Ondo 2020 Governorship Poll: Issues and Deciding Factors


Except the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in view of the novel coronavirus, shifts the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State, it’s about  five months to the said election. The race for the Alagbaka top job has begun in earnest. From all indications, it appears the governor,  Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, is interested in seeking a second term in office.

Allr things considered, it won’t be an easy ride for Governor Akeredolu as many other qualified aspirants are warming up to take over the seat from him. Whichever way, he can either win or becomes the third incumbent governor to lose a reelection in the Sunshine state.

Historically, governorship election  in Ondo astate is unpredictable, as it has always  sprung up surprises over the years. The late Adebayo Adefarati and Olusegun Agagu couldn’t secure a second term in office. Dr lusegun Mimiko, who’s the first to have done two terms in office as Governor, was not allowed to consolidate on his ‘Iroko Agenda’ as  the electorate in the state denied him the opportunity to  install his preferred successor, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP),  in 2016.

More over, a political novice has never occupied the Alagbaka House as the Government House in the state is called. All the Governors the state has produced  since 1999 were either former Deputy Governor or former Commissioners.  Adefarati was Commissioner twice under the Afenifere leader Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin.  He was the State Commissioner for Works and Transport (between 1979–1983). Agagu was Deputy Governor of Ondo State, 1992 to November 1993 in the Third Republic, elected on the platform of Social Democratic Party SDP platform. Mimiko’s first political appointment was as Commissioner for Health and Social Services in Ondo State from 1992 till 1993 when a military coup terminated the Third Republic. The incumbent, Akeredolu was appointed Attorney General of the state  from 1997 to 1999.

The October election is not likely to spring new surprises as the winner of the election will be a known face,  likely coming from the ranks of those who have sought to govern the state before;  former or serving federal legislators, former or serving commissioners, or possibly the incumbent.

By  calculation, at least seven factors will determine the winner of the governorship election, namely: The internal wrangling in the APC at the national level , Ondo APC Unity Forum, candidate’s popularity factor, Akeredolu’s performance, PDP 2019 general election performance, Force majeure factor and vote buying.

On the internal wrangling in the APC, in  the eyes of the law, the current leadership tussle in the APC has been abated courtesy of the March 16 Court of Appeal judgement which halted an Abuja High Court  suspension of Adams Oshiomole as the national Chairman of the party. However, while those who wanted Oshiomole out are still scheming on possible way to sack the former Edo State Governor, his backers  are more than ready to slug it out. The need to resolve all the crisis rocking the ruling party cannot be overemphasized as it will going a long way in determining  the unity and cohesion of the APC while approaching the election.

Instructively, a source within the APC national secretariat has said the only available win-win situation for both camps is for the National Working Committee NWC led by Oshiomhole to allow Obaseki and Akeredolu the right of first refusal and give them automatic tickets for their possible re-election for a second term in office as governors. The source concluded that it will allow those who want Oshiomhole out at least to sheathe the sword for now.

As for the Unity Forum, it is a group within the APC led by a former Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Ali Olanusi. The unity group comprises political veterans  who are influential and well rooted in the state. The group emerged  as a fallout of the last governorship primary that produced Gov. Akeredolu as the party’s flag-bearer in 2016.

The group is rooting to stop Governor Akeredolu from getting the ticket of the party for a second term in office and  has vowed to present a consensus governorship aspirant for the party’s primaries. Top among the group is the state  most ranked  lawmaker in the National Assembly who also doubles as Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, former state chairman of the party, Mr Isaac Kekemeke, South-West coordinator of the 2019 Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation, Chief Olusola Oke, former Osun State Commissioner for Regional Integration, Mr Bola Ilori, Executive Director of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company NDPHC, Mr Ife Oyedele.

Others are:   Senator Yele Omogunwa, Jimi Odimayo, Olusegun Abraham, Jumoke Anifowose nee Ajasin and  Bukola Adetula. The way the APC will manage or mismanage the outcomes of the primary election will determine whether it will retain its position as the ruling party or revert to the opposition in the state.

On the popularity factor; in the time past, popularity of a governorship candidate has been a major factor across the eighteen local governments in the state.
The acceptability and wide popularity of a governorship candidate across the major ethnic groups of Akoko, Owo, Akure, Ondo, Ikale and Ilaje would be key to deciding the winner of the election. It has been proven time and time again  in the state  that  an unpopular candidate can’t win a gubernatorial election.

It is on record that Adefarati, Agagu, Mimiko and Akeredolu all won their senatorial districts in their bids to be Governor of the state and led in at least nine of the eighteen local governments. This has further led credence to the fact that to be governor of the state, the winning candidate must be well-known in his senatorial district. In view of that, it should be safely assumed that whosever wins his senatorial district is likely to win the election.

On the performance of the incumbent, it is believed that Akeredolu seems to have a robust relationship with workers in the state as regards the prompt payment of salary and other allowances. Also, he has some developmental projects such as Ore Flyover Interchange, although, critics of the government had criticized  its cost which was put at N5 billion, the N15 billion International Industrial Park in Omotosho, Ore in Odigbo Local Government Area commissioned by President Buhari  in February 2020, 8.2KM Iyere-Ipele road, dualisation of Oke Alabojuto Road, Ikare Phase 1 (0.5km), construction  of Gaga community township  road (5.569km) and construction of dual carriageway from Oba Adesida  (A Division) Oba Soup (Hospital) Road-Oluwatuyi-Ijoka (8.135km) , among others
to his credit. However, the over concentration of these projects in the city centres especially in Akure, the state capital is an issue of serious concern to rural dwellers who continue to lament the decadence of infrastructures and lack of government presence in their localities.

Specifically, a member of the State House of Assembly, representing Ese-Odo State Constituency, Success Torhukerhijo,  alleged marginalisation of his people. “It is saddening and highly worrisome that in the whole of Ijaw land, you cannot point to a government project worth N50m done within the last three years of the Akeredolu administration. Projects that were embarked on by the former administration were abandoned; new ones are not being initiated, so there is nothing to show the presence of government in this place in the past three years,” the lawmaker had said in a recent interview he had with another medium.

Hon. Torhukerhijo   is not alone in his lamentation; there are others who continue to use various social media platforms to vent their anger against the governor over what they generally perceive to be maladministration. They also accuse him of favoritism and nepotism in terms of appointments and even in project distribution.

To the major opposition party in the state, the PDP, Akeredolu does not deserve a second term in the office. Officials of the party and its diehard faithfuls say they are battle ready to sack the Governor from Alagbaka House through the ballot come October.

As for the PDP heading into the October gubernatorial poll, other things being equal, the election is another opportunity for the party to recover its fading glory in the state. Of course that will only depend on its acceptability by the electorate. The last time the party  won a governorship election in the state was 2003 when  the incumbent, Adefarati, was defeated by Agagu,  candidate of the PDP.  However, they are early indications that the opposition party could repeat the feat especially with its performance during the 2019 general election. The party won two out of the three senatorial districts, three out of the nine available federal constituency seats. Also, the party also secured the state for its flag bearer in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, against the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, who eventually won the general election according to INEC.

No doubt,the sterling performance of the PDP in the 2019 general elections in the state is responsible for the upsurge in the number of aspirants eyeing the opposition party’s ticket for the October governorship election. As it stands, no fewer than 14 members of the party have signified their intention to fly the party’s fag at the poll with a vast majority of them from the southern senatorial district. This has made many political observers in the state to be curious as to whether the party’s candidate would emerge  from the zone which has constantly produced its governorship candidate from 1999 except in 2016. The senatorial district that will produce the  (PDP) candidate is expected to have a great influence in the coming election. Top of the candidates are; former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General and 2016 governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, Vice-Chairman, PDP South- West, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Sola Ebiseni, Banji Okunomo and Dr Bode Ayorinde, among others.

Force majeure is a legal term used to describe unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a goal. In politics, it cannot be controlled by anyone as it’s unavoidable, unpredictable and unexpected. Some theists often describe it as an act of God. Based on impassioned observation, force majeure has never played a role in who governs the Sunshine state. However, since it’s seen as an act of God,  it can never be ignored. As seen in the neighborhood Kogi State, it was force majeure that led to the emergence Yahaya Bello as Governor of it the state in 2015 according to some analysts. Be this as it may, a force majeure is like a red card in football which is capable of changing the game, turning potential winners to  losers.

Going by the raging poverty in the country which according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), May 4, 2020, Nigeria Poverty and Inequality Survey Report 2019, four in ten Nigerians or over 82.9 million Nigerians live in abject poverty, it is safe to say that vote buying as crude a tactic as it’s in winning an election, it is still going to play a huge role in the Ondo gubernatorial election as it has done in almost all elections in the country since 2015. In past elections, it used to be ballot snatching, voter suppression in the stronghold of opposition candidates,  intimidation and outright inflation of election figures for winning candidates. It does appear vote buying has trumped all the aforementioned as the principal instrument Nigerian politicians now use to win elections. Victory belongs to the highest bidder.

Many political analysts are of the opinion that the last Governorship election in the state in 2016 was characterized with vote buying as major political parties in the election induced voters with money. It was observed during the election that agents of the APC,  PDP and the  Alliance for Democracy AD gave money to voters to vote for the candidates of their parties which invariably  influenced the outcome of the poll. How INEC and the security agencies that will be deployed to monitor the poll plan to minimize vote buying in the upcoming election because poverty and hunger still persist in the state will be interesting to see. This factor is expected to have a great influence on outcome of  the election as it did in 2016.