How Ondo election was won and lost
The victory dance in Owo, the hometown of the declared winner of the Ondo State Governorship election and All Progressives Congress (APC), candidate, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu started before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), released the result on Sunday.
The ancient town had been in festive mood since Saturday morning when it was obvious that all efforts to postpone the election had failed.
While the electorates were on the queue to perform their civic responsibilities, cows were being slaughtered at Akeredolu’s house to fete people. There was enough to eat and drink. The aged did not wait for the conclusion of the election and result before dancing to the talking drums of the local praise-singers.
The scenario was a sharp contradiction to what happened in Akeredolu’s house in 2012, when he first gave a shot to Alagbaka Government House. He was roundly defeated by the outgoing Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
One of the chief reasons why Akeredolu lost the election in 2012 was attributed to his distance from the people especially the grassroots politicians. He was seen to be more of an Ibadan man than one of them in Ondo State. He had no base even in his hometown and was naïve of the internal dynamics of Ondo politics. Besides, he was also accused of being stingy.
Though, Akeredolu challenged his defeat in court but he must have learnt a bitter lesson, which, indeed, helped him to sing a victory song yesterday.
An informed source closed to him told The Guardian that Akeredolu began to prepare for the 2016 election since 2012 by doing a critical review of people’s perception about him and began moves to build bridges across all the three senatorial districts of the state.
He was said to have also been a regular face in Owo, Akure and some major towns in the state. And this reflected in the result of polls that depicted his wide acceptability in all the 309 wards; 3,010 polling units spread across the 18 local councils in the state. He did not only win election in some least expected territories belonging to his opponents but the margin proved many book makers wrong whose pre-election analyses were not based on any scientific findings.
For Akeredolu to have won elections in 14 local councils, leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) to share the remaining four equally testified to his level of preparedness that went beyond his Senatorial district. He trounced Jegede in Akure, his stronghold and won more council in the South than Chief Olusola Oke, the AD candidate.
It was also gathered that his ability to retain and sustain the party structure since 2012 helped him to survive the internal crisis that followed his emergence as the candidate of the party. The primaries of the party pitched Akeredolu against the embattled National Leader of the party, Ahmed Bola Tinubu who preferred Dr. Segun Abraham to fly the party’s flag at the election. But unknown to many, Tinubu was said to have initially promised Senator Ajayi Borofice and he was said to have deployed one of his foot soldiers from Ondo State, Idowu Ajanaku to work for Borofice, but when the “Lord of Bourdillon” as Tinubu is being fondly called by his admirers, changed his mind to support Abraham, there was already a crack in the Tinubu’s political family with some that had already identified with Borofice ambition could not switch their loyalty to Abraham.
Not only this, while Tinubu was routing support for Abraham, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, was said to be sponsoring Chief Olusola Oke whom the Osun governor believed has grassroots supports than Abraham. Though, Oke left APC after the primaries but his defection could not stop Akeredolu’s ambition of winning the election.
Yes, there was a sharp division in the South west APC that polarised the party between those who support Tinubu and those that agreed with the decision of the party not to review the candidature of Akeredolu as requested by Tinubu, but the cause of the crisis was to determine the fate of Tinubu in the party.
What many thought should have been an internal issue became a direct confrontation among party leaders and the battle line between the ‘Abuja group’ and ‘Lagos boys’ were drawn.
It was obvious that “Lagos boys” pitched their tent with Oke while Akeredolu was massively supported by the Abuja group headed by the former governor of Ekiti State and Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Sources within the party also attributed the success story recorded in Ondo election to the support of the APC Governor’s Forum that resolved to mobilise all that is needed to win the election.
For instance, Governor Yaya Bello of Kogi State was said to have spent three days in many villages and communities in Ondo populated by Ibira people to garner support for Akeredolu just as Governor Rochas Okorocha held several meetings with Igbo in Ondo to vote for the APC.
A serving member of the House of Representative from Zamfara State mobilised the Hausa community resident in Ondo to massively cast their votes for Akeredolu.
Besides, unlike what happened in 2012, the campaign team of Akeredolu was said to have been heavily funded to run one of the most sophisticated campaigns ever in the history of the state and to lure voters to vote for the party.
The legal hurdles that frustrated the PDP campaign was also blamed on the Abuja group that allegedly exploited indiscipline and internal crisis in the party to empower its disgruntled members to work against Eyitayo Jegede.
…How APC neutralised PDP ‘s power
Many PDP apologists have blamed the party’s dismal performance in the election where its candidate, Jegede came a distant second to the failure of the INEC to postpone the election because of the legal crises that set confusion in the party.
Indeed, Jegede was not sure of flying the party’s flag until 48 hours to the election when the Appeal and Supreme courts dispensed with the suit brought before them by Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and Senator Alimodu Sheriff, but many analysts believe the internal crisis of a party should not force the electoral body to shift the poll.
Governor Mimiko had not only blamed the INEC for the failure of the PDP to win the election but also accused the electoral body of working a script that saw APC victorious in the election.
Besides, many in the state did not vote for Jegede because electing him is like extending Mimiko’s regime, which many traditional rulers and civil servants vehemently opposed.
Many traditional rulers that had openly endorsed the candidature of Akeredolu were said to be angry with Mimiko because of “many unfulfilled promises” and his alleged inability to carry the traditional rulers along in the affairs of the state.
The civil servants that are being owed seven months salaries did not accept explanation from the governor why the state was insolvent and unable to pay salaries like many others in the country.
To the workers, Ondo is one of the oil producing states and blamed the governor for allegedly mismanaging the resources of the state.
Jegede is seen as a budding politician with prospect but riding on Mimiko’s back to become a governor is unacceptable to even Akure people where he hails from.
…Why AD failed to fly
Until bitter reactions that followed the APC primaries in the State, AD was in a deep slumber, but with Oke that joined the party to have a platform to realise his ambition, the party became alive.
Oke is widely believed to be a grassroots politician who dumped PDP for the APC and later joined the AD, but his new party did not have a structure that can do better than the result he got.
Though Oke was expected to do better and win the six local councils in Ondo south senatorial district but the perennial crisis among various ethnics of Ilaje, Ikale, Apoi and Arogbo/Ijaw did not give him the expected result.