By Dayo Johnson
OF the states in the South West Region, attention would be shifted towards Ondo state next year as the governorship election is scheduled to hold latest by October. The two term tenure of the incumbent governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko will lapse and a new chapter in the polity of the state would be opened. On- going alignment and re- alignment within the two leading political Parties APC and PDP will definitely shape events in the new year.
While the ruling PDP in the state is losing some of its chieftains to the opposition APC ahead of the coming governorship election, the opposition party itself is bedevilled with serious internal squabbles which may spell doom for it at the polls. Interested aspirants in the two parties have kick started their campaigns across the 18 council areas of the state an indication that they meant serious business.
During the last Christmas and the New Year celebrations the serious and the not so serious amongst the aspirants gave out food stuffs to members of their political parties in preparation for the polls. As at last count 15 aspirants in the opposition APC in the state have shown interest to succeed the incumbent governor. However, in the ruling party no fewer than six have been bold enough to openly declare their intention.
There is no doubt that the incumbent governor holds the ace as regards to who succeeds him. But his body language on this sensitive matter is not known by anyone. He is keeping this joker close to his chest. He has refrained from speaking on who will and will not succeed him and more importantly he is not seen as grooming anyone at least openly to take over from him.
This unpredictable style of Dr Mimiko has been his strength in his seven years in the saddle and this has continued to destabilize his political foes. However, the defection of some of the political sons of the governor to the APC in the last few weeks will shape the outcome of the coming polls. His former “boys” are forming an army against him come October. Would they succeed in flooring the maverick Iroko, that is the sands of time.
While some are of the opinion that they will add value to the opposition party others described them as “ fair weather “ politicians who wants to eat from both sides. They are however finding it pretty difficult to be fully integrated within the party in the state as many of them prefer discussing with leaders of the party in Lagos.
Now that many of the former chieftains of the PDP in the state have pitched their tents with the APC it is believed that the coming election would not be an easy ride for Iroko as the incumbent is fondly called. The gang up against Iroko’s candidate succeeding him next year is increasing on a daily basis and this is gradually depleting his defence.
Observers however are of the opinion that those jumping ship to APC are doing so solely for their survival and would be treated as opportunists who wants to reap where they have not sowed when the chips are down in October. Majority of the chieftains that left the PDP for the opposition party in the state are eyeing the governorship seat.
Those who defected to APC and wants to succeed Iroko not minding those they met in the party include Chief Olusola Oke, Hon Niran Sule and Dr Pius Osunyikanmi amongst others. Some of those who defected especially of recent however are seen as a moles and are not trusted by the leaders of the APC who they have gone to pay allegiance to outside the state.
Also, if the rumour of the former Avaition Minister, Dr Olu Agunloye planned defection to the Social Democratic Party SDP and the Business Mogul Jimoh Ibrahim to Accord party to realise their individual governorship ambitions are genuine then the October elction may not be a two horse race between the PDP and APC but a four horse race.
This is an indication that 2016 will be an interesting year politically in the sunshine state. What would also shape 2016 in the state is the completion of ongoing projects across the state by the present administration which would become a campaign issue before the election.
Government decisions to upgrade some Obas in the state by the setting up of Chieftaincy commission may also give it a political leverage in the coming year as some communities will throw their support behind the government while others who are not pleased that some lesser Obas are upgraded to First class will kick against it.
Also, the budget of the state which was yet to be presented will also be an issue that will shape next year in the state as its likely that on-going projects would gulp the bulk of the budget provision to enable government complete them and deliver to various councils in the state. The completion of the projects would be a campaign issue during the run up to the elections.
By February this year, where the two political parties would pick their governorship candidates and their deputies from, would equally be an issue. The outc ome of the last general election in the state would play a major role in this particular issue of where the flag bearer of the two parties would emerge from. While the APC seems to be stronger in the Ondo North senatorial area, the ruling PDP in the state is firmly rooted in the southern district while the two parties would divide the votes in the central Senatorial district.
Suffice it to say that the APC may be looking towards the North for its governorship candidate while the PDP searches through the South for its flag bearer while both parties would pick their deputies from the center which would be the battle field. The promise by the governor to conduct the local government elections early next month would equally be an issue.
If the paucity of funds do not abort the promise, as the governor said over N500m would be needed for the conduct of the elections, then it may be used to test the waters ahead of the October governorship election. But from the look of things in the state there seems to be no preparation on ground to show that the election would hold under this outgoing administration.
Governor Mimiko may prefer to use the funds for the conduct of Council Polls to clear the two months outstanding salaries of Workers to save face and be able to convince the civil servants to vote for continuity. The ruling PDP in the state would need to pamper the civil servants in the coming year if it would need them to win the October election.