By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu last weekend achieved his long-held dream of becoming governor of Ondo State. Akeredolu who had in the past served the state as a commissioner for justice, first made a serious effort for the office of governor in 2012, when he emerged as the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in that year’s governorship election.
The outgoing governor, Dr. Segun Mimiko won the election at that time with about 44% of the votes with the two other major candidates, Akeredolu and Olusola Oke who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP sharing the bulk of the remaining votes.
Akeredolu and Oke were also involved in last weekend’s contest, albeit now on different political platforms – Akeredolu on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC and Oke, this time as the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD. Mimiko technically ruled out having won election twice was not on the ballot, but his image and legacy were on the line through the aspiration of his chosen successor, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, a legal guru who made a name as one of the most successful lawyers to have emerged from the Northeast.
Dr. Mimiko from Ondo town had since his graduation from medical school in 1980; had become a fixture in the political currents in the state. Until last weekend, he was on the part of all successful political trends in the state. It was as such not surprising that he was highly hailed as Iroko, a political giant that cannot be brought down.
Five factors that helped Akeredolu to victory in the governorship election are enumerated below.
- Division within the Tinubu Political Family
Chief Rotimi Akeredolu was the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the 2012 governorship election and he was vigorously sold to the electorate at that time by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the undisputed leader of the party.
However, in the years between then and the 2016 governorship election, the relationship between both men got soured, and Akeredolu became one of the major critics of Tinubu in the party.
The acrimony itself inspired rabid antagonism against Akeredolu’s aspiration from within Tinubu’s political family; the response was, however, more of uncoordinated hysteria who worked at cross purposes.
While Tinubu himself gave support to his friend, Dr. Segun Abraham, some other long time associates of Tinubu supported others. Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, for example, was reported to have thrown his support towards Chief Olusola Oke in the governorship primaries, while Senator Ajayi Boroffice trudged an independent line by nurturing his independent governorship aspiration.
This division was the foundation of Akeredolu’s victory. He defeated the divided camp of Tinubu in the primaries, and by the time the camp rallied around Chief Oke after he defected to the Alliance for Democracy, Akeredolu had been properly positioned to also fight a divided opposition against him at the main election.
2.Division in PDP
The division in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP the ruling party in the state was one of the most significant factors that helped Akeredolu to victory. While the PDP candidate, Barrister Eyitayo Jegede was busy trying to disentangle himself from the legal constraints put against him by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, the APC’s candidate was busy selling his candidacy across the state.
Jegede it seemed looked like a boxer in a contest who had his hand tied in the contest with a suave opponent.
3.Arrears of Salaries
The recession and the demands on the treasury by some accounts had put the state administration in difficulty in the payment of salaries. Workers in some cases were owed arrears of salaries running into months, putting Jegede in difficulty in promoting himself to workers in the civil service. It was thus noteworthy that Jimoh Ibrahim and some other candidates made the payment of salaries a campaign issue.
This factor was especially significant given the fact that Ondo State is a civil service state where the civil service economy straddles many households.
4.Heavy use of money
Poured into the milieu of dry pockets were reported cases of vote buying as reported by some of the election monitors. Given that the PDP state controlled government has not been able to pay salaries the party’s capacity to influence voters with money was greatly limited and could not have benefited from the practise.
- Federal Influence
Ondo State is reported to be the first leg in a carefully crafted scheme by some elements in Abuja to return the present men in power in Abuja in 2019. It was perhaps as part of this plan that some APC governors and a federal minister from a neighbouring state were said to have been on ground to coordinate the plans to ensure that Ondo State becomes APC state as part of the process of making the path to 2019 easier.
Whatever role the governors and the Minister played in the victory of the APC remains in the realms of speculation, but few are disputing the claim that they were heavily involved in the mobilisation of resources for the APC.