• President says APC primary process transparent
  • PDP factions bicker over governorship election date
  • Candidates make last minute pitches

 

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday led other leaders of his All Progressives Congress to the grand finale of the party’s governorship election campaign rally in Akure, the Ondo State capital, in a final effort to seek support for the APC candidate in the November 26 election in the state, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu SAN.

But at the event, which took place at the Democracy Park, the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and three of the party’s four governors in the South-west were conspicuous by their absence. The only South-west governor present was Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State. His counterparts in Oyo, Osun, and Lagos states, Abiola Ajimobi, Rauf Aregbesola, and Akinmunmi Ambode, respectively, did not attend the rally.

The reason for the conspicuous absences was, definitely, not unconnected with the outcome of the September 3 governorship primary of the APC, which did not go down well with Tinubu and his loyalists.
Meanwhile, at the rally Buhari spoke for the first time on the controversial primary election of his party in Ondo State, endorsing the winner of the contest, Akeredolu, and declaring the process through which he emerged as transparent.

However, as the candidates made final pitches to the electorate ahead of the governorship poll, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the party yesterday disputed over whether or not the election should hold as scheduled. While the Makarfi group called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone the election to allow for judicial determination of the party’s authentic candidate, the Sheriff group dismissed the call as “malicious, short-sighted, offensive, and irresponsible.”

The issue of the PDP governorship candidate in Ondo State is currently the subject of litigation at the high court, Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. This followed INEC’s substitution of the Makarfi group’s nominee, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, with the candidate of the Sheriff faction, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, in obedience to a court order.
At the APC rally in Akure, Buhari’s remarks, which were short but weighty, were preceded by solidarity messages by other party leaders and federal government functionaries.

On the Akeredolu candidature, the president said, “I am very proud of my party because it conducted a transparent primary. The candidate won the primary with respect and in a week’s time he will win the election as the governor of Ondo State. We are all here to show our support for Akeredolu.”
Earlier at a meeting with the governorship aspirants who had contested against Akeredolu and leaders of the party, the president commended the aspirants for their loyalty to the party and for supporting the party’s candidate. He said the unity of the party was crucial to the outcome of next Saturday’s election.

He told the aspirants, “I am very pleased that those of you who lost the primaries are still very much in the party. That you lose elections doesn’t mean you should walk away, you keep on trying. I went to the Supreme Court three times in my bid to become the president of Nigeria.
“I like your high spirit and your commitment to the party and I hope your constituencies are taking note of that.”

Buhari was accompanied to the meeting by Senate President Bukola Saraki, APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, several APC governors, and ministers. He assured that the APC was determined and steadfast in its effort to transform the country’s ailing economy.
In his remarks, Mr. Tunji Abayomi, who spoke on behalf of the other aspirants, assured the president that they had resolved to deliver Ondo to APC. “No single aspirant left the party after the primaries. Those who left the party were not party members; they returned to where they belonged,” Abayomi alleged.

Also speaking, the chairman of APC Elders Council, Ondo State, Senator Olorunnimbe Farukanmi, said Akeredolu was eminently qualified to lead the state. “We have fielded an experienced, informed, hardworking and capable legal practitioner to work with President Buhari to carry out massive industrial development, job creation, eradication of poverty and massive economic improvement in the nation,” he said.

However, like it happened on November 10, when APC opened its governorship campaign also at the Democracy Park, Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and three of the four APC governors in the South-west were conspicuously absent at the grand finale of Akeredolu’s campaign.

But many other APC governors attended the rally. They were the chairman of the Akeredolu National Campaign Committee and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong; chairman of APC Governors’ Forum and governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa State; Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State; Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State; Governor Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano State, and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.

Saraki and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Lasun Yusuf, led some other members of the National Assembly to the rally.
Also at the rally were the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed; Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Niger Delta, Usain Usain; Minister of State for Niger Delta, Professor Claudius Daramola; Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, and APC Deputy National Chairman (South), Mr Segun Oni. There was also in attendance the party’s national vice chairmen for South-west, North-east, and South-east, and the National Women Leader.

All those who spoke at the rally stressed the need for the people of the state to vote for the APC candidate so that the state could join other South-west states in the progressive party.
Specifically, the senate president urged the people to vote for Akeredolu, saying his mother hailed from Owo, which is the home town of the APC candidate.
In an address of welcome, the APC chairman in Ondo State, Isaacs Kekemeke, said the presence of Buhari and the other leaders of the party showed that the candidacy of Akeredolu was acceptable to all. He said the State Working Committee and the State Executive Committee of the APC were united in their resolve to ensure the party’s victory at Saturday’s poll.

How the Candidates Stand
The stage is set for the next governorship poll in Ondo State. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission has released a list of 30 political parties, which it said, had presented candidates for the contest. Of the 30 parties, only the Alliance for Democracy, All Progressives Congress, and Peoples Democratic Party are forces to reckon with.

From all indications, the three political parties share one common trait: they are plagued with internal crises. The leading parties are internally divided at different levels, a condition that has thrown up legal actions that might threaten the political future of any party that wins the poll. And behind the rift are the conflicting interests of the political gladiators and their allies.

What appears incomprehensible is the failure of the leadership of the parties to resolve their internal conflicts in order to go to polls undivided. The conflict management mechanisms of the parties have not yielded much outcome, especially in the cases of the APC and PDP, which have been engaged in legal actions that are challenging the process through which their candidates emerged.
INEC has already confirmed Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu as the APC candidate; Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP flagbearer, and Mr. Olusola Oke as the AD nominee. But Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, whom the INEC first accepted as the PDP candidate, might reclaim the ticket if the Court of Appeal eventually decides in his favour. The Appeal Court adjourned indefinitely on Friday for the Supreme Court to rule on Ibrahim’s application.

Political Dynamics
Beyond the internal crises that tend to cast a pall over the electoral fate of the APC and PDP in the contest, political gladiators are working at cross-purposes at both parties. In the APC, for instance, the Akeredolu candidature did not receive support from its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It did not receive Tinubu’s support because the process that produced him was allegedly flawed.
But the APC constituted an appeal committee to look into the complaints of the aggrieved aspirants. After a review, the committee recommended that the process be cancelled. But the National Working Committee rejected the committee’s report and nominated Akeredolu as the APC candidate, despite protest by other aspirants that he did not properly win the September 3 primary election.

The decision of the NWC stoked disapproval among the aggrieved aspirants, especially Mr. Olusegun Abraham, Sen. Ajayi Boroffice and Mr. Olusola Oke. It compelled Abraham to initiate a court action in which he laid claim to the APC ticket. Boroffice remained in the party, though grossly displeased. But Oke defected to the AD to pursue his aspiration.

The emergence of Akeredolu deepened division in the ranks of the APC leaders at different levels. On the one hand, the Akeredolu candidature pitted Tinubu against the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who is being accused of failing to implement what the appeal committee recommended. It was the reason Tinubu called for Odigie-Oyegun’s resignation.

The Akeredolu candidature equally pitted Tinubu against the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, and the APC national legal adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, among others. Some South-west leaders see these men as aligning with some external forces to undermine Tinubu.

On the other hand, it is believed that the northern political elements are unduly interfering in the politics of Ondo State. But their perceived interference, some South-west leaders argue, is to decimate Tinubu’s political influence in the APC, and also part of political calculations ahead of 2019 presidential election. In its own case, the PDP is largely polarised between the ousted national chairman, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff, and chairman of national caretaker committee, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi. While the Sheriff faction presented a business mogul, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, to INEC, the Makarfi group nominated the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede. But INEC accepted the nominee of the Sheriff faction.

Even though INEC has accepted Ibrahim, the court remains the final arbiter. Already, Jegede has approached the appellate court, challenging the decision of the trial court that nullified its candidature. In truth, the battle is not really between Ibrahim and Jegede. It is purely between Sheriff and Makarfi, though the Ondo State poll offers them room to test the legality of the processes that brought them to office.

The Candidates

Olusola Oke
Of the three leading candidates, Oke is the one relatively free from legal battle for now. Initially, the AD national legal adviser, Mr. Kehinde Aworele, had challenged Oke’s candidature in the light of Article 21.4 of the AD Constitution. The article states that a governorship candidate must have been a member of the party for at least six months before he or she can emerge the party’s candidate.

However, Aworele explained that he discontinued the action challenging Oke’s eligibility to avoid anything that might affect the victory of AD. He said the party leadership “did not want a situation where there would be a petition against his eligibility after the election. There is no crack in the walls of the Alliance for Democracy.”

Oke’s other advantages are his previous governorship election experience and the strong likelyhood of him being the preferred option for many aggrieved PDP and APC stalwarts.
But Oke did not defect to the AD initially. After he fell out with the APC, Oke sought to realise his aspiration in Action Alliance. But due to the interference of the northern elements in the Ondo politics, the South-west leaders persuaded Oke to contest on the AD platform. So, Oke was asked to defect to the AD because it originated from the South-west and people could easily identify with it.

Across the South-west, the AD leaders have already rallied around Oke. Similarly, the Oke candidature received support among the South-west leaders, especially after Jegede suffered setback. Aside that the AD and the key leaders in the region accepted his candidature, Oke has been able to garner support from the PDP. Being former PDP national adviser and past governorship candidate of the party, Oke has large simpathisers in the PDP circle. Even though the political lieutenants of Tinubu are working for his victory, many believe Oke is running on a relatively weak party platform and he seems to have a largely shadowy backing by political leaders and he is seen by many as political deserter.

Rotimi Akeredolu
To many party faithful, the Akeredolu candidature is the best thing that would happen to Ondo State. Those who share this view always refer to Akeredolu’s stewardship as president of the Nigeria Bar Association and his role in pursuing election petitions for the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.

Akeredolu has the backing of federal government and the ruling party APC. He has a large war chest to prosecute the election and the advantage of previous governorship election experience.

But the process through which Akeredolu emerged as the APC candidate is still an albatross. Also, the role the some political elements outside the state played in his emergence is creating an image crisis for him. In the South-west, the role Tambuwal, el-Rufai and Malami among others are, allegedly, playing to force northern interests on the Ondo people is widely treated with utmost disgust and suspicion.

Even in the rank of Afenifere, the new allies of the northern political establishment have already been tagged agents of the Fulani. That is why the national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, described the northern interference in the Ondo politics as an affront on the hegemony of the South-west. For an Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the plot against Tinubu is a ploy to divide the Yorubaland so that the northern oligarchic powers can take over the South-west.

Apart from undue interference from the northern political establishment, Abraham is already in court, challenging the process that produced Akeredolu. He has kept faith with the APC. He has relocated to his political base in the Ondo North, which according to reports, has been a source of concern for all opposition parties and his political opponents.

While Akeredolu enjoys the support of the federal government and the ruling party, and has valuable experience as a former governorship candidate key factors for a successful electoral bid, he may face a gang-up by aggrieved aspirants and suffer transferred aggression from the electorate over perceived non-performance of APC federal government.

Jimoh Ibrahim
The emergence of Ibrahim is indeed a key factor in the Ondo politics. It is a factor not because Ibrahim can garner much support that can swing the pendulum of electoral victory to his side. It is a factor because his emergence reordered the contest for the Alagbaka House. It is equally a factor because his emergence undermined Mimiko’s plan to install Jegede as his successor.
Even though the trial court decided in his favour and INEC accepted his nomination, the Ibrahim candidature has not gained much support. Two reasons explain Ibrahim’s feeble political campaign.

First, Ibrahim practically came into the race about five weeks to the election. He entered the race effectively after the court declared him as the authentic candidate of the PDP on October 14.

Second, Ibrahim does not have strong political structure in the state. And the PDP structure he could have relied on is already fragmented and is firmly in the grip of Mimiko, thereby making Ibrahim a political weakling. However, whether the Ibrahim candidature will stand at last is still a subject of litigation pending before an appellate court. Either it stands or not, it has wreaked havoc on Jegede’s candidature.

Ibrahim has a weak financial base and is largely seen as an outsider in Ondo State politics. Whatever might be the decision of the appellate court at last, the decision of the trial court had already crashed the campaign, However, Ibrahim remains a choice for PDP enthusiasts. He may get the support of those who want a change from traditional political establishment. He also seen as not beholden to any political godfather.

Eyitayo Jegede

Even though a plethora of court actions are pending before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, Jegede is still hopeful. He has not suspended his campaign because the electoral umpire has replaced him. As though he was confident of victory, Jegede had been moving from local government to government, soliciting people’s support ahead of the November 26 election.

Jegede’s campaign was reinforced last week when Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, led other the PDP leaders to canvass support for him. With Dickson were Makarfi, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, and the PDP spokesman, Hon. Dayo Adeyeye. Considering the huge crowd of supporters that converge on the Akure Dome, the venue of the rally, it was a testament to Jegede’s popularity in Akure and Mimiko’s control of the PDP structure.

At the rally, Adeyeye told the party faithful that Jegede “is the PDP candidate. There is no controversy about it and any other person parading himself is a counterfeit. Jegede’s name is already with the INEC and will be presented on November 26. The officers of the Nigeria Police and the Directorate of State Services all monitored the whole process where he emerged in Akure.”

But those remarks were made before the Court of Appeal adjourned the case indefinitely last Friday. Only the court can reverse the prevailing situation. Aside, it is a national battle, which has grave implication for the state politics. So, whichever faction of the PDP the court declares authentic at last has the power to make valid governorship nomination, not only in Ondo State, but also in other states of the federation until the PDP duly organises its national convention.

One message was clear at the Akure rally: the people of Akure, where Jegede hails from, wanted their own son to govern the state democratically. That has been the push of almost all traditional rulers from Ondo Central, especially Akure North, Akure South, Ondo East, Ondo West, Idanre and Ifedore. However, the push for Jegede is facing challenges in other senatorial districts in the state because it is believed Ondo Central cannot produce governor for 16 unbroken years.

In all, Jegede enjoys the backing of the state government and strong political structure. He has the support of the PDP national mainstream and has a strong financial base.
But his candidature remains uncertain, even as protracted litigation appears to be depleting his support base. He has no previous governorship election experience.

Electoral Context

Now that the political space of Ondo State has largely been reconfigured, the November 26 poll is a straight contest between Akeredolu, Oke and Jegede/Ibrahim. In truth, three reasons will determine who wins the Alagbaka race at last. First, the people of Akoko may eventually cast a protest vote against APC except Abraham and Boroffice openly come to endorse the candidacy of Akeredolu.

As the state is configured politically, there are six local government areas in Ondo North. Ondo North has 418,926 registered voters representing 27.1 percent. Of the six councils, Akoko zone alone, where Abraham and Boroffice come from, has four. Also, Owo zone, which is Akeredolu’s political base, has just two. Oke picked his running mate, Mr. Gani Dauda, from Akoko, whose people still believe they were politically raped with the APC refusal to implement the report of its own appeal committee.

Second, with its 615, 157 registered voters representing 39.78 percent, Ondo Central is mainly the stronghold of the PDP. Also, it is Mimiko’s political base. But the emergence of Ibrahim has changed the political calculation. Akure is a factor in Ondo politics. Since the creation of Ondo State in 1976, Akure has not produced a democratically elected governor. Before he was replaced, Jegede’s candidacy offered them much hope.

Like the case of Akoko, consequently, the people of Akure may cast protest votes against the APC because it is largely believed that federal might was used to displace Jegede, who they believe, would be the first son of Akure to be a democratically elected governor. Akure zone, which comprises Akure North and Akure South, has 302, 888 registered voters, almost half of the voting strength of the Ondo North.

Also, there may be protest votes against the APC in Ondo West and Ondo East, Mimiko’s political enclave. While the former has 150,838 registered voters, the latter has 37,469. In this zone, the people alleged the Buhari presidency “is working against Mimiko because of the role he played to ensure that former President Jonathan was reelected.”

Even though Ibrahim hails from Ondo South, his weak political structure may hinder his ability to take advantage of the huge electoral strength of the zone. It is, also, the senatorial district, where Akeredolu picked his running mate, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, which may help garner support for him. Ondo South has 511,998 registered voters, which represents 33.12 percent of the state’s voting strength. whoever wins this zone may be heading for Alagbaka. seat of the state government. Aside, Oke has emerged as the leader of the Olusegun Agagu political dynasty, which largely determines the voting patterns in the south.

Between now and Saturday, however, there may be political realignments that could determine who wins the Alagbaka race. Undoubtedly, one key factor will drive the would-be political realignment: the decision of the appellate courts, which Jegede and Ibrahim have approached over the PDP ticket.

How the Candidates Stand

ondo-poll

The stage is set for the next governorship poll in Ondo State. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission has released a list of 30 political parties, which it said, had presented candidates for the contest. Of the 30 parties, only the Alliance for Democracy, All Progressives Congress, and Peoples Democratic Party are forces to reckon with.

From all indications, the three political parties share one common trait: they are plagued with internal crises. The leading parties are internally divided at different levels, a condition that has thrown up legal actions that might threaten the political future of any party that wins the poll. And behind the rift are the conflicting interests of the political gladiators and their allies.

What appears incomprehensible is the failure of the leadership of the parties to resolve their internal conflicts in order to go to polls undivided. The conflict management mechanisms of the parties have not yielded much outcome, especially in the cases of the APC and PDP, which have been engaged in legal actions that are challenging the process through which their candidates emerged.

INEC has already confirmed Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu as the APC candidate; Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP flagbearer, and Mr. Olusola Oke as the AD nominee. But Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, whom the INEC first accepted as the PDP candidate, might reclaim the ticket if the Court of Appeal eventually decides in his favour.

Political Dynamics

Beyond the internal crises that tend to cast a pall over the electoral fate of the APC and PDP in the contest, political gladiators are working at cross-purposes at both parties. In the APC, for instance, the Akeredolu candidature did not receive much support from its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It did not receive Tinubu’s support because the process that produced him was allegedly flawed.

But the APC constituted an appeal committee to look into the complaints of the aggrieved aspirants. After a review, the committee recommended that the process be cancelled. But the National Working Committee rejected the committee’s report and nominated Akeredolu as the APC candidate, despite protest by other aspirants that he did not properly win the September 3 primary election.

The decision of the NWC stoked disapproval among the aggrieved aspirants, especially Mr. Olusegun Abraham, Sen. Ajayi Boroffice and Mr. Olusola Oke. It compelled Abraham to initiate a court action in which he laid claim to the APC ticket. Boroffice remained in the party, though grossly displeased. But Oke defected to the AD to pursue his aspiration.

The emergence of Akeredolu deepened division in the ranks of the APC leaders at different levels. On the one hand, the Akeredolu candidature pitted Tinubu against the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who is being accused of failing to implement what the appeal committee recommended. It was the rreason Tinubu called for Odigie-Oyegun’s resignation.

The Akeredolu candidature equally pitted Tinubu against the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, and the APC national legal adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, among others. Some South-west leaders see these men as aligning with some external forces to undermine Tinubu.

On the other hand, it is believed that the northern political elements are unduly interfering in the politics of Ondo State. But their perceived interference, some South-west leaders argue, is to decimate Tinubu’s political influence in the APC, and this has equally influenced a thinking that there might be a replay of what culminated in the 1964 and 1983 electoral crises if the plot against Tinubu continues.

To the leaders that share this view, some northern elements like Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, his Sokoto counterpart, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami, and core members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s kitchen cabinet are working to enforce the northern interest on the Ondo people.

In its own case, the PDP is largely polarised between the ousted national chairman, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff, and chairman of national caretaker committee, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi. While the Sheriff faction presented a business mogul, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, to INEC, the Makarfi group nominated the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-general, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede. But INEC accepted the nominee of the Sheriff faction.

Even though INEC has accepted Ibrahim, the court remains the final arbiter. Already, Jegede has approached the appellate court, challenging the decision of the trial court that nullified its candidature. In truth, the battle is not really between Ibrahim and Jegede. It is purely between Sheriff and Makarfi, though the Ondo State poll offers them room to test the legality of the processes that brought them to office.

The Candidates

Olusola Oke
Of the three leading candidates, Oke is the one relatively free from legal battle for now. Initially, the AD national legal adviser, Mr. Kehinde Aworele, had challenged Oke’s candidature in the light of Article 21.4 of the AD Constitution. The article states that a governorship candidate must have been a member of the party for at least six months before he or she can emerge the party’s candidate.

However, Aworele explained that he discontinued the action challenging Oke’s eligibility to avoid anything that might affect the victory of AD. He said the party leadership “did not want a situation where there would be a petition against his eligibility after the election. There is no crack in the walls of the Alliance for Democracy.”

Oke’s other advantages are his previous governorship election experience and the strong likely of him being the preferred option for many aggrieved PDP and APC stalwarts.
But Oke did not defect to the AD initially. After he fell out with the APC, Oke sought to realise his aspiration in Action Alliance. But due to the interference of the northern elements in the Ondo politics, the South-west leaders persuaded Oke to contest on the AD platform. So, Oke was asked to defect to the AD because it originated from the South-west and people could easily identify with it.

Across the South-west, the AD leaders have already rallied around Oke. Similarly, the Oke candidature received support among the South-west leaders, especially after Jegede suffered setback. Aside that the AD and the key leaders in the region accepted his candidature, Oke has been able to garner support from the PDP. Being former PDP national adviser, Oke has gained much ground in the PDP circle, which according to reports, might swing the state’s electoral pendulum towards him.

Even in Ondo State, the popularity of Oke is growing everyday. However, the Rotimi Akeredolu Campaign Organisation has alleged that the political lieutenants of Tinubu “are working for Oke.” After he issued a statement calling for Odigie-Oyegun’s resignation, Tinubu has refused to talk about the Ondo election. To demonstrate his neutrality, the APC national leader has travelled out of Nigeria to avoid a situation, which one of his loyalists said, might link him to the Ondo politics.
But Oke is running on a relatively weak party platform and he seems to have a largely shadowy backing by political leaders and is seen by many as political deserter.

Rotimi Akeredolu

To many party faithful, the Akeredolu candidature is the best thing that would happen to Ondo State, especially when they reflect on the governance records of the incumbent, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. Those who share this view always refer to Akeredolu’s stewardship as president of the Nigeria Bar Association and his role in pursuing election petitions for the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.
Akeredolu has the backing of federal government and the ruling party APC. He has a large war chest to prosecute the election and the advantage of previous governorship election experience.

But the process through which Akeredolu emerged as the APC candidate is still an albatross. Also, the role the northern elements played in his emergence has already created an image crisis for him. In the South-west, the role Tambuwal, el-Rufai and Malami among others are, allegedly, playing to force northern interests on the Ondo people is widely treated with utmost disgust and suspicion.

After using Tinubu to realise the Buhari presidency, the South-west leaders believe, these northern elements have found new allies in Amosun, Fayemi, Fashola and Banire. As the chairman of the Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, Hon. Bola Ilori, alleged, the new allies have been working with the INEC and the courts “to force the northern candidate on the Ondo people.”

Even in the rank of Afenifere, the new allies of the northern political establishment have already been tagged agents of the Fulani. That is why the national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, described the northern interference in the Ondo politics as an affront on the hegemony of the South-west. For an Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the plot against Tinubu is a ploy to divide the Yorubaland so that the northern oligarchic powers can take over the South-west.

Apart from undue interference from the northern political establishment, Abraham is already in court, challenging the process that produced Akeredolu. He has kept faith with the APC. He has relocated to his political base in the Ondo North. He holds regular political meetings with his supporters, which according to reports, has been a source of concern for all opposition parties and his political opponents.
But Akeredolu may face a gang-up by aggrieved aspirants and suffer transferred aggression from the electorate over perceived non-performance of APC federal government.

Jimoh Ibrahim

The emergence of Ibrahim is indeed a key factor in the Ondo politics. It is a factor not because Ibrahim can garner much support that can swing the pendulum of electoral victory to his side. It is a factor because his emergence reordered the contest for the Alagbaka House. It is equally a factor because his emergence undermined Mimiko’s plan to install Jegede as his successor.

Even though the trial court decided in his favour and INEC accepted his nomination, the Ibrahim candidature has not gained much support. Two reasons explain Ibrahim’s feeble political campaign. First, Ibrahim practically came into the race about five weeks to the election. He entered the race effectively after the court declared him as the authentic candidate of the PDP on October 14.

Second, Ibrahim does not have strong political structure in the state. And the PDP structure he could have relied on is already fragmented and is firmly in the grip of Mimiko, thereby making Ibrahim a political weakling. However, whether the Ibrahim candidature will stand at last is still a subject of litigation pending before an appellate court. Either it stands or not, it has wreaked havoc on Jegede’s candidature.
Ibrahim has a weak financial base and is largely seen as an outsider in Ondo State politics.

Whatever might be the decision of the appellate court at last, the decision of the trial court had already crashed the campaign, which Odumakin condemned in strong terms. He said the plan to use federal might “to enforce unpopular will over popular will in Ondo State will not stand. If this continues, the Ondo people will react at the appropriate time. If this continues, I foresee the 1964 and 1983 crises again.”
However, Ibrahim remains a choice for PDP enthusiasts. He may get the support of those who want a change from traditional political establishment. He also seen as not beholden to any political godfather.

Eyitayo Jegede

Even though a plethora of court actions are pending before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, Jegede is still hopeful. He has not suspended his campaign because the electoral umpire has replaced him. As though he was confident of victory, Jegede had been moving from local government to government, soliciting people’s support ahead of the November 26 election.

Jegede’s campaign was reinforced last week when Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, led other the PDP leaders to canvass support for him. With Dickson were Makarfi, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, and the PDP spokesman, Hon. Dayo Adeyeye. Considering the huge crowd of supporters that converge on the Akure Dome, the venue of the rally, it was a testament to Jegede’s popularity in Akure and Mimiko’s control of the PDP structure.
At the rally, Adeyeye told the party faithful that Jegede “is the PDP candidate. There is no controversy about it and any other person parading himself is a counterfeit. Jegede’s name is already with the INEC and will be presented on November 26. The officers of the Nigeria Police and the Directorate of State Services all monitored the whole process where he emerged in Akure.”

But that is mere political rhetoric. Only the court can reverse the prevailing situation. Aside, it is a national battle, which has grave implication for the state politics. So, whichever faction of the PDP the court declares authentic at last has the power to make valid governorship nomination, not only in Ondo State, but also in other states of the federation until the PDP duly organises its national convention.

One message was clear at the Akure rally: the people of Akure, where Jegede hails from, wanted their own son to govern the state democratically. That has been the push of almost all traditional rulers from Ondo Central, especially Akure North, Akure South, Ondo East, Ondo West, Idanre and Ifedore. However, the push for Jegede has been rejected in other senatorial districts in the state because it is believed Ondo Central cannot produce governor for 16 unbroken years.

In all, Jegede enjoys the backing of the state government and strong political structure. He has the support of the PDP national mainstream and has a strong financial base.
But his candidature remains uncertain, even as protracted litigation appears to be depleting his support base. He has not previous governorship election experience.

Electoral Context

Now that the political space of Ondo State has largely been reconfigured, the November 26 poll is a straight contest between Akeredolu, Oke and Jegede/Ibrahim. In truth, three reasons will determine who wins the Alagbaka race at last. First, the people of Akoko may eventually cast a protest vote against APC except Abraham and Boroffice openly come to endorse the candidacy of Akeredolu.

As the state is configured politically, there are six local government areas in Ondo North. Ondo North has 418,926 registered voters representing 27.1 percent. Of the six councils, Akoko zone alone, where Abraham and Boroffice come from, has four. Also, Owo zone, which Akeredolu’s political base, has just two. Oke picked his running mate, Mr. Gani Dauda, from Akoko, whose people still believe they were politically raped with the APC refusal to implement the report of its own appeal committee.

Second, with its 615, 157 registered voters representing 39.78 percent, Ondo Central is mainly the stronghold of the PDP. Also, it is Mimiko’s political base. But the emergence of Ibrahim has changed the political calculation. Akure is a factor in Ondo politics. Since the creation of Ondo State in 1976, Akure has not produced a democratically elected governor. Before he was replaced, Jegede’s candidacy offered them much hope.

Like the case of Akoko, consequently, the people of Akure may cast protest votes against the APC because it is largely believed that federal might was used to displace Jegede, who they believe, would be the first son of Akure to be a democratically elected governor. Akure zone, which comprises Akure North and Akure South, has 302, 888 registered voters, almost half of the voting strength of the Ondo North.

Also, there may be protest votes against the APC in Ondo West and Ondo East, Mimiko’s political enclave. While the former has 150,838 registered voters, the latter has 37,469. In this zone, the people alleged the Buhari presidency “is working against Mimiko because of the role he played to ensure that former President Jonathan was reelected.” Both Idanre and Idanre are still deemed Akeredolu’s stronghold.

Even though Ibrahim hails from the Ondo South, Oke remains a force to contend with. It is, also, the senatorial district, where Akeredolu picked his running mate, Mr. Agboola Ajayi. But the choice of Ajayi has generated disapproval across the state. First, Ajayi is Akeredolu’s maternal cousin, which breeds a feeling that there is a grand plan to privatise the government of Ondo State.

Second, Ajayi has a strong affiliation with the Niger Delta militants, a situation which has caused ill feelings. In its own case, Ondo South has 511,998 registered voters, which represents 33.12 percent of the state’s voting strength. Oke still holds the aces in the south. Aside, Oke has emerged as the leader of the Olusegun Agagu political dynasty, which largely determines the voting patterns in the south.

Between now and Saturday, however, there may be political realignments that could determine who wins the Alagbaka race. Undoubtedly, one key factor will drive the would-be political realignment: the decision of the appellate court, which Jegede has approached to try to reclaim the PDP ticket. If the court upholds Ibrahim’s candidacy, it will encourage realignment against the APC.

THISDAY checks reveal that the Buhari group in All Progressives Congress is desperate to win Ondo State, to make a statement in terms of who is in charge in the party, and to set the path to 2019 re-election of the president.