James Sowole writes that much of the discourse on the impending October 10 gubernatorial election in Ondo State centres on three candidates
The formal defection of the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr Agboola Ajayi from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which he joined on June 24, 2020, to the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) has increased to three the number of major political parties that would fight to win the October 10, 2020 Governorship Election in Ondo State, famously called the Sunshine State.
As at Tuesday, August 18, 2020, when the window for political parties to nominate or substitute their candidates and running mates closed, all parties participating in the election had submitted names of their candidates for the election.
Before Ajayi defected to ZLP, which gave birth to the emergence of a Third Force, many people concluded that the race would be between the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Like the immediate past Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko did in December 2006 when he moved from PDP to the then relatively unknown Labour Party (LP) to contest the April 14, 2007 election, Ajayi with less than two months to the election has moved to ZLP to proof his popularity with the support of his new political leader, Mimiko.
Interestingly, the three gladiators in the 2020 Ondo governorship election, the incumbent Governor Oluwarotimi Aketedolu, SAN, of APC, Mr Eyitayo Jegede SAN, of PDP and Mr Agboola Ajayi, participated in the 2016 in one way or the other.
While Akeredolu and Jegede were their parties’ flag bearers in 2016, Ajayi was the running mate to Akeredolu.
Considering circumstance and political history of Ondo State, the people of the state believe that the election would not be a walkover for the incumbent.
To the APC and its candidate, securing a second term in the state, though, may not come on a platter of gold, shouldn’t be impossible in view of various achievements recorded during his first term.
At every available opportunity, Akeredolu always reminds civil servants that he had never denied them their salaries while the state pensioners rate him as their friend, being one of the few governors, who pays pension along with workers’ salaries.
Speaking with THISDAY, the chairman of the APC, Ondo State, Mr Ade Adetimehin, said the stage is set for Akeredolu’s second term because his works can speak for him in many sectors including prompt payment of workers’ salaries and allowances
He said, “In the areas of infrastructural development, Akeredolu has many road projects he can showcase as his achievements in the three senatorial districts of the state.
“Apart from many roads that had either been completed and ongoing particularly those dualised, Akeredolu’s administration has constructed many new roads in areas where there were no roads before.
“The testimonies of many indigenes and residents of the state’s Southern Senatorial District on the day the Ore Flyover/Interchange on Benin-Ijebuode Expressway, was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari cannot be overemphasized.
“Everybody heard what many motorists that use the expressway said, when they narrated their ordeal,while passing through Ore Junction, which the flyover has solved.
“In the area of education, the renovation and reconstruction of primary school buildings can be seen in all the 18 local government areas of the state while the health sector, has also been impacted positively.
“The governor just inaugurated four buildings at the Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology, and those projects were abandoned by the immediate past administration.
“The Ondo Linyi Industrial Park, Ore in Odigbo Local Government, where no less than five industries are already producing various products, was also facilitated by the Akeredolu administration and it has generated employment for our people. For all these and many more, Akeredolu will win the election because our people know what is good for them.”
Also speaking on the election, the Chairman of the Ondo State 2020 Gubernatorial Election Campaign Committee for the APC candidate and Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, said campaigning for Akeredolu, would be easier in view of Akeredolu’s giant strides in various sectors.
Aside from the achievements of the Akeredolu administration since inception of office in February 2017, Adetimehin could not hide his joy when many aggrieved members of the party, burried their differences and pledged loyalty to the party’s candidate ahead of the election.
Of particular note was the resolution of the leader and members of the Unity Forum and other aspirants that contested the ticket of the party with Akeredolu, to collapse their structures for the success of the APC in the forthcoming election. Prior to the resolution of members of the Unity Forum, many people had thought that the aggrieved people would remain in the party and work against Akeredolu in the election.
Also, many believed that the choice of Akeredolu’s running mate, Hon. Lucky Ayedatiwa from the riverine Ilaje Local Government, would also boost the chance of Akeredolu as Chief Olusola Oke, who came second in the APC primary and an indigene of Ilaje Council, has reconciled with the incumbent governor.
Apart from Oke, there are also other notable indigenes of the local government, including the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) Hon. Gbenga Edema in the administration of Akeredolu.
The power of incumbency as the one in charge of the executive arm of government, is another major factor that will definitely work for Akeredolu.
Specifically, most members of the state House of Assembly are first timer and they know that if they work well for his (Akeredolu) return, they may also get the ticket of the party to return to the House.
The same is also the case with many commissioners and other political appointees. Moreover, the chairmen and councillors recently elected would also work very hard to ensure that Akeredolu wins the election so that they can remain in office beyond the first term of the incumbent governor.
Many people interviewed, also believe that the ‘Federal Might Syndrome’ combined with the ability of the incumbent to muster financial resources for the new politics of “See and Buy” is a major strength of Akeredolu in his quest for a second term.
According to the people, some of the aspirants that contested against Akeredolu in the primary, may have been promised one thing or the other at the Federal level before they agreed to cooperate with him towards winning the election as there are many positions available at the national level.
However, obstacles against Akeredolu’s second term project, started from the inauguration of his cabinet and other appointees as some leaders and members of the party felt excluded from the administration and patronage simply because they were not in his team before the primary that produced him as the candidate of the party.
Some of these people are still aggrieved and may be waiting for the opportunity to strike.
Another factor that may also work against the incumbent governor was the failure of Akeredolu to appoint people into statutory boards, corporation and parastatals as a way of patronage for political leaders and their followers.
It is the believe of these people that Akeredolu who did not give them anything during his first time, when he needed them for his second term, can never consider them after winning a second term.
The greatest obstacle against Akeredolu’s chance is the popular campaign by the people of the state that a second term cannot bring anything better than the first term. To many people, a second term for Akeredolu should not be allowed in the state for any reason.
This campaign against a second term is the major strength of the PDP candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede. Expectedly, the pressure is always on the incumbent because people will always have one thing or the other against the holder of such office and the administration. So, many people believe in the expectation that if a new person is given the opportunity, he can do better.
Another major strength of the PDP candidate is the opportunity that Jegede has to claim all the achievements of the administration of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko under whom he served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
Speaking with THISDAY, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Hon Ikandu Peretei, said Akeredolu does not deserve a second term because his performance in the first term fell below expectation.
According to Peretei, the people of the state have tasted the PDP administration and the APC and they know the difference.
“The people of the state would not forget in a hurry the performances of the Mimiko’s administration in various critical sectors like education, healthcare delivery, community development, agriculture among others.
“Our people have seen that things have nose dived in many critical sectors and they are now regretting voting Aketedolu into office three and half years ago and they have realised that the time has come to send him packing from the Government House, back to Ibadan where he comes from.
“Look at the education sector, Akeredolu administration has almost abolished free education even in primary and secondary schools with various levies and charges. He stopped payment of fees for West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), which the state was paying since the tenure of the Late Chief Adebayo Adefarati.
“Akeredolu increased fees being paid in state owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) from N30,000 to N150,000 minimum just as many students of other state owned tertiary institutions including the Olusegun Agagu University of Technology, (OAUTECH), Okitipupa and the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, have also dropped out of school due to their inability to pay the huge fees imposed on them by the current government.
“In the area of health, the current government returned the state to the pre-Mimiko era, when maternal mortality was very high. All the achievements of the immediate past administration, have been eroded by Akeredolu’s administration. Look at the Mother and Child Hospital, go and ask the people what they always face when they go to the hospital.
“It is only when somebody has performed creditably well that he should think of a second term in the popular saying of ‘One good term deserves another’, Akeredolu administration was not good and does not deserve another.
“Look at the number of people that contested for the ticket of the party with him in APC and even Owo alone. How many people contested against Mimiko when he was seeking second term? This is one of the indices that the people do not want him again.
“People have learnt their lessons and are determined to send him out through their votes. If the APC relies on the ‘Federal Might’ and the use of security to intimidate the people, Ondo State is different and the people will resist them. If it is the new strategy of ‘inconclusive election’, we are going to defeat them. We have antidotes to their antics and the people shall tackle them. The power belongs to the people,” Peretei said.
The PDP candidate, Jegede as a successful legal practitioner can be seen as an innocent person wishing to bring fresh ideas into governance. A major obstacle is the area of the state where he comes from.
Though, there is nowhere in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that power should be zoned in any order, the zoning formula has become an established norm in all facets of life.
It is a general view of the people that it is not the turn of the Central Senatorial District to.produce the next governor after Akeredolu. According to a section of people interviewed, since Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who was the first governor to successfully complete a two term tenure of eight years, is from the zone, having another Akure man, from the same Central District like Mimiko, will amount to injustice.
The need to move power to the Southern Senatorial District, was one of the major reasons for many people to support the ambition of the Deputy Governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi’s ambition to displace his boss.
The people see Ajayi as the only one that can give Akeredolu a good fight in order to stop his re-election.
Some people believe that rather than voting another person from the Central into power, it is better to allow the Akeredolu from the North to complete eight years so that the South can take its turn after Akeredolu.
This is a major factor that may work against the PDP candidate unless there is a concrete understanding between the leaders in the Central and Southern districts on the future political arrangement between the two zones.
The need for this understanding between the South and the Central, was hinted by one of the aspirants, who is the immediate past National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Dr Eddy Olafeso, who said the support for the party’s candidate would not be blanket but will come with proper understanding and agreement.
Beyond zoning, the PDP candidate has always said it at different fora that people should not look at where he comes from but from the angle of his competence, personalty, integrity and what he can offer the state in terms of good governance.
In spite of the structures and membership of both the PDP and the APC in the politics of the state, the emergence of the deputy governor as the candidate of the ZLP, has made the race for the Alagbaka Government House very competitive
Since Ajayi joined the race first to contest the PDP primary on June 24, he has remained in the news while his performance in the primary jolted other aspirants having scored 657 as against 888 scored by Jegede, who is the party’s candidate. The primary was conducted barely one month after Ajayi joined the race.
Still believing in his ability and his structure to win the real Governorship Election, Ajayi left the PDP and became the candidate of the ZLP, which won only one House of Assembly seat in the 2019 General Election despite fielding candidates for many positions.
Ajayi hopes that he can win the October 10 Election by combining his structure in the the PDP and APC with that of Mimiko in various local governments.
The acceptance of Ajayi by Mimiko, who is the National Leader of ZLP, has created frosty relationship between the former governor and his friend, who is the incumbent.
Since Ajayi joined Mimiko, Akeredolu and his aides never miss any opportunity to lambast him (Mimiko) and to remind the people of the state about all his purported mistakes and inaction of on certain things including seven months arrears of salaries of civil and public servants and how he abandoned some projects including those initiated by his predecessors.
Both Akeredolu and the pioneer Vice Chancellor of OAUTECH lambasted Mimiko during inauguration of four projects completed by the current administration, for allegedly abandoning the projects and the institution in general.
Responding to Mimiko’s remark when he received Ajayi into ZLP, Akeredolu commented that Mimiko could not market a treacherous product like Ajayi ahead of the October 10 governorship election.
The governor, who spoke through his Commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo, said only a treacherous person can accept Ajayi.
He said, “We do not consider what the former governor said as needful of any response. He must say something to calm down and indeed calm the nervousness of his unsuspecting victims.
“We can only sympathise with him because he has come out to remind the people of Ondo State and as well reactivate their consciousness of his almost forgotten past.
However, Mimiko, said time has not come for him to respond to various allegations leveled against him by Akeredolu until the governorship campaigns begins.
Mimiko said the time to compare his government with that of his successor had not come.
He said any party or government that would not meet the needs of the masses at the point of their yearnings was not progressive.
He said ZLP is the only party that loves helping the poor to achieve their dreams.
Mimiko, who described the deputy governor as a seasoned politician, added, “all his good and bad sides we know, we do not expect surprises.”
The former governor thanked Ajayi for joining ZLP, describing him and his followers as true progressives.
Also speaking about the deputy governor’s candidacy, the PDP publicity secretary, said the reality would soon dawn on him that all the noise been made about him are propaganda.
While stating that Ajayi is not a threat to the PDP in winning the election, Peretei said achievements of the PDP administration when its candidate Jegede was the Attorney General belong to the PDP.
“Ajayi should tell the people of the state what he has for them. He cannot claim the achievements of the PDP administration when Mimiko was the governor.
“Mimiko is an elder statesman that is being referred by all. In fact, both the PDP and APC candidates have visited him. So Ajayi should not hide under his umbrella simply because he had gone to seek refuge under his party.
“Ajayi cannot win because election can only be won by the structures on ground. PDP has structure in all the units, wards, local governments, state and up to the National level. One man cannot continue to deceive the people. All the noise are bubbles and would soon disappear. He overated himself and he will soon realise this.
“Ajayi cannot exonerate himself from the misgovernance of Akeredolu and in fact he is still the deputy governor despite being a candidate of another party, ” Peretei said.
Also, the Chairman of OSOPADEC, Hon Gbenga Edema, said the fact that Ajayi hails from Eseodo in the Southern Senatorial District like him, cannot make him (Ajayi) win the election.
Edema said the people of the South were comfortable with Akeredolu’s giant stride in the entire state.
The OSOPADEC chairman, who listed several developmental projects that had been completed and initiated for the use of the people, said they want the incumbent to complete his second term in office and after that the people of the South can then decide on what to do.
However, despite several comments of the APC and the PDP, many people believe that Ajayi is a strategist in the field of politics.
According to them, there is hardly any deputy governor that survives removal from office. Also, it is unusual for somebody who joined a party in less than one month to defeat so many others that had been in such party for a long time.
“Though, Ajayi did not win the PDP ticket, his score at the primary showed that he is a strong politician. In the past three months, there is hardly a day that he does not have a generous mention in the media. He only needs to crown it by winning the governorship election like his new leader, Mimiko did in 2007,” an analyst said.
Interestingly, the three gladiators in the 2020 Ondo governorship election, the incumbent Governor Oluwarotimi Aketedolu, SAN, of APC, Mr Eyitayo Jegede SAN, of PDP and Mr Agboola Ajayi, participated in the 2016 in one way or the other. While Akeredolu and Jegede were their parties’ flag bearers in 2016, Ajayi was the running mate to Akeredolu. Considering circumstance and political history of Ondo State, the people of the state believe that the election would not be a walkover for the incumbent
Beyond zoning, the PDP candidate has always said it at different fora that people should not look at where he comes from but from the angle of his competence, personalty, integrity and what he can offer the state in terms of good governance. In spite of the structures and membership of both the PDP and the APC in the politics of the state, the emergence of the deputy governor as the candidate of the ZLP, has made the race for the Alagbaka Government House very competitive
Since Ajayi joined the race first to contest the PDP primary on June 24, he has remained in the news