Ondo guber election:  The shape of things to come
Wednesday April 18 , 2012
• Mimiko

Barring any unforeseen circumstance, the people of Ondo State will go to the polls on October 20, 2012 to elect a new governor. The election marks the end of the four-year term of Governor Olusegun Mimiko seen in many quarters as revolutionary in terms of its transformational strides and delivery of democracy dividends. Mimiko is sure to seek re-election. Those close to his Labour Party (LP) say the second term will provide the governor the opportunity to complete his long-term life changing programs.

Beyond that, they believe the Ondo State gubernatorial election will be a walkover for the governor because his “good works of the past three years will speak for him.” Whereas Mimiko is certain to fly the flag of LP in the election, the situation in the opposition, represented by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the PDP, is fuzzy. The race for the tickets of the opposition parties is crowded. No fewer than 30 stalwarts of the ACN are jostling for the ticket with the latest entrant into the race being Mrs Jumoke Anifowose, the chairman of the party in the state and daughter of a former governor, Chief Adekunle Ajasin. In the PDP, there are no less than 10 aspirants.

The ACN aspirants include Chief Joseph Jaiyeola Ajatta, a two-time House of Representatives member; Mr. Akinola Awodeyi-Akinsehinwa (aka Apata-Rock of Ages); Dr Tunji Abayomi, lawyer and activist; Alhaji Lateef Raji, special adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State; Senator Ajayi Boroffice; Dr Olu Agunloye, a former corps marshal
of the FRSC; Alhaji Jamiu Ekungba, a finance expert; Hon Tayo Alasoadura; Senator Olorunimbe Farunkami; and Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The PDP aspirants include Senator Remi Okunrinboye, Navy Captain Sunday Adeusi, Sola Oke, Alaba Isijola, Victor Olabimtan, Rotimi Bassey, Dr Benson Enikuomehin and Moyosola Niran-Oladunni.

The fate of the PDP in the Ondo gubernatorial election seems uncertain as the party is bogged down by factional crisis. In the case of the ACN, while the party appears set to contest the election with the ruling LP, the question is being asked, ‘How far can it go?’ Analysts narrow down the intense interest of the ACN in the Ondo forthcoming election and consequently the high number of aspirants after the ticket to two reasons. One, they believed Mimiko should have wound up his LP and joined their party, but the governor has kept them at an arm’s length. Two, their quest to control Ondo State falls within the purview of their much touted South-west integration, the controversial view that the cause of the region is better served when all the six states therein are controlled by one party – obviously the ACN. Ondo is currently the only state in the region not under their control. The strategies adopted by the ACN have left the political watchers of the events in the state ahead of the poll in no doubt that the party is desperate to ‘capture’ Ondo. They have been raking up claims to justify why they are the party to beat in the coming election.

They say LP members in their thousands in the state have been defecting to the ACN because they are dissatisfied with the Ondo ruling party. But some political analysts put a lie to this claim. The analysts said there had been no report of any politician of consequence in the LP in the state defecting to the ACN since Chief Olaiya Oni, an erstwhile LP chairman in Ondo, left the party about one year ago. According to them, if there were any defectors at all from the Ondo LP to the ACN, the figures appear to have been grossly inflated. The analysts noted that the ACN had been using the media controlled by them to make the “largely unsubstantiated claim of mass defections from the Ondo LP to their party.” The Ondo Commissioner for Information, Mr Kayode Akinmade, echoed the position of the analysts. In dismissing the claim of mass defections, Akinmade said the LP was much on the ground in every part of the state in appreciation of the performance of the Mimiko administration.

He added: “But let me assure you, if one of our (LP) members defect to the ACN, thousands from their party will decamp to our party.” The ACN also postulated that Mimiko would dump the LP ahead of the forthcoming election for the PDP. The postulation has not seen the light of day. Now, they are talking about ‘gubernatorial jinx’ in Ondo State, which has, according to them, not seen any governor doing two terms, saying the case of Mimiko will not be an exception. This position flies in the face of the second term mandate the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin won in 1983 in the old Ondo State, although that tenure was truncated by the military coup of that year. Dr Olusegun Agagu also technically started a second tenure. The tenure was aborted to give way to the Mimiko administration. Political analysts faulted the ACN stand on ‘gubernatorial jinx’, saying it can work to the extent that the incumbent is a non-performer. And, in the case of Mimiko, they say testimonies from within and outside Ondo point in the direction that the governor is delivering on his promise to ‘work for the people ‘when he assumed office in 2009.

One of the analysts said: “It takes eight months or thereabouts to define the character of a government. Mimiko made a promise at the outset of his administration, and he is delivering on that promise. His popularity rating increases by the day.” Also projected to come into play in the Ondo gubernatorial election is the political configuration of the state. Of the 18 local governments, political watchers cannot put their hands on any they can describe as ACN stronghold. This is without prejudice to the fact that about 18 ACN aspirants are from the four local governments in the Akoko area. But the snag is that they are campaigning with the ‘Akoko agenda’ thus creating suspicion in other parts of the state that the politicians harbour a sinister motive. Some analysts contend that even if the ACN candidate for the Ondo gubernatorial election eventually emerges from there, the fact that the current deputy governor, Alhaji Alli Olanusi, the deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly and several members of the state cabinet are from the area is sufficient to neutralise the effect that might have on the chances of Mimiko in the election.

In other words, the analysts say it will be difficult for the ACN to have a stronghold in the Akoko four LGAs, whereas, the entire LGAs in the state are considered the stronghold of the LP. Overall, the LP is banking on the goodwill that came with Mimiko’s performance of the past three years to tell the people that there is still a lot more to be done beyond 2013 by him. “The governor has come a long way having at different times been councillor, two-term commissioner, SSG, and minister. He has earned tremendous goodwill from the people since he assumed office with his sterling performance. The people trust him and are inclined to giving him a new mandate in October. That is why the ACN is desperate, using all sorts of propaganda, but that has refused to work,” an analyst said.

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