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Ondo 2016: APC reeling in regret, SDP gasping for cash

By Leo Sobechi   |   16 October 2016   |   3:12 am

Watching the unfolding dynamics in Ondo as the November 26 date for the governorship election draws near, there is no doubt that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its flag bearer, Rotimi Akeredolu, are the most talked about names.

But on a closer examination, it becomes surprising how the party and its candidate are hugging the headlines for reasons that may not inspire superior votes at the poll. This is because, while the pains and plots from the party’s governorship primary linger, APC may recreate the ignominious blunder that made the Social Democratic Party (SDP) lose the 1991 governorship election to the less fancied National Republic Congress (NRC) in Lagos.

Already, part of the proceeds from APC’s palaver is that two otherwise cold political parties have joined in the chase for Agbabiaka House. Although the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has as its national chairman, an indigene of the state, the party does not look as if it is ready to compete. Governorship elections in Nigeria gulp fabulous amounts of money. In some states it averages at N6b.

Then the defection of Olusola Oke to the legendary Alliance for Democracy (AD) has succeeded in setting up a new political monument to serve as constant reminder of APC’s mismanagement of opportunity in the sunshine state. And given that setting, APC is wont to be distracted by a kitchen fight against its former ally, thereby leaving much space and traction of its traditional rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The kitchen fight has begun already. Ever since he crossed over to the former Southwest political boat, Oke has been causing some stir, particularly through some nuances around stalwarts of APC. It was understandable therefore, when during the inauguration of an unwieldy 49-member governorship campaign team by the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the flag bearer declared that the challenge coming from Oke and AD is like that of the dead against the living.

Akeredolu’s wisecrack was double barreled. In 2012 he did not become governor in spite of Oke, who ran on PDP platform. In 2016, failing to accept defeat and tainting Akeredolu’s victory with the smear of malfeasance, Oke moved to AD. So, the APC flag bearer, drawing from the history of AD, likens it to an abandoned boat and Oke as a defeated foe, declared that the dead cannot threaten the living!

Akeredolu stated that “If he (Oke) chose to contest under a dead party that is his choice; there is nothing anybody can do about that. That is not a threat; the dead does not threaten the living. We are confident that APC will win in Ondo. Ondo State is a ripe fruit and it is for us to pluck, no party can match us in the state.” The governorship hopeful premised his optimism on the fact that APC won in the state during the 2015 presidential election.”

That assertion may be sound in logic and inductive reasoning, but politics is not like mathematics or algebra.

Moreover, what the former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) could not voice out in the public is how Oke’s politics is causing APC some irritations. For instance, a lot at the composition of the campaign committee shows that the party has a big political fight to wage in Ondo, particularly when there is an Iroko as incumbent.

The campaign committee had ministers and senators, former governors and incumbent governors. Yet Ondo voters may find it hard to believe that the heavyweights are being rolled into the state to intimidate and inundate with possible benefits that could accrue if they choose to abandon Olusegun Mimiko and the PDP.

However, after parading the big names, it is left to be seen whether the governorship election is a compelling reason for APC drag Governors Simon Lalong, Akinwunmi Ambode, Ibikunle Amosun, Abdullahi Ganduje, Atiku Bagudu, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Rauf Aregbesola; to campaign for Akeredolu, given the politics surrounding his emergence.

The catch in the whole set up is that some of the governors, senators and ministers announced as part of the 49 ‘war directors’ have sympathy for the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Their concern could be on how their participation would impact on the injured political sensibilities of the former Lagos governor. This would, no doubt, affect their enthusiasm.

Some of the ministers and federal legislators may also have eyes on the governorship of their states. As such, knowing that they are wont to ask for the support of the giant of Bourdilon, may weigh against their tacit support.

Many politicians in the Southwest hold the view that Akeredolu was the making of northern power brokers that are incensed against Tinubu. Against this suspicious background, Akeredolu and those who may energetically work for his poll victory, stand the risk of being labeled as the handiwork of enemies of the fangled Yoruba unity.

Ministers like Babatunde Fashola and Kayode Fayemi may have gotten some hints on what is store for their political future from the backlash that attended Aregbesola’s recent fraternal visit on the Southwest stormy petrel, Governor Ayo Fayose, during the Ekiti anniversary.

Although Fashola scaled native huddles to do a second term in office as governor of Lagos, Fayemi and Segun Oni, still have an unfinished ambition to govern Ekiti. So knowing that Tinubu’s anger is not usually assuaged easily, could these men join the bandwagon to neighbouring Ondo, to make Akeredolu governor?

Between Tinubu and Akeredolu, assuming he wins the governorship; who is more likely to add quality voice to their ambition in 2018 when Ekiti would be due for another governorship poll? What that means is that Oni and Fayemi would distance themselves from the hot water in Ondo. Oni has tried not to intermeddle in the domestic politics of Ondo despite being the zonal vice chairman of APC. But for Fayemi, it has not been so. The immediate past Ekiti governor was fingered in the curious plot that threw up Akeredolu. Consequently, the eyes of his political detractors and competitors would be trained on him to see how prepared he is to fight against the Jagaban.

Give it to Fayemi, if it comes to concise analysis of issues and elocution. But he knows that in the area of grassroots mobilization and servicing of political structures, he needs extra help. Akeredolu may also notice that something refuses to blend, concerning the symphony and strength of his campaigns in the days ahead.

APC national chairman, Oyegun, does not deceive himself that the coming electoral challenge is not going to be easy. While inaugurating the 49-man campaign committee, Oyegun stated that special circumstances surround the challenge before APC in Ondo.  He said: “The challenge I am passing on to you today is the obvious challenge that arose at the primary. But I trust that you and your team will overcome those difficulties and deliver Ondo to APC family.”

Even as Oyegun disclosed that the party was already doings the needful “to bring the contending interests together and restore Ondo State to the progressive family,” getting it right at the grass root is where the tough work lies.

The part that should also worry APC is that PDP, which ordinarily should be seen as the common enemy, is having it easy and closing its own gaps. For the SDP, that comes off as the most auspicious has its own headaches. First, Chief Olu Falae, who is expected to offer moral and psychological support to SDP, being the national chairman; is being distracted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Again, the SDP, not having tentacles anywhere would have it hard generating campaign funds to mobilize men and material to offer meaningful challenge to APC and PDP. For a political party without well developed and strong local presence, the governorship election such as the one coming up in Ondo stands as an uphill climb.

Before now, SDP’s competitiveness should have started manifesting in the three senatorial zones of the state. But, not having any senator or strong political pillars in the senatorial districts limits its chances. And this vacuum is what Oke seeks to harvest, being a grassroots politician and a strong contender in the 2012 contest.

Why Oke seems to be attracting much attention to his candidacy on the AD platform is partly on account of the furor generated by the APC primaries. He is also flying the kite of consensus among former APC governorship aspirants, who now see him as the rallying point of their opposition to Akeredolu’s emergence.

Ondo would offer interesting insights into voter behaviour, especially given the variety of choices on offer. Oke, standing on AD, flaunts his charisma. Akeredolu, sounding valiant points to the federal might. Jegede has the power of incumbency and deep rooted political structure. SDP and Agunloye depend on good name and ability to deliver. In the midst of this, what role would power and money play in deciding the who carries the day on November 26?

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