Ondo’s epic rematch of two silks

Both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have produced two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) as their standard-bearers in the Ondo State governorship election slated for October 10. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI writes on the chances of the two political giants.

 

With the emergence of the candidates of the two major political parties in Ondo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the governorship election, history will be repeating itself as two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), among other contestants,  will slug it out in the October 10 election.

Just like in 2016, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu  emerged  the APC candidate, with his party in the opposition then, while Eyitayo Jegede, won the primary election of the ruling PDP in the state. Akeredolu and APC went on to  win the November 2016 and dislodge the PDP in the state.

The race this time will surely be between the two main political parties who are fielding the legal luminaries as their candidates. Again, on October 10, the two legal luminaries will test their popularity with the electorate who will decide the best possible  option among the array of contestants vying for the state’s top office.

Unlike in 2016, the table has turned. Then  Akeredolu , who was taking a second shot at the office of the governor, was during his campaign doing a lot of talking to convince the electorate  to try him out by jettisoning the ruling PDP in the state. He had promised, among others,  to improve the welfare of the people if they should elect him. Jegede of the PDP was banking on the achievements recorded in the eight years of his party, PDP, and on the popularity of  the immediate past governor and his principal, Dr Olusegun Mimiko.

But in this election, Akeredolu is in the driver’s seat. He has been holding on to the  projects in the last three and a half years as testimonies of what the people should expect from his government should they invest their mandate in him for another term of four  years.  Like Akeredolu in 2016, Jegede will have to take time to convince the electorate on his plans for them and how he intends to turn the fortune of the state around.

Akeredolu and Jegede have a few things in common: they are both learned silks who have paid their dues in the legal profession. They have both served as the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.

They have been plying their trade outside the state before coming into politics. While the former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Akeredolu has grown to be renowned in Ibadan and South-West, Jegede remains an authority in the profession in the northern part of the country with his law offices located in Yola, Adamawa State and Abuja.

Many political observers note that both lawyers were possibly dragged into the politics by politicians who need their experiences as technocrats to help build the state. But the duo have found themselves to be interested in people’s welfare and developing the state to be second to none.

The people of the state are looking forward to the epic rematch between the learned silks. Most pundits believe Jegede’s aspiration in 2016 was hindered by the litigation instituted against his candidacy by a faction of PDP led by Ali Modu Sheriff, with the business mogul, Jimoh Ibrahim as the arrowhead of  the crisis that destabilised the PDP in the state.

Though Jegede was eventually cleared by the Supreme Court to contest the election, he barely had time to campaign, as he was recognised as the PDP authentic candidate less than 48 hours to election. Some political pundits have mostly  attributed his loss of the election to the  legal thorn strewn on his path , and despite this, he was able to pull some surprises by coming second in that election.

The power game that choked him in 2016 seems to be in his favour this time. Many see the return of Jegede to the political ring to test as confirming his popularity.

Four years after, Jegede has been able to put PDP on the track in the state, with party waxing strong and able to produce two out of the three Senators in the 2019 general election. Besides, the party looks more united and ready to wrestle power from Akeredolu.

Akeredolu was able to surmount the challenges ahead of him in emerging as the party’s standard-bearer this time round, as no one would have expected a sitting governor to face a stiff opposition from his party to realise his second term ambition. However, the governor, after his emergence, has reviewed his stand on his perceived enemies by stretching a hand of fellowship to them all, seeking reconciliation.

Akeredolu’s chances look bright in the election too. To observers, the governor enjoys the backing of federal might and the APC government at the centre has shown strong interest in his re-election to make a statement in the South-West ahead 2023 elections and the election will go a long way to determine the future of APC in the zone.

Similarly, the election will be keenly contested for a good number of reasons by the PDP.  One, the PDP will want to use the election as a springboard to retake the South-West, having won in Oyo State in the last general election. Ondo State is one of the five states out of the six in the zone being controlled by the APC. The party has not relented in its efforts to regain the control of the state, even while it was in crisis.

Apart from this, Akeredolu is said to have built a solid political structure around his ambition. His blunt position on issues seems to have endeared him to some political leaders in the zone and across the country. Akeredolu is reputed for not sitting on the fence over critical issues.

Many argue that Akeredolu was able to achieve some feat in the area of infrastructural development because he failed to play with administration of the state.

But if Akeredolu fails to rise up to the occasion on time, by making peace with his fellow aspirants who lost out to him, by bringing them back into the APC fold, his dream of returning to Alagbaka House might be difficult, as many of them are spoiling for war and are determined to work against his re-election.

Jegede’s doggedness on the other hand has been commended by not a few observers of political happenings in the state. A few others say the PDP candidate is without a formidable structure, after the exit of Mimiko from PDP. Thus, such people hold the view that the exit of Mimiko, who is Jegede’s godfather, might detract from his political capital.

The respected legal practitioner was able to prove critics wrong by winning the party’s ticket on a formidable political structure he single-handedly built for his political ambition. He is said to have won the ticket based on his competence and track record.

Another critical factor that will contribute to the victory of either of the two contenders is where they pick their running mates. The clamour that power should shift to the southern senatorial district has gained currency in the build up to the election. This accounted for the high number of contestants from the area who jostled for the APC’s ticket to replace Akeredolu.

Though, it is clear that Akeredolu’s running mate may come from the south as his embattled deputy governor, Honourable  Agboola Ajayi, hails from the area and his replacement might likely come from the south.

Ajayi parted ways with Akeredolu after many months of denial of friction between them. Ajayi, who defected to PDP contested for the party’s ticket and lost to Jegede, has been keeping mute on his next political move.

Jegede, the PDP candidate hails from the central, while Akeredolu is from the north. But it is believed that PDP may look towards either north or south for party’s running mate. However, many observers are of the opinion that PDP should look towards the south, which is regarded as the stronghold of the party since the beginning of this political dispensation in the country.

A preponderance of opinion of people from the south is that it is the turn of the area to produce the governor of the state.

According to observers, the people of the south might not be willing to pitch their tent with Jegede in the election, as many of them are calculating they will have to wait another eight years before power could shift to the area.

A PDP aspirant had earlier said “we will rather wait for Akeredolu’s second term to end rather than wait for another eight long years for Jegede to complete another two terms before thinking of south.

“We have waited for 12 years after Dr Olusegun Agagu left government,  why not allow Akeredolu to finish his second term for power to shift to the south than wait for another eight years?

He argued that the central had spent eight years in the two terms of Mimiko and should wait till power rotates back to the central again. But the argument is that Jegede comes from the Akure section of the central, a place that has not produced the governor of the state since its creation in 1976. The questions now are:  will the south wait for another eight years? Will Akure’s argument resonate with the people of the state this time? Events that will be unfolding in the coming weeks will  determine the answer to the question.

 

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