Akeredolu battles Jegede, Ajayi for Ondo governorship seat

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Akeredolu, Jegede and Ajayi

Although the political behavior of the indigenes of Ondo State is totally different from their counterparts in Edo State, but it is the wish of all Nigerians that Ondo state will experience peaceful, free and fair gubernatorial election on Saturday, October 10, 2020

By Anayo Ezugwu

THE countdown to the Ondo State governorship election on Saturday, October 10, is in top gear with the political gladiators in last-minute moves to sway electorates in the state. The election is considered in many quarters as a three-horse race between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party, DPD, and Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP.

Apart from these top contenders, 17 political parties would take part in the election. Others are Social Democratic Party, SDP; African Democratic Congress, ADC; Young Progressives Party, YPP; African Democratic Party, ADP; Accord Party, African Action Alliance, AAA; African Democratic Party, ADP; Peoples Redemption Party, PRP; New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, and Action Peoples Party, APP, among others.

But many political analysts are of the opinion that the battle would largely be between APC, PDP, and ZLP. This is because they are believed to have the requisite structures in place across the 18 local government areas of the state, coupled with the fact that the parties are the most popular among the candidates.

The three candidates, who are legal practitioners, are from each of the three senatorial districts of the state – Akeredolu is from Ondo North; Jegede is from Ondo Central, while Ajayi is from Ondo South Senatorial District. For many observers, it will be a tight contest. However, each of them has an area of advantage.

Governor Akeredolu seems to have an edge over the other two candidates, being the incumbent governor. In Nigerian politics, the power of incumbency is a strong factor, coupled with the fact that his party is in charge at the national level. Support from the centre and from other states being ruled by the APC would definitely be of great advantage to him.

The governor’s performance would also earn him votes, particularly in various communities he had carried out projects. Some people believe that Akeredolu had done well in the area of infrastructure, industrialisation, and agriculture and many communities had benefited immensely in the projects in these sectors. Thus, in those areas where he carried out projects, he might get more votes.

However, according to some observers, a major factor that could be an obstacle to the governor’s re-election bid is the internal wrangling in the state APC which has not been completely resolved. Some APC members believe the governor did not coordinate the party properly since he assumed office in 2016.

For the candidate of the PDP, Eyitayo Jegede, he would have an advantage in the Ondo Central Senatorial District, where he hails from as his major stronghold, coupled with the structure of the party across the 18 local councils of the state. He also has supporters across the three senatorial districts, particularly in the southern senatorial district, which is sometimes regarded as the home of the PDP in Ondo State.

It was gathered that Jegede had been enjoying the support of the PDP governors across the country and some national leaders of the party are also in his support. So, money for the election may not be the headache for the party and its candidate.

Being a part of the immediate past administration of Governor Olusegun Mimiko, many beneficiaries of the administration are supporting Jegede to win the election with the hope that his the administration would be the continuation of Mimiko’s government, especially in the area of free medical service for pregnant women and children, reduction in school fees, and community development, among others.

But the major challenge that could militate against the PDP candidate is the sentiment on zoning in the state. Jegede has been described as a gentleman, with high credibility and intellectual prowess to manage the affairs of the state, but in the political quarters, the permutation and calculation do not favour him, following the senatorial district he comes from. Some political analysts have argued that Mimiko, from the same central senatorial district with Jegede, spent eight years in power. They said it was no longer feasible for the same zone to retain power.

They further argued that it was either Akeredolu completed his eight years or power should shift to the southern senatorial district. Due to this sentiment, some members were defecting from the PDP to support the APC or ZLP candidate.

Another factor that could affect the chances of the PDP candidate is the unsettled rift between him and Mimiko. The former governor, who is now the national leader of the ZLP, is said to be solidly behind the candidate of the party, Agboola Ajayi.

In the same vein, the emergence of Agboola Ajayi as the candidate of the ZLP had apparently shot the party into the limelight. Some people even describe the party as a third force in the election. Many political analysts have warned against underrating the ZLP candidate. Apart from the fact that he is a grassroots politician, who rose through the ranks, he has a lot of supporters across the state. Though the party may not have the financial strength to match the APC and PDP, it is said to be increasing its supporters’ base courtesy of defections, especially from both the APC and the PDP.

The senatorial zoning sentiment could also be in his favour as many people from the Ondo South Senatorial District is already seeing his governorship ambition as their project and are planning to deliver block votes from the area.

Ajayi’s alliance with Mimiko is also believed to be a boost for his ambition. Mimiko has been seen leading the campaign of the ZLP candidate in the state, telling the people that Ajayi would continue where he stopped if he is elected.

It is believed that Ajayi’s party may not be able to match the others if the election is unethically monetised as is sometimes the practice. Another concern of some of his supporters is how he would be able to gather the much-required votes from the two other senatorial districts. The structure of the ZLP is also not as strong as that of the APC and the PDP.

As the people are set to vote in the election, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the Ondo people that the governorship election would be free, fair and credible. Speaking in a recorded video in Akure, on Wednesday, October 7, the President promised that security agents shall perform their duties creditably to forestall the breakdown of law and order by unscrupulous elements.

Buhari expressed his support for Akeredolu, saying that the incumbent governor deserves to be re-elected so that he can consolidate on his achievements in office. The president urged the electorate to turn out en masse to vote on Saturday without fear of molestation.

”I have no doubt that our candidate is a good brand for the APC to market. I am particularly delighted by his ingenious approach to governance. His performance within the limits of available resources is endearing, just as he has taken the state to an enviable level and on the path of prosperity.

”Having had the privilege of commissioning some of his projects, which I consider enduring legacies, I join you here today to declare that Governor Akeredolu deserves to be re-elected to consolidate the good work he commenced in his first term. I am not just proud of his achievements; I am confident he will enjoy the mandate of the good people of Ondo State for the second term,” he said.

But Uche Secondus, national chairman, PDP, has said that the APC and its candidate, Akeredolu, were jittery of the popularity of the PDP’s candidate. Speaking at the grand finale of the campaign of the PDP, Secondus blamed the APC and its supporters for the recurring violence in the state, and accused the party of doing all things at all cost to remain in office.

He, therefore, urged the people of the state to vote out the ruling APC, adding that the party had failed Nigerians woefully at all levels. Speaking on how to curtail the pockets of crisis threatening the Saturday election, he advised that INEC and security agencies should be allowed to do their duties professionally without interference.

Secondus appealed to the people to protect their votes and resist any attempt by the ruling party to rig the election.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Adamu, Inspector General of Police, IGP, has cautioned security operatives, including policemen on election duty to be professional. He also warned politicians against actions and utterances that could be inimical to a free, fair and credible election.

Adamu warned that the full weight of the law would be meted out to anyone who engaged in any electoral fraud, including violence, vote-buying, ballot box snatching, hate speeches and other unwholesome practices capable of undermining the peace and stability of the electoral process.

In a statement signed by Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer stated that the IGP has assured the people of Ondo State of adequate security measures during the exercise. He reiterated that adequate deployments in terms of manpower, marine and aerial surveillance and other assets of the force had been made to ensure effective security coverage.

He enjoined all eligible voters to come out en mass to freely and peacefully exercise their franchise in line with their civic obligation, without any fear of intimidation on the day of the election.

“The IGP has charged all police officers and other law enforcement agents deployed for the election to act in accordance with the Electoral Act and other extant laws guiding their overall conduct before, during and after the elections.

“He warns that police officers and officers of other law enforcement agencies found acting contrary to their oaths of office or in aid of illicit electoral practices will be strictly and personally held liable with dire legal consequences,” the statement said.

– Oct. 8, 2020 @ 17:35 GMT |

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