By Asikason Jonathan
The victory of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the just-concluded gubernatorial poll in Edo state seems to have imbued in the party – still recuperating from the judicial uppercut of the Imo electoral impasse – with some sense of confidence and razzmatazz as it now sees itself as Nigerians’ only alternative to what it dubbed the ‘APC misgovernment.’
In an interview with This Day newspaper, Dr. Benson Enikuomehin, the chairman, media and publicity committee of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship campaign in Ondo state, declaimed with great aplomb:
“Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, is not in doubt as to his winning the election and has said it clearly that no distraction will be allowed. We are prepared and that was shown in the flag-off of our campaign, when Ondo state stood still, such that if you threw up sand it would land on somebody’s head.”
It is against this backdrop that the PDP’s outburst that domino will fall in Ondo is generating tempest in the Ondo state political circle. Party gladiators and election fixers are girding their loins in preparation for the electoral faceoff slated for Saturday, October 10, 2020.
As a way of puncturing the large-size balloon of PDP enthusiasm about winning the election, APC and other political parties’ spin doctors did come up with the hashtag “Ondo no be Edo,” a replica of “Edo no be Lagos” that Edo PDP vuvuzelas employed in the media war against the propaganda machines of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Chief Bola Tinubu.
But the real question remains: Can PDP transport its Edo electoral victory to Ondo? A look at the interplay between power and interest in the two political milieus will guide our analysis.
Different environment, different politics
Despite the participation of 13 political parties in the Edo election, the game was mainly between PDP and APC. In the case of Ondo, however, a third force is in the political equation – the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Also, in Ondo, no political party can claim dominance in all the 18 local government areas of the state. This very fact was confirmed by the results of last year’s general elections. In-fighting in the ranks of the APC cost the party some seats because some of the members voted for the Action Alliance (AA), a party backed by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) won the Idanre/Ifedore federal seat, the African Democratic Congress won the Ondo East/Ondo West, PDP won four seats in the House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate and, in the House of Assembly election, the ZLP won one seat while the PDP won two seats.
Furthermore, the victory of PDP in Edo state can neither be attributed to the achievements of Gov Godwin Obaseki nor the love for PDP but, amongst other things, Edo people’s displeasure of Oshiomole’s coup on their governor and their desire to fight godfatherism. So, the political condition in Ondo is basically different from the one that influenced the Edo gubernatorial election.
Wike Vs Makinde
It is an undisputable fact that the appointment of Gov. Nyesom Wike of River state as the head of PDP Campaign Council, gave a big boost to the reelection of Gov Godwin Obaseki. Gov. Wike was not only instrumental to his admission to PDP but, indeed, the brain behind his adoption as the consensus candidate of the party. Having started politics from local government level, Gov Wike understands the South-South political terrain.
In the case of Gov. Makinde, he is still a neophyte in the murky waters of Nigerian politics despite the fact that he threw his first hat in the ring in 2007 and thus can’t match the likes of Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Gov. Kayode Fayemi, and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who are rooted in the politics of South-West.
So, without mincing words, the Makinde-led council, unlike that of Wike, does not have enough political currency to their advantage to ensure the victory of PDP in Ondo.
Candidates’ strengths and weakness
Of the 17 political parties contesting the October 10 governorship election in Ondo state, evidence shows that the contest would largely be between the candidate of the APC and incumbent governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), the former attorney general and commissioner for justice in the state, Mr Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) of the PDP and the current deputy governor of the state, Mr Agboola Ajayi, who is the flag bearer of ZLP.
This is because they are believed to have the requisite structure in place across the 18 local government areas of the state, coupled with their relative popularity among voters.
With the three candidates, who are all legal practitioners coming from each of the three senatorial districts of the state – Gov. Akeredolu [Ondo North], Jegede [Ondo Central] and Agboola Ajayi [Ondo South] – many think it would be a tight contest. However, each of them has their area of advantage.
Akeredolu, the incumbent governor, has some edge over others. The power of incumbency in Nigerian political milieu is a strong factor in elections. Also, given the fact that his party is in charge at the national level, support from the centre and other APC governors would be of great advantage.
Aside this, the governor’s performance would also earn him votes, particularly in various communities he executed projects. Some people believe he did well in the area of infrastructure, industrialisation and agriculture and many communities had benefited immensely in the projects in these sectors. Thus, in those areas where he carried out projects, he might get more votes.
However, according to some observers, a major factor that could be an obstacle to the governor’s re-election bid is the internal wrangling in the state APC which has not been completely resolved. Some APC members believe the governor did not coordinate the party properly since he assumed office in 2016.
The relationship became strained to the extent that the national body of the party had to set up a reconciliation committee. In spite of this, however, some members are still in court challenging the process of the party’s primary conducted in July 2020
In the same vein, Akeredolu may lose votes of some people who believe that governors don’t always perform in their second term since they do not have much at stake.
Eyitayo Jegede of PDP has been described as a gentleman with high credibility and intellectual prowess to manage the affairs of the state. He would have an advantage in his Ondo Central Senatorial District, coupled with the structure of the party across the 18 local government areas. He also has supporters across the three senatorial districts, particularly in the southern senatorial district, which is sometimes regarded as the home of the PDP in Ondo state.
It was gathered that Jegede had been enjoying the support of the PDP governors and national officers across the country. So, money for the election may not be the headache for the party and its candidate.
Being a part of the immediate past administration of Dr Olusegun Mimiko, many beneficiaries of the administration are queuing behind Jegede to win the election with the hope that his administration would be the continuation of Mimiko’s government, especially in the area of free medical service for pregnant women and children, reduction in school fees, and community development, among others.
But the political permutation and calculation do not favour him following the senatorial district he comes from. Some political analysts have argued that Mimiko, from the same central senatorial district with Jegede, spent eight years in power. They said it was no longer feasible for the same zone to retain power.
The logic here is that either Akeredolu completed his eight years or power should shift to the southern senatorial district. Due to this sentiment, some members were defecting from the PDP to support the APC or ZLP candidate.
Apart from being a grassroots politician, ZLP’s Agboola Ajayi is sailing on the wave of the zoning argument. Though the party may not have the financial muscle to match the duo of APC and PDP, it is said to be increasing its support base courtesy of defections, especially from both the APC and the PDP.
However, the structure of the ZLP is not as strong as that of the APC and the PDP and, if the election is unethically monetized, which is usually the practice, Ajayi may not live up to expectations.
Another concern of some of his supporters is how he could gather the much-required votes from the two other senatorial districts.
Mimiko factor and the enemy of the people campaign
The protest by Ondo APC chieftains that the immediate past governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko, is seeking a third term bid, through the Zenith Labour Party, clearly x-rayed the high political currency that the former governor has imbued in the candidacy of Agboola Ajayi. Gov. Akeredolu had, in 2017, defeated Mimiko favourite candidate. So, for the two, Mimiko and Akeredolu, the election is a return match.
However, Ondo people are seeing Mr. Ajayi candidacy through the lens of the achievements of the Mimiko administration. In fact, the campaigns are centered on a return to the Mimiko days of free health care and affordable tuition fees.
“This government that hiked school fees is a bad government. Akeredolu’s government is an enemy of the people. Anybody that votes Akeredolu is selling his children’s future,” were the cutting words of Mr Mimiko recently when he led the ZLP campaign to Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo local government area.
“Any government that does not make health free is your enemy. Akeredolu’s government is an enemy of the people by cancelling mother and child and free health for children.
“Any time they come here to campaign for votes ask him, where is our shuttle buses? Where is our abiye? The government that cancelled trauma center is your enemy,” he said.
Arising from the foregoing, the success of the candidate of the PDP will be militated by the zoning sentiment now ravaging the state; that of ZLP cannot measure up when money begins to change hands in the polling units. All in all, Gov Akeredolu is likely to be reelected.