BY DAYO JOHNSON
THE governorship election taking place in Ondo State on Saturday is not going to be a tea party for any of the three gladiators vying for the coveted seat of governor. Incidentally the trio: Olusola Oke of the PDP, Olusegun Mimiko of the ruling LP and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the A C N, are graduates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State.
For the first time in the history of the state, the three candidates eyeing the governorship position are representing the three senatorial areas of the state with each of them not only formidable in his locality but is ready to coast home to victory with every vote in his domain.
Oke, popularly referred to as ”Oke is okay”, represents the southern area where the immediate past Governor Olusegun Agagu hails from; Mimiko, fondly called Iroko of Ondo politics, is from the central; while Akeredolu; who goes by the name ”the Chosen/ Aketi ”, is from the northern area.
Of the 13 political parties presenting candidates for the contest, only the three are actually in the race while others are just there.
The opposition parties, that is PDP and A C N, are fielding heavyweights who are not leaving any stone unturned to uproot the Iroko of Ondo politics. It may actually be a big task for any of them because Mimiko himself is seeing this election as the fight of his life. It will either make or mar him politically.
While the PDP leaders, especially Agagu and the national leader of the A C N, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, would want to do all within their reach to sack Mimiko from the Government House to save their faces, the governor will want to prove a point that he is firmly in control of the state politically.
The three parties and their chieftains from within and outside the state have been involved in electioneering campaign across the 18 council areas of the state within the last one month. While the A C N campaign centres on personality attack of Mimiko, Oke chooses to combine attack with an assurance of building on the achievements of the immediate past Governor Olusegun Agagu before he was sacked.
Mimiko too combines attack of the A C N and the PDP with an improvement on his three years achievements in all the sectors of the economy.
Vice President Namadi Sambo led the National Chairman of the PDP Bamanga Tukur to the state to mobilise support for Oke who is the immediate past National Legal Adviser of the party, while Tinubu and National Chairman of the ACN Bisi Akande led other south west governors to the state for a three-day electioneering campaign for its candidate who is a former Nigeria Bar Association NBA President.
The choice of Oke as the candidate of the PDP has no doubt breathed life into the comatose party which has been engulfed in crisis since 2007 when the party was sacked.
Whereas some chieftains of the party are still not in support of his candidature, majority of them have beaten a retreat. His choice, despite the fact that Agagu equally hails from the southern area, is to neutralise Mimiko incursion into the senatorial zone believed to be the PDP stronghold.
In the A C N, the choice of Akeredolu greatly affected the popularity of the party following which many of the party chieftains, including some governorship aspirants, defected to the ruling LP and PDP in protest of his alleged imposition by leaders of the party from Lagos. His choice, despite criticism, was, according to the party leaders, to settle the northern area especially the Owo people, who have been marginalised after the tenure of the late sage, former Governor Adekunle Ajasin.
A critical analysis of the candidates shows that while Oke will put up a brilliant performance in the South where he hails from, Mimiko is banking on his achievements in the area to give the PDP candidate a good fight in his domain. Mimiko is planning to poach in this zone because many of his political appointees are from the southern part of the state.
The councils in the South which Oke may win include Ilaje, Okitipupa with the help of Agagu, who is from there, and Ese Odo because of the Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty Programme and Niger Delta Affairs, Hon Kingsly Kuku, but the leader of ex-militant from the area, High Chief Bibopri Ajube, has vowed to work for the victory of Mimiko in the council area. The governor too may coast home to victory in the three remaining councils in the zone: Irele, Ile Oluji/Okeigbo and Odigbo.
Mimiko’s associates ready to work for him in the zone include the environment commissioner Sola Ebiseni, the commissioner representing the state on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dele Omogbemi, a former commissioner on the Board of NDDC, Benson Enikuemehin, the member representing Ilaje/Ese-Odo federal constituency at the House of Representatives, Raphael Nomiye, the chairman of the council, Banji Okuomo and the members of the House of Assembly, Oyebo Aladetan and Gbenga Edema.
The votes from Ilaje may be won by the LP or be spilt with the PDP. But the people of the area will not entirely leave their own at this crucial hour. In Irele, the LP with education commissioner Remi Olatubora and former works commissioner Yele Omogunwa will be able to checkmate the only House of Representatives member of the PDP from the area, Albert Akintoye.
The ACN may pull some weight in Okitipupa where its deputy governorship candidate, Dr Paul Akintelure, hails from but he cannot go far. The contest in Okitipupa is between LP and PDP with PDP having the upper hand. It is believed that the A C N may have votes in Odigbo and Ile Oluji but it will be minimal.
Now to the central senatorial district consisting of Ondo West and Ondo East, Ile Oluji Okeigbo, Akure North and Akure South, and Ifedore where the incumbent hails from, this is not the stronghold of the two opposition parties and Mimiko is expected to win massively in this zone.
The governor is expected to garner majority of the votes in his domain going by the level of development in this area of the state. Infact, he is being vilified for the concentration of projects here but, while many do not see the political implication, Iroko knew that the payback time will come and October 20 may be the time. But the likes of the Special Adviser to the Osun State Governor on Environment, Bola Ilori, and Dr Bayo Ademodi, a member of the Afenifere Renewal Group, may pull some weight in Ondo West and East but they cannot rattle Iroko there.
Mimiko has never lost any election in his Ondo West and Ondo East base while Akure South and Akure North local government areas will go the way of LP because of the infrastructural development masterminded by the governor in the areas.
With the likes of information commissioner Kayode Akinmade, the Chief of Staff Dr Kola Ademujimi, the senator representing Ondo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Akinyelure, and Taye Akinyele, a member of the House of Assembly, the hilly Idanre town will vote massively for the LP while the Deputy Director General of the Mimiko Campaign Organization, Clement Faboyede, and Gboye Adegbenro will hold tight to Ifedore council.
The opposition parties will struggle to have the required 25 percent in the central senatorial district despite the existence of the likes of the Director General of the Mimiko Campaign Organization, Chief Tayo Alasoadura in Akure North.
The northern senatorial district, which consists of Owo, Ose, Akoko Northe-East, Akoko North-West, Akoko South-West and Akoko South-East, is regarded as a free zone for the three parties to feed on. The PDP picked its deputy governorship candidate Saka Lawal from there just as the ruling LP deputy governorship candidate Alhaji Ali Olanusi, is from there.
It would have been the stronghold of the A C N if the party had allowed the emergence of its governorship candidate to be transparent. But Olanusi, though an old horse, has more political experience than the youthful Lawal who defected from LP to A C N and later crossed over to the PDP when he failed to be crowned the governorship candidate.
Lawal too is said to be a strategist and a mobilizer of youths who are in his age bracket.
Now the PDP and the LP are battling for the votes from the North with the two deputy governorship candidates cashing on their individual popularity and political patronage to the people. However, the LP won all the House of Assembly seats, the House of Representatives seats and the senatorial seat in the 2011 polls.
Akeredolu’s choice frustrated the much-mouthed Akoko Agenda which the six Akoko councils had wanted to sell to the people of Ondo State to produce the governor but the A C N action has divided the councils. However, Akeredolu has been able to win back the heart of some of the aspirants of the party who were aggrieved and they have assured him of support in the areas. However, notable politicians from the areas, Dr. Olu Agunloye, Saka Lawal, and Olaiya Oni, have defected to LP and PDP.
The six Akoko councils have no stake in the opposition A C N and with the slot of deputy governor from both the PDP and the ruling LP, the councils may go either way or better still they may split the votes.
All said and done, the Muslim/Muslim ticket of the two opposition parties may work against them in the North because the district is predominantly Muslim. This may work for the LP which has a Christian/Muslim ticket.
Of the three graduates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, who will wear the Ondo gubernatorial cap on October 20? The answer remains in the belly of time.