ONYEKACHI EZE writes on the factors that may influence the October 10 Ondo State governorship election
ast Thursday, nine aspirants seeking to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State appeared before the five-member screening committee set up by the party leadership for the purpose.
Those who appeared before the PDP screening committee were the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Agboola Ajayi, the party’s former candidate in 2016, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) and immediate past National Vice Chairman (South West) of the PDP, Dr Eddy Olafeso.
Others are Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Banji Okunomo; Bode Ayorinde; Otunba Bamidele Akingboye; Mr Godday Erewa; and Mr. Sola Ebiseeni.
This was the second step towards actualising their governorship ambition. The first stage, which qualified them for the screening was the purchase of the nomination and expression of interest. Each of the aspirants paid the sum of N21 million for the two forms.
The Chairman of the screening committee is Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Other members are Senator Zainab Kure, Fred Agbedi and Ndubuisi Agwuama while Bunmi Jenyo serves as secretary, who is immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, said the screening would be thorough, because “politics no longer support the case of whimsical screening exercise anymore, because some people have won elections and lost elections on the account of defective screenings that were done by the officials of their parties.”
The reason is obvious especially in view of post screening and election litigations which had robbed many election winners their victories. For this reason, the committee was aware of that and was hoping that each of the aspirants would account for the information given to the party and the documents that they submitted.
Dogara said: “We are sure that at the end of the day the party will be proud of the exercise that we have done. Nobody will be unjustifiably denied clearance for any reason. For anyone who is qualify.
“As a matter of fact, is it not even our responsibility to clear them, it is the documents they have presented before us that will clear them. As far as we are concerned, once you have your papers and records intact, you are good to go. So, the assurance is that we are out for justice and we will ensure that justice is served to the end.”
The October 10 end of tenure governorship election in Ondo State promises to be an interesting one. It will be full of intrigues and horse trading.
The quality of aspirants, especially in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is an indication that the election will not be a tea party.
In the ruling party are the incumbent governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, two time governorship candidate, Olusola Oke, the senator representing Ondo North in the National Assembly, Ajayi Boroffice and former state chairman of the APC, Isaac Kekemeke, as well as Ambassador Olusola Iji.
Oke lost to Akeredolu in the 2016 APC primary; he defected to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to contest the main election. In 2012, Oke was PDP candidate bit lost to Olusegun Mimiko of the then Labour Party, during the election.
Zonal consideration might be a determinant factor in the choice of next governor of Ondo State. All the three senatorial zones are laying claim for the seat. The incumbent is from Ondo North and enjoys the constitutional right of re-election.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, each of the senatorial zones has produced the governor of the state. But Ondo South argues that it was short-changed, and therefore, believes that it can be remedied in the October poll.
The argument of the zone was that Ondo North has served two tenures (Ade Adefarati’s four years (1999 to 2003) and Akeredolu’s four years which ends early next year); the Central has equally served eight years (2009 to 2017). But its own turn was truncated when Olusegun Agagu’s tenure was truncated in 2009.
As if giving credence to the claim, a member of the PDP National Working Committee, who spoke on the development, said that the party actually lost the 2016 election because of its failure to pay attention to the unwritten zoning arrangement.
“PDP lost Ondo in 2016 because it fielded Jegede, who comes from Ondo Central, the zone of the then incumbent governor, Dr. Mimiko who was completing his second term in office as its candidate. From all meaningful calculation, the party should have given its ticket to either the Northern or Southern senatorial districts,” he said.
According to him, this is a mistake the party should not repeat this time if it must win the election. “It is high time the party chose its candidate from the Southern Senatorial zone, an area that is so reach and has become the honey pot of the nation.”
John Ola Mafo, PDP deputy governorship candidate in 2016, said though the governorship has not been zoned to anywhere, everybody knows where the next governor should come from.
“They know where the governor came from in 1999; they know where the governor came from in 2003 and where the governor came from in 2009 to 2017 and then, 2017 to date.
So, they are familiar with all these facts. They now know where the next governor should come from,” he said.
Hon. Banji Okuomo, one of the aspirants said that the fact that we have a huge number of aspirants from the South was indicative of the fact that the people know which zone should produce the next governor. “We have the South, Central and North and there have been a tradition of how power is rotated. Wherever the pendulum swings, that is the favoured district all witness multiple of aspirants and that is exactly what we are seeing in PDP currently.
“When APC was in the shoes of the PDP, the same thing happened and what happened then in APC because they were more with over 20 aspirants with more than two-third of the aspirants emerging from the north because it was the turn of the north to produce the governor. And there is only one aspirant then from the South. The reason why you have many aspirants in the PDP from the South now is because it’s the turn of the South to produce the governor of Ondo State.
“In Ondo State, culturally, it’s the electorate who determine which area or which district gets it. The victory or the success of any party is the composite function of the expectation of the electorate. If the electorate want it to go to the North, that is where it will go.
“So, it will be too much of a rift for the PDP not to pick her candidate from the South because it will have repercussive effect. But I know, the delegates in their wisdom just like it happened in the opposition party then, it is also necessary for the delegates of the PDP to take a cue of what happened in the other party when it’s in our shoe,” he said.
PDP aspirant, Dr. Olafeso said the North would be doing its 12th year if it wins the next election. “In the centre, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko did eight years. In the South where we hail from, Dr. Agagu did four years. So that lop-sidedness in the election without listening to the electorate cost us heavily. That is why we are asking the party at this moment to please ensure that they do everything to listen to the people.
“I think what is far more important is that people’s power is far more important than any other power,” he said.
But even in the South, aspirants from Ilaje and Ese Odo local governments are of the opinion that since the Ikale have produced the governor in Agagu, the next governor should come either from Ijaw or the Ilaje people.
Besides, the entrance of Ajayi, the Deputy Governor of the state who was recently granted a waiver by the national leadership of PDP to contest the election is causing a stir in the race. While some older aspirants consider it inappropriate, others have argued that he is a paper weight who would not make much difference.
It has also been alleged that Jegede should step down to become Ajayi’s running mate in order to have a smooth ride. This was said to have informed the visit of Oyo State Governor, Eng. Seyi Makinde to Mimiko last weekend.
But others have argued that the delegates would determine who becomes the candidate of the PDP. “In the tradition of PDP, it is only the delegates who determine who becomes their governor. You can check the interview of our National Chairman recently and he has already established that while we encourage people to join us, due process is constantly followed whatever you want to become in the party,” source said.
Though there are rumours that some would be stepping down for others, already a lot of intrigues and propaganda are already making the rounds about the aspirants. While some of them are described as perennial aspirants and political jobbers, others were said to have been planted in the PDP by another party.
A number of aspirants from the south are in the race. Out of the nine aspirants who bought the PDP nomination forms, seven are from the South. The reverse is, however, the case in APC. Out of 10 aspirants, about three are from Owo, Governor Akeredolu’s home town.
The attraction to Akeredolu’s seat is not just for zoning purpose, otherwise, the number of aspirants from even his zone wouldn’t have been that high. Many people are reported to be comfortable with his style of governance. The governor is said to have alienated APC members from his government.
PDP aspirant, Dr. Ayorinde said the governor has abandoned governance for his Aketi team.
Ayorinde who said he was a member of APC noted that all those who supported the governor in 2016 have left the party and are now in PDP.
“That is his undoing; he became a lone ranger. So he has naturally campaigned for the PDP to take over. In fact, his activities alone are enough to give power to PDP,” he added.
The governor, however, still stands a chance of re-election. The calculation is that any other aspirant who wins the October 10 governorship, especially from the North where he comes from, might want to seek re-election in 2024.