Ondo 2020: Now that the primaries are over…1

On Monday, 20 July, and Wednesday, 22 July respectively, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held their Ondo State governorship primaries. Incumbent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, won the APC primaries, while Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, won that of the PDP, making it ‘a return match’ of the Ondo State 2016 governorship election when both men squared up to each other, with Akeredolu having the better of Jegede. Ceteris paribus, this year’s election comes up on 10 October.

This time around, however, Jegede should be better prepared in his second face-off with Akeredolu. Jegede’s closest rival, defected Agboola Ajayi, has accepted defeat. Let us hope it comes from the bottom of his heart and not that he is already shopping for another platform, as someone hinted last Friday. The PDP, at state and national level, appears solid this time around with no internal crisis of the magnitude that whacked it four years ago. That crisis hung over Jegede like the Sword of Damocles, marooning him, bogging him down and making him run from one courtroom to another in search of reprieve, until hours before the election. That clearly discomfited him, threw spanners in the works for him and made it impossible for him to campaign vigorously as well as effectively organise other aspects of the election. His godfather also sold him out when it mattered most. Still, he made a good showing by coming a respectable second. With those distractions out of the way this time around, Akeredolu has got to watch it!

Akeredolu, however, has started on a very good note and on the fast lane too. Hours after his party primaries, he started his fence-mending efforts, going after his strongest challengers in the election. As of press time, four of them have pledged their support for him. May it come from the bottom of their hearts! The most dangerous opponents are those who stay inside and piss right inside!

Will Akeredolu floor Jegede again in October and pocket the bragging rights for all times or will Jegede avenge the loss of 2016 like Anthony Joshua did to his nemesis, Andy Ruiz Jr.? A few anxious months stand between us and the answer! Because of the uncanny accuracy of many of our predictions in the series we just ended on the Ondo elections, many of our readers are demanding we do similarly with the election proper. It is too early to decide either way but if we get the inspiration right from the soul, why not?

That was why, although we knew several of the aspirants on both sides of the divide, we consciously maintained a balance, eventually drawing the conclusions that we were led to draw. The underlying message was setting a new template for Ondo, nay, Nigerian politics. Critics or pessimists talk of the leopard that does not change its skin. A saying of our people is that to straighten out dried fish is not an easy task. But we should not despair: It is with persistence that drops of water eat up huge rocks!

As selfish, self-centred, myopic, egocentric and pedestrian as our politics is, it still lends itself to predictions. Despite warnings, some of the major problems militating against our elections still reared their ugly heads at both parties’ primaries. ‘See and buy’ and thumb-printing/ballot box stuffing before election were still reported; so also were thuggery and violence. Of course, overbearing and tin-god godfathers and party leaders refused to take the back seat. Party supremacy versus party internal democracy is the other side of party patronage versus good governance.

In my own opinion, the PDP primaries appeared more credible than the APC’s where party officials threw their weight around, prevailing on contestants to withdraw from the race days and moments before votes were cast. Some argue that such horse-trading is the salt of party politics. In the end, ever before the votes were cast, everyone had anticipated the winner. And the result confirmed that, with Akeredolu beating his closest rival with a wide margin. In fact, all the other votes added up amounted to a measly 316 votes to Akeredolu’s commanding 2,458 votes.

Conversely, the PDP’s election was more keenly contested – let me just put it that way. It appeared everyone was allowed to carry his mother’s breast, as they say – and the result shows. The winner, Jegede, scored 888 votes, closely followed by Ajayi with 657 votes; other scores were Eddy Olafeso (my students’ union president at Great Ife), 175; Dr. Bode Ayorinde (my town’s man), 95 votes; Okunomo Banji, 90 votes; Boluwaji Kunlere, 33 votes; Sola Ebiseni (another contemporary at Great Ife), 29 votes; and Godday Erewa, 14 votes. It is time our elections began to improve and give confidence rather than remain trapped in the sundry malfeasance of the past.

One factor that seemed to have worked for Jegede was the unrealistic expectations of the Nigerian politician, their unreasoning optimism and their crass selfishness. Most of the PDP aspirants were from Ondo South and they ended up splitting their votes. Had they been their brother’s keeper as the scripture enjoins them, they could have carted the PDP flag away to Ondo South. A similar attitude played out in the APC with many of the aspirants coming from Owo. Even those who had no chances at all insisted they were coasting home to victory! It is either they cannot see what ordinary people see or they know more than we do in this very lucrative business of seeking political office.

Going over our template, we said in the very first of the series published on Sunday, 10 May, that we should discourage politicians with no second address: “Politics is not a profession but a vocation; it is public service. It is not, like an erstwhile governor told me, a game of self-interest but of selfless service. These days, every riff-raff is a politician; especially unemployed and unemployable youth who now see politics as an easy access to acquire wealth and relevance and get rich quickly. If I had my way, no one would be allowed to go into politics that has not attained the climax – or close to it – of his given or chosen profession. Those with no second address, as they are now called, are wont to see politics as a do-or-die affair, which we should begin to move away from. Successful professionals who have made their mark and name come into politics and, if lucky, into office with a name and a reputation to protect. And afterwards or should they fail, they have a second address to recourse to…”

The choice of Akeredolu and Jegede, both of them accomplished SAN, conforms to this template.

We said in the second of the series published on 17 May that “maintaining a balance between those who helped to make your dream come true and those who stood against you, difficult as it is, remains the hallmark of statesmanship.”

One of the sore points raised against Akeredolu was relationship issues. It is pleasant to see him swiftly kick into action to extend a hand of fellowship to his fellow contestants. Had he been that sensitive to relationship issues, he probably would not have had a mountain to climb. I expect Jegede to similarly reconcile with those who contested against him for the PDP flag.

In the third series (24 May), we railed against money politics and said the people should take ownership of the political parties: “Our politics now is “cash-and-carry”! Everything is monetised! Everyone seemingly has a price and at the right price, you get what you want.” Things have not changed; party members are yet to come up and our politics is still heavily monetised. There is still a correlation between deep pockets and success at elections.

In the fourth series (31 May), we advocated that mandates be legitimate: “…The first problem is that many of those who sit in office brandish illegitimate mandates. They were not elected and they know it. They were not the choice of the people and the people know it. They were rigged into office in diverse ways and the people who perpetrated the shenanigans for them know it and have the dossiers. The insiders are ready to blackmail, to squeal and to reveal how the ‘victory’ was procured. Virtually everyone who gets a governor elected does so for their own selfish reasons; only a few do so to serve public interest. When the anticipated benefits fail to materialise or delay in coming, they would not mind bringing the roof down upon everyone. So, if you look carefully, you would see that many of the disagreements among politicians centre on ‘I’, ‘I’ and ‘I.’ Public interest is rarely mentioned and where it is at all, it is to fulfil all righteousness.”

Does that sound familiar, especially with the Ifedayo Abegunde of this world? The APC primary election of this year, however, appeared to have toed a different line from that of four years ago, which was dragged in the court for a long time to come.

In the fifth series published on 7 June, we said quite emphatically that “Ondo State – nay, the entire South-West – needs leaders that would think Yoruba, feel Yoruba, speak Yoruba, and act Yoruba. That is what the Fulani and Igbo have but which we lack: The mentality of a nation within a nation that places its sub-national interests over and above supra-national interests… WE DO NOT NEED GOVERNORS WHO WILL BE ENTHRONED BY THE NORTH TO SERVE NORTHERN INTERESTS AT THE DETRIMENT OF THE SOUTH-WEST.”

Has this template been achieved with the victory of Akeredolu and Jegede? Jegede has yet to be tried and tested at this level. Akeredolu was a solid pro-Yoruba and pro-Amotekun person. Recent revelations, however, suggest that the South-West governors have buckled under pressure to whittle down Amotekun. What remains of Amotekun, sources say, is mere appearance and not substance.

Many of the APC and PDP aspirants relied on and brandished Abuja connections/Fulani endorsement. This is a sore point! One of the aspirants reportedly told his supporters he was directed by President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw from the race and support another candidate. Leaders foisted this way, can they fight for Yoruba interests or will they only take orders inimical to Yoruba interests?

LAST WORD: One aspirant who withdrew from the race has said he caved in to tremendous pressure from party leaders. He should openly name the party leaders involved! Same thing should be done by the other aspirants who stepped down. That is the only way they can retrieve whatever is left of their integrity and honour. Raising people’s hopes and dashing them in the dying minutes, setting people to work and pulling the rugs from under their feet at the 11th hour is neither the correct thing to do nor the right way to go.

 

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