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Significance of Ondo guber poll to critical stakeholders across party lines

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Akeredolu’s political campaign in Akure. Photo; TWITTER/ONDOAPC

Following the defeat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is hoping to repeat a similar feat in the Ondo State governorship election scheduled to hold in three days’ time. The Ondo election is critical to both major political parties in their quest for dominance. Ondo State is of strategic importance ahead of the 2023 general elections.
 
With Governor Godwin Obaseki and PDP’s recent victory, the party now has all the six states in the oil-rich South-South under its control, which, of course, will boost its chances in 2023 and also resolve problems of funding that has been a major challenge to the party since it was defeated by the ruling APC in 2015. PDP later regained Adamawa, Zamfara, and Bauchi in the 2019 election, including Oyo State in Southwest. The party has three states in the Southeast, with APC and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) having one each in Imo and the Anambra States.
 
The Ondo governorship poll could be the real game-changer for the major opposition party. If it succeeds in reclaiming Ondo, as it did in Edo, the party will now have two strategic states in the Southwest that are next to Lagos in voting strength and finances ahead of the next general election.
 
Unlike the weak position PDP occupied after the 2015 general elections, the party has since been on the road to recovery and now has more states under its control. After victory in the Edo poll, it was almost at par in terms of states under its control with the ruling party, APC.
 
In 2015, PDP was practically reduced to a South-South and Southeast party, with APC retaining control of Edo till the last governorship election. At the end of 2016, PDP lost control of Ondo to APC in the Southwest when former Governor Segun Mimiko could not install a successor in Eyitayo Jegede, who is currently flying PDP’s flag.
 
The party could not also hold on to Ekiti in 2018, as former Governor Ayo Fayose’s insistence to install his successor boomeranged. Between 2018 and the 2019 general polls, APC was in the firm grip of Southwest states but was to lose Oyo to PDP in 2019 when Governor Seyi Makinde dusted the candidate of APC, Bayo Adelabu, in the gubernatorial election. 
 
There is no doubt that whoever is hoping to contest the presidency from whichever region in the south in 2023, Ondo is one of the strategic states to look out for, especially for the PDP. Lagos, Ondo, and Oyo are the three most viable states in the region. Perhaps, that is one of the reasons violence has soared in this electioneering season.
 
The election will also be a matter of ego trip among some critical stakeholders in PDP, APC, and ZLP. For instance, major rival players in APC like the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, and Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi, who are both believed to have ideas about 2023, may settle for nothing other than a victory for governor Akeredolu.
 
In a similar manner, forces in PDP Southwest are also interested in winning Ondo come Saturday to boost their negotiating strength within the party ahead of 2023. Some of the stakeholders include Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo and former Governor Ayo Fayose. 
 
Recall that the zone could not make any contributions in the last general election to PDP because it had less to offer. Former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel lost out as the Director-General of Atiku Presidential Campaign Committee to former Senate President Bukola Saraki while the zone also lost its bid to produce the party’s national chairman and presidential running mate.
 
But if the party becomes victorious on Saturday, the zone would have a say in the 2020 national convention of PDP. It is therefore important for the party to regain Ondo.
 
In like manner, former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Segun Mimiko, who was unable to install a successor in Jegede in 2016, is also fully in the battlefield routing for the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who is contesting on Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) platform. After all, Mimiko won his election twice on Labour Party platform, but later defected to PDP.
  
In fact, the drafting of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, a political protégée of Tinubu into the Ondo election, indicates the level of commitment of the leadership of the party to Ondo. Some Southwest PDP stakeholders are also not relenting in ensuring that the party wins on Saturday. Some are certain that Ajayi may likely return to PDP peradventure ZLP takes the victory on Saturday.

WHILE speaking on the importance of the Ondo guber poll, Governor Makinde, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, assured the people of Ondo State that PDP would protect democracy. He also urged the people not to allow APC violence and threats to prevent them from voting. He charged security agents to do more to prevent violence

 
Makinde, who also chairs the National Campaign Council for Ondo State, vowed that the party would prevent APC from using violence to truncate the will of the people in the election. Makinde spoke over the weekend after a meeting with the assistant inspector-general of police, Karma Hassan, and the commissioner of police, in charge of the state; Bolaji Salami accused the ruling APC in Ondo State of masterminding violence to subvert the will of voters.
 
He appealed to the Ondo electorate not to allow the violence to be unleashed to affect their resolve to vote for Jegede. Governor Makinde also called on security agencies in the state to step up efforts to prevent the APC, which he accused of being desperate to retain Ondo State, from perpetrating further violence ahead of the poll.

Makinde said PDP and its candidate, Jegede, had been working hard to convince the electorate by running issue-based campaigns. He pointed out how APC Governor Akeredolu brought untold hardship upon the people. He added that the ruling party has shown desperation to retain the state at all costs despite failing to provide development to the people.

Makinde indicated that the PDP would use all legitimate means to ensure that the will of the people to have Jegede as their next governor is not subverted.
 
In a similar vein, Lagos governor, Sanwo-Olu, expressed confidence that the ruling party will win on October 10. The Lagos governor said Akeredolu, who is seeking re-election, has performed well and deserves to win again.

“The party’s confidence is buoyed by the giant strides of Governor Akeredolu in different areas of human endeavours,” Sanwo-Olu said, adding that Akeredolu has moved Ondo from her hitherto parlous state and returned it to a trajectory of growth and development.

According to him: “This is a major feature of our party. We pride ourselves as a harbinger of peace, progress, and purposeful leadership wherever we have our foothold.”

He stated that he was confident of victory against the other 16 candidates from other political parties. He also criticised the administration of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
 
But Mimiko, the national leader ZLP, said Ajayi is the best candidate to deliver good governance to the Ondo people.  
 
In fact, all the major contenders have their jobs cut out for them. For Mimiko, a victory for ZLP will enable him to re-launch back to political reckoning in the Southwest. Recall that he fell out with Tinubu not long after he became governor in 2008. The APC national leader allegedly expected Mimiko to join the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) then, but the latter refused. Their relationship worsened in 2012 when the former Ondo governor sought re-election, but Tinubu backed Akeredolu, who eventually lost. 
 
In 2016, Mimiko again fell apart with the PDP leadership because of Jegede and PDP lost the election. He has since gone into political hibernation. With Ajayi, he hopes to re-launch himself as a political leader in Ondo. The outcome of the election on Saturday would determine his fate, going forward.

  
  


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