The Ondo state gubernatorial elections of 2016 was unique in many ways. It was full of drama, intrigue, plot twists and a theatre for inter and intra party power play.
But when the dust settled, it became obvious that some stars rose and some stars dimmed.So who are the winners and the losers? Who are the game changers? And what does the future hold for each gladiator?Those on the ballot, their parties, their kingmakers and their aspirations?
The man had to overcome powerful forces within his own party, a popular sitting governor, and a resurgent popular grassroots candidate, a billionaire scavenger and a divided electorate to emerge as governor elect.
Not since the defeat by PDP has the progressives, either as AD, AC, ACN or APC in 2003, been in power in Ondo State.
Even with the massive wave of Buharimania last year, the APC could still not sweep the legislative elections in Ondo. But this year, they took the top prize.
PEOPLE OF ONDO STATE
Given a choice between so many distinguished professionals including three lawyers, two of them Senior Advocates, the electorate was spoilt for choice, and at the end of the day, settled for one.
They also get to cook a sumptuous pot of soup in an era of recession and seven months salary delays. The popular and open chant across the polling booths in the state on the election day was “Ẹ dìbò, ẹ sebẹ̀” (vote and cook soup).
The alleged war chest of the ruling APC of N3B, if put with that of the other parties, meant an infusion of about N5B into the Ondo State economy within a period of a few weeks. Ondo state voters really had a feast.
It was reported that ONDO 2016 recorded a new height in the history of electoral financial inducement with between N5, 000 to N10, 000 going to each voter depending on the bargain power.
Whether the feast of electoral financial windfall may turn round to hunt the people or not is still buried in the womb of time.
For a tested grassroots mobiliser and political strategist, Dr. Mimiko was outflanked and outplayed in his own game. He underestimated the determination of his old nemesis, Jimoh Ibrahim, and the desperation of Abuja to wrest power from him.
His failure to anticipate the twists and turns meant not only did he fail to install a successor, but totally lost out in the power game.
But knowing Iroko, he will still found a way to remain relevant, even if he has to defect.
The suave urban lawyer was a victim of his decision to believe the governor that there is a political solution to a purely legal matter. The decision to remain aloof from the Sherrif/Makarfi issue meant he was a victim of a case he was not a part of, but which decision had a far reaching implications on his candidacy. By the time he did what he does best; win court cases, the damage was done.
In 2015, former President Jonathan, in his wisdom, decided to hand over the party to Mimiko who just defected to the party from LP, thereby sidelining and alienating the party structure that was on ground. A lacuna Jimoh Ibrahim seized on, not only to wreck havoc within the party, but to bring down his enemy Mimiko. Either way, both factions of the party lost out. Big time.
Sola Oke’s campaign is the perfect example of the age old truism: that 24 hours is a long time in politics. A few days to the elections he was cruising to victory, leading in all the polls.
Then Jegede got a reprieve from the supreme court a few days to the elections, also the federal might put the anti – corruption crusade in sleep mode and rolled out heavy artillery of financial armoury shelling out billions of naira in all directions across the 3009 polling units that makes the political map of the state and the game changes.
Olusola Oke puts up a credible showing, but will continue to rue what might have happened if Jegede, and by extension, the Mimiko machine, never came back into the electoral contest.
For a man whose name was not on the ballot, who holds no party position, to take on the established order in the state, in his own party by supporting a candidate on a new party platform as DG, and still garner over 120,000 votes when the winning candidate had less than 250,000 was noteworthy, especially given that this was done in just six weeks is nothing but a marvel built on raw courage and intelligence.
He stole the national attention in the Ondo state stand alone election from his evidence backed articulated presentations during the fraud ridden gubernatorial primaries and the subsequent emergency knocking together of a virtually non-existent political platform- Alliance for Democracy.
Observers wondered about what would have happened if this young man, who exposed the infusion of fake delegates during the party primaries had not left on principle and worked for the winner. It would have been a landslide. Another permutation is that should he has 6 months to mobilize and a better war chest to prosecute the battle, OKE could be warming up for inauguration by now. Whichever way one looks at it, Bola Ilori is one of the game changers of 2016 in Nigeria national political stage.
Ibrahim Folorunsho Jimoh, the billionaire son of an Igbotako bricklayer, self styled corporate surgeon but generally acknowledged corporate undertaker, was the man whose action finally determined the contest. A man with little or no electoral seriousness, his ambition was to destroy the Mimiko dynasty, and he was a willing tool both for the Abuja marauders and the PDP undertakers .
A well known public masturbator with a king size illusion of grandeur, Jimoh was still posturing as the PDP candidate even on election day, even after the supreme court had nullified his candidacy and reaffirmed that of Jegede.
One thing is clear and can not be taken away, Jimoh achieved his ambition of pulling Mimiko’s empire down. That was his biggest target and honesty he scored the goal in a classical fashion!
If the election is to be viewed from prism of football lingo, one would be right to summarise as follows :
WINNER : Rotimi Akeredolu.
HIGHEST GOAL SCORER : Jimoh Ibrahim.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER : Bola Ilori.
LOSER: Olusegun Mimiko.
What lessons are to be learnt from the Ondo election? The dynamics of elections have continued to evolve, the role of money has never been this pronounced in any election in recent history, the efficacy of money in the hitherto idealistic Ondo State underscores the consequences of poverty in moulding democratic values.
It should not be lost on us that the winner has more people that voted against him than those than voted for him. It is therefore imperative for the winner to speedily embark on reconciliation amongst his deeply divided population particularly those of his own APC family now in Alliance for Democracy.
Well, the most important aspect is that the ever rebellious Ondo people lived up to their reputation of not suffering fools gladly.
Their stubborn streak to go all the way once they believe their course is just, permeated the entire process from the beginning to the end, and it threw up so many interesting scenarios as we move towards 2019.
By Gani Kayode Balógun