Ondo State is a contested hotbed of political campaigns. It is the only oil producing state in South West Nigeria. This means it receives the revenue perks and derivatives that is accrued to states in the Niger Delta region. No wonder many have jousted to become the party flagbearer of the prominent parties in the state. The searchlight is beamed on the two major political parties: the Action Progressive Congress, APC, and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. This does not deter from political surprises in the run for the coveted office in Alagbaka from other parties. Dr. Olusegun Mimiko sprung a surprise with the Labour Party, when he defected from the PDP to the Labour Party in 2017 and won the governorship election.
This time around, Barr. Rotimi Akeredolu, the incumbent, emerged winner of the APC primaries. He defeated Chief Olusola Oke, Nathaniel Adojutelegan, Sola Iji, Jumoke Anifowoshe and Akinsehinwa Awodeyi and others to represent the party at the polls in October 10. While Isaac Kekemeke; one of the aspirants who lamented that the organisers of the primary were scheming to favour the incumbent had cooperated with the electoral verdict, Mr. Nathaniel Adojutelegan, told Channels TV that the party election was fraught with bribery and irregularities. Adojutelegan said he would contest the primaries in court. Akeredolu won with 2458 while Olusola Oke was came a far second with 262 votes. Isaac Kekemeke had 19votes.
The PDP hopes to reap from the crisis bedevilling the APC. The PDP are a party to watch because they won the state for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar last year, and secured two senatorial seats and three House of Representatives’ seats out of nine, for the party. The party welcomed Agboola Ajayi, the state’s embattled deputy governor into the party hoping to gain traction from the crisis between him and Governor Akeredolu. Some of the party stalwarts were interested in making him the party flagbearer because he hailed from Ondo-South Senatorial District. At the PDP primaries, Barr. Eyitayo Jegede defeated Banji Okunomo, Eddy Olafeso, Bode Ayorinde, Boluwaji Kunlere, Sola Ebiseni, Godday Erewa and Agboola Ajayi. He won with 888votes while Agboola Ajayi came a close second with 657 votes. Consequently, the group, Ondo State Southern Senatorial Patriotic Movement, OSSSPM, urged the winner to choose Agboola as his running mate, in order to gain the support of the entire Ondo-South, to leverage on his influence and to compensate him for decamping from Akeredolu’s Camp.
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It is going to be a battle of former Attorney Generals of the State. Akeredolu (SAN) was the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General for the state when Navy Captain Anthony Onyearugbulem was the Military Administrator between 1996 to 1998. After an impasse, he became the President of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA in 2008. His NBA Presidency was known for boldly challenging the government to hand over power to the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to act when President Musa Yaradua was ill and absent. After his tenure at the NBA, he was the governorship candidate for the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in 2012. He lost at the polls to Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, the party flagbearer of the PDP, also served in the same legal capacity for the state with the Olusegun Mimiko government in 2015. Jegede is respected for his legal depth and experience in engaging election petition matters. He was a former Chancellor of the Anglican Communion of Jalingo, Taraba State. He chaired the implementation committee of the American University, Yola, and was a member, Board of Trusteee, Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, OndoState. When Mimiko defected to the Labour Party in 2017, Jegede was the governorship candidate of the PDP. He lost to Governor Mimiko at the time.
The political sentiment of choice for the governor, and other political positions, seem to revolve around the principle of senatorial districts. This played out when the Akure Community Development Forum, ACDF, comprising of members of Akure South, Akure North, Idanre and Ifedore expressed their disappointment and demanded a review of the appointment of Chief Tayo Alasoadura, as Minister of State for Labour and Productivity in August 2019. In September 2016, the Ondo State Solidary Congress called on the APC Governorship Candidate, who hails from Ondo-North Senatorial District to choose his deputy from Ondo-South so as to stand a chance to win the governorship election at the time. Jegede’s political ambition in 2016 was believed to have scuttled because he came from the same Ondo-Central as former Governor Mimiko.
Governor Akeredolu expressed confidence in returning to Alagbaka based on his exceptional performance in education, health, industrialisation, agriculture, job creation, economic recovery and infrastructural development. He hopes to use the good office to improve the lives of the people of the state by leverage on the potentials of the Deep-Sea Port, Bitumen and Ore deposits in the State. Akeredolu has been lauded for proactive steps in setting up a Palliative Committee to cater for the needs of the people due to the global pandemic. He has also been praised for his invention on the major road connecting Afin and Eshe in Akoko North Local Government, which may be upgraded if he wins his second term campaign.
Recent flooding in Ese-Odo Local Government and nearby environs, and the showcase of gullies in the major roads in Ondo hinterlands by social activists present a contrary perspective. The protest of Resident Doctors who have accused the State of haphazard deductions from their allowances, of the non-payment of the COVID-19 Hazard and Risk Allowance and the non-availability of Personal Prevention Equipment have also dented the public image of the Governor. The Governor issued a directive to sack some of the protesting doctors in June.
On the Flipside, Eyitayo Jegede hopes to leverage on his track record of Governor Olusegun Mimiko as a contributor to the immense work done by the previous PDP government in Ondo State. This reportedly includes the implementation of a robust healthcare system, education advancement programmes, a celebrated industrialisation development, the improvement of workers welfare, and a foundation for independent power supply or the State. While Political analysts say that the political sentiment of senatorial district may stand in his way again, Eddy Olafeso, the national chairman of the PDP displaced this position by urging voters to consider values like competence, personality and integrity. Jegede hopes to grow the state through public-private partnerships, explore the tourism potentials of the state, support small and medium scale enterprises and provide free basic healthcare to pregnant women and children under the age of 10 years.
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Kunle Ajayi, a social activist and a party stalwart of the African Action Congress criticised the governance of Governor Mimiko, and by extension, the governance style of Eyitayo Jegede when he told members of the AAC and the media that the Mimiko government could not sustain their laudable policies because they were not driven by the people of Ondo State. He noted that the AAC has a governance road map that would synergize the achievements and aspirations of the Ajasin government, mend the loopholes in the Mimiko government and resolve the problems created by the Akeredolu government.
The stage is set for the two major parties to engage the people of Ondo State in a far-reaching display of wits, presentation of political manifestos and public relations that may stir loyalty, love and votes for any of the aspirants that wins their hearts.