‘For equity and justice, Ondo North should produce next governor’
As Ondo State prepares for next year’s governorship elections, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Gbenga Elegbeleye, told NIYI BELLO in this interview, that “to follow natural justice and equity”, the governorship seat must go back to the northern part of the state, specifically Akoko area, where it started in 1999.
Akoko has enough voting strength
One of the mistakes people make is saying that the strength of votes from Akoko, compared to other areas of Ondo State, is weak. This is not true. Let us look at the insinuations that Akure has more votes than Akoko. In the last presidential elections, the total votes cast for Jonathan and Buhari in the three councils of Akure South, Akure North and Ifedore, is about 110,000. We cannot add Idanre because Idanre is more of Ondo. But in the four councils of Akoko Northwest, Akoko Southeast, Akoko Southwest and Akoko Northeast, the total number of votes is 114,000. So we have more votes delivery.
And when you look at the generality of votes across all the three senatorial districts in the same election for the two leading presidential candidates and all the other contestants, Ondo North had 174,000; the Central had 189,000 while the South had 181,000. So the difference between the zones in terms of vote delivery is very thin. This I am sure cannot be maintained if an Akoko son is contesting the governorship election because he would be able to garner more votes from the Akoko area. These talks about the Akoko or Ondo North having less number of voters are not correct. The records are there with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for anybody to confirm. As they say, facts are sacred.
On the agitation by my brothers from the central to be governor next year, with due respect to them, I don’t think their agitation follow the process of natural justice, equity and fair play. It is not that they are not qualified to be governor but the current occupant of the seat is from there. The incumbent governor Mimiko is going to be the first governor to have spent 8 years in office, so it cannot come and start again from the central because all the three senatorial districts have had a go at the top seat in the last 16 years.
On arguments that Akure Division has not produced the governor
I don’t know what they mean by divisions. Who is talking of divisions now? How many of our people would understand that line of arguments. I am sure that a 35 year-old man would not understand what they are talking about. We are talking of senatorial districts. We don’t use divisions in politics. What we have is ward, constituency, local government, federal constituency and senatorial district. That is what we use. There is nothing like division. In which state are they using that one in the federation. How can they be talking about that when we don’t have divisional governments? All the senatorial districts have occupied the position and it should go back to Akoko where it commenced in 1999. The governor from Akoko in this dispensation, Chief Adebayo Adefarati, spent four years while his successor from the South, Dr. Olusegun Agagu spent six years. By the grace of God, the incumbent will spend eight years. So where do you put the North if somebody should come from the Central again. So if it is possible, they will have 16 straight years. And if it goes to the South and they have the opportunity of spending another 8 years, it would be 14 years.
On unity of the North
The North is more united than before for this venture. I am talking as an Akoko man and I know that the anticipation all over the place is for a governor of northern extraction. And I want to tell you that this same sentiment has closed whatever gap people might be pointing at between the Akokos and the Owo/Ose axis of the senatorial district. This time around, any political party that picks its candidate from outside the North does so at its own peril. No party can afford to toy with the determination of a people who are fighting for justice and equity.
As you can see already, a lot of socio-political, cultural and youth groups are calling for the governorship to go back to where it started from in 1999. They are making justified demands and if we are part of the same state with the others, I think we should not be relegated to the background.
But I am happy that the aspiration of the people of Ondo North to produce the next governor is already having a consciousness of its own. In the last governorship election, the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) zoned the position to the North because the party saw the way public sentiment was going. The same thing is going to happen now because the consciousness has become even stronger and even in other parts of the state, the saying is that ‘we have done our own’.
It is therefore important for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to do the needful and follow the desires of the generality of the people of this state and I am sure that the party will not embark on a path that could lead to electoral defeat.
In Ondo State now, the PDP is the party to beat because of the strong commitments of our members across all the zones and their determination to continue to hold on to the reins of power. With its solid structure however, the party should not make the mistake of fielding a candidate from a wrong area. With the sense of judgment of an average Ondo State person, questions will be asked why certain steps of injustice are taken.
But as you asked, if somebody like me is picked as the candidate of my party I want to assure you that I will not only win the votes in all the four Akoko councils, but will win the overall exercise.
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