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Battle for the control of Ondo

POLITICAL pundits have maintained that crises in the three leading political parties were the manifestations of the battle among godfathers, who want to use the governorship election in the state to test their political influence and popularity in the South-West.

They noted that there “are two external forces competing to reduce the influence and popularity of Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who calls the shot in the state.”

According to pundits, the AD candidate, Olusola Oke is being sponsored by a chieftain of the APC in the South-West who has an axe to grind with the manner the party produced its governorship candidate. Most of the APC machinery and logistics had been deployed to join force with Oke, whom bookmakers maintain, “looks good to win the election depending on various other factors such as the decision on PDP’s standard-bearer and others.”

The second camp in the supremacy battle, analysts noted, are Abuja politicians, who were said to be behind the emergence of Akeredolu as the party’s candidate and have been working seriously round the clock to ensure victory for Akeredolu in the election. But while some political analysts explained that the two forces see a common enemy in Mimiko and “are working seriously to diminish Mimiko’s influence and popularity in the state by aligning together to form a force against him,” others maintained, however, that the two groups would go against each other in the election, leaving Mimiko to wield tremendous influence in the outcome of the election.

 

Aggressive campaigns as D-day draws near

Due to the abrupt removal of Jegede’s name from the INEC list, the tempo of campaigns in the Makarfi camp has reduced, although Jegede had earlier toured virtually all the towns and villages within the state, with his political structures noted to be solid across the state.

Jegede had been far ahead of others in terms campaigning before his name was substituted, banking his campaigns and manifestos on the achievements of the present administration, convincing them on the need to support continuity to ensure development in the state.  Jegede, who has been part of the present administration, highlighted several projects as achievements, pledging to build on these.

Agunloye  and Jegede
Agunloye and Jegede

Though the court order halted his campaign, Jegede, according to some PDP loyalists, still remained the toast of the people and “will surely overtake all other contenders if the Appeal Court rules in his favour at the end of the day.”

Despite the hurdles facing the former Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in the state, his foot soldiers have been everywhere across the state campaigning vigorously for the party and Jegede and assuring the people that his candidacy would make the ballot.

Similarly, APC, AD and SDP loyalists have also increased their presence across the state, engaging in aggressive campaigns, trying to convince the electorate in the state. But a notable feature in the campaigns of the AD and APC was the shift from issue-based campaign to accusations and recriminations. Though the two parties had, earlier in the campaign, highlighted issues and programmes with each of the parties promising to revamp the state economy, stable power supply, building on existing policies of the present government in the state, reviving ailing and moribund industries, among others, things changed recently as the APC and AD played opposition politics, getting on each other’s nerves.

 

Strengths, likely chances of contending forces

Without doubt, the substitution of the PDP candidate would alter the voting pattern in the forthcoming election in the state unless Jegede regains the party’s ticket, political observers have noted.

Divided into three senatorial districts with 18 local governments spread evenly across the three senatorial districts, the 2016 governorship election has become a decisive test for each of the zones to prove its strength in terms of voting and political awareness. Though the Central Senatorial district, which comprises Ondo East, Ondo West, Idanre, Ifedore, Akure North and Akure South local government has the highest number of electorate and is regarded as the stronghold of the PDP, the two other senatorial districts from where the candidates of the APC and AD emerged, have been in a kind of silent struggle with the Ondo Central district over who becomes the next governor of the state. The district, which produced Mimiko, who has been governor for two successive terms, has also produced Jegede who was recently substituted, following widespread sentiment in Akure, the state capital, over the fact that it has never produced the state governor. Riding on what was popularly regarded as the Akure Agenda, the Ondo Central district appeared to have succeeded in the first leg of the struggle to retain the governor’s seat until INEC removed Jegede’s name, a development which pundits noted would affect the turnout of Akure voters if eventually the court upholds INEC’s decision.

Informed observers have, however, noted that even if the court reverses INEC’s decision and installs Jegede as the PDP candidate, the Akure sentiment might not be enough to win the election, saying that with the fact that the Senator representing the district, Tayo Alasoadura, also hails from Akure and has declared his support for his party’s candidate, Akeredolu, PDP might be given a run for its money.

The northern senatorial district has four of its six local government areas within Akokoland, with Owo and Ose local governments being the remaining two. The four local governments in Akokoland have, in past elections, proved to be the stronghold of the APC in the state. The party won most of the seats for the Senate, House of Representatives and the House of Assembly in the 2015 general election.

However, there is the belief that the sequence might change in this election, with the allegations that the people of the area believed they have been sidelined by the leadership of the APC. Secondly, aspirants from the area were among those who raised the allegation of being rigged out in the APC primary, a development that is said to be capable of resulting in a revolt against the party.

Sunday Tribune investigations showed that most of the APC supporters in Akoko might sit on the fence, following Abraham’s open declaration that he was not ready to work with the APC standard-bearer.

“Akoko might be delivered for Oke, who we learnt is being sponsored by the national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu. He is not on the same page with the APC over its governorship candidate and you will recall that he even went public with it. It is apparent that most of his machinery has been collapsed into the AD structure in the state to ensure the emergence of Oke as the state governor,” a source who pleaded for anonymity told Sunday Tribune.

Oke has also, in a move described as strategic, picked his running mate from the Akoko area. A former House of Representatives, Ganny Dauda, who hails from Irun Akoko was reportedly picked as Oke’s running mate to appeal to the people of the area after losing the APC slot to Akeredolu.

But while one cannot make conclusions given the nature of politics, analysts maintain that votes fro Owo/Ose axis of the senatorial district would be non-negotiable for the other parties, as the axis produced Akeredolu. An informed observer also maintained that the two local governments usually moved or voted in the same direction in any election. He, however, added that if Jegede flies the PDP flag, Owo Local Government might be a battle ground for both APC and PDP, because his mother hailed from Ipele in the local government.

The Southern senatorial districts will also be another battle ground area, with the contenders poised to prove a point. Oke has, however, been said to be bookmakers’ favourite to secure about two or three local governments in the district. He hailed from Ilowo in Ilaje Local Government Area of the state and wields a great influence on the people of the area. Oke is also a grassroots mobilIser who appears to be greatly loved by the people of the area, though observers maintain that he has lost some of his followers and supporters after dumping PDP for APC. Most of his supporters remained in PDP and are reportedly working seriously towards ensuring victory for PDP in the election.

While Oke might, against all odds, secure victory in Ilaje and Okitipupa local governments and also poll large votes from the coastal communities of Ese Odo and Irele, though they are said to be PDP strongholds, the presence of APC governorship running mate, Agboola Ajayi, who is from the coastal area will make the race too close to call. The PDP running mate, John Mafo is also from Ilaje and his political influence will also make the election in Ondo South interesting.

Despite the fact that Ile Oluji/ Oke Igbo local council areas are geographically and culturally situated within Ondo-speaking area, but it was ceded to Ondo South senatorial district for administrative convenience. But in the political history of the state, Ile Oluji’s voting patterns had always followed the way of the Ondos and Idanre. With this, pundits have maintained that the PDP might win in Ile Oluji, but the voting pattern of Okeigbo might be different.

However, all these calculations might be altered if the Appeal Court failed to reverse the decision of Justice Okon Abang, as PDP members and Akure voters, who have been said to hold the ace in this election, may decide to sit on the fence if eventually Ibrahim is declared as the party’s candidate.