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In Ondo 2016 guber election, it’s old wine in new skin

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Substitutes the image of Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with that of incumbent governor Olusegun Mimiko, Jegede’s main pillar of support and add those of Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressive Congress (APC), an exact replica of major candidates in 2012 governorship election in Ondo State would be created for 2016.

In fact, except for Jegede, who of course is the new face of Mimiko, and the change that had come upon the platforms on which the trio are now contesting, the same contending factors of the last election in Ondo are still at play.

In October 2012, Mimiko who was seeking a second term, contested on the platform of the Labour Party (LP), Oke flew the flag of the PDP even though he did not enjoy the support of Wadata House headquarters of the party which found a new ally in the incumbent and Akeredolu was the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

And as it was, all the leading contestants are products of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; a hitherto regional institution established by the Western regional government but this time, all of them are senior lawyers.

The three candidates in 2012 represented the three senatorial districts of the state. Oke represented the South, Akeredolu stood in for the North while Mimiko has now replaced himself with Jegede, also from the Central like him.

And also like 2012, the same issues of insecurity, economic deprivation, dilapidated infrastructures, high unemployment rates, inability of the state to provide basic services like healthcare and education and general despondency among the citizens, dominate the campaigns.

Four years ago, like now, two major external forces, the national and regional influences from Abuja and Lagos were at play to sway the pendulum for their choice candidates but these forces have found new loyalists in the Ondo political arena.

Because of the change of baton brought about by last year’s general elections, there is a new Pharaoh in Abuja that does not know Mimiko and has found a new Joseph in Akeredolu while the Lagos elements, which had previously promoted the bearded politician, has a new ally in Oke, the lanky politician who had no external support in 2012.

Mimiko, who had the double luck of having both the Abuja and Akure powers of incumbency in 2012 and whose emergence as governor was earlier facilitated by the support from the Lagos powerhouse, has only to contend with the latter to provide the pillar for Jegede, to complete the trinity of godfathers in the current exercise.

With this three-way contest where the godfathers are competing with each other to wield influences that will definitely have far-reaching consequences in the 2019 presidential election, the people and their yearnings seemed to have been relegated to the background.

To politicians, who unlike statesmen think about the next election instead of the next generation, the permutations going on in the Ondo exercise are about power acquisitions and consolidations in Nigeria’s larger political field.

For instance some forces mainly from the northern axis of the APC but supported by a handful of former associates of former Lagos State governor and national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who are said to be bent on reducing the influence his influence within the the party, have found in the Ondo election, an opportunity to achieve their aim.

The emergence of Akeredolu, a former beneficiary of Tinubu’s influence who in 2012 was imposed without a primary election as the candidate of the ACN is allegedly aimed at humbling the Lagos lord, who, irked by the handling of the situation by the national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, called for his removal in an open letter.

The travails of the Lion of Bourdillon, as Tinubu is referred to in the political circle, started when he led a movement that insisted that party decisions must be followed in the filling of principal positions at the National Assembly at the inception of the APC administration and came to the fore when party machineries were used to deny his ward, James Faleke, the opportunity to emerge as the governor of Kogi State when the candidate, Abubakar Audu, died suddenly before the end of votes collation.

If checkmating Tinubu from having a foothold in Kogi through the Yoruba-speaking part of the state, which Faleke represents, was to prevent him from taking a bite from the northern power pie, trying to whittle down his influence in Ondo, a Southwest state, is akin to taking the fight to the Lion’s den.

Curiously, however, the Southwest regional politics, known for its historical inward-looking approach to national issue, has thrown its weight behind Tinubu, expressing the readiness to protect their son, though a recalcitrant one, from the clutches of northern hegemony.

It is in the light of this that even those who are opposed to Tinubu’s politics within the region are united in rejecting the candidacy of Akeredolu who, alongside other anti-Tinubu elements in the region, is being dressed in the garb of an ingrate.

However, despite strident calls from many quarters particularly from the camp of Jegede, and it’s sympathizers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to go ahead with tomorrow’s governorship elections.

The Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP, some ex-ministers on the platform of the party and about 17 political parties, have requested that INEC delay the polls to allow Jegede, who had been distracted from campaigns in the last one month, to get back it vigour.

But the other participating political parties, especially the AD and the APC as well as other stakeholders including the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) opposed the calls on the ground that no entity, aside the INEC, has the authority to determine when election holds.

The umpire had argued that it could not postpone an election because one of the participating political parties could not put its house in order arguing that if the polls are delayed, desperate politicians may, in future contrive internal crisis to delay electoral exercises.

Besides, INEC said the timetable for the exercise has already taken into consideration, the stipulated number of days that should be observed between balloting and date of inauguration of a new governor, which in Ondo’s instance, is 24th of February.

Expectedly because of the heat the preparations for the polls have generated in the polity especially over the long-drawn litigations between the two factions of the PDP that eventually ended with Jegede being named as the rightful candidate, social and political tension in Akure, the state capital and other urban centres, is very high.

Although security had been beefed up with influx of 26,000-strong police personnel with other security agencies beaming their searchlight on the state, hoodlums, particularly immediately after the court pronouncement on Wednesday, unleashed mayhem on opponents, raising fear that the exercise may be marred by violence.

Before the Wednesday attacks which left about seven vehicles on the convoy of Oke who was allegedly ambushed in Ondo on his way from Ile-Oluiji/Oke-Igbo local council where he rounded off his campaigns, damaged and several of his supporters injured, there had been pockets of violence across the state but with no identified culprits.

The bottled up tension that was exasperated by the twin issues of court litigations and allegations of plan to rig the electoral process, always spill over during campaign rallies when rampaging hoodlums go about destroying campaign materials of opposing political parties and candidates.

On the night of AD’s first rally in Akure, all the mobile billboards of Oke that were placed along the Oyemekun/Adesida road in the metropolis were either vandalized or carted away by unidentified hoodlums.

Also on the eve of President Muhammadu Buhari arrival with other APC chieftains to campaign for Rotimi Akeredolu, the party’s candidate, all the non-APC billboards in almost all the parts of the state capital were carted away.

A source disclosed to The Guardian that overzealous personnel of security agencies who did not want “the president’s sensibilities assaulted by posters and billboards proclaiming other candidates other than his own” carried out the act probably to create the impression that Buhari’s preferred choice is leading the pack.

With preparations in top gear, it is expected that the ordinary Ondo resident would be spared the undue influence of the godfathers and chose a governor that will take a massively-endowed state out of the economic woods it has found itself.


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