Though twelve candidates have been cleared for Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State, most people have agreed that the race is between three main contenders, the incumbent Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party, the Action Congress of Nigeria candidate, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Chief Olusola Oke of the People’s Democratic Party. The three candidates have demonstrated more zeal and seriousness than others. It is also a unanimously agreed fact that the three command the biggest followership in the state’s political arena.
With the elections just days away, a number of factors have been found out to be capable of influencing how things would go as Ondo State decides on Saturday, October 20. One of the main factors is “change”. It will be remembered that before the 2003 elections, the average Ondo State indigene wanted a change from what obtained. Many felt the Alliance for Democracy government was a disappointment.
The situation was the same in 2007. Before the elections, when the then President, Chief Obasanjo visited Ondo State, unlike other states where projects would have been lined up for commissioning, the President was taken to a maize plantation and some other sites while there were barely projects for the President to commission. That was when Dr. Agagu who was then without a nickname was awarded the sobriquet “Repairer”. He was so called because the people he ruled felt he did not do any projects of his own, rather, he embarked on an exercise of repairing what past administrations had done. So, change was the word on everybody’s lips.
The 2012 election has generated a question which will be answered on Election Day, “Do the people want a change or continuity?”
One other thing that matters to people in Ondo State is the pedigree of the contestants, where are they coming from? What have they been able to achieve? How well do they stand in terms of integrity? How have they fared in public service?
Incidentally, all the candidates have track records they are boasting of. Dr Mimiko’s supporters have spoken of how he served as Commissioner of Health in the state twice, as Secretary to the State Government and as a Federal Minister before he became Governor. “His integrity has remained intact”, they insist. Akeredolu on the other hand has his experience as a Commissioner in the state as well as his tenure as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association as proof that he is up to the task. His supporters say the fact that he rose to the pinnacle of his career shows that he is a worthy man for the job. On his own part, Olusola Oke has spoken of his experience as a Federal lawmaker and as the Commissioner who represented Ondo State on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission as well as the Legal Adviser of his party, PDP.
Their programmes too are unique selling points with each candidate promising to take the state to the next level as regards development. Analysts in some quarters, especially those who judged based on the Gubernatorial Debates organised for the candidates have opined that if the debates happened to be the only criterion for endorsement, Oke and Mimiko would stand better chances than the former NBA Chairman. They have based this on the fact that while Mimiko and Oke clearly defined and outlined their agenda for the state, Akeredolu spent most of the time allotted to him castigating Mimiko over his style of governance and his projects.
“Aketi”, as Akeredolu is fondly called has however been marketing his party’s agenda of ensuring that Ondo State joins other states in the South West under the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria.
Money is a major factor in Nigerian politics and that of Ondo State will in no way be an exception. All the parties have raised money for campaigns, rallies and other programmes. It takes money to print banners, posters, flyers and also make billboards. Souvenirs, television and radio jingles are also needed to continually create awareness.
Apart from that, at every level of government, right from the council up, campaigns and awareness programmes have to be done. The ACN embarked on the distribution of Aketi-branded recharge cards to boost the acceptability and popularity of its candidate, a pointer to the fact that money is a key factor.
Moreover, if money was not an important factor, the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would not have claimed at the recent grand rally of the ACN in Akure that he spent millions of pounds just for the incumbent Governor to claim his mandate.
Money will also be found useful in the legal tussle that will likely follow the election.
“Godfatherism” has come to stay in Nigerian politics; people hardly get to elective positions without the help of a godfather. Chief Akeredolu enjoys unalloyed support from the ACN’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who is largely believed to have handpicked him as the party’s candidate, the latter too has not hidden the fact that he has become the godfather in the south west.
Though Chief Oke does not seem to have a resident godfather in Ondo State or in the South West, the presence of President Goodluck Jonathan at the rally seemed to be the assurance that PDP members in the state needed to be sure that “Abuja” is behind their candidate.
The only candidate without a godfather among the main contenders is the incumbent Governor and this is largely due to the fact that he built the party from the scratch.
While it is believed that it may put him at a disadvantage, it is being said that it might just be what would work for him. Ondos by principle do not like being subservient or dominated by external influence and since the other candidates’ are believed to be enjoying external support, Mimiko’s supporters have opined that he is the only one that can run the state without undue “external interference.”
Sympathy And The “Victimization Theory”
Over time, it has become obvious that “being the victim” has its place in election matters in Ondo State. Ondo State often tilts towards offering support to people perceived to be at disadvantaged positions or people who have been treated unjustly. In the Second Republic, Late Chief Michael Ajasin enjoyed great support. Apart from the fact that he had a good first term, one of the other things that worked for him was that a good percentage of the electorate felt Chief Omoboriowo betrayed his boss by deciding to run against him. That put Ajasin as the victim and the receiving end of people’s sympathy. And when the result was announced, people felt it was not a true reflection of what transpired on Election Day, violence erupted.
In 2007 too, Mimiko enjoyed state-wide support because efforts were made by Governor Agagu to cage him and frustrate his governorship ambition. All efforts to clip Mimiko’s wings worked until the Presidency requested that he (Mimiko) should be sent forth for screening at the Senate as he had been nominated by the President for a ministerial position.
Having no platform to run, he opted to build Labour Party in the state and he enjoyed followership. Though Agagu, the PDP’s candidate was announced as the winner of the election and sworn-in in 2007, two years later, the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling of the Election Petitions Tribunal that had declared that the election was won by Mimiko.
In 2012 now, various strategies have been adopted and as events are playing out, with days to the election, a victim seems to be emerging. In the course of the electioneering campaigns, Mimiko has been described in various terms; he has been described as a “betrayer”, as an “ingrate” and in other terms. The ACN leader stunned many when he said he spent millions of pounds so that Mimiko could regain his mandate. The many attacks he has received from opponents are fast placing him again in the “victim’s corner”.
Whether one likes it or not, the court will eventually determine who governs Ondo State. It is already being envisaged that no matter which way the election goes, it will be followed by litigation. It has already been reported that the Election Petitions Tribunal will be inaugurated two days after the election. Since it is known that election matters hardly end at the court of first instance, it is expected that the matter will end up at the Appeal Court.