Many felt the Ondo State governorship election would be a fierce battle between the Alliance for Democracy and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But, yesterday’s reinstatement of Eyitayo Jegede as the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) candidate by the Appeal Court ruling has changed such perception. The contest will be a three-horse race with the AD, APC and PDP battling for the mandate to occupy the Alagbaka Government House. Group Political Editor Emmanuel Oladesu examines the changes in geo-political calculations.
Yesterday’s Appeal Court judgment may have altered the geo-political calculations in Ondo State. Twenty four hours, as it is often said, is a long time in politics. Two days ago, analysts posited that only two parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) – as the major players in the governorship election billed for Saturday.
But, as Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), resurfaced as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, the poll has become a three-horse race. The appellate court ruling sent the parties, their candidates, supporters and other stakeholders, back to the drawing board to adjust to the ‘eleventh hour’ reality.
Following the judgment, the antics of PDP’s controversial former flag bearer, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, hit the rocks. Prior to the verdict, the eminent trader and lawyer, was not perceived as a threat or a serious contender. Popular attitude to his bid is that of an astute political comedian, who is estranged from the legitimate pursuit of power in the Sunshine State by the mainstream faction of his party, led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi. The PDP national secretariat has decried his activities, saying that he was a spoiler and willing tool in the hand of a bitter factional leader, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
The disputed candidate was conscious of his limitations. He has restricted his campaigns to his home town, Igbotako, and its environs. His engagement with the larger electorate has been limited to the pages of newspapers through advertorials. He never made known his blue-print. According to analysts, some of his manifestos are laughable.
The live television governorship debate organised by Channels Television revealed that Ibrahim was not ready for the challenge of governance. Observers have suggested that he was merely in the race to boost ego and settle personal scores with Governor Olusegun Mimiko, his arch foe.
Implication of Jegede’s return
The lucky man is Jegede, who has just received his own baptism of fire. Until his entry into the race, he was the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. His triumph at the Court of Appeal has implications. His party, which was on edge, has been instantly revived, energised and motivated to fight an electoral battle.
There was jubilation by party members across the state as the verdict rekindled their hope and relevance. Party chieftains who have been hobnobbing with other parties, with a view to forging an alliance, have started retracing their steps.
Also, the ‘Akure Agenda’ is on the front burner again. It would have died with the eclipse of Jegede’s ambition. Even, Akure indigenes in the APC and the AD cannot publicly object to the collective aspiration of the capital town to produce the next governor. The old Akure Division comprise of Akure, Iju, Ita-Ogbolu, Oba-Ile, Ijare, Isarun, Ilara-Mokin, Igbara-Odo, Oda and Ogbese. The push for power shift is being rationalised by patriots who believe that, since the state capital has not produced an elected governor since the Third Republic, the agenda should be supported in the spirit of fair play and justice.
Agenda versus zoning
The ‘Akure Agenda’ is in conflict with the rotational principle of the ruling party. If zoning is adhered to strictly, the slot should have gone to either the North or the South senatorial zone. Akure is in the Central District. Incumbent Governor Mimiko, whose two terms will expire in January, next year, is from Ondo kingdom, which is also in the central district. But, the district is a potent electoral constituency. Its numerical strength is always the deciding factor. The bloc votes from Akure and Ondo, usually, are the game changer.
There were a lot of permutations in that period of anxiety and tension. PDP followers, thinking that hope was lost, beckoned on the governor to give directive on the way forward. Two options were open to him, but they were not politically viable. Although Mimiko had the option of seizing the opportunity for alignment with the APC, there were fears that the terms of agreement may not be honoured in post-election period. It was insinuated that an APC/PDP pact would have given the governor a soft-landing after leaving office.
But, it paled into a narrow, selfish and egocentric view. Also, the option of a deal between Mimiko and Olusola Oke, the AD candidate, was a no-go area. The move would have been frustrated by pre-existing feud and bitterness. Since the days of former Governor Agagu, the two politicians have parted ways. Many believed that Oke called it quit with the PDP, shortly after last year’s polls, following disagreement with the governor after he defected from the Labour Party.
Calls for poll’s shift
Two days ago, Ondo PDP chieftains were fretting. Sensing that the protracted litigation may drag on till the poll day, they urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the election.
The temporary setback has taken its toll on the party. The PDP is trailing other parties in mobilisation and campaigns. No serious voter education has been done by the party during the period of tribulation. Party leaders have not made necessary preparations for the selection of party agents to mount the polling stations. Other logistics may not have been contemplated. Their sole pre-occupation was nomination-triggered litigation, which has now been resolved to the advantage of the Mimiko faction. Now, Mimiko and Jegede have two days to campaign.
As it is in PDP, so it is in APC
It is evident that the PDP will go to the poll as a divided house. The faction led by Niyi Poroye, is a paper-weight faction without tentacles across the local governments. But, the impact of the division will not be as devastating as the acrimony and disunity in the APC. Many of the leading lights in the APC, who felt aggrieved with the outcome of the party’s shadow poll that threw up Akeredolu, have kept their distance.
Issues at stake
Many issues will shape Saturday’s contest. These include money, federal might, popularity of candidates, re-alignment of forces, ethnicity and the agitations for zoning and power shift. The performance of the APC government at the centre and the PDP government at the state level are not significant factors. Judging by the combative nature of candidates and their fanatical supporters, the 26, 000 policemen deployed in the state would expect the best but prepare for the worse in some flash points.
The APC and AD have returned to the drawing board. They had hoped to profit from Jegede’s exclusion from the race, as it were. Both parties have shifted attention to Akure and Ondo, which have remained the strongholds of the PDP. For the parties, a realistic appraisal of the contest has become more compelling.
Eyes are on Akure. There are two local governments in the division. These are Akure North and Akure South. The indigenes are united by the pursuit of the power shift on the platform of the ‘Akure Agenda.’ To them, the tragedy that befell Jegede before the judicial intervention was a collective nightmare. His displacement by Ibrahim was painful to the traditional rulers and indigenes.
In 2012, the capital town had turned its back against the APC. Before the Court of Appeal judgment, the thinking in Akure was that the top leaders of the APC had hands in Jegede’s tribulations. Thus, Oke was about to make an in-road into the area, with a view to carting away protest votes. However, while Jegede may get majority of Akure South votes, the APC may get some votes in Akure South, where Senator Tayo Alasoadura hails from.
Some analysts have dissected the composition of the Akure electorate. The state capital plays host to indigenes and non-indigenes from far and near. Therefore, if the non-indigenes are politically organised and targeted by candidates, a bloc vote for a particular candidate may pale into day dreaming.
Also, the PDP has a strong presence in Ondo and Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo. Although Ondo and Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo are contiguous, the latter has been lumped with the local governments in the South District. Naturally, the votes from the Ondo East and Ondo West may go to the ruling party, owing to the popularity of the governor. Mimiko has ensured that the local government areas benefitted from some developmental projects. However, the three parties – AD, APC and PDP – will lock horns in Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo. Oke is leaving no stone unturned to win the council. The APC family, led by Wale Akinterinwa, appears more determined than 2012.
In Idanre/Ifedore local government, which is another stronghold of the PDP, Mimiko is popular. He has never lost any electoral battle there since 2007. In the last few weeks, the people were weary, thinking that the PDP had no acceptable candidate. Apathy was predicted by analysts. But Jegede’s reinstatement may have cleared the coast for the PDP in the local government area.
The Akoko Northwest council will be a battle ground between Akeredolu and Oke. There are many APC chieftains who may convince the people to vote for Akeredolu. But, the AD also hopes to reap from the fact that Oke’s running mate, Gani Dauda, is from the area. He is a grassroots politician and he has represented the constituency in the House of Representatives. Since there was no reconciliation, following the disputed primary, aggrieved governorship aspirants may not be inclined to mobilising their supporters to vote for the APC candidate. One of them, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, who hails from the council, is still challenging Akeredolu’s victory at the primary. Many community leaders are bitter at the APC because, in their view, the Akoko aspirants were ‘edged’ out from the selection process to pave the way for an aspirant from Owo. However, the saving grace for Akeredolu is the presence of party followers who cannot change alliance easily.
Akeredolu also has fans in Akoko Southwest. Four years ago, he had an impressive showing there at the close of poll. His structure is solid in the council. His campaign director, Victor Olabimtan, has been combing up the area, selling his candidature. Although the influence of the PDP cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand, the party is lagging behind in mobilisation. Mimiko has supporters in the council, but, the PDP appears to be a late comer.
The APC and AD are struggling for the votes of Akoko Southeast. They appear to be at par in consultations, mobilisation and campaigns. Akeredolu and Oke have fanatical supporters, although Oke got more votes than him in the 2012 poll in the area. The people may have developed an emotional attachment to Oke because he picked his running mate from Akoko.
Before the APC primary, Akoko Northeast was the stronghold of the APC. Abraham hails from Ikare-Akoko, headquarter of the council. There is bitterness against the APC over the improper resolution of the primary crisis. If Abraham’s supporters team up with Oke, the APC may not be able to make an in-road.
Unlike the 2012 poll, Owo is more passionate about Akeredolu. The town is united behind him. But, some indigenes are still working for the PDP and the AD out of principle. Many eminent indigenes are rooting for Akeredolu and they see the election as a personal battle. Akeredolu will win in Owo.
The influence of the APC is not in dispute in Ose council. But, things are changing. Oke’s foot soldiers have invaded the local government.
In Irele council, Oke is the undisputed leader. He will repeat the success recorded in 2012. AD will clear the votes in Irele.
Also, the people of Okitipupa are rooting for the AD. Oke is popular in the council. In 2012, he cleared the votes. The scenario will be repeated. AD will win the council.
In Ese-Odo local government, Oke is the candidate to beat in Ese-Odo. The people are emotionally attached to his aspiration to rule. He enjoys mass acceptance.
The homeboy will win Ilaje, his local government of birth. Other parties have no chance at all in Ilaje council.
The PDP has a strong footing in Odigbo. Before the latest court judgment, the party was in distress. But, it will now be a fierce battle between Jegede and Oke in the council.