Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ANALYSIS: Three-way showdown down to wire in Ondo governorship election

A victory for Mr. Akeredolu and his infamous Abuja cabal will interpret to a solidification of an enemy base in his backyard.

• October 9, 2020
Jegede, Akeredolu, Ajayi
Jegede, Akeredolu, Ajayi

Beyond the jarring theatrics of the past three months, the decision on who takes the Alagbaka governorship seat in Ondo State will come from voters based on the candidate they think would best represent their interest in the next four years. 

In the course of this critical decision, various matrices influence the final decision of the voters. 

Peoples Gazette takes a look at the journey of political power players in the last few months, the intrigues that have greeted their actions and inactions, and the chess-game strategy that major political parties have deployed in a quest for victory. 

In the beginning – a war of SANs

The October 10 election was supposed to be a simple two-horse race – Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and Eyitayo Jegede (SAN). While Mr. Jegede was confident of clinching the ticket of the main opposition party PDP, Mr. Akeredolu’s second term ticket had a rocky start with the APC.

Mr. Akeredolu’s stiff opposition came from members of his own party in the state who accused him of single-handedly running the affairs of government. 

They found allies in Olusola Oke, Isaac Kekemeke and Senator Ajayi Boroffice and together they took the battle to the national headquarters of the APC, demanding for a direct primary system. 

The grapevine at the time said APC national leader Bola Tinubu alongside the then chairman of the party Adams Oshiomhole were in support of Olusola Oke and may have indeed granted the direct primary request but for the intervention of the influential APC Governors’ Forum.

For Mr. Jegede, his victory was a slam dunk. The intrigues that denied him victory in 2016 were no longer available, and he had been in charge of the party’s structure with Olusegun Mimiko.

He comes from the senatorial district with the largest registered voters and his main rival’s political future was in turmoil. All that was left for him was to recite the oath of office. 

Or so he thought? 

The APC coup

In a move observers described as nothing short of a coup, Mr. Oshiomole was ousted from office and a caretaker committee was put in place. 

The new committee approved an indirect primary model for Ondo and this eventually doused the tension around the second term ticket of Mr. Akeredolu. 

Mr. Akeredolu went on to win the ticket of his party and with the interventions of APC stakeholders, he was able to mend fences with other dissenting members of the party.

At last, the APC was once again united.

SANs war thwarted

As the political atmosphere settles and all seems to be looking right, the deputy governor of the state, Agboola Ajayi, who was chosen by Mr. Akeredolu to the dismay of party faithful in 2016 dumped the APC and declared his intention to contest for the governorship position. 

Initially, Mr. Ajayi opted for the PDP and received a rousing welcome but when he lost the ticket of the party to Mr. Jegede, he dumped the party and found solace in the ZLP. 

Mimiko’s alliance

Until Mr. Ajayi came calling, Mr. Mimiko was on political sabbatical and many believed his political party, ZLP, may eventually collapse into either APC or PDP.

After his unimpressive defeat in the Ondo Central senatorial election where he came a distant third, losing to Ayo Akinyelure of the PDP, the political respect he once wielded ebbed significantly. 

But when Mr Ajayi needed a new platform to contest, he found ZLP as the third-force in Ondo and with Mr. Mimiko in search of a comeback to political limelight, their alliance became a match made in heaven. 

Push for consensus

With Mesrs. Mimiko and Ajayi’s newly-found marriage, PDP became rattled, the reason for which is not far-fetched. 

Mr. Mimiko until the formation of the ZLP was the leader of PDP in the state and, as a former governor, he has structures and loyalists across the state. 

Mr. Ajayi comes from a region of traditional PDP voters. His candidacy on the platform of another political party will only cut into the strong base of PDP. 

Moreso, his paraphernalia of office could have provided some boost for PDP had he remained with them.

To avert this, PDP held several meetings with Mimiko but both parties were unable to agree on who should step down for whom.

How they stand

The number to pay attention to is 1,478,460, which represents the total number of PVCs collected across eighteen local government areas. 

Ondo Central has the highest number of PVC collections with 559,228 representing 37.8 percent of total collections. 

Ondo South comes second with 508,044 collections taking 34.4 percent while Ondo North has 411,188 interpreting to 27.8 percent. 

Mr. Akeredolu is from Ondo North Senatorial District; Mr. Jegede of the PDP is from Akure in Ondo Central;  while Mr. Ajayi is from Ondo South. 

It is expected that the trio will have good outings in their respective districts. With Akure gunning to produce the governor of the state for the first time, voter turnout may be on the increase there.

As it stands, Mr. Akeredolu is expected to win with a wide margin in Owo being his hometown and Akoko Southwest which has remained a stronghold of the APC with Senator Ajayi Boroffice holding the fort. 

These two local government areas have a large voting population and voters turnout but they are not enough. 

Mr. Akeredolu is also expected to win Odigbo being a settlers community bordering Ogun and Osun with no direct lineage to Ondo, however, with the support of Rabiu Kwamkwaso’s kwankwasiyya who have declared support for Mr. Eyitayo, the margin of vote from the area may be limited. 

Mr. Jegede is expected to win Akure South where he hails from, and Akure North. He is also expected to win in Ose local government being a stronghold of PDP in Ondo North. PDP had a good outing there in the 2019 elections. 

Ile-Oluji-Okeigbo and Irele are traditional PDP strongholds in Ondo South and are expected to vote for Mr. Jegede. The current senator for the district Nicholas Tofowomo hails from here.

It is important to stress that both towns of Akure are cosmopolitan and may not follow through with the ideology of ethnic consideration. However, anything short of absolute victory in Akure will mean an immediate defeat for the PDP.

Mr. Ajayi is from Ese Odo, hence, he is expected to win his local government albeit not with a wide margin as the Ijaw side of the area is sympathetic to the PDP and might vote for Mr. Jegede. 

With the support of Mr. Mimiko, Mr. Ajayi may win Ondo West and East. Both local governments have long been sympathetic towards Mr. Mimiko and with the migration of PDP loyalists in the towns to ZLP and the maternal lineage connection of Mr. Ajayi to the community, he is expected to win. 

However, the House of Representatives member in the district who belongs to the ADC has decided to back Mr. Akeredolu. 

Battle zones

In spite of the expected victory at their districts, none of the candidates can emerge victorious without cutting into each other’s territory. 

The candidates are quite aware of this and have made conscious efforts to reduce the influence of one another in the perceived stronghold. In some cases, areas that could have been a clear win for the candidates are now with uncertainty. 

Akoko Northwest, Northeast and Southeast are the major battle zones in Ondo North. Akoko Northwest is sharply divided between PDP and APC with the two state constituencies shared among them. 

In Akoko Southeast, Mr. Ajayi has received the support of Sola Amodeni, a former chairman of the local government and commissioner for urban and physical planning. With his grassroots network, ZLP will be a formidable opponent to the APC here. 

In Akoko Northeast, none of the candidates is confident of absolute victory. 

Ifedore and Idanre are the uncertain areas in Ondo Central. Ordinarily, Mr. Jegede would have succeeded in these local governments but with the strategy of the two opposing parties, victory for the PDP here is now uncertain. 

Mr. Ajayi chose his deputy governorship candidate from Ifedore. This is expected to give ZLP a good outing there among the local voters. 

Even though the Senator for Ondo Central is from Idanre local government, the party will have to contend with the SDP House of Representatives member, Tajudeen Adefisoye and the PDP house of assembly member; both who have declared to work for Governor Akeredolu and Mr. Ajayi respectively. 

Okitipupa and Ilaje are the two focus areas for the parties in Ondo South.  Mr. Akeredolu’s deputy governorship candidate is from Ilaje and expected to perform better there. However, Ilaje is divided into two areas: Ugbo and Mahin. 

Mr. Akeredolu’s running mate is from Ugbo while PDP has the structure of its House of Representatives member who is from Mahin. Mr. Ajayi is expected to have a good outing here too with the close proximity of his hometown to Ilaje.

For Akeredolu to have any hope of victory, he needs a win in Ilaje. 

Okitipupa should have been a straight win for the PDP with the running mate of Mr. Jegede being from the area, however, Mr. Agboola seems to be having a good outing and has won the support of some considerable number of voters with the promise to restore electricity to the area. 

Okitipupa township may tilt towards Mr. Ajayi while the Oshoro community might vote for Mr. Eyitayo. 

Atiku vs Wike

Even though the election is simply an Ondo affair, the outcome of the poll will affect the race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the PDP. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who is believed to be in support of Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto to pick the ticket of the party proved his sagacity with the victory and Edo, an election he wholeheartedly coordinated. 

For Atiku Abubakar, Ondo offers him the opportunity to demonstrate strength to party decision makers that his victory in 2019 in the state was not a fluke. He also needs Mr. Jegede, his ally and lawyer, to take full control of the party in the state and deliver the delegates to him at the convention. 

Tinubu vs Cabal

With a presidential aspiration still sudded in secrecy and an unpleasant defeat in Edo state, Bola Tinubu will be looking to have his pound of flesh in Ondo. 

A victory for Mr. Akeredolu who enjoys the support of the famous Abuja cabal will interpret to a solidification of an enemy base in his backyard (southwest).

He has stayed away from Mr. Akeredolu’s campaign while his political rivals like Senator Amosun, El-Rufai and Amaechi have been putting in time to ensure the victory of APC. 

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