Akeredolu’s re-election repeats history in Ondo guber poll
•Buni, others as saving grace for governor
•Ajulo indicts major parties in vote-buying
Ondo people are in a celebratory mood following the re-election of Arakurin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu as the sixth governor of the state. He scored 292,830 votes to beat his two rivals, Eyitayo Jegede with 195,791 and Agboola Ajayi with 69,127 votes. With his victory, Akeredolu follows in the footsteps of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko for breaking the second term jinx in the politics of the state.
However, his victory did not come easy. He weathered a political storm within his All Progressives Congress (APC), before confronting his two rivals in Eyitayo Jegede of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his own deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
All the political adversaries within his own APC, who had taken up the battle against him in the past three years, harmonised their structures to support him after they lost the indirect primary election on July 20, 2020. Though his deputy, Ajayi, who ditched the APC to contest the PDP primary on July 22, lost it, he refused to settle with the governor. He was determined to unseat his boss by pitching his tent with Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). Ajayi’s conduct is a throwback to the 1983 political saga.
Late Chief Akin Omoboriowo, then deputy governor to late Governor Michael Ajasin and Akeredolu’s kinsman, had contested the 1983 governorship election under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) against his boss and the ruling Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). The same political scenario played out in Saturday’s election. What was different was averting the repetition of the arson and anarchy that contributed to the collapse of the second republic, as Saturday’s poll was generally peaceful across the state.
A close source to the pioneer interim chairman of APC and former Osun State governor, Chief Bisi Akande, who pleaded anonymity, described the Ondo Deputy Governor as a child of inordinate ambition. He said that was what also led to anarchy in 1983. He disclosed that Akande and Omoboriowo were good friends, and in one of his visits to Akure before the 1983 poll, the APC chieftain accompanied Omoboriowo to a popular clergyman in the state, who is now late.
On getting there, the pastor prayed and prophesied that ‘He saw a crown on Omoboriowo’s head.’ This prompted the politician’s actions to what aggravated the arson and anarchy that grounded the state, Southwest, and the nation to a halt 37 years ago.
Nonetheless, political observers point at the leadership provided by the Chairman of APC National Caretaker Committee and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, as the saving grace for Akeredolu and the party by holding an olive branch to aggrieved members, so the party didn’t collapse. A source close to Buni narrated how the APC caretaker chairman mobilised all APC governors for their colleagues.
According to the source, the party could not afford to lose Ondo State after losing Edo State due to the highhandedness of the immediate past leadership led by Oshiomhole. So, all the APC governors resolved to take responsibility for Akeredolu’s success at the poll as a challenge for themselves and the party.
In the 2016 primary, Olusola Oke, alongside other aspirants discarded APC to stop Akeredolu’s election. But in the 2020 poll, Tinubu also chose to support the governor, listing the gains of re-electing the incumbent governor. Buni noted that the positive development was as a result of the bid to consolidate on the gains of the party and achievements of the present administration in the state.
The Yobe governor, who was flanked by all APC governors at the grand finale campaign held in Akure last Wednesday, affirmed that Akeredolu is a good choice for continuity and progress of the state.
“We admonish you to vote APC because a choice on Saturday is a choice between continuity and starting afresh. We know that Ondo State people are wise to choose continuity. APC is here to win the election. We are not to fight but sustain our mandate underperforming Governor Akeredolu.”
The Ondo State Election Chief Returning Officer and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof Idowu Olayinka, made the announcement yesterday at the INEC headquarters in Akure.
According to Olayinka; “I hereby certify that I am the returning officer of the Ondo State election and that the election was conducted and the candidates received the following votes – Oluwarotimi Akeredolu got 292,830, Eyitayo Jegede got 195,791 and Agboola Ajayi got 69,127.
“That Oluwarotimi Akeredolu secured the highest number of votes among the 17 contestants. Moreover, he was expected to score 25 per cent in two-thirds of the state, but he scored it across the 18 LGAs.
Consequently, having satisfied the requirements of the law, I hereby declare Akeredolu as the winner and he is hereby returned elected.”
Meanwhile mixed reactions continue to trail the emergence of Akeredolu, as he coasted home to victory in last Saturday’s governorship election. The Guardian observed that the state capital Akure was in mourning mood, as their son and PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, failed to win at the poll.
Unlike the capital city, the ancient town of Owo, the headquarters of Owo LGA, where Akeredolu hails from, has been lit up with merriment and celebration over the victory of their kinsman, who has consolidated the precedent of the second term in the Ondo election, which his predecessor, Olusegun Mimiko established.
Meanwhile, in the South Senatorial District, the people are also in a celebratory mood and in high expectations from the APC and Governor Akeredolu. They are waiting anxiously for his second term to begin on February 24, 2021, so that in four years’ time, power will naturally shift to the zone.
While addressing a press conference in Akure, yesterday, on the process and results in verification of the election, Yiaga Africa declared the election credible, saying there was a significant improvement in election management by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC). The Yiaga Director of Programmes, Mrs. Cynthia Mbamalu, however, noted that there were some 28 critical incident reports from its Watch The Vote (WTV) centre, like vote-buying, interference by agents, disruption of the voting process, stuffing of ballot boxes, intimidation of voters, and INEC officials.
Yiaga Africa noted with great concern the menace of vote-buying and the impunity exhibited by major political actors in procuring votes with huge amounts of cash during the Ondo governorship election.
According to Mbamalu; “Across several polling units, the secrecy of the ballot was severely compromised despite attempts by polling officials to prevent voters and party agents from showing how ballot papers were marked.
“On election day, votes traded between N1,000 and N7,000 at the polling unit. It is Yiaga Africa’s opinion that the massive vote-buying employed by political actors in the election made it difficult for voters to freely cast their ballots in the polling units where they occurred. It is disappointing that elections are largely defined by the highest bidder and spender.”
Mbamalu listed other infractions to include community collusion, interference by security operatives, but she stressed that the shortcomings were not cogent enough to invalidate the governorship election.
Based on statistical analysis, Yiaga affirmed that; “The INEC official result for the 2020 Ondo State gubernatorial election falls within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimate. Had the official results been changed at the ward, LGA, or state collation centres, the official results would not have fallen within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimated ranges.”
“Because the official results fall within the estimated ranges, governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence that INEC’s official results for the 2020 Ondo gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units.”
Yiaga Africa lauded the National Peace Committee (NPC) for responding to the call by stakeholders on the threat of violence, also praising other stakeholders like security operatives and the National Youth
Service Corps (NYSC) just to mention a few.
The major opposition parties, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), which polled 195,791 and 69,127 votes to emerge second and third positions, respectively, said they were studying the results and would make their stance known in a few days.
Speaking on allegations of massive vote-buying, a constitutional lawyer, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, kicked against the foul cries being raised by the opposition to invalidate the victory of Governor Akeredolu and APC, which polled 292, 830 votes to emerge a winner. According to him, all participating parties were equally involved in the process, particularly the three leading political parties, APC, PDP, and ZLP. He noted that they all tried in the game of outspending one another.
Ajulo explained that the only difference was the financial strategy, wit, and coordination of the political parties involved to facilitate the act, attributing PDP’s failure to inability to present a united party for the election. He said it negated its chances of winning.
He added that several governors within the umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supported the candidate of the Zenith Labour Congress (ZLP) Agboola Ajayi, who left PDP for ZLP after the party’s primary that he lost to Jegede. Ajulo also stated that Jegede’s disposition to the party’s last congress would have given him a better shot at winning if the party’s flagbearer had emulated the tactics of Akeredolu, who stooped to conquer by making peace with all his old and new adversaries.
“I am disturbed that the PDP flagbearer failed to be on the same page with his former principal, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, and this, unfortunately, helped Arakunrin Akeredolu’s fortunes as PDP went into the election with a cracked wall,” he said. “Where are all state governors and national party leaders of the party? They even tried to beat up Ayodele Fayose during one of the campaign rallies.”
He lauded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the peaceful conduct of the election in the state and charged the electoral umpire to strive to do better in subsequent elections in the country.
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