Ondo 2016: Whirlwind over gov contest

Fromleft: Akeredolu, Jegede and Ibrahim

Many have described the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State as a two-horse race. This is because of the seeming large image of the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and the main opposition All Progressives congress (APC). But quite a number of observers recognise the rising status of the other political parties lately because of the profile and pedigree of their candidates. Thus, this has raised the bar as far as the battle for the governorship seat to be vacated by incumbent Dr Olusegun Mimiko at the end of his two terms of four years each.

So far, a total of 12 candidates are warming up for the November 26 contest, though controversies appear to be trailing the process that threw up the candidates of the PDP and APC.  The crisis in PDP at the national level is taking its toll on the state as two candidates: Barrister Eyitayo Jegede from the Markarfi faction and Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim from the Ali Modu Sherif faction. Each faction is laying claim to have produced the authentic candidate of the party. Similarly, members of the state APC are enmeshed in the controversies resulting from the party primary that produced Rotimi Akeredolu, as the party’s candidate.

In PDP, Jegede seems unperturbed by the turn of events in the party, as he and his foot soldiers have commenced aggressive grassroot  mobilisation, creating awareness for PDP.  Observers noted that he hit the ground running ostensibly because he has existing structures across the state.  It will be recalled that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) monitored the primary that produce him as standard bearer. This, some pundits noted, might account for the apparent lull in the Sheriff faction.

However, the director of publicity and communication of Jimoh Ibrahim campaign Group, Sola Akinuli said the camp was on top of the game as far as the contest was concerned. His words:  “We are only being strategic and not quiet, most especially when the law is on our side, and I can assure you that with slow and steady, we will the race.” He said the election was not about noise making, but talking to the right people who could win the election for their candidate, stressing that the faction’s candidate remained the candidate to beat.

ondo-politics3But, Ibrahim told  a local magazine in the state recently that he did not need to bother himself about campaigning or soliciting for votes in the forthcoming election, saying that the state governor, Olusegun Mimiko and Jegede will do the campaign for him while the court will decide the legitimate candidate after the election.  The issue elicited reactions from a number of quarters, especially Jegede, who said:  “As a professional and a Senior lawyer, I hold the view that intra-party disputes are best left out for the leadership to resolve. I also hold the view that in intra-party contentions, the courts generally have no jurisdiction. In other words, the court should not interfere except of course where you have specific provisions in the law that gives an inroad to court to resolve the disputes.”

The  PDP is not left in the crisis alone over the presentation of dual candidates, as the APC crisis over the choice of its single candidate has tore the party apart in the state.  Series of meetings held by the leadership of the party to reach a consensus on the outcome of the primary have failed to yield a positive result. Three aspirants, who participated in the exercise on September 3, have petitioned the APC Election Appeal Committee, challenging the victory of Akeredolu. The aspirants: Segun Abraham, Olusola Oke and Senator Ajayi Boroffice alleged that the election was marred with irregularities.

Meanwhile, there is confusion in the APC over the purported report of Appeal Committee, ordering  a re-run for the party’s primary. There are claims that a minority report of the committee, which allegedly upheld the result of the election. Members of the party in the state are however waiting anxiously for the true story surrounding the report of the National Working Committee of the party on the matter.

The camp of  Akeredolu has been largely quiet since the controversy trailing his emergence started, though his supporters are appealing to the aggrieved petitioners to sheathe their swords in the interest of the party.

There are insinuations that whichever way the appeal goes, the party might still have to face a litmus test, given the raging anger among the aggrieved contestants and their supporters. There is fear that they could work against the party unless the key APC stakeholders are able to reach a compromise.

Similarly, some  are concerned that the party could be in a dire strait if the APC should decide to opt for a re-run. Already, speculations are rife that one of the aspirants, Oke might dump the APC to contest on another platform if the decision of the party does not favour him. There were insinuations from some quarters that he has deliberately positioned Yinka Orokoto, in the Action Alliance, who eventually emerged as the AA candidate. According to a source if the decision of the party is not favourable, Oke may defect to AA where, his name will be substituted as the party’s candidate. Though Oke has repeatedly denied having such plans to dump, his close confidants said his action and decision will be determined by his supporters after the reports of the Appeal committee and party’s decision are announced. In denying the rumour, Oke said: “The truth is that in my social contract  with the people of Ondo State, I can only do that that will satisfy the people; I will not disappoint the people of the state.“ Oke pointed out that the issue on ground was not about working against the interest of the party but “It is about sanctity of  the system, because you cannot give to others what you do not have. So, if the process is flawed by corruption, the product of it cannot be marketable to the people of the state. So, it is nothing personal.”

In the meantime, some foot soldiers of Akeredolu were said to be reaching out to Oke for likely compromise. A staunch member of the  camp said the petitions against Akeredolu’s victory had been a major challenge to the group, and the party at large. He claimed that activities within the party had been at a low key owing the current controversy over the party primary.  Some party members have reportedly came up with other options of achieving truce, one of which is the possibility of the Akeredolu group waving an olive branch at the state chairman of APC, Dr Isaacs Kekemeke. There was a verbal exchange between the two gladiators prior to the election.

On the whole, it seems the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the standard bearer of APC could linger for some time. Nonetheless, other parties are awaiting in the wings to possibly reap from the apparent whirlwinds. ‘