BusinessDay

Ondo 2020 governorship election: A repeat battle of the SANs

As political parties get into the final lap of their campaign for the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State, it appears it would be a repeat of the 2016 governorship election.

The 2016 election battle was between two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, Agboola Ajayi, was then the running mate of Akeredolu, who eventually won the election.

So, the leading candidates in the 2020 election are gladiators that participated in the 2016 election.

2016 witnessed intra-party squabbles in the APC and the PDP.

A chieftain of the APC, Olusola Oke, after losing the primary defected to the Alliance for Democracy to contest the governorship election.

The PDP also had a fair share of the fate. The High Court and the Court of Appeal declared Jimoh Ibrahim the PDP candidate before the Supreme Court reversed the judgments and declared Jegede the rightful candidate two days to the election.

But the chairman of the Media Committee for Jegede, Benson Enikuomehin, believes the atmosphere in 2020 is quite different from that of 2016.

“The intra-party squabbles diminished the chances of the PDP in the election. (Jimoh) Ibrahim was the candidate of the faction loyal to the factional chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, while (Eyitayo) Jegede, was the candidate of the Makarfi faction,” Enikuomehin said.

“The matter travelled up to the Supreme Court before the final judgment was given in favour of Jegede. The judgment came two days to the election. There was no time to campaign, there was no time to talk to the people. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) refused to extend the date of the election but he still came second in that election. That is to tell you that the people love him.

“The scenario in 2016 is different from 2020. Now PDP is one, formidable and united behind their candidate. Fortunately for us, APC is disintegrating. They have just lost an election in Edo State; PDP won landslide.

“To make the matter worse for APC in Ondo, their candidate performed below imaginable expectations. Jegede is the hope of the people. He has given them hope for better and quality deliverable education, improved health care, security, infrastructure, industrialisation, empowerment and improved agriculture.

“He has also promised to reduce the exorbitant cost of education in state-owned higher institutions. It used to be N25,000-N30,000 before the government of Akeredolu increased it to N180,000-N200,000.

“The child-mother care which heralded free health care for pregnant women, children under-5 and senior citizens, which the APC government has mismanaged, Jegede has promised to return them to the people because he participated in the government of Olusegun Mimiko who built it,” he said.

Enikuomehin said Jegede had also promised empowerment to youths and to boost agriculture to make it appealing to graduates.

“The people are accepting him everywhere he is going. The APC has failed the people in the state and federal. It has mismanaged the economy, security and corruption is assuming a greater dimension,” he said.

Enikuomehin also expressed apprehension over violence in the election, citing a comment by the governor where he declared a former governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko, and a former Chief Judge of State, Olasehinde Kumuyi, as his enemies for life.

He also accused a former chairman of the APC in the state, Isaac Kekemeke, of making inflammatory remarks that could ignite violence in the state.

He recalled that Jegede’s convoy had been attacked in Oka Akoko and Owo in recent times.

“If the governor can declare the former governor and former CJ as his enemies for life, what do you expect his followers to do?

“Therefore, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to call Governor Akeredolu to order. If any life should be lost in Ondo, the governor and Kekemeke should be held responsible.

“We call on the police, the Department of State Service (DSS) and other security agencies to ensure peace reigns in Ondo State.

“This is democracy and not gunstocracy. The people should cone out on October 10 to vote for liberation and ensure the truth prevailed,” he said.

But it appears the APC would leave no stone unturned in the battle to retain Ondo State.

After it suffered defeat in the September 19 Edo governorship election, the APC has shifted battle to Ondo with a resolve not suffer the Edo fate.

The spokesperson of Akeredolu campaign council, Richard Olatunde, could not be reached for comments. He also did not reply messages sent to him.

Recall that APC, while grudgingly accepting defeat in Edo governorship election, vowed to review its processes and strategies.

“Our attention must now shift to Ondo State and ensure that we win the October 10, 2020 election. September 19, 2020 Edo election should present a new watershed. We will work hard to win the Ondo election,” Mai-Mala Buni, chairman of APC Caretaker Extraordinary/Convention Planning Committee and governor of Yobe State, had said.

Consequently, the APC has raised a high-level National Campaign Council for the Ondo State governorship election, chaired by Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, with the Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State as deputy chairman.

The members include Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, six governors and ministers.

The caretaker committee, the national campaign council and Ondo governorship council have been locked in several meetings.

A top APC leader privy to most of the meetings confided in BusinessDay that the party had learnt its lessons from Edo election.

“Nobody should think that what happened in Edo would happen in Ondo because many party leaders did little or nothing to help the candidate of the party,” said the APC chieftain who does not want his name in print.

“Even PDP should not make any mistake that they are going to win Ondo. Ondo is for APC, we have a sitting governor. All APC leaders are supporting Akeredolu but there was no support for our Edo candidate.

“APC will do everything humanly possible to win Ondo. We will not allow what happened in Edo to repeat. Have you forgotten that four years ago Akeredolu defeated Jegede with over 150,000 votes? In fact, Akeredolu is going to win Jegede with more votes this time,” the person said.

Meanwhile, the deputy governor of Ondo State and candidate of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Agboola Ajayi, said he deserved to win the governorship election because of the misrule of the incumbent governor in the last four years.

“Since the beginning of this political dispensation, the state has never had it so bad as every segment of the society complained about the manner Akeredolu governs them. The wealth of the people of the state has been diverted to private pockets especially those from Owo, his local government,” said Tope Okeowo, media director of Ajayi’s campaign council.

“For instance, the increase in the fees paid by tertiary institutions in the state by about 300 percent has made many students to drop out of school. It has also affected the financial status of parents who have to seek loans for their children’s education.

‘The mandate areas of the State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (OSOPADEC) are the worst hit because the government of Akeredolu cannot point to a single project executed despite the billions of naira that accrued to the state from 13 percent oil derivation fund from the federation account,” he said.

Okeowo explained it was this visible misgovernance of Akeredolu, particularly the way his immediate family members took over the affairs of the state, that made the deputy governor to fall out with the governor.

He claimed Ajayi is the best man for the job.

“Although there are other candidates who are aspiring to govern the state, Agboola Ajayi is the most experienced among them. He was a chairman of local government, member of House of Representatives and deputy governor. None of the candidates has his wealth of experience that cuts across executive and legislative arms of government.

“The unique selling point of Agboola Ajayi is the zone where he comes from. He is from Eseodo Local Government in the South Senatorial District. The zone has been agitating that it is its turn to produce the next governor of the state.

“In 1999, Late Adebayo Adefarati from the North Senatorial District spent four years while Late Olusegun Agagu from the South senatorial district spent six years out of which two were declared illegal. Dr Olusegun Mimiko has just completed the two terms of the Central senatorial district. With Akeredolu completing the second term of Adefarati, the North senatorial district has completed its two terms, leaving South senatorial district to spend its second term.

“As attested to by many of his friends, humility and accessibility make Agboola Ajayi different from other contestants. His humble background must have shaped his life,” he said.

Okeowo also alluded to the fear that violence could mar the election.

“Political parties participating in this election fear that it could be marred with violence as the APC members have been attacking opposition political parties. Two members of the ZLP, Mr Taye Okafor in Idanre and another person in Okitipupa have been killed by suspected political thugs,” he said.

As the Ondo electorate go to the polls this Saturday to cast their votes, political pundits believe that the decision as to who among the three top contenders emerges victorious is entirely in the hands of the people.