Politics

Ondo: Herculean task for Makinde

Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, faces an uphill task of leading the National Campaign Council of the People Democratic Party (PDP) for the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State, ONYEKACHI EZE reports

Perhaps, if there is another project Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde will execute with all his might apart from the governance of his state, it is the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State. Makinde is the chairman of the 145-member National Campaign Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the poll and at the flag off of the campaign in Akure last Saturday, the governor said Oyo State will become a launching pad for PDP to capture the South-West. His words: “We want freedom for the entire South-West. It has started from Oyo State and will continue in Ondo States on October 10.

They are saying you should vote for them because they want presidency to come to Yoruba land. This election is not about presidency to Yoruba land, this election is about delivering Eyitayo Jegede and putting Ondo State among the states that will lead the charge to restructure Nigeria.”

The Ondo State governorship election will be the first in the South-West since 2019 general elections in which Makinde, against all odds, emerged governor of Oyo State. At the moment, he is the only PDP governor in the region. This, perhaps, explains why he will throw in everything to ensure that he delivers the state to PDP as a prelude to Osun governorship in 2022. A week before the flag off, Makinde presided over heads of subcommittees’ meeting of the campaign council in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

He told journalists after the meeting that the PDP is ready to do all that is lawful to secure victory in the Ondo election. No doubt, his election as Oyo governor has witnessed the resurgence of PDP in the South-West and some notable politicians in the zone who had left the party have come back. They include a former National Secretary of the party, Olagunsoye Onynilola; former Ekiti State governor, Segun Oni and the 2019 governorship candidate of African Democratic Party (ADP) in Lagos State, Babatunde Gbadamosi, among others. These are the people Makinde hopes to enlist in his new assignment even as peace seems to have returned to PDP in the South-West.

In June this year, the governor hosted a meeting of party leaders in the region where they agreed to “remain an indivisible, united and strong entity under the PDP’s umbrella.” In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, party leaders resolved to share positions zoned to the South-West “fairly and equitably …

within the various states/sub-zones of Lagos/Ogun; Ekiti/Ondo and Oyo/Osun, to create a sense of belonging in the respective states/sub-zones.” The communiqué further read: “That rotation of the various positions amongst the states/subzones will create a higher sense of unity, togetherness, fairness, and justice among the various states/ sub-zones. “The above-mentioned resolutions of the meeting are intended to create a sense of belonging, fairness, justice, and unity and will be fully implemented as we progress in our programmes in the future to come.”

The October 10 governorship poll in Ondo State will be the first outing for the party in South-West after the June 10 meeting. Incidentally, Makinde is the one chosen to lead the battle. He is presently the leader of the party in zone. Probably, PDP wants to use what people referred to as Makinde’s performance in his first year in office as a signpost to other states in the South-West. The party had maintained that its governors have remained shining examples in delivering of democracy dividends to Nigerians. Makinde had in a broadcast to the people of Oyo State to mark his first year in office, said he had completed 307 projects in the education sector, while 236 others are on-going.

“We have kept our promise to finish what previous administrations left undone instead of selfishly starting new ones. We looked at the books and found projects from as far back as 2011. “So far, in the education sector, we have completed two hundred and thirty-nine projects awarded by the previous administration and sixty-eight awarded by our own administration.

This year, we started two hundred and thirty-six projects which are currently ongoing,” he said. He also said he grew the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from N2.43 billion to N2.7 billion between December 2019 and February 2020. “We have started the Park Management System to bring sanity and order to the transportation sector. It also generates funds for the government.

We are working towards ensuring that the process runs seamlessly,” he said. The abolition of touts in motor parks is one area Governor Makinde had earned accolades from the people, not only in Oyo State. Other projects the governor said he executed include the renovation and rehabilitation of township roads and about 1, 000 kilometers rural roads, among others.

So far, the opposition has not disputed these claims. But leading PDP to victory in Ondo State may not be easy as that of Oyo governance. Makinde is leading the party against a sitting governor who has the much talked about federal might. But perhaps, PDP’s performance in Ondo State in the 2019 general election will make the job a lot easier for Makinde and his team.

The party won the 2019 presidential election in the state, two out of the three senatorial seats, three seats in the House of Representatives and two in the state Assembly despite the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a party in power in Ondo State. Eyitayo Jegede who is the PDP governorship candidate was also the party’s candidate in 2016 election. Despite the legal tussle over the PDP ticket, Jegede who was cleared by the Supreme Court a week to the election believed he won the poll and Ifedayo Abegunde, who resigned as Secretary to Government in Akeredolu’s cabinet agreed with him. He said the governor lost to Jegede in 2016.

“It was through the powers from me and other APC pillars that made INEC declare Akeredolu as governor after he had lost the election. So, Akeredolu didn’t win the Ondo governorship election in 2016 but we made it possible for him to become governor. We were the pillars behind him and we will not support him again. He will lose this time around,” Abegunde said.

Jegede polled 150,380 votes as against Akerodolu’s 244, 842 votes. The PDP candidate also believed intra-party squabble made him lose the governorship. Another factor that might work in favour of Makinde and the PDP campaign council is the crisis in the Ondo APC. Although it seemed to have been resolved, Akeredolu faced challenges within his party in the run to the APC primary.

Apart from disagreement with his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, which led to the latter’s defection, first to PDP and later to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), and the resignation of the SSG, about 11 other APC aspirants desired his seat. The party was divided between the governor and those who opposed his second term bid. Their grouse was his style of leadership.

The former SSG accused him of running a government of wife, son and in-laws, adding: “All government contracts goes to these same set of people from Imo State.” A former PDP governorship aspirant, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, who spoke on PDP’s chances, said the activities of the governor since he assumed office are making it easy for PDP to win the October 10 election. Ayorinde who said he was a member of the APC, accused the governor of abandoning governance of the state for his Aketi team. “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 said. Besides the claims, Akeredolu has also been accused of poor performance in office in the last four years. He has increase school fees in state owned tertiary institutions and last year, students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) and the Ondo State University of Science Technology, Okitipupa (OSUSTECH), protested over increase in their school fees by about 200 per cent from N35,000 to between N100,000 and N150, 000. Both institutions were closed down for more than three weeks.

In a twist, the state government announced reductions in the fees last month, a move some people said was informed by the forthcoming election though the gover-nor retained the levies he imposed in health and maternity centres, which were abolished by his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. The governor explained that the reduction was to cushion the effect of COVID-19. Jegede, on his part, has promised to reduce the tuition fees and offer cheaper medical services, if he wins the election.

His words: “We have divergent positions on a lot of things. While the APC came in and increased the tuition in all our tertiary institutions, we believe that should not happen. I believe that the fees should be made affordable to all our students. I believe that Ondo State can afford that because it has been done before.

I believe that we should bring down the fees. “While the APC government believed that they should hike the fees that are payable in all our health institutions, I will not share that view. I believe that the people should be the focus of the government and those high fees in the name of IGR should come down because access to medicare should not be a matter of IGR. “Akeredolu’s government believes that our pregnant women should pay high fees when they want to access maternal care when they go to the hospitals for delivery; I do not share that view. We believe that our pregnant women should have access to free maternal services. “Akeredolu’s government believes that people do not need help and that they can help themselves.

But we believe that we should be able to assist those who are in the business of commerce, those who are in the business of industries for them to take off so that they can provide the much-needed employment for our people.” Jegede’s convictions, notwithstanding, Makinde still has a challenge before him: to reconcile the aggrieved former aspirants who lost to Jegede in the PDP primary. It was reported that the aspirants are not happy with the candidate because he refused to pick any of them as his running mate.

But Makinde, at the inauguration of the campaign council last month, promised that he would ensure that Ondo PDP goes into the election as a united party. “We are doing everything possible to make sure all our members and leaders in Ondo State come together.

I do not have an atom of doubt that Ondo will soon come under the PDP,” he stated There was also a report that most PDP governors are not happy with Jegeda. At the campaign flag off last week, only Makinde and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal, were present out of 15 governors of the party. Tambuwal, who is the Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, told party faithful and supporters at the rally to seize the opportunity of the disarray in APC to elect Jegede as governor.

He said: “The other party, the APC is in disarray, not only in Ondo State where they are busy fighting but also in the national where they unlawfully, against their own constitution, dissolved their own National Working Committee. Are they not a party of confusion? Are they capable of governing Nigeria? “As at now, they do not have a Board of Trustees for their party. Since the inception of APC till today, they have not been able to get a Board of Trustees for their party.

Is that not enough confusion? That is why I am here to confirm to you that APC is not the choice for Ondo State,” He assured that election of Jegede as Ondo State governor and Godwin Obaseki in Edo would be a step towards restructuring Nigeria.

PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who expressed confidence that Jegede would win in a free and fair contest, warned against security agencies meddling in election matters “outside providing adequate and equal security to all the parties within the requirements of the law.”

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