Another four year is here. Once again, the people of Ondo State head for the polling booths scattered across the 18 local government areas tomorrow to elect a man, the all-powerful individual, who will pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years.
The people are electing their Governor.
Three contestants, among many others, stand out among those jostling for the plum job. It is generally accepted that one of them will carry the day. These are the incumbent, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of APC, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of PDP and Hon. Agboola Ajayi of ZLP. Symbolically, the three hail from the various Senatorial Districts of the State: (Akeredolu, North; Eyitayo, Central and Agboola, South)
The first two, Akeredolu and Jegede, are legal luminaries and have attained the prestigious status of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN). They are old customers, having locked horns in 2016 for this same seat and Akeredolu popularly known as Aketi triumphed. The third contestant, Agboola Ajayi is gunning for the position for the first time. In terms of contesting elections under political platforms, he has the richest experience among the three. You can call him a veteran when it comes to contesting elections and winning. He is a former Chairman of Ese Odo Local Government Area and a former member of the House of Representatives in Abuja. Both positions were attained via electoral victories.
The first duo have a lot in common. None of them had ever been elected into any office on the platform of a political party prior to appointment. They made their names and fortune outside the shores of Ondo State as legal practitioners: Aketi Ibadan, Oyo State; Eyitayo, old Yola, Gongola State. Governor Akeredolu is a successful unionist having been elected as a two term National President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The two lawyers started their political sojourn as appointees and coincidentally in the State Ministry of Justice as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. Akeredolu served for served under late Reverend Olumilua and Jegede under Dr. Mimiko. The learned men are married from more or less same geographical axis: Betty Akeredolu (south east) and Eno Jegede (south south). Their interest for the governorship position was triggered in the first place by people, who saw potentials in them and wanted to be godfathers of Ondo State politics. Thankfully, they have yanked themselves free from the shackles of godfatherism. Aketi tried his luck for the post in 2012 but lost to Dr. Mimiko. Eyitayo attempted to become the governor in 2016, he was beaten to it by Aketi. The two men are good students of history. Give give it to them. To these two, cross carpeting, which I call frog jumping, is a taboo. They have remained steadfast and committed to their political parties.
Agboola on his part is reputed for being a good grassroot mobiliser. As a politician, who is vastly experienced in contesting and winning elections, that attribute is not surprising. He is one of the most reticent/taciturn politicians. What he lacks in words, he possesses abundantly in action as the Kiribo-born politician knows how to have his way and get what he wants. We must not forget that Agboola Ajayi is still the deputy Governor of Ondo State, though he has called it quits with the APC party that brought him to office. He vowed that he was irremovable through impeachment by the State House of Assembly and he is still there. Underrate him to your own peril.
APC and PDP are more famous than ZLP based on the fact that they have been in government for a long time. Not only that, most people in APC are old members of the opposition PDP. As for ZLP, it’s relatively new. Ondo State used to know LP through former Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. He brought it to limelight and later collapsed and merge it with the PDP.
A lot of intrigues, politicking and power play took place during the primaries, which took place to decide the parties flag bearers. Arakunrin Akeredolu had, perhaps, the most difficult and challenging exercise. His Deputy and Secretary to the State Government (SSG) turned their backs on him by resigning from his cabinet just a few weeks to the primary. Top members of the party purchased nomination forms to get the ticket at his expense. Like a cat with nine lives, he survived the conspiracies and clinched the party’s nod.
Eyitayo too had a tough time emerging as PDP candidate. It was tough about a month preceding the primaries with about nine prominent members jostling. It became tougher with the deputy Governor joining the fray. He too was able to overcome the hurdles posed by all of them. The fact that these men survived the intrigues of the primaries speak volumes about their political sagacity. They have a better grasp of the terrain, having come of age in the art.
Agboola had an easy ride to the ZLP candidacy, as there was no politician of note to hoist its flag before he decamped.
Governor Akeredolu is in the last six months of a four year tenure. The people of the State have seen what he has in stock. He has been the main man, whom the entire people of the state have focused on. As usual for anybody in power to be criticised for not pleasing everybody, many are accusing Governor Akeredolu of not having performed well enough. On the other hand, he and his supporters are saying he is the best thing that has ever happened to the State and so deserve another term in office. These loyalists point to his achievements in the areas of infrastructural development, renovation of schools, agriculture, industrialisation, provision of water etc as reasons the people will give him another chance to rule for another 4- year term.
The two other contestants, Eyitayo and Agboola are not being x-rayed on account of performance. The reason being that they are not in government and thereby are attracting less criticism. Many factors are being raised, as capable of derailing their chances, though.
Some are saying Eyitayo Jegede cannot win by virtue of hailing from Akure, the Central Senatorial District. They are of the opinion that Dr. Mimiko from Ondo town who left the office four years ago, had utilised the slot of the Central zone. Also in their view, his party the PDP is too feeble and fragmented to beat APC’s Arakunrin. However, his supporters laugh off these perceived fears. They chorus “its Eyi’s time” to govern the state. These diehards point to the victory recorded in the National Assembly polls of 2019, with PDP winning two out of the three Senatorial seats as proof of its solidity. They equally highlight its scoring highest number of votes in the 2019 Presidential elections as another reason.
The Deputy Governor’s drawback, according to critics, is what they tag “desperation.” To the naysayers, quitting APC for PDP, where he faltered in attempt to get the party’s ticket for ZLP within a matter of four to six weeks is desperation. His backers are not agreeing with that assertion. They see Agbo as a tacticak politician with the gift for wooing the grassroot people to himself. Coupled with the leadership of ex-Governor Mimiko, they are persuaded that he will win.
All said and done, only one of the contestants is going to carry the day. The question of Senatorial district determining the winner might not work. None of the three gladiators can have 90% of the votes of his district. The reason being that they all have supporters and opponents everywhere, particularly in their domains.
Political analysts see Aketi as the man to beat. Their position is influenced by power of incumbency, government apparatus and resources at his disposal. Yet, the Governor knows that he cannot and must not get carried away with these supposedly favourable factors above. From what we have seen and heard in the last few weeks of rallies and campaigns, Eyitayo Jegede desires to be called a former Commissioner for Justice, who became Governor just as Aketi. Ditto, Agboola Ajayi wants to add His Excellency, the Governor of Ondo State to his political resume. And this cannot happen unless they defeat Arakunrin Akeredolu tomorrow. So, its going to be a hell of a battle, as all of the gladiators have faith in the ability emerge victorious. All attempts by some powerful people to make PDP and ZLP form a formidable team through merger has hit the rocks.
Who will win? The man who succeeds in harvesting the highest number of votes will carry the day. Fate of these men is going to be decided by the people of Ondo State. The three musketeers have toured the nooks and cranny of the state, selling their manifesto and programmes to the people. We have seen mammoth crowd attend their rallies. Whoever carries the day should be humble enough to know and acknowledge divine favour. This he can do by serving, serving and serving the people. That is all we require and definitely deserve.
Let whom the cap fits, wear it.