Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cleared 12 political parties for the October 20, 2012 gubernatorial election in Ondo State, three out of the pack seem to be serious about winning the election in terms of preparation.
The parties are the ruling Labour Party (LP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which have Governor Segun Mimiko, Olusola Oke and Rotimi Akeredolu as their candidates, respectively .
The nine ‘redundant’ parties cleared by INEC include Allied Congress Party (ACP) with Adeuti Taye as its candidate, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has Adeyemi Bolarinwa as its flag bearer, Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP) under which Ayodele Olusegun will be contesting and Change Advocacy Party (CAP) that will field Omoyele Olorunwa.
Other candidates are Olusoji Ehinlanwo of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), National Conscience Party (NCP) with Oladipo Lawrence as its candidate, National Solidarity Democratic Party (NSDP) being represented by Abikanlu Olusola, the Peoples Progressive Change (PDC) under the platform of which Victor Adetusin will be contesting and Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) that has Omoregha Olatunji as its candidate for the election.
Unlike others, as a matter of fact, the three political parties have been shaking the political atmosphere of the state for the past few weeks, after the INEC had given the go-ahead for campaign to commence and the candidates too, have been showing the people the stuff they are made of.
To be objective, all the three candidates of LP, PDP and the ACN are better in terms of intelligence, experience and profile as the trio could be great achievers in their various calling. So, any one of them that becomes the governor of the Sunshine state is really worth it, irrespective of the political party he belongs.
However, in politics anything can happen at any time, as it is, currently, in the state, none of the three top contenders could totally boast of winning the election hundred percent.
For the LP’s candidate , Olusegun Mimiko, who is currently the incumbent, the number one seat continues getting hotter everyday as the two major opposition are not taking it easy with him. The PDP and the ACN have been trying to pull him down by alleging he has in the last three years misappropriated the state’s resources.
Mimiko, a two-time commissioner for health in the state, former secretary to the State Government under his predecessor, Olusegun Agagu and former minister for Housing and Urban Development, is still enjoying the support of the majority of the people of the state due to some projects that his regime initiated and carried out, especially in the health sector and beautification of Akure, the state capital.
Aside this, there is also the belief that the unprecedented performances of the Mimiko-led administration in other sectors of the state in the last three and half years, would definitely be considered by the electorates when casting their votes. These superlative performance in office occasioned his endorsement by various groups including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), market women, transport unions, artisans and other interest groups in the state. Unless there is a change of mind before the election day, Mimiko is sure to sweep their votes.
At every local government that his campaign train berths, commissioning of projects executed by his administration is a major feature. The governor then uses the opportunity to remind the people of the communities that if he is given a chance to rule the state again for the second term, more projects would be executed in their communities. The hearts of some people have been won through that means.
Power of incumbency may also work in Mimiko’s favour. His party is in control of virtually all the political and elective offices in the state. LP has the two out of three senators, seven out of the nine House of Representatives members, 25 out of 26 members of the State House of Assembly and the party is also in control of administration of the 18 local government areas which have caretaker committee chairmen as the heads. In the same vein, there are various political appointees spread all over the state with each of them struggling to win his or her ward for the LP candidate.
When talking of voters’ population, the population of voters in Ondo Central Senatorial District which comprises six local government areas, is more than the other two districts and the present administration in the state carried out more projects in the Central than the Ondo South and North. Owing to his achievements, majority of the people in the Central still support him and without mincing words whoever gets the votes of Ondo Central always wins the election in Ondo State.
In the other two Senatorial Districts where it is believed that Mimiko has not performed well, compare to the Central District, the LP would still certainly have at least more than the required 25 percent vote casts in the local governments because the party still enjoys the supports of the people to extent. This manifested at every campaign in those areas as new members decamped to the LP from either the ACN or PDP.
Also, the influence of his running mate, Ali Olanusi, who comes from Akoko area ( in Ondo North) of the state, which consists only four local governments, coupled with the projects carried out in the areas, cannot be underrated.
Moreover, unlike the case of Akeredolu, whose kinsmen were among those that dumped him and are campaigning against him, Mimiko has the firm grip of almost the entire Ondo Central Senatorial District, especially his hometown, Ondo, which has two local government areas- Ondo East In his own case, the PDP candidate, Olusola Oke, like his colleague in the LP, is also an intelligent grassroots politician who also understands the politics of the state, and has been a member of the PDP from inception.
Though, not hitherto known by every man on the street of the state, but he is well known in Ondo Southern Senatorial District. Apart from being a native of a riverine community of Ilaje Local Government, he has served as the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil-Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), state representative of the Niger/Delta Development Commission (NDDC), during which he empowered many youths of the areas.
Owing to these factors, Oke is very popular and therefore his popularity in the riverine areas of the state may earn him more votes than any other candidate, in Ondo South, especially in the Ilaje and Ese Odo Local Government Areas.
He would also enjoy the support of some PDP chieftains in the area, particularly, the immediate former governor of the state, Olusegun Agagu, multi-millionaire businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, to mention a few. These strong figures have vowed to ensure Mimiko loses the election.
Also, being the candidate of the party that controls the Federal Government, it is believed that Oke may get the support of the Presidency, even though, during the PDP’s Mega Rally in Akure, the Vice President Namadi Sambo vowed that the Ondo election would be free and fair.
The choice of Saka Lawal, a vibrant and versatile young politician from Akoko area in Ondo North is also expected to give PDP a strong leverage in the four local government areas of Akokoland.
Lawal, a former Special Adviser to Governor Mimiko before he joined the ACN and later left to become the aspirant of the PDP, is said to have influence, among the youth, in the Ondo North. This is also a plus for the PDP candidate.
However, what can militate against the Oke’s chance of winning the election is the internal crisis within the PDP, which has led to factionisation of the party. Some aggrieved chieftains have vowed to work against the interest of the candidate and the party at the election, despite all steps taken by the national body of the party.
The lack of mutual trust between the people of the riverine Ijaw and Ilaje due to the last ethnic war is another problem that Oke might face in his stronghold. Also, there are many indigenes of his local government in the administration of the incumbent government, who would not have the choice but to ensure that LP wins to the detriment of Oke.
Moreover, the third major contender in the forthcoming poll is the ACN’s candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, whose emergence almost tore the party apart as other governorship aspirants of the party felt aggrieved over the process through which the national leadership of the party handpicked the candidate who seemed declared intention shortly before picked.
This problem actually affected the stand of the party in the state and consequently the chance of winning the election is obviously slim as some of the aggrieved aspirants left the party, with thousands of their followers, for LP and the PDP.
As a matter of fact, Akeredolu is a sellable product, if given the chance to rule the state, going by his antecedent as a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), his good record as the former Attorney-General and commissioner for Justice in the state and his numerous people’s oriented programmes that he presented during the campaign, but as at today, he is far away from winning the election because the followers of his party has greatly diminished.
Also, the person of Akeredolu, who is very new in Ondo politics, is another factor that may work against the chance of the ACN in the election. As it is today, Akeredolu among the three leading candidates remained the only one that cannot boast of having the firm grip of his Ondo North Senatorial District, where he came from, unlike his counterparts in the LP and the PDP. If Mimiko can boast of gripping Ondo Central, Oke Ondo South, it is not sure if Akeredolu can hold Ondo North.
Apart from the ACN’s low popularity in Ondo State, it was gathered that, the party’s candidate was not known by many residents of Owo, his home town, due to his long stay in Ibadan, Oyo State capital and he is alien to the politics of the state. Having registered in Ibadan, he was also said to have transferred his voters’ card to Ondo State when he emerged as a candidate.
The weakness of the ACN was also expressed at their Mega rallies held in Ikare Akoko, Ondo and Ore towns as most of the supporters that attended the rallies were allegedly brought from Lagos, Osun and Ekiti states, and the supporters were neither residents nor registered voters of Ondo State. This implies that the party currently has few supporters in Ondo State and hence, its chances of winning the election will be miraculous.
However, in the game of politics, it is said that it is not over until it is over. For now, the three major gladiators are still working tirelessly ahead the election.