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Ondo guber poll: A battle of wits between three Senatorial zones

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Akeredolu

As 17 political parties rev activities for the October 10, 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, the battle among the three major political parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), analysts have said, may be more interesting and keenly contested than expected.

Observers of the unfolding events said this is more so because candidates of the three major parties come from each of the three senatorial districts of the state.

The incumbent governor and APC candidate, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, hails from Owo, in the North Senatorial District.

The PDP returns to the poll with Akure-born SAN, Eyitayo Jegede, from the Central District. Jegede slugged it out with Akeredolu in 2016 but lost at a time the PDP was the ruling party.

The emergence of the incumbent deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, on the scene, has disrupted the political space and brought to fore the narration of a viable third force, which analysts say must not be underestimated. Ajayi, who hails from Ese-Odo, a riverine area in the South Senatorial District, is taking the first shot at governorship on the platform of ZLP, raising all possible sentiments to sway the district for a mass movement to topple his former parties.

Political analysts have pointed out that the formidable force presented by each of the three senatorial districts may defy all superficial calculations as any smart candidate amongst them may spring mouth-gaping surprises.

ZLP is seen as a third force to the APC and PDP in the upcoming election. And with stepping aside of ZLP’s former candidate, Solomon Benjamin, for Ajayi, all seems set for a tight contest between all the senatorial zones

The strong ties between Ajayi and the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who is the ZLP National Leader, cannot be discountenanced. A glimmer of how that could sway events was seen when most lieutenants and loyalists of Mimiko, who were still in PDP, collapsed their structures for Ajayi when he first decamped to the PDP. The former Chief of Staff in Mimiko’s cabinet, Kola Ademujimi, even became the Director General of the Ajayi’s campaign.

Unfortunately, Ajayi, who rejoined PDP less than 30 days before the primary election could not surmount all hurdles in PDP to win the July 22 primary as he lost to Jegede, hence his move to ZLP.

Though Ajayi joined APC shortly before the 2016 governorship election in the state, he had made most of his political achievements in PDP as a foundation member since 1999, rising from councillor to caretaker chairman, substantive chairman in Ese-Odo, and later member of the Federal House of Representatives.

Observers note though, that Ajayi’s exit from the PDP again may have dashed the hope of building a strong opposition against Governor Akeredolu and the ruling APC.

Jegede

Recall that since 1999, the South Senatorial District has been the strongest base of PDP in the state. There was also a belief that if the political fortune of the PDP were properly managed, it would make the party a formidable force to defeat APC.

Notwithstanding, with Ajayi being backed by Mimiko, who has an indelible history of third force machinery and political surprises, ZLP may present as an headache to the APC and PDP in the race to the Alagbaka House.

Feelers from political circles suggest that the PDP may be the greatest loser in the situation at hand as many party men, especially those from the South District, who believe it is the district’s turn to produce the state governor, are poised to work against the party.

According to them, the major reason for PDP’s failure in the 2016 poll was the insistence of Mimiko, who broke the two-term jinx and was from the Central District, to impose a successor, Jegede, who is also from same district.

As a hint of political ill-luck to the PDP’s Jegede, one of the loyalists of Mimiko, Gboye Adegbenro, who was a colleague and Commissioner for Works, was picked as running mate to Ajayi. Adegbenro hails from the same Central District with Jegede; he is from Ifedore Local Government Area of the state. His choice is seen as a huge political disadvantage to the PDP.

The implication, analysts noted, is that it will divide the votes expected from Akure kingdom, which is spread across four out of the six councils in the district namely: Ifedore, Idanre, Akure South and Akure North. Besides, they added that Adegbenro would enjoy maximum support from his people in Ifedore/Idanre Federal Constituency, while Mimiko would always deliver his Ondo East and Ondo West strongholds for ZLP.

Leading some PDP stalwarts and members to ZLP last week in Idanre council, Ademujimi said that the rank and file of the PDP are depleting on daily basis since the primary election, which produced Jegede as the party’s flagbearer.

He lamented that the Deputy Governor was made to leave the party because of the hostility displayed towards him by members of the party in the state. “People are defecting from APC, PDP and others ever since the deputy governor picked the governorship ticket of ZLP. Agboola Ajayi is out to win this election. Ajayi’s coming to join PDP was an advantage to PDP but they lost the opportunity. They attacked some of our members because of the Deputy Governor,” he said.

Another PDP stalwart, Mr Jimi Akintade, who led over 100 members of PDP to ZLP in Idanre, said they decided to dump PDP because those they met in PDP were hostile to them.

“We went to APC with former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, but we left and joined the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, when he defected to PDP. We were treated like unwanted guests in PDP. That is why we defected to ZLP. ZLP is very accommodating.”

Akintade declared that only the Deputy Governor and Governor Akeredolu were contesting the election, saying “It is not yet time for the central, so Jegede is not contesting. The way PDP is treating people from Idanre, PDP cannot win any election here.

Speaking on the third force realities in the state, the Media Adviser to the Deputy Governor, Mr. Allen Sowore, said there was unease in the incumbent governor’s camp.

He said, “The governor was told that the shortcut to winning was to prevent the Deputy Governor from becoming the candidate of the PDP. Perhaps, this explains the apparent collaboration of state actors, internal enemies and career spoilers during the PDP primary election.

“But since the Chief Executive got wind of the emergence of the people’s force – the credible and dependable alternative to wrestle power from him, he has become jittery. Ògá is now running from pillar to post.”

Meanwhile, while the opposition believed that the internal crises within the APC would stop Akeredolu from winning the party’s ticket for a second term, that hope was short-lived when the party adopted indirect primary option.

To the surprise of all, the governor, who declared openly that he was not scared of direct primary, did not only win the primary election, he also won over his major contenders and opponents to support his reelection bid.

One of the former arch-rivals and Executive Director of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC), Ife Oyedele, said there was no alternative to re-electing Governor Akeredolu in the October election.

Oyedele, who withdrew from the election less than 24 hours to the July 20 primary, donated his multi-million Naira campaign office to boost the governor’s re-election project.

He maintained that Akeredolu remains the best option among his co-contestants, correcting the misconception that members of the Unity Forum were determined to remove him by all means.

Oyedele advised the electorate not to allow the state return to the path of destruction on which, he said the PDP and Labour Party (LP) put it for eight years.

“Apart from the fact that voting PDP will return us to Egypt, the party will also disrupt the peaceful rotation agreement in the state. PDP and other opposition parties do not have any aim for good governance. They are parties without qualities. At the moment, Akeredolu remains the best option for us in the state,” he said.

In a bid to put up a well-coordinated governorship campaign and performance across the 18 councils of the state, the governor unveiled over 31,000 members campaign committee.

Ajayi

It consists of 37 members Campaign Council chaired by the governor himself, while the state APC Chairman is the Chairman of Campaign Committee and former Assembly Speaker, Victor Olabimtan is the Director General.

There is a total of 30,545 members in the Voting Units Canvassers Committee chaired by Charles Fagbohunka, while the Media and Publicity Committee has 21 members, chaired by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo. The Civil Society and Support Groups Committee has 103 members headed by Alex Ajipe, while the Special Interest Groups Committee has 395 members headed by Isaac Itiola; among other committees.

Taunting the PDP in the bid to defeat him, Governor Akeredolu declared that power would not rotate to the Central Senatorial District of the state until the year 2032, insisting that the North District will complete its two terms.

In tandem with the argument of most PDP members from the South District against the candidature of Jegede, he said the Central District just ruled the state for eight years.

“The south will rule for another eight years and after that it will come back to the Ondo Central District. So it is not yet the turn of Akure (Ondo Central), they should go and wait for their turn,” he said.

Similarly, the state chairman of the ruling APC, Mr Ade Adetimehin urged members to work in unity for the success of the party. He noted that there was no third force in the party.

However, PDP candidate, Jegede described the governor’s statement on zoning as “arrogant and oppressive,” faulting him too on the claim that APC would rule the state forever.

Jegede, who spoke through Eyitayo Jegede Campaign Organisation (EJCO), noted that “It is altogether amusing that the governor has turned himself to ‘a prophet of eververlasting rule,’ for a party that has left the people of the state impoverished and allowed social infrastructure to decay in the last three and half years.

“That statement was not only arrogant and oppressive, it also presented a supposed leader talking down on the people, out of desperation to stave off a looming electoral defeat.”

The group recounted that the PDP candidate, Mr. Jegede, had been highlighting his programmes of action as campaign issues, stressing that the reverse is the case for the APC flagbearer.

“The people can no longer be fooled with irrelevant tales, in the face of mass poverty and apparent display of opulence by some pseudo-aristocrats, who are currently presiding over the fiefdom that Ondo State has been reduced to. That ugly scenario, among others, is exactly what our people seek to erase, come October 10, this year,” EJCO said.


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