Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo speaks in this interview with ADEWALE MOMOH on why a former governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, is supporting the deputy governor, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, who is also the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) against Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu
Do you see the Olusegun Mimiko-led Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) as a threat to the re-election of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu?
I think it will be misplacement for anybody to even aver that the governor in his position as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) feels threatened by the incessant onslaught by his friend and immediate predecessor since the campaign began. We do not believe that we have any reason to feel threatened. We also do not believe that the former governor, who today is the national leader of ZLP has the capacity and ability to pose any threat to Governor Akeredolu.
So many indices are abound to also back up my argument. First, here is a man who as a two term-governor after spending eight years, could not muster enough goodwill to even install a successor. Here is a two term-governor, who after his ability to install a successor four years down the line wanted to go to the Senate couldn’t secure victory in any of the local governments in the Central senatorial zone.
That shows that the national leader of the ZLP, who today is a patron of the party do not pose any threat to us. In any case, we understand his predicaments, we understand his pains, we understand the reasons perhaps responsible for the onslaught. We all know that public morality and administrative values abhor this attitude and very negative deposition he has shown to his immediate successor, who incidentally is also his friend of over 40 years.
It is very rear in the history of politics that you will see the former occupier of an office coming out daily to disparage the administration under a colleague, who currently occupies that office. It’s only in this state that we are seeing it. The governor has said it times without number that he wasn’t surprised about the disposition of his friend towards him.
But the significance we are trying to bring out from this political contest on the side of the ZLP is the fact that the national leader of the ZLP is today providing leadership, however impotent that leadership is for somebody who today is termed estranged deputy governor to a sitting governor. Here is a man, who whether we like it or not as at the time he took a step to instigate the removal of his then deputy, who today is a chieftain of the APC had some reasons to do it.
If today out of desperation, out of betrayal, someone could provide that leadership for a deputy who attempted to ensure that his principal was brought down. That shows the level of treachery, betrayal and deception. In any case, the reason we are not threatened is because while the leadership as represented in the ZLP thrives on the tripod of treachery, betrayal and deception, we in the APC, particularly our candidate, who is also the governor of the state, is hinging his campaign and his desire to govern the people for another four years on the good will and the three values of forthrightness, truthfulness and hard work.
So, we’re not threatened in any form but we are not even disappointed. We are not surprised that this is coming. October 10 will nail the political coffin of the former governor. Mind you, the most painful of anything, particularly a governor or a chief executive who desired to install a successor will be for him to fail in his bid to install a successor. It is even more painful that an incumbent failed in his bid to install a successor than for a first time incumbent to even win a second term bid.
Mimiko is still wallowing in the pains of the defeated expectations arising from the 2016 defeat of his anointed candidate and also the dashed hope of rehabilitating himself through the 2019 senatorial race. So, you can’t expect anything less from the leader of the ZLP. It’s most expected but I can tell you that he will forever remain demystified in the politics of Ondo State and October 10 is the date.
Where are your catchment areas of winning the election?
We’ll consider it highly illogical for us to say these are our catchment areas. The entire state is the catchment area of the candidate of the APC. The entire state is the catchment area of Governor Akeredolu. The reason is simple; there is no senatorial district or local government in the entire state that Governor Akeredolu has not touched. He may not have touched every community but it is most likely that every local government has felt a touch of the governor’s hard work and achievements.
What is your take on rising tension in the state ahead of the election?
The anxiety and tension that was witnessed in Edo State was such that people thought that heavens were going to fall but we witnessed a relatively peaceful and orderly electoral process there. I believe that the situation in Ondo State will not be different. I strongly believe too that the gladiators, I mean the major stakeholders, particularly the governorship candidates as long altruism would be the driving motive behind their ambitions, will not also want to allow the state to go into flames.
I think they are all engaging themselves. But having said that, as a government, we have a dual responsibility as a platform that is being provided for by a political party to contest an election and also as government of the day that has the responsibility of ensuring that there is peace and adequate security before, during and immediately after the election. No matter how transparent an election is, violence could deface it.
So, I do not think that even the most unserious of all the candidates would desire that there should be violence. These things you are seeing are not unusual but we believe that with time; when people settle down and trickle back to their various wards and localities, the concentration of action and attention would have been liberalized into the various localities. So, the issue of tension will no longer be there.
Is the outcome of the Edo election not a source of apprehension for the APC?
Well, it is two way. If you are talking about the resolve of the Edo people for continuity, that means we are going to achieve that in Ondo State. The people of the state will definitely replay Edo by voting for continuity and good governance but if you talk about the circumstances and indices that propelled Governor Godwin Obaseki to victory; they are totally different from what obtain here in Ondo State.
There you had a two-horse race, here you have a three-horse race, the PDP, APC and what they called the third-force that is represented by the ZLP. In any case, the people of the state already know that the ZLP is just a vehicle for an individual to come back to government through the back door. It’s a third term agenda by the national leader of ZLP. So, the people of Ondo State already know that and not allow it.
The people of the state had rejected internal colonialism and they will continue to reject that internal colonialism effort or attempt or the desire by the national leadership of ZLP. The people of the state also know that it is too early to take government from the central to the north and take it back to the central.
The people of the south are of the opinion that they will desire to have an almost seamless contest in 2024 and that the only way to achieve that will be to support the only candidate from the north, who coincidentally is not just a candidate of the APC but the sitting governor in the state. The people of Ondo State are more prepared to ensure that there is an unwritten zoning arrangement through their votes. They did it in 2016 and they will establish it further on October 10.
Why can’t the two bosom friends; Mimiko and Akeredolu work together?
In politics you can’t rule anything out except it hasn’t happened. They didn’t work together in 2012, they were also not together in 2016 and if they are not together now, it won’t be a surprise.
If in four years’ time; they will be together, it will also not be a surprise. But my appeal is for the two friends to work together. The most veritable of all the indices and circumstances that we have seen on ground are to the effect that the immediate past governor would have earned much respect for himself if he had resolved to work together rather than supporting a deputy governor against his friend in a position he has occupied before because the public is looking at it. Maybe he has not seen the moral obligation and the moral burden that he is carrying.
What is your reaction to Governor Nyesom Wike’s declareation that PDP will win Ondo and the allegation that the Independent National Electoral Commission is under pressure to rig the poll?
When a man has so much burden of fear in him, there is nothing he won’t say. With due respect to the office of the Governor of Rivers State, I think that statement was most uncalled for as much as he has the right as a leader and as a stakeholder in the country to say whatever he thinks is permissible by law to say. But I think it is most preposterous for him to say that INEC was preparing to rig for APC.
I’m not speaking for INEC unless he is alluding to the fact that INEC rigged for his party in all the places they have won. We are running this election on the strength of the achievements that we have recorded in last three and half years.
We are running the election on the strength of the support and the goodwill that we have enjoyed. We running this election on the strength of the discerning mindset that the people have beamed on the past and comparing same with the present. So, we do not need an INEC and we do not need anybody to rig this election. We are going to win this election squarely, simply, seamlessly and as transparently as possible.
We did it before and we are going to do it again. The governor of Rivers State should know that Ondo State is not Rivers State. Wherever he has roared and succeeded, he cannot take that to Ondo State. I want to send a signal that he must not come to Ondo State with that mindset that he was coming to impose a leader on the people of the state. The people of Ondo State have always rejected imposition; this is not going to be different. They have done it severally.
Infact, since 1983, the people of Ondo State have rejected it. The people have always elected their leaders. So, nobody no matter highly place or emotionally unstable the person might appear must desire to play God in the lives of the people of Ondo State.