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Politics of Saturday, 10 October 2020

Source: Punch

Ondo 2020: Akeredolu, Jegede, Ajayi in tight race

Today, residents of Ondo State will be going into their seventh governorship election in 44 years, in a race that is considered to be very tight.

In today’s election, 17 political parties, including the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, are fielding candidates and stakeholders have expressed fear that there may be violence, considering a history of election crises and violence in the state.

However, there are only three main contestants and analysts have predicted the poll will largely be a three-horse race.

The state, with the capital at Akure, was created on February 3, 1976 from the former Western State of Nigeria.

In the first 23 years of the 44 years of its existence, the state had 12 military governors/administrators, as well as two democratically elected governors.

The first democratically elected governor was the late Michael Adekunle Ajasin, who was elected on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria during the Second Republic. He governed the state for four years between 1979 and 1983.

The second democratically elected governor was the late Bamidele Olumilua, who was elected on the platform of the Social Democratic Party during the Third Republic.

He governed the state from January 1992 to November 1993, but he was forced to leave office when the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha took power.

Abacha ruled the country from November 1993 until his death on June 8, 1998. After his death, General Abdulsalami Abubakar became the head of state. He was the country’s last military ruler as he called for elections and transferred power to civilian government under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999.

Meanwhile, after Ajasin and Olumilua, Ondo State has had four democratically elected governors from 1999 when democracy returned to the country till date. Thus, the state has had six democratically elected governors since its creation 44 years ago.

Hence, whoever wins today’s poll will emerge the Sunshine State’s seventh democratically elected governor.

Between 1976 when the state was formed and 1999, it had 12 military governors/administrators, including the late Captain Ita David Ikpeme, who served between 1976 and 1978 during the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo (who later became President).

Other governors who served during the military regime were retired Brigadier General Sunday Tuoyo (1978-1979), the late Commodore Michael Bamidele Otiko (1984-1985), the late Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe (1985-1986), and retired Major General Ekundayo Opaleye (1986-1987).

Between 1987 and 1988, the state was headed by Brigadier General Raji Rasaki (retd), followed by Chief Bode George (1988-1990), and then retired Rear Admiral Sunday Olukoya (1990-1992).

The state experienced a brief democratic run by Olumilua from 1992 to 1993, but after Abacha took over power, the state was headed by the late retired Colonel Mike Torey (1993-1994), and then retired Colonel Ahmed Usman (1994-1996).

Thereafter, the late retired Navy Captain Anthony Onyearugbulem served as a military administrator between 1996 and 1998. The last military administrator to rule Ondo State was Colonel Moses Fasanya, who served between August 1998 and May 1999.

Those elected in the past 21 years of democratic rule were the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati (Alliance for Democracy), the late Olusegun Agagu (Peoples Democratic Party), Olusegun Mimiko (Labour Party), and the incumbent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (All Progressives Congress).

AD’s Adebayo governed the state between 1999 and 2003; PDP’s Agagu, 2003-2009; LP’s Mimiko, 2009-2017; and APC’s Akeredolu, 2017 till date.

Today’s poll will see the seventh governor being elected in the past 44 years of the state’s existence.

Akeredolu, Jegede, Ajayi in tight race

Although 17 parties fielded candidates for today’s election, there are only three main contestants, and analysts have predicted the poll will largely be a three-horse race.

The three parties are the ruling APC, PDP, and the Zenith Labour Party, with Akeredolu, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, and Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi as the respective candidates.

Some political parties that initially showed interest in the election have also collapsed their structures to support the main candidates, particularly those of the PDP and the APC.

For instance, the chairmen of 11 parties, earlier in the week announced the decision of their parties to support the PDP candidate.

Despite that, Akeredolu, Jegede, and Ajayi are heavyweights in the governorship election as their structures spread across the 18 local government areas of the state. This is coupled with the fact that they were considered to have had the financial strength to run their campaigns when compared to other candidates.

Due to their popularity across the state, it is almost impossible to predict who will win among the three politicians.

Interestingly, the three candidates are from each of the three senatorial districts of the state. Akeredolu is from Ondo North, Jegede from Ondo Central, and Ajayi from Ondo South.

It was gathered that until the last minute of the campaign, the candidates were still gaining support in their respective strongholds, where they are expected to get large votes and miscellaneously get the constitutionally required number of votes from the other areas where they are less popular.

In spite of the closeness in the ratings of the trio, political observers have still managed to rate the chances of the three candidates across the 18 local government areas, though it is still difficult to ascertain who the winners will be in the areas.

During the campaign, it was observed that the three candidates were welcomed by their mammoth supporters. Their campaign venues were always full, which signified the popularity and acceptability of the candidates in the local government areas.

Political analysts predicted Akeredolu to win and have massive votes in Owo Local Government Area, where he’s from, as well as in Odigbo Local Government Area.

Though Odigbo Local Government Area is in the southern senatorial district, its inhabitants are mainly non-indigenes of the state. Besides being the third highly populated local government area in terms of voter registration, with over 120,000 registered voters, the local government area comprises mostly people from Osun and Kwara states, which are APC-controlled states.

According to observers, Jegede may win Akure South Local Government Area, where he is from and which is the largest local government area in the state in terms of voter registration. It has over 248,000 registered voters who comprise both indigenes and non-indigenes of the local government area.

In addition to that, with the perceived popularity of the PDP candidate among the people of Akure, coupled with the determination of his kinsmen to support him in this election, victory is also predicted for Jegede in the Akure North Local Government Area.

The Deputy Governor, Ajayi, is from the Ese Odo Local Government Area in the southern senatorial district. Being his local government area, his people would prefer to vote for their ‘son’ rather than an outsider.

He is also expected to win in Ondo West and Ondo East local government areas, owing to his backing by a former governor of the state, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, who is also the National Leader of the ZLP, in the election.

Mimiko always won the two local government areas since 1999, regardless of his political party. Observers said Ajayi would also win the two local government areas in today’s election.

In general, a total of seven local government areas are expected to be won by the three candidates, leaving the 11 other local government areas as battlegrounds.

According to analysts, the battleground local government areas are Akoko North-East, Akoko North-West, Akoko South-East, Akoko South-West, Ose, Ifedore, Idanre, Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo, Okitipupa, Irele, and Ilaje.

However, some political analysts have noted that Akeredolu may have an edge over the two other contestants, being a sitting governor.

Police deploy 33,000 operatives, INEC assures free, fair poll

To curb election violence, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, said the police had deployed over 33,000 officers and men.

Other security agencies have also prior to the election deployed their operatives, with the promise that the exercise would be violence-free.

This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission promised to ensure the election is conducted in a free, fair, and credible atmosphere.

The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, said adequate preparation had been made to make sure every vote counted in the election.

The candidates in the election have also signed a peace accord and made a commitment that the poll would not be violent.

Speaking with one of our correspondents, a public affairs commentator and university lecturer, Dr Ralph Abimbola, noted that since the election had become a three-horse race, and the candidates are from each of the senatorial districts, the candidates must have impressive results from their respective senatorial districts to win the poll.

“The three candidates are expected to have enough votes from their senatorial district and strongholds, and at the end of the day, whoever has the majority of the votes cast will win the election,” he said.

“But the most important thing is for the election to be free and fair, and the people’s votes should count,” Abimbola added.

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