Two weeks to the governorship election in Ondo State, Hakeem Gbadamosi takes a look at the politics of the state, the strengths of the political parties and the unending crises rocking the parties ahead of the landmark election.
TWO weeks to the governorship election in Ondo State, the major political parties in the election, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alliance for Democracy (AD), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the All Progressives Congress are preparing hard for the daddy of all battles in the state—the election to determine the next governor of the state for the next four years.
From the courtrooms to campaign fields, candidates of the major political parties have been involved in different activities, with the tempo in the race for the Alagbaka Government House heightening each passing day. While virtually all the parties have been locked in one internal controversy or the other, a development that has slowed down political activities ahead of the poll, the November 26 date set for the election appears to approaching at a fast pace like an electric train.
PDP: No longer at ease
In the PDP, where two factions of the party are in a heated battle over who would be the authentic standard-bearer of the party, not only have political campaigns been limited and slow, the battle for supremacy between the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP faction and the one led by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has also taken the centre stage. As of the time of filing this report, there is still palpable fear in the two camps over who would fly the flag of the party between Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN and Mr Jimoh Ibrahim. Though the state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, whose tenure lapses in February 2017, is still battling to make sure the court reinstates Jegede, political analysts have said that the ongoing development in the party might have serious implications for the party.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had substituted the name of Jegede with that of Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP following a ruling by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, a development that led to the slowing down of the activities of the Makarfi faction in the state, though it has continued with campaigns. The party has also been losing some of its foot soldiers to their opponents in the race, with the resignation of some aides of the governor.
But Governor Mimiko was optimistic that the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja would turn the table. He met with PDP stakeholders last Sunday to raise their hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, with most political onlookers in the state describing the governor’s move as the tonic needed to boost the morale of the party members who had lost hope in the election.
Mimiko had assured the people that injustice done with the substitution of Jegede’s name with Ibrahim would not stand, describing the substitution as a contrived conspiracy. He noted that the decision of INEC could not find comfort in justice, in principle, in law and in morality but assured major stakeholders at the meeting that justice would be done, because “the impunity will not stand,” noting “that it is something bizarre, abnormal and without precedence in the polity.”
But while political observers have explained that the PDP campaign might be suffering due to the crisis on candidature, the affirmed PDP candidate, Ibrahim, said he needed no aggressive campaigns to win the forthcoming governorship election, because, according to him, he was traversing a familiar terrain. He said he was not new to the politics of the state and that he needed little or no introduction to the electorate, because he had paid his dues.
Speaking on the choice of Jegede by the Markafi faction of the party, he said: “Jegede is brand new in the system; it took me from 2008 till present date to join this political legitimacy. You cannot come just in one day and begin to think you can win election like that in Ondo State. Nobody just comes and enters like that. Take your time and queue behind.”
However, political observers have found Ibrahim’s declaration not to mount serious campaign across the state curious. To many of them, Ibrahim’s decision was a tactical confirmation of the insinuation that he was in the race to play a spoiler role by working to pave the way for the APC candidate, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN. There is the school of thought that has continued to maintain that Ibrahim is being used to thwart the ambition of Jegede, who is believed to be a strong contender to the governorship stool, saying “once Jegede is out of the race, it becomes easier for Akeredolu to win.” But Ibrahim has vehemently denied this claim, noting that he is in the race to win it.
Fear of the unknown in APC camp
Though the candidate of the APC, Akeredolu, appears less bothered by the crisis within the party, moving from villages and towns, campaigning and canvassing support from the people of the state, things cannot be said to be as simple as they seemed on the surface. At present, efforts are still afoot to stop Akeredolu from contesting the election, with the first runner-up in the party’s governorship primary, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, leading this charge, having approached a Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking to stop Akeredolu over allegations that the party’s primary was rigged in his favour. Akeredolu, however, from his disposition, has not allowed all these moves to distract him and has continued to focus on his ambition to win the election.
Hinting at what might portend danger for the chances of the APC, Abraham recently denied supporting Akeredolu, saying he remained resolute in getting justice on the fraud perpetrated during the party’s primary, adding that the election was fraught with irregularities. Abraham said: “I urge my supporters and the people to distance themselves from any information or attempt to confuse them and sway their conviction by wrongfully claiming that I am considering a move to work with or support Rotimi Akeredolu.”
Akeredolu had earlier instituted a peace move with all the aggrieved members of the party to ensure victory for the party, disclosing that the peace move had been yielding results. He said: “All of us remain one and all members of the executives of the party still remain one and we are indivisible in this party. We are prepared to at least fight it together as one for APC to produce the next governor of this state.”
With these developments in the APC, keen watchers of political developments in the state have noted that there is the fear of the unknown in the party, which had been eagerly waiting on how things would turn out in the PDP and whether Abraham and his aggrieved supporters would sheathe their swords and work for the party.
AD: Will Oke be second time lucky?
The Alliance for Democracy might be relatively new in the politics of Ondo State, having only become active few weeks ago following the defection of its governorship standard-bearer, Chief Oke, to the party. At present, it is also viewed as relatively stable in terms of internal politics. However, the candidature of Oke is still stirring controversy within the party at the state and national levels. While some members of the National Executive denied knowing Oke as a member of the party, alleging that the national chairman of the party unilaterally endorsed and imposed Oke on the party as the candidate in the election, he has been combing the nooks and crannies of the state, campaigning to convince the people for their votes. The National Legal Adviser of the AD, Kehinde Aworele had dragged Oke and the chairman before the court, asking for withdrawal of Oke in the race. Oke, who dumped APC for AD after the party’s primary, noting that the process that produced Akeredolu was fraught with irregularities, was said to have hijacked the governorship ticket from Akin Olowookere without any prior knowledge of the party’s NEC.
The legal adviser maintained that the October 14 NEC resolutions where Oke’s nomination was rejected remained binding, saying that those who later revoked it 24 hours after the emergency meeting in Akure, acted on behalf of themselves and not NEC or the party. He added that Olowookere remained the party’s governorship candidate for the election, adding that though they were informed that he had purportedly stepped down for Oke, he had not formally informed the party.
But Oke’s campaign director, Mr Bola Ilori, described the development in the party as “an unattractive side attraction,” saying it “is just part of the fun just to make it more enterprising.” He also fingered opposition parties as the brain behind the legal tussle to cause distractions in the party because of the intimidating popularity of the AD candidate among the masses.
SDP: Will this peace bring victory?
Political attention in Ondo State shifted from the three leading political parties in the race for the governorship seat to the SDP last Tuesday with the kick-off of the party’s campaign. The governorship standard-bearer, Dr. Olu Agunloye, had on that occasion, promised to correct the wrongs of the present and past administrations in the state.
The SDP, under the chairmanship of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate, Chief Olu Falae, promised to form an all-inclusive government, saying it would not be on a mission for vendetta but to rebuild and restore the lost glory of the state and to emplace the state to the vantage position it used to occupied in the league of South-West states and Nigeria as a whole.
Speaking at the campaign, the state chairman of the party, Korede Duyile, noted that the party “remains the only foremost party in the forthcoming election with no internal or external crisis,” attributing this to what he described as the integrity of the candidate presented for the election and the understanding of its members.
Political observers have acquiesced to the party chairman’s position that SDP remained the only party without internal crisis, a development which they noted might be important ahead of the polls, citing the towering political credentials of Agunloye and how aggressive the party could reach out to the electorate as other important factors that would decide the party’s fate in the election.