By Dapo Akinrefon
For the people of Ondo State, 2020 is an election year as the incumbent, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, celebrates his 3rd year in office by February 2020.
The irregular timetable for the governorship election in the State is due to the tribunal battle between the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
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The latter was victorious and the outcome permanently altered the political timetable of the State.
As expected during any electoral process, political activities are already on the rise as various political parties, especially the major ones: All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are galvanizing efforts and getting their arsenals ready for the contest.
While the PDP may have a tough time to pick its candidate from among the 14 aspirants that have so far expressed their interests in the race, the APC is struggling with a couple of internal hassles that have factionalised the party and torn its soul apart.
The party’s problem started with the manner Governor Akeredolu managed his victory immediately he emerged as the flagbearer of the APC, and after he emerged victorious at the election.
He was alleged to have treated most of his co-aspirants at the primary election as enemies instead of embracing them and welcoming their ideas to develop the State. Also, he was alleged to have hijacked the party structure and positioned his foot soldiers as party officials at various levels of the party from the State to the wards.
Akeredolu’s steps tore the party apart, as aggrieved leaders and members broke away to form the Unity Forum which presently is the larger umbrella that accommodates all aggrieved members of the party.
With the calibre of members in the Forum under the leadership of a former Deputy Governor and present Board of Trustees member of APC, the Forum has practically become a rallying point for about 80% of APC members in the State.
The fact that those who have expressed their intentions to run for the governorship have done so on the platform of the Unity Forum lends credence to the credibility and acceptability of the group.
It is on record that party stalwarts like: Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Chief Olusola Oke, Chief Bukola Adetula, Engineer Ife Oyedele, Ambassador Sola Iji and Jibayo Odimayo are all racing for the sole ticket of the party, all on the platform of the Unity Forum.
But as it stands, there is as an uphill task as the Unity Forum apparently has the number and has become a force to contend with.
This is more difficult now that the APC, at the national level, had announced that it would only engage the direct primary option in conducting its future primaries.
It is noteworthy that Ondo State has been operating on the principle of rotation since its return to civilian rule in 1999.
From Adebayo Adefarati (1999-2003) to Olusegun Agagu (2003-2009) to Olusegun Mimiko (2009-2017) to Rotimi Akeredolu (2017 till date), the principle has been respected despite the fact that the governors were not of the same political party.
From this, the rotation starts from the North to the South to the Central and back to the North where the incumbent, Akeredolu, hails from.
Governor Adefarati could not make his second term having been ousted by Dr. Agagu. Likewise, Olusegun Agagu could not complete his second tenure in the office before Olusegun Mimiko took over from him.
However, Mimiko broke the jinx as the first civilian governor to complete his two terms in office.
Ondo north agitation
Pundits from the northern bloc are, however, clamouring that the zone should be allowed to complete its second term with or without Governor Akeredolu. This it is claimed is in the spirit of fairness and equity.
Looking at the Northern bloc at the moment, Rotimi Akeredolu with his structure across the State in all the 18 Local Government areas has thrown his hat in the ring for a second term in office.
The 4+4 group, consisting majorly of his political appointees, is also working for him and he has the State funds to throw around to get things done. But most political analysts are of the opinion that he has a lot of hurdles to cross.
Also on the list of those eyeing the governorship from the North is Senator Boroffice.
In terms of credentials and pedigree, it is believed that Senator Boroffice has all it takes to clinch the ticket and with his present relationship with the Abuja power bloc.
Another aspirant eyeing the Alagbaka House from the North is a member of the Unity Forum, Bukola Adetula, who incidentally is Governor Akeredolu’s kinsman from Owo.
He participated in the 2016 governorship primary that produced Aketi as APC’s candidate.
It is believed that Adetula, whose father is a strong Awoist, appears to understand the game better and has resuscitated his structure across the State in readiness for the contest.
From the South, Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, also seems not to be tired of running for governorship. He is believed to have the prerequisite political experience to vie for the office.
Also on the list is, Engineer Ife Oyedele, who is throwing his hat in the ring for the first time.
As a greenhorn, he is believed to have built a financial war chest to slug it out with his co-aspirants.
The Okitipupa born politician is new in the politics of the State.
Comrade Sola Iji is a progressive of long history and currently serving as Nigeria’s ambassador to the Republic of Togo. He recently declared to run for the number one seat during one of Unity Forum’s meeting.
The newest name and the youngest among the pack is Jibayo Odimayo, an Irele-born politician. He is also showing interest in the sole ticket of the party as he makes the move around the State to announce his entrance into the race.
At the moment, no one has shown interest from the Central in the APC and this may not be unconnected with the respect for the principle of rotation.
However, it must be made clear among all other things that if anyone eventually emerges from the Northern Senatorial district and goes ahead to win the general election to emerge as the first citizen of the State, he can only occupy the office for four years and cannot run for another term in office, this is in the spirit of rotation. It should be the turn of the Southern bloc after four years.
The next few months in Ondo State are expected to throw up a lot of surprises as the race to the Alagbaka State House hots up.
Though the opposition PDP in the state is of the opinion that much should not be expected from the Akeredolu government, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo disagrees with the perception.
Ojogo said: “I never expected anybody in the PDP to say anything different from what you have said he reportedly said. I wouldn’t expect anybody to say anything different.
“The government that has within three years taken very courageous steps in terms of developmental initiatives that have surpassed the previous years of PDP government that was in place, how would PDP person commend. No right-thinking PDP man will clap for this government. That is the truth.
“So if they are not clapping for us, we won’t be angry and we are not even taking it in any negative form. That is the duty of the opposition and if they are not saying that, who will say it?
“But the truth of the matter is that whoever is saying that, is just trying to echo the mindset of the frustrated minority. Whatever they are saying is the voice of the frustrated minority.”