By Dayo Johnson
July 31 would be an acid test for the newly posted Resident Electoral Commissioner REC to Ondo State , Madam Ayoka Adebayo after her controversial experience in Ekiti Senatorial re run election which attracted condemnation across the country and beyond.
That as it may, the weekend re run election in Ilaje Constituency 11in Ondo State means a lot to both the PDP and the ruling Labour Party in the state. If the LP wins the election it would finally nail the coffin of the PDP after wining two other re run elections within one and half years after taking over the mantle of the state leadership from the PDP.
The PDP too needs to win the election to prove to the people in the state and the power that be in Abuja that it is not totally dead after the Court of Appeal judgment which greatly affected the party.
Since her posting to Akure was announced last week criticisms have trailed it with all the political parties except the PDP condemning her posting to Ondo State . The AC, LP and leaders of the AD and Afenifere leaders have condemned her posting to the state .
The question now is that would the new REC provide a level playing ground for all the political parties in the state and be an unbiased umpire or what are those opposed to her posting to the state afraid of.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin , Edo State had ordered a re run election in the Ilaje Constituency 11 in Ondo State formerly occupied by Hon Atikase Thompson Otitoju of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP after the Labour Party Candidate in the April 14 poll, Kunle Odidi approached the Court after the lower Tribunal that sat in Akure .
The lower tribunal headed by Justice Garba Nabaruma ruled that the election that Atikase won was fraught with irregularities. After the lower tribunal verdict Atikase approached the Court of Appeal asking it to set aside the judgment.
But luck smiled at Odidi when the Court of Appeal upheld the lower court verdict and ordered that fresh election to fill the vacant seat be held latest by 30 days after the judgment.
All is now set for the re run election and the ruling Labour party and the opposition Party are not leaving anything to chance to win the election.
The LP after winning two previous re run elections since taking over the administration of the state believes that the Ilaje re run poll is as good as been won like the two other poll in which it trashed the opposition party. But the PDP sees this weekend election as a must win election to prove that it still in existence in the state.
The who is who in the opposition party in and outside the state are involved in tomorrow’s election which they have vowed to win.
Several meeting have been held by the Leaders of the PDP led by the immediate past governor, Dr Olusegun Agagu and other National Assembly members mostly outside the state to strategies on how to outsmart the ruling Party believing that the Southern area of the state is its stronghold and was not ready to let it go. Funds have been mobilized also while leaders have been posted out to the Council area to monitor and ensure that the poll is won by the party.
On its part, the ruling Labour Party is equally not taking this poll lightly as the governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, aware that the opposition is hell bent on winning the re run, sees it another opportunity to show that he is in charge and would want to prove that point to the opposition party in the state and in Abuja. Also having been in the saddle for over one year he would want to showcase his achievement in the oil rich region of the state.
Dr Mimiko has assured that the Ilaje re run election would go the way of the previous ones in which the ruling party showed the opposition that the game is up for it in the state.
But if past results from the senatorial district are anything to go by the PDP has always been wining elections in the area but with the emergence of the ruling labour party the story may change as the party knows all it takes to outsmart the opposition when it comes to wining an election.
A review of the past results from the senatorial district since 1999 shows that the people of Ilaje Local Government, the only oil-producing area in the entire South West Nigeria, did not participate in the General Election as a result of communal problems. At that time, the contending parties were AD, APP and PDP. The AD, which won the governorship and majority of the Assembly seats, became the ruling party in the state.
In April, 2001, by which time the atmosphere had become conducive enough, INEC conducted bye-elections for the Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal Constituency and the two seats of Ilaje Constituencies I and II in the Ondo State House of Assembly. The elections were keenly contested and the two leading parties (AD and PDP), shared victory, as PDP won the Federal seat, while the two State Assembly seats went the ADâ€™s way.
Two years later, at the 2003 poll, the PDP roundly defeated AD, the ruling party in the state, in all elections conducted in Ilaje Local Government area, winning in the process the governorship, the Federal, as well as the two State Assembly seats with overwhelming majorities.
In 2007, the PDP repeated its winning streak in the area, scoring over 45,000 votes in the Governorship Election against a mere 10,000 by its closest rival, the LP. PDP also won the Federal and State Assembly seats.