By Dayo Johnson, Akure
The ruling LP in Ondo State and the PDP are gearing up for the people’s votes ahead of the 2011 polls.
THE race for 2011 elections in Ondo State has kicked off with the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, organizing rallies to shore up support and to let those who care to know that the party is still a force to reckon with after its ousting by the tribunal barely two years ago.
The party has lined up ten different rallies across the state before next elections in a bid to wrestle power from the ruling Labour Party (LP) led by Governor Olusegun Mimiko. LP, on its part, is not leaving any stone unturned as it continues to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
PDP’s first rally geared at reclaiming the state from LP was held in Akure, the state capital, where business mogul Jimoh Ibrahim, Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, Ambassador Bayo Yusuf, Chief Reuben Ogunbadejo and others joined the PDP.
They were welcomed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other chieftains of the PDP including state governors from the neighboring south west states. The joining of the PDP by the like of Jimoh Ibrahim, who was the governorship candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the 2003 elections in the state, was occasioned by consultations by party leaders including immediate past Governor Olusegun Agagu and the state chairman of the PDP, Dr Omotayo Dairo, that the party needed to forge ahead and stop licking its wounds after the verdict which kicked out the party from Government House.
The verdict remained a shock to the party members as they went underground for months before its leaders woke up from their slumber and, since Jimoh Ibrahim joined the party, everything has not been the same. His entry brought back the party in the state to life.
After the Akure rally, the party campaign train moved to Ore in Odigbo council area of the state on Sunday, September 26, while the third came up in the hilly town of Idanre in Idanre local government area on Saturday, October 9. The rallies, tagged “Operation Reclaim” Ondo State, were held with the party’s aspirants trying to outdo themselves in a war of posters.
The Akure and Ore and Idanre rallies presented an opportunity for the opposition party to make a statement that the supposedly dead PDP can still mobilize mammoth supporters to its rallies and to send a warning signal to the LP that 2011 elections would be tough and not a landslide for the ruling party.
At the Ore rally, Jimoh Ibrahim announced the donation of 20 buses for the use of the party ahead of next years elections. He also pledged to donate a motorcycle to each of the 203 wards in the state to ease the mobilization drive of the party.
According to him, the party was on a rescue mission in Ondo. In the same vein, Agagu said the people of the state had had the opportunity of comparing the last 19 months in the state with the six years tenure of the PDP. The former governor regretted that most of the developmental projects embarked upon by his administration had been abandoned by the Mimiko government.
One issue that was raised by the speakers at the rally was the controversial reports of the State Security Service (SSS) presented by the LP at the tribunal that sacked Agagu. On the issue, the former governor said, “What we are asking for is the source of the security reports. This the ruling party has failed to address. The SSS has said that the reports are not from their office. So, the government should come out and tell Nigerians instead of abusing me”.
On his part, Senator Gbenga Oguniya asked the Federal Government to set up judicial commission of inquiry to probe the alleged fake security reports submitted by Mimiko’s counsel at the tribunal and the Appeal Court.
A drama was introduced to the rally at Idanre when the state chairman of the party, Dairo, who hails from the area, alleged that the ruling government disallowed them the use of Olofin Grammar School, Idanre. But this was denied by the state government which said the rally was a jamboree that could not move the ruling party.
The rally, scheduled to commence by 11 am, did not start until three hours later and the arrival of Jimoh Ibrahim in a chopper brought life to the make shift venue of the rally at Broad Street, Idanre.
Dairo, who spoke first, said the “effort of the party at regaining power could only be fruitful if and when members participate fully in the electoral processes starting from registering during the forthcoming voter registration exercise”. According to him, the ruling LP had not done anything tangible in the last two years, adding that the progress recorded during the six years tenure of Agagu had been eroded.
Jimoh Ibrahim promised to buy nomination forms for aspirants of the party from the councillorship level to the House of Representatives so as to remove every encumbrance on the way of credible aspirants. He also promised to fund all candidates of the party in the coming elections. He added that “all the governors on the platform of PDP would assist the state chapter of the party in reclaiming the state from the LP.”
Those present at the Idanre rally include Otunba Solomon Oladunni, Dr Eddy Olafeso, Mr. Olusola Agbesua, Dr Olusegun Agagu, Nigerian’s ambassador to Australia, Prof Olu Agbi, Otunba Alex Akinnadeju, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim, Chief Tunde Akindeyin, Engr. Chris Ojomo, Otunba Omolade Oluwateru, Chief Olabisi Johnson, Chief Tayo Alasoadura, Mayowa Akinfolarin, Niyi_Jones Akinyugha, Prof Segun Adegbulugbe, Mrs Folake Akinjoko and Olowoniyi Adeolu.
Reacting to the rallies, the ruling LP said the PDP in Ondo State was dead and would never resurrect even if they moved from house to house ahead of the 2011 elections.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, the LP director of publicity, Seyi James, declared that “no amount of intimidation could make the people of the state to be cowed.”
“For 22months, the people of Ondo State , like a man, stood against the PDP when they stole their mandate despite their legions of thugs who intimidated them with guns and today, there is peace and progress everywhere in the State. The people of Ondo State , we are made to remind the garrison commanders in the PDP, are not animals that could be captured and caged at will. In the last 19 months of the LP government under the caring heart governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, in Ondo State , there are rapid developmental projects on_going in all the three senatorial districts of Ondo State,”James said.
The LP is expected to roll out its campaign machinery to counter that of the opposition which is moving to Owo, the country home of the late sage, Chief Adekunle Ajasin.
The people of the state are enjoying the events unfolding and they are expected to decide with their votes in next year’s elections. It is a matter of time to know where the pendulum will swing.