicity Secretary of the Ondo PDP, Banji Okunomo, belives the businessman -turned politician is not keen about being governor, but only working for some fifth columnists outside the PDP. According to him, Ibrahim had ceased to be a member of the PDP, whose non-membership of the ruling party had been verified at the ward, local government and state levels, having openly defected to the Accord Party.
According to analysts, the interest of the different senatorial zones and interest groups, who had lobbied vigorously for the frontline parties to pick one of their own as governorship candidate, would influence the way the electorates would vote on Saturday.
The calculations are changing by the day. As at yesterday, according to our investigations, the following is likely to be the pattern of voting on election day.
Akoko North West
This local government is likely to vote for the AD governorship candidate, given the fact that it is the home of the AD deputy governorship candidate, Gani Dauda. Naturally, the people will want to see their kinsman in the Government House, since the other parties have not chosen a core Akoko person to fly their flags.
Ordinarily, Akeredolu should be counting on the support of the electorate from this local government, if the party had not been polarised by crisis. This is based on the fact that it is part of Ondo North Senatorial District, which is the APC flag bearer’s zone. But since the party has failed to put its house in order, Akeredolu may not get much support at his base, if the story making the rounds that Abraham, Boroffice and other aggrieved APC chieftains in the area are not working for the APC candidate is correct.
The local government is Abraham’s political stronghold. Abraham is an aggrieved APC aspirant, who is still in court challenging Akeredolu’s candidacy. Thus, the fact that Abraham is not backing Akeredolu will definitely work against the APC candidate.
Besides, it is not a secret that the Akoko people are aggrieved because they prefer a core Akoko person to be governor. The political rivalry between the Akoko and the Owo dates back to the Second Republic and this played out in 2012, when Akeredolu, then the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate lost to Mimiko in nearly all Akoko towns.
Akoko South West
Similarly, the Akoko agenda is a major factor here. Since none of the other parties have deemed it necessary to pick a core Akoko person as their candidates, the people may settle for the AD candidate, whose running mate hails from a neighbouring local government area.
Although the PDP is well-rooted in the area, the agitation for power shift will work against the party here. The fact that Mimiko, who is very popular among the people is also bowing out after two terms, is not helping the PDP.
Akoko South East
Oke appears to have a large following in this local government. He defeated Akeredolu here during the last governorship election and may likely replicate the feat this time around. The emergence of his deputy governorship candidate from a neighbouring local government has further positioned him to give a good showing here.
Akoko North East
But for the crisis that trailed the primary election of the APC, this is a zone that would have gone to the party with bloc votes. The presence and popularity of APC chieftain Abraham, who is from Ikare Akoko, the council’s headquarter, is overwhelming and would have raked in the votes seamlessly.
Consequently, should Abraham’s kinsmen and supporters carry their hurt till election day, and with PDP not likely to make an appreciable showing here, AD and Oke may reap the bulk of the votes there. And considering the fact that Akeredolu found it difficult to win the council in 2012, it may be convenient to say that the AD is the party to beat in Akoko North East.
APC will win Owo come what may. That is Akeredolu’s home base and he is well accepted there. Supported by a band of hard working APC chieftains and members who are eager to have the next governor from their town, the APC candidate has left no one in doubt of his ability to mobilise his kinsmen on election day.
Akure North/Akure South
The votes in most of the battleground zones will depend on whether Jegede participates in the race or not. Like most of the councils in the Central Senatorial Zone, the uncertainty bedevilling Jegede’s participation in the election has thrown open what ordinarily would have been a closed contest in Akure. Akure is the birthplace of the PDP factional candidate and was expected to make mince meat of other candidates in the two local governments that make up the town.
However, with their son and preferred candidate, Jegede, now shut out of the race and unable to campaign, pundits say Akure may dump the PDP on Saturday and instead, vote another party’s candidates. The emergence of Ibrahim as the candidate of PDP has robbed the people of Akure and the senatorial district of having one of their own among the frontrunners for Mimiko’s job.
Thus, should Jegede fail to run, or the rumoured alliance between Mimiko’s camp and the AD candidate work out, Oke is looking good to harvest the protest votes that the people of the two council areas are expected to cast. Most people in the councils are in agreement with Mimiko’s position that it is the APC-led Federal Government that fueled the crisis that stopped Jegede from contesting.
So, it is most unlikely that Akeredolu will enjoy the support of the voters in the state capital. And for Ibrahim, winning in Akure, where he is seen as the spoiler who was used to short change Jegede, is nearly an impossibility. And if the result of the 2012 election, where Oke put up a better performance than Akeredolu is considered, AD looks good to clinch the two councils.
Another Mimiko stronghold. The two local government areas would have gone the way of the PDP were Jegede to be the candidate. As it is today, this is another zone where the eventual decision of who to support by outgoing governor Mimiko will play a vital role. As it is, whoever Mimiko aligns with will ride on his home boy status and immense popularity to sweep the votes. Obviously, Ibrahim and the PDP cannot win in either of the two council areas.
Ondo East/ Ondo West
This is a zone where the eventual decision of who to support by outgoing governor will play a vital role. Jegede, but for the crisis that kept him out of the race, would have reaped the majority votes. As it is, whoever Mimiko supports will be the beneficiary.
Olusola Oke of the AD is looking good to win the council. Aside from the aspirations of people of Ondo South to produce the governor, Oke is the indisputable giant of the politics of the area. Since he moved over to the AD, the party’s rating in the local government area has shored up tremendously. He is expected to put up a better performance than he did in the area in 2012.