By DURO ADESEKO
Today, 1,654,206 registered voters in Ondo State would file out to decide the fate of 13 governorship candidates contesting on the tickets of various political parties. Out of this number, there are 7, 539 voters, made up of those who registered but could not vote last year because of some technical itches and those who transferred their voter’s card.
Statistics released by the Ondo State Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicate that female voters constitutes 50.20 per cent, while male voters constitutes 49.80 per cent.
The fate of the 13 governorship aspirants slogging it out today would largely be determined by voters below age 35. The young registered voters in Ondo constitute 65 per cent of those on the INEC register. Most of them are students while a sizeable number are civil servants, artisans and traders. All political parties taking part in the election were last month presented with soft copies of the list of registered voters by INEC. The statistics are in many respects similar to that of Edo State governorship election.
There were accusations and counter-accusations of illegal registration of voters. Politicians were also said to engage in the acts of buying voter’s cards. Some party stalwarts were allegedly caught with more than a thousand voters card but Ondo INEC said the cards belong to people that registered but were unable to collect the cards. The police waded in and those involved in the malpractice, including members of staff of the INEC were arrested and charged to court.
Nobody trusts anybody. Political parties and their leaders are convinced that the other party has concluded plans on how to rig the election. The media, both electronic and print are daily inundated with stories of plans to rig by other parties. Last week, the National Broadcasting Corporation warned two electronic media houses based in Ondo to adjust and follow the rules.
The NBC expressed concern that operators of ADABA FM radio in Akure and Ondo State Radiovision Corporation are not abiding by the rules. Director-General of NBC, Mr. Yomi Bolarinwa, was quoted as saying that the two stations have breached the provision of NBC Act and the Nigerian Broadcasting code.
There is constant fear of likely outbreak of violence as political parties accused one another of massive importation of arms to Ondo for the purpose of the election. When the three aspirants secured the ticket of their political parties, there were cases of deliberate provocation that resulted in skirmishes. However, security is expected to be tight, as President Goodluck Jonathan, speaking through the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, when campaigning for Olusola Oke, the candidate of his party, the PDP in Ondo gave every assurance that he is committed to free and fair election as it was done in Edo State. In the case of Edo election, 3,000,00 policemen and soldiers were deployed to ensure adequate security. The police authority gave assurance last week that no less than 5, 000 policemen and soldiers would be deployed for the Ondo election.
When the President came to round off the PDP campaign for the election last week, he gave every assurance that the election would be free and fair. He said: “This election would be free and fair. There will be enough security personnel that will man all the various polling units. PDP does not promote thuggery and we are warning some desperate politicians who are planning to cause mayhem during the poll to desist from this.
“I was told that some politicians in the state are mobilising thugs to rig the election in favour of their party, they are only wasting their time because on that election day those hoodlums will not be useful for them.”
Parties contesting election
There are 13 registered political parties contesting today’s election. It is believed in political circles that the election is a straight fight between three leading political parties in the state. The three political parties are: the ruling Labour Party (LP), the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was recently in charge of affairs in the state. Other political parties contesting the election are: Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), National Conscience Party (NCP), National Solidarity Party (NCP), National Solidarity Democratic Party (NSDP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Change for Advocacy Party (CAP).
The campaign has been rancorous with crude verbal attacks on opponents, as normal instrument of war. The contestants and their agents campaigned, as if they are at war and that all is fair in war. There were also reported skirmishes among supporters of the three leading governorship candidates.
Chances of the political parties
There are three senatorial zones in Ondo State. The three zones are: Ondo South, Ondo Central and Ondo North. At the April, 2011 election, the Labour Party won all the three senatorial seats, nine House of Representative seats and all State House of Assembly seats. Not much has changed in the political landscape of Ondo State to warrant a surprise result from what was witnessed in the 2011 election.
Candidate of the ACN, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, believes that the electorate believed last year that both the LP and ACN meant the same thing. He said in several newspaper interviews that the people now know the difference and they would prefer to vote for his party, the ACN.
Ondo South senatorial district has six local government areas. They are: Ilaje, Okitipupa, Ese Odo, Irele, and Ile Oluji/Oke Igbo. The PDP candidate, Olusola Oke, is from Ilaje Local Council. Former Governor Olusegun Agagu is from Okitipupa with strong influence in Irele. On the surface, this should be the stronghold of the PDP. But the LP has considerable presence in the senatorial district. Many prominent and influential politicians holding key positions in Ondo State government are from the South and it is expected that they would prove their electoral strength in the election. In practical terms, no party can claim absolute dominance of the district.
Ondo Central senatorial district also has six local government Areas. They are: Ondo West, Ondo East, Akure South, Akure North, Idanre and Ifedore. This is the senatorial district that has always determined who occupies Alagbaka Government House during election. This is also the terrain of the incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who is from Ondo town. Recent electoral results in this area have always favoured whichever party Mimiko pitched his tent with.
When Mimiko was with the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the party won Ondo elections. When Mimiko teamed up with Olusegun Agagu of the PDP, Agagu won and when he decided to contest on the ticket of the relatively unknown Labour Party, four months to the election, the party won convincingly. The senatorial district is so thickly populated that the entire North senatorial district is only 6,000 votes more than a single ward in the Central district. Mimiko has never lost election in the Central district.
Akeredolu has also explained that Akure and people in the area are from all parts of Ondo State and when the time comes those who are indigenes of other senatorial districts will vote for candidates of their choice.
It is also believed that personalities, such as Bayo Alasoadura who has just joined the ACN to contest the governorship election but now a national officer of the party may swing considerable votes in the central district to the candidate of his party. There is also the influence of the Special Adviser to the Osun State governor on the environment, Mr. Bola Ilori, who hails from the senatorial district. It’s alleged that Bayo Ademodi and other influential politicians in the area may cause an upset.
It should be pointed out that the fact that neither ACN nor the PDP have their candidate from the densely populated Central is a tactical error and may turn out to be big advantage to the LP.
There was accusation of voodooists taking over as live cows were allegedly offered as sacrifice at different locations in the state. Major newspapers played up the voodoo story and pictures of the objects of sacrifice were prominently displayed on pages of newspapers.
Desperate politicians circulated a statement credited to Pastor Temitope Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations to the effect that he did not see Governor Olusegun Mimiko winning the election because no governor in the past succeeded in winning a second term in Ondo State.
Joshua, who is from Arigidi-Akoko in the northern part of the state swiftly issued a denial through his consultant in an electronic statement in Akure. The statement by Leaviklle Konsul said: “Such could not have emanated from him (Joshua) being a man of God who will never be part of cheap propaganda. Joshua said he had nothing against the second term ambition of the governor and that at no time did he give any prophesy against Mimiko’s second term.”
Peculiar strategies adopted to pick candidates
In the spirit of zoning, the bug of zoning elective offices to different senatorial districts took precedence in the choice of candidates by different political parties. Significantly, it is worth noting that the major political parties presented candidates from the three senatorial districts. Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is from the South. Rotimi Akeredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is from North while Governor Mimiko is from Central.
Although the Central Senatorial District is highly populated, the argument is that thickly populated towns, like Akure and Ondo, have people from all over the state residing in them. It is reasoned that the people residing in Akure would naturally vote for candidates from their senatorial districts.
Spokesman for the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed once explained to Saturday Sun why the party settled for Rotimi Akeredolu from the north as candidate. According to him, the party discovered that all the senatorial districts had governors in the past. It was decided it should go to the north. In the north, there was Owo and Akoko axis. The Akoko in recent past had leading elected officials and the present senator is from Akoko. It was therefore considered unfair to allow Akoko to present the governorship candidate. Consequently, it was decided that one of the aspirants from Owo should be candidate of the party.
Akeredolu told Saturday Sun that he would win the election by 60 or 65 per cent. He anchored his chances on the popularity of his party and his acceptability in the state where he once served as Attorney general. He is proud of being a successful lawyer as he boasts that his law chamber is the best in the country.
Political opponents of Akeredolu said his major problem is that he was never part of the grassroots politics. They express doubt if Akeredolu would be able to make any impression in Owo, his hometown at the polls. He was said to have spent most of his adult life in Ibadan.
Olu Agunloye who contested for the ticket of the party with Akeredolu specifically stated that since 1979, Akeredolu has been voting in Ibadan, Oyo State and that he only transferred his registration to Owo after he was picked as candidate of the party. He stated with emphasis that Akeredolu couldn’t win election in Ondo. But Akeredolu is banking on the popularity of his party to win the election. Agunloye quoted Akeredolu as saying that his name cannot win election, but his party can win election.
Governor Mimiko is from Ondo town and Ondo is reputed to be one of the largest in the state. The huge population of Ondo is considered to be big advantage because a sizeable percent of the entire citizens of the state resides in Ondo and Akure. Whoever wins the two big towns is considered to be close to Alagbaka government house. The strategic position of the Central senatorial district and its big population is believed to be part of the things that has always favoured Governor Mimiko.
Mimiko is believed by observers to have performed as governor. Even his opponents agree that he did one or two things. The campaign of his opponents is that they can do better than Mimiko. None of his opponents specified what he did wrong, except to make general comment of huge sums of money at his disposal in the last four years.
The most serious threat to Mimiko is the huge war machine of the ACN. Leaders of the party are enraged that Mimiko refused to join their party. Ondo is the only state not controlled by the ACN in the Southwest. The ACN Party leaders are determined to wrest power from the ruling Labour Party.
Olusola Oke of the PDP is from Ilaje area in the southern senatorial district. The party reckons that since that part of the state has never produced the governor, giving the ticket to an Ilaje man may win the sympathy of the electorate. To play smart in picking a deputy, Oke settled for a failed governorship aspirants in the ACN who hails from the north. Akredolu, candidate of the ACN from the north snarled: “ If somebody who want to be governor is picked as deputy governor, it means the person never wanted to be governor in the first place.”
Oke who was the recent past legal adviser of the party has of recent energised the Ondo PDP. Leading politicians in the South West such as Olusegun Obasanjo made moves to reconcile the various factions in the state chapter of the party. But the internecine war within Ondo PDP cannot be settled in a jiffy. The party is today banking on what it regards as the golden era of Olusegun Agagu as governor. Oke is to continue where Agagu stopped if elected as governor. That may not jell with the electorate.
The issues at stake
From all indications, the difference between two of the leading political parties is strictly personal. It is a matter of ego. No differences in approach to governance. No differences in belief. No differences in the commitment to serve the people. It is politics of vengeance. It is politics of showing what it means to have the might and technical know-how to pull down one another.
The leadership of the ACN is not pretending about its anger against Governor Mimiko. His offence? He refused to join the ACN. For three days last week, the entire war machine of ACN led by the national leader, Bola Tinubu rev into life in Ondo State. Tinubu spoke, as he has never done before and in the process clearly expressed the fact that he is against Mimiko for personal reasons. But of all the speeches made at the three-day rally, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State made the most revealing comment.
First Tinubu: “Four years ago, Iroko (Mimiko) came to me weeping. He came along with two of my brothers, complaining that he was being cheated and that we should help him. …I am reporting this to you so that you can judge Mimiko with your vote.
“I took him as my brother. I gave him money and all logistics…. We went to Europe to look for help for him. It was not free. We spent Pound sterling. …When he could not enter town freely, we gave him bulletproof car.
“We assisted him with resources, his mother and the Osemewe (Oba of Ondo) of Ondo Kingdom were praying for us. Someone said he was Akala, we said even if you are a mango we will get you. There is another person in Osun who says he is a General. He kissed the dust.”
All these are personal. But Tinubu was not done. He continued: “He (Mimiko) said one term only and fought Adefarati and Agagu over one term. Now, he wants a second term. He will do a second term in prison. Don’t be afraid, if it is difficult to remove the ring of power from his finger, the finger will be cut off.”
But Aregbesola was much more forthcoming. Hear the governor of the State of Osun: “There is nothing we have not used to beg him to join us and despite what we did for him when he was in the trenches and during the election, he turns us down.”
See why ACN would stop at nothing to cut down the Iroko?
What has Mimiko got to say to the allegation of not joining ACN that generated so much anger? Hear him: “ In four months, we built it (Labour Party), built the structure and contested elections, eventually, we won. Now, what would be the justification for saying I want to go to ACN?
“The question should be: why did I not go to ACN in the first instance when I left Abuja? I was virtually chased out (of PDP). So, why? There was nothing like that (agreement to join ACN). They know it wasn’t right, they know there was no such pact.”
Mimiko became philosophical: “If all these efforts are geared towards development, we shouldn’t be fighting. But if it is about ego of the individual, as I said, who wants to exercise hegemonic dominion over the Southwest, it will be minus Ondo State.”
Political scientists should properly examine the above comments and decide if it an ideal political development. But for personal disagreement, from what Aregbesola and Tinubu said, the leadership of ACN would have campaigned for Mimiko.