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ONDO GUBER RACE: Edo resonates as Ondo decides today

State governor's "invasion" of Ondo ahead of Saturday's poll is a threat to credible poll —TMG•Ajayi’s zone holds ace for Akeredolu, Jegede
•1.8m register, 1.4m to vote
•Candidates’ strengths, weaknesses,
•We’ll accept poll result— candidates
•Facts and figures

By Dayo Johnson, Akure

TODAY’S governorship election in Ondo state has generated controversies like no other in the history of the state. The spate of thuggery, blood letting and violence in the last one month ahead of today’s contest has reached a crescendo that may result to a low turn out of voters in today’s exercise.

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The contest has been dubbed a three horse race as the incumbent, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress, APC; Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Mr. Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP, are seen as formidable gladiators in the contest.

With a population of about 4 million people spread across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state, voters in the Sunshine state would file out today in the 3009 polling units across the council areas to elect the next occupant of the Alagbaka Government House.

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1.8m register, 1.4m to vote

The number of registered voters was put at 1, 822, 346 while 1, 478,460 of them had Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, as 343,886 PVCs were uncollected. The implication, therefore, is that only 1,478,460 voters who collected the PVCs are expected to visit the various voting points to exercise their franchise.

The zone to produce governor

There is a sentiment over which of the three senatorial districts should produce the next governor.

While those in the North want another term for their son, Akeredolu, some politicians in Ondo South argue that it is the turn of the zone since the North had produced the governor for 12 years, including Akeredolu and that the Central had its slot for eight years under Olusegun Mimiko, while the South had six years under late Olusegun Agagu.

It’s a three horse race

The 1983 political drama when the then Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, chose to contest against his boss, the late Chief Michael Ajasin is playing out in the state today. Ajayi, the incumbent deputy governor, has openly challenged his boss, Akeredolu to a contest. However none of the three major contestants in the race can confidently beat his chest that he would win the election. Even as power of incumbency may count for Akeredolu, nobody is absolutely sure anymore.

Not until few months ago, the battle for the soul of the state was between the APC and the PDP like it was in 2016 when the incumbent, Akeredolu slugged it out with Jegede..

The scenario however changed when Agboola threw his hat into the ring to contest which resulted in a lot scheming and an attempt to impeach him which failed. This is the first time a deputy governor would be contesting for the office of the governor while still in office as deputy to the governor who himself is a candidate in the same election.

Only three out of 17 political parties cleared visible

Of the 17 candidates cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) only three are major contenders while others are just pretenders. No doubt the manner the three candidates were crisscrossing the state to market themselves showed that the heat was on them and none of them knew where the pendulum would swing today.

Interestingly, the three major candidates are from each of the three senatorial districts in the state which has made the contest open for any of them to win. Akeredolu is from the Northern Senatorial district, Ajayi from the Southern senatorial district, while Jegede is from the Central Senatorial district. Each of the senatorial districts has six local governments to make 18 in all.

Edo poll result rattles Akeredolu, boosts opposition’s chances

The outcome of the September 19 governorship poll in Edo State has given the opposition parties in Ondo state hope that the votes will count today. Political analysts posit that the result of the Edo election has further energised the opposition parties that they can turn the table against Akeredolu.

After the Edo election, the effort Akeredolu put into his electioneering campaign was an indication that the election which he thought would be a walk over may eventually consume him. The apprehension in the party, both at the state and national level occasioned the several meetings between Akeredolu and his colleague governors led by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.

Akeredolu may win 14 LGAs

But all said and done,Akeredolu in today’s election is a step ahead of the two other contestants. It looks dicey on the surface but events in the last one week across the state showed that Akeredolu would win not less than 14 councils leaving Jegede and Ajayi with four councils to share. If this happens, then history would have repeated itself. In 2016, Akeredolu won 14 councils while Olusola Oke and Mr. Jegede shared the remaining four councils equally.

Zones and influencers Ondo North

This senatorial district has 411, 188 number of registered voters. It’s made up of six councils namely Akoko North East (66, 290); Akoko North West (58,505); Akoko South East (32,763); Akoko South West (87,351); Owo (102,711); and Ose (63,568). The candidate of the APC, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu hails from this zone. Akeredolu is very much on ground and would coast home to victory with nothing less than 70% of the total votes cast in the zone.

Akeredolu is the only candidate from this zone. Some political analysts argued that the mistake made by the two other parties was to leave Ondo North completely free for the incumbent governor by not picking a deputy governorship candidate from the zone.

The zone had the largest number of governorship aspirants during the party’s primary but they have all collapsed their structures after Akeredolu won to support him.

Those who will swing the votes for Akeredolu in the zone include the national leader of the dissolved Unity group who was a former deputy governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi; Senator Ajayi Boroffice representing the zone at the Senate; the son of late Governor Adebayo Adefarati, Gboyega Adefarati; a serving commissioner; a former speaker and the current Director General of Akeredolu campaign organisation, Rt Hon Victor Olabimtan; serving national assembly members, Hon Ade Adeogun, Hon Timilehin Adelegbe and Hon Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo. Vanguard gathered that many of the national assembly members had a rethink and joined Akeredolu when it was obvious that all the odds favoured his re-election and in a bid to safeguard their own re-election, they reluctantly joined the train.

Interestingly, aside all the APC lawmakers in the national assembly, others in the SDP, Hon Tajudeen Adefioye and that of the ADC, Hon Abiola Makinde have openly identified with his reelection bid but didn’t defect to the APC. Also all executive council members, party executives, political appointees would want continuity for Akeredolu to preserve their daily bread.

This is a no go area for the two other candidates of PDP and ZLP as the leaders in the zone have unanimously queued behind their son, Rotimi Akeredolu. But senator Bode Olajumoke from Ose would pull some votes for Jegede while the likes of Dennis Niyi- Alonge would equally pull some string. But the bottom line is that Akeredolu would win with a wide margin in his senatorial district as the people of the zone would also want to complete their own two terms of eight years after Mimiko from the Central broke the jinx. No doubt, Akeredolu would have the best election result from his Ondo North zone.

Ondo Central

This is the zone with the highest number of registered voters put at 559,374. The zone hosts the state capital and is made up of Akure South (207 384); Akure North (60,744); Ifedore (54,640); Idanre (64,438); Ondo West (131,847); and Ondo East (40,321). The immediate past governor, Dr Mimiko is from this zone and he served two terms while the candidate of the PDP, Mr Jegede is from the senatorial district. The senatorial district is Jegede’s stronghold but he may only win in Akure South while other areas such as Akure North, Idanre, Ifedore, Ondo West and Ondo East may go the way of either the APC or ZLP. Those who will swing votes for Governor Akeredolu from the zone include the Minister of State for Niger/Delta Affairs, Tayo Alasoadura, a native of Iju/Itaogbolu in Akure North Local Government Area of the state, the Commissioner for Works, Saka Ogunleye; the current Secretary to the State Government SSG,Hon Tayo Oluwatuyi; the former occupier of the seat, Hon Sunday Abegunde and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Bamidele Oloyelogun who wants to go to the House of Representatives. The state party chairman, Engineer Ade Adetimehin and the commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Yemi Olowolabi will lead other political appointees to deliver Idanre for Akeredolu even with the support of the SDP’s only House of Representatives member in the National Assembly, Hon. Tajudeen Adefisoye and that of the ADC, Hon Abiola Makinde.

Also, political history has shown that electorate in Akure South are not predominantly indigenes of Akure as people from across the 18 council areas are working in the metropolis and would not cast their votes based on sentiments, but on the reality on ground which will favour Akeredolu following his performance in the state capital.

Ondo South

This is the zone with the second largest number of registered voters with 508,004. It is made up of Ile Oluji Okeigbo (54,391); Odigbo (109,797); Irele (57,651); Okitipupa (92,945); Ilaje (126, 749); and Ese Odo (66,481). This zone used to be the stronghold of the the PDP during the administration of the late Dr Olusegun Agagu but things have changed now. The candidate of the third force, Hon Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party hails from this senatorial district. Leaders of the zone have consistently voiced it out that it was their turn to produce the next governor until the incumbent was re-elected as the APC candidate. The likes of Olusola Oke, Isaacs Kekemeke, Ife Oyedele, Jimi Odimayo, Jimoh Ibrahim have since buried their ambition and preferred to wait till 2024 after Akeredolu’s second term in office if he wins. They vowed to give Akeredolu over 60% of the vote so as to get his support after his second term in office. They argued that it would be unfair to allow Jegede from the Central Senatorial district take over from Akeredolu now after Mimiko, who is from same zone had spent two terms of eight years in office. Many of the leaders have disowned their kinsman, the ZLP candidate, Mr. Ajayi, saying that his platform- ZLP was a third term agenda for Mimiko.

While Ajayi will have a good outing with political appointees led by the Information and Orientation Commissioner, Donald Ojogo, others vowed to deliver the Ese- odo council area for Akeredolu.

Also, those who are expected to swing majority of the votes for Akeredolu in Ilaje include Olusola Oke, the running mate to Akeredolu, Hon Lucky Ayedatiwa and other political appointees. The likes of Education commissioner, Pastor Femi Agagu, the younger brother to the former governor; SUBEB Chairman, Princess Oladunni Odu; business mogul, Jimoh lbrahim; Hon Mayowa Akinfolarin; and Hon Albert Akintoye are firmly rooted in their constituencies and can garner significant number of votes for the incumbent governor. The construction of the Ore interchange bridge and the Ondo Lynl Industrial hubs by Akeredolu both in the southern district will pull votes for him from the people whose lives were touched by these two big projects.

Notable personalities that can influence votes in the zone in favour of Jegede include a member of the 2014 National Confab and former commissioner, Chief Sola Ebiseni, former National Vice Chairman South West of the party, Dr Eddy Olafeso; former Senator Boluwaji Kunlere and former information commissioner, Hon John Mafo amongst others who have assured Jegede of reasonable number of votes to counter those coming from Akeredolu’s Northern Senatorial district. Sadly, Jegede’s running mate, Ikengboju Gboluga is not popular and may not bring much for Jegede in terms of votes.

Jegede’s strength and weaknesses

The PDP candidate, Mr Jegede is relying on the structure of the party which is spread across the state. Also the excellent performance of the party in the 2019 general elections, where the party won the presidential election and many seats in the National Assembly, is giving him the confidence that the party can still leverage on this feat. His defeat in 2016 by Akeredolu with over 90,000 votes despite all odds, will be corrected in today’s election according to his aides.

Jegede is also expecting a large number of votes from Ondo South known as his party’s stronghold and where his running mate, Hon Ikengboju Gboluga hails from. The PDP won two out of the three House of Representatives seat in Ondo South. Report also has it that PDP governors across the country will support him both financially and morally. Also, his long time friend, the former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is expected to help him in bankrolling the election. Other PDP governors led by Seyi Makinde of Oyo state are rallying round Jegede hoping to repeat the Edo magic in Ondo today.

His albatross however is the sentiment that he is from the Central Senatorial district where former governor, Mimiko,who has spent eight years also hails from. Voting another governor from same area after Mimiko’s eight years, according to the people from both the north and south senatorial districts was not only unfair but illogical.

Jegede has, however, punctured the sentiment expressed by the people saying that it will be unfair to judge him by his place of origin, but that the people of the state should judge him by what he can offer the state.

The choice of his running mate, Ikengboju Gboluga, a member of the House of Representatives, did not go down well with many of the party leaders within and outside the state. Many had wanted him to pick one of the governorship aspirants who contested the party primary with him but he declined.

Also, although he had denied that there was a rift between him and his benefactor, Mimiko, the frosty relationship between them after the party lost the 2016 election will work against Jegede as he may lose the only two councils; Ondo West and Ondo East which he won in 2016 with the influence of Mimiko.

The master stroke by the ZLP was the choice of the former Commissioner for Works in the state, Mr Gboye Adegbenro from Ifedore council area of the state as the running mate to its candidate, Agboola Ajayi. This was strategic and meant to break into the supposed stronghold of Jegede in his central senatorial district. The collapse of the structures of 11 political parties may also earn some votes for Jegede if the party leaders do not betray him as being speculated.

Agboola Ajayi

His four years tenure as the state deputy governor will help him a lot to garner some votes in the zone which hosts the state capital but the votes will be minimal. Ajayi may not make any meaningful impact in this zone because of the sentiment that Jegede is their son and cannot be abandoned. Ajayi’s deputy, a former Works Commissioner, Engineer Gboye Adegbenro, who is loved by his people in Ifedore and in Idanre will win Ifedore for the ZLP. His choice by the party was to remove the rug off the feet of Jegede and prevent him from having block votes from the central. Dr Kola Ademujimi, the former Chief of Staff to Governor Mimiko and the Director General of the Ajayi campaign organisation will make some impact in favour of Ajayi in his Idanre town.

READ ALSO: INEC partners NPC for delivery of credible elections

Ajayi is expected to win Ondo South since he hails from the zone but many of the leaders from the zone have turned their back against their kinsman and are said to be working against him. Leaders who are not favourably disposed to his aspiration include the former Special Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Kingsley Kuku, who pitched his tent with the PDP candidate; the Information Commissioner, Donald Ojogo, who is a staunch supporter of Akeredolu and the ex-militant, Chief Bibopere Ajube amongst others. Most votes in his zone will be won by Akeredolu because he has succeeded to win to his side supposed backbones of Ajayi. The defection of the PDP governorship aspirant, Mr. Banji Okunomo to the ZLP, was seen as a boost to Ajayi in Ilaje council area.

Also with the help from Dr Olatunji Felder in Okeigbo, Ajayi will get some votes but not enough to upset Akeredolu in both Ilaje and Ile- Oluji/ Okeigbo council areas. Despite all these Ajayi will still win some wards in his Ese Odo councils but will lose in many other major councils in the zone such as Irele, Okitipupa and Odigbo to Akeredolu.

Ajayi is a grassroot politician who rose through the ranks before becoming the deputy governor of the state. He is considered the most qualified and experienced to be the governor having served as a councillor, local government chairman, and a member of the House of Representatives before becoming the deputy governor

Ajayi, in his political journey, had endeared himself to many, especially among the old PDP leaders and members, who later moved to the APC. He was a staunch leader of the PDP before joining Akeredolu in 2016.

His perceived enemies are mainly from the southern senatorial district where he hails from as the leaders there believed if he becomes the governor they would be retired prematurely.

Aside being a cheerful giver, the support he received from the national leader of the ZLP, Dr. Mimiko, has further boosted his chances.

Political aides and acquaintances of Mimiko while in office have also joined forces with him.

The people from the south where Ajayi hails from have also bought into the project and have seen his ambition as their own. Unconfirmed reports have it that some PDP governors are bankrolling Ajayi’s governorship project ahead of the 2023 presidential contest.

The governors said to be backing Ajayi are out to scuttle Jegede’s ambition in a bid to hurt his friend , the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who is again eyeing the Presidency in 2023.

Many people however see Ajayi as being too ambitious having traversed three political parties within one month to realise his governorship ambition. Political analysts opined that if he had stayed in the PDP after losing the primary, it would have been more honourable for him rather than jumping from one party to another.

Others also noted that if Ajayi had defected to ZLP after leaving the APC, his chances would have been brighter than now that many of the electorate see him as an over ambitious politician. But Ajayi has defended himself saying that the call to serve and deliver the people from Akeredolu’s misrule was his driving force.

Battlegrounds

Vanguard’s findings showed that the council areas described as battlegrounds for the three candidates include Akure South, Okitipupa, Akure North, Ose, Ondo West, Ondo East , Irele and Idanre.

These council areas have many influencers that will make it difficult to suggest where the pendulum will swing in today’s poll

Akeredolu is expected to win with a wide margin in both Ondo North and Ondo South senatorial districts while Eyitayo Jegede and Agboola Ajayi will share the votes in the central. Akeredolu will also win some councils in the central senatorial district.

IGP warns violent mongers

The inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu has said that a total of 33,783 police personnel will be on election security duty today. This according to him comprises of 30,933 conventional police personnel and 2,850 Special Police Units.

He said, “the Police deployment will be complemented by an additional 3,500 manpower that will be drawn from other Security Agencies. The Military will be engaged for the purpose of securing the Inter State borders while the Nigeria Police Airwing will provide air surveillance. These personnel shall be deployed to adequately secure the 3,009 Polling Units (PUs) in 203 Wards spread over the 18 Local Government Areas of the State.

“They are to protect the personnel and assets of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the electorates, and residents of Ondo State in general before, during and after the elections. The rationale for these deployment is purposeful and strategic. We are drawing from the experiences garnered in the recently concluded election and pro actively responding to the outcome of the intelligence analysis arising from our election threat assessment of Ondo state governorship election.

“The deployment is equally to deny misguided political actors that might be bent on threatening the elections through acts that are inimical to the dictates of the Electoral Act, the pleasure of manifesting their ignoble traits.. I hereby warn violence mongers to immediately desist from’ their uncharitable deviant activities or be prepared to face the consequences.

“However, political actors and law abiding electorates that are desirous of a peaceful election in Ondo state can be rest assured of optimal security as they exercise their electoral rights.”

The Police Chief reassured the political parties and the people of Ondo State that “the Nigeria Police and other security agencies involved in the conduct of this election have commonly resolved in line with our respective Oaths of Office and Allegiance to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that this election shall be free, fair, credible, and conducted in a safe and secure environment.

10 parties sign peace pact

Only ten political parties out of the 17 participating in today’s election signed the peace pact facilitated by the National Peace Committee under the leadership of former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar to ensure violence free election with a promise to accept its outcome.

The three major candidates who signed the peace accord include, Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress APC, Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party ZLP and seven others.

The signing of the peace pact which took place in Akure was witnessed by National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Yakubu Mahmood; Sultan of Sokoto Abukabar Saa’d; Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Hassan Kukah; former Bishop of Abuja Diocese John Onaiyekan and traditional rulers, among others.

The chairman of the committee, the former Head of State, Abubakar who joined the session via Zoom said that the peace accord was intended to enable the electorate feel secure while exercising their franchise in an atmosphere of devoid of chaos and fear. Abubakar, urged all stakeholders to commit to the spirit of the accord.

According to him “those who signed the peace accord have committed themselves to ensuring peace in Ondo State and Nigeria at large before, during and after the election. The tension and anxiety associated with election necessitated the setup of the National Peace Committee which is to support peaceful election process and enthrone culture of peace.

“The intervention of the committee contributed immensely to the success of the 2015 election. The NPC has since successfully intervened in the general election to ensure a peaceful outcome to the 2019 general election even at the just concluded Edo governorship election.

Also, a member of the National Peace committee, Bishop Mathew Kukah and the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar charged the youths not allow themselves to be used for political violence. According to Bishop Kukah, “it is imperative to call on everyone to work towards peaceful election to ensure peace reign during and after the election.

The Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar urged the major candidates to respect the accord as it was a basis for smooth and peaceful conduct of election, stressing that no election was worth the life of any individual. He said election should be seen as a mere game and not a do or die affair.

We’ll accept the result of the poll- governorship candidates

The major candidates, Akeredolu, Ajayi and Jegede promised to abide by the rules guiding the election and would accept the outcome of the poll. Akeredolu assured that peace would reign during the election on Saturday and appealed to INEC to ensure that the election was free, fair and credible.

The PDP candidate, Mr. Jegede tasked the police and other security agencies to be neutral in the discharge of their duties during the election.

The ZLP candidate, Mr. Ajayi, who is also the deputy governor of the state, assured that members of his party would respect the peace pact.

Ajayi’s zone holds ace for Akeredolu, Jegede

By Dirisu Yakubu

Three weeks after winning the hearts of millions of people with its conduct of the Edo governorship election; the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will today have another opportunity to rewrite the ignoble history inked about it in the past. The encomiums being showered on the umpire are neither because Godwin Obaseki won, nor because the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, now has an opportunity to preside over the affairs of the South-South state for the next four years. No! The new narrative is informed largely by the manner the umpire conducted the exercise in a professional, non-partisan manner.

Today, 1,478,460 registered voters with Permanent Voter Cards would troop to their various polling units spread across the 18 local government areas in the state to elect a new governor following the gradual countdown to the end of first tenure of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Unlike the Edo poll, at least three candidates are capable of garnering sufficient votes to head to Alagbaka (The Ondo Government House) given their popularity and well-oiled structure, put in place for the sole purpose of ensuring victory.

For Akeredolu, the next four years offer ample opportunity to consolidate on the gains of the past four years and he has asked voters to rally behind him to hand Ondo a non-oil dependent economy. However, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, would have none of this promise as he insists that the past four years of Akeredolu’s stewardship have been the most backward for the oil producing state. There is Agboola Ajayi, the state deputy governor and candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP, who does not reckon with the duo of Akeredolu and Jegede, but banks on the support of voters to make him the next governor.

Although the ZLP candidate is seen as a man capable of holding his own on a good day, election pundits see today’s contest as a straight fight to finish between APC’s Akeredolu and PDP’s Jegede. To them, Ajayi would do well to test his popularity and gain sufficient experience of politicking at this level. So, what does victory or defeat mean to the parties with 2023 election cycle already factoring in the nation’s political calculations?

Akeredolu/APC

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Akeredolu rode on the wings of the then newly registered party, APC, to power in 2016. Soft-spoken, respected and a man of immeasurable qualities, Akeredolu beat Jegede in the race to the plum seat four years ago. Like it happened in 2016, Jegede is again his biggest threat in an election that can go either way, provided manipulation; voter apathy and harassment of the electorate are nipped in the bud. Jegede keeps on reminding all that he was only cleared to run three days to election day in 2016, arguing that his chances are brighter now.

Akeredolu hails from Ondo North Senatorial District, a zone that has produced the governor for upward of 12 years since the return to democracy in 1999. The argument this time is that having ruled for more than a decade, Akeredolu should give way to other zones even though he has the constitutional right to seek re-election.

Ondo North has the lowest voting strength of 27.10 per cent of the 1,822,346 registered voters in the state. However, this seemingly disadvantage may pale into insignificance considering the fact that the governor’s incumbency factor cannot be easily dismissed by the wave of the hand. As can be recalled with ease, Governor Obaseki proved that point recently when against all odds, including resignation of some of his aides and commissioners on the prompting of his foes; he made mince of Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the APC who enjoyed the backing of a billionaire who made cash readily available for him.

In the event of Akeredolu’s victory, the APC will be confident of holding its own in the South-West in 2023 especially with talks of a possible zoning of the Presidential ticket to the region. Although, neither Asiwaju Bola Tinubu nor Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi has confirmed the veracity of insinuations linking them to the Presidency in 2023; the fact that they have not denied same lends credence to a possible authenticity of these speculations. APC lost Oyo state to the PDP in the 2019 general election and came close to losing Osun until an eleventh hour miracle saved its blushes. Political pundits insist that but for the manner former Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose handled the PDP governorship primaries that produced Professor Kolapo Olushola Eleka as the party’s candidate in 2018; the South-West state would still have been under the grip of the PDP till date. Hypothetical as this claim is or appears to be, victory is what the APC would be sniffing as defeat would only mark the party for possible loss of fortune ahead of 2023.

And unlike what happened in Edo where only the duo of Abdullahi Ganduje and Hope Uzodinma symbolized the party’s support for its candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu; a total of 12 governors elected on the platform of the APC are on ground to drum support for the bearded governor in today’s poll.

For Diran Odeyemi, PDP deputy national publicity secretary, the presence of APC governors would have no impact on the poll. He said, “We are through with our campaigns and the moment is here for Ondo to make their decision. As a party, we know that we don’t need the governors in the whole of Nigeria to market our candidate. The people will speak, having known the difference between a good and a bad leader. I won’t say more than that.”

Jegede/PDP

Unlike in 2016 when he had no time to sell his campaign manifesto, Jegede, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has been to every nook and cranny in the 18 local councils of the state. Riding on the wave of the reconciliation brokered by the Oyo state governor and chairman, national campaign council of the PDP, Seyi Makinde, amongst the aspirants who lost at the primaries, Jegede has virtually little or nothing to worry about in this election.

The National Working Committee, NWC led by Prince Uche Secondus has sufficiently mobilised support for Jegede, using every window of opportunity to articulate the mileage his governorship would fetch the people.

What is more! Jegede has the backing of Atiku Abubakar, the PDP candidate in the 2019 Presidential election who is believed by many to be strategizing for yet another shot at the plum seat in 2023.

Given the formidable front forged by the party’s leading lights ahead of today’s contest, Jegede has been given more than one and a half chance of coasting homer to victory. A win for Jegede is a plus for PDP in its quest to return to power at the centre.

Last week, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State denied allegations that he was disposed to Hon. Agboola Ajayi of ZLP owing to their long-term friendship; insisting that though their friendship subsists, Jegede has his backing in the interest of the party.

Apart from the huge support base, Jegede hails from Ondo Central, the zone with the highest voting power of 39.78 per cent of total registered voters. Since the return to democracy, only former governor, Olusegun Mimiko represented the Central zone and this translates to just eight years in office; a sharp contrast to the North which has spent 12 years in Alagbaka.  The zone is a stronghold of the PDP and this is likely to play out in the voting pattern of today’s election.

It is not rocket science to hazard what a loss for PDP would mean for a party that once held sway in the state since the days of Olusegun Agagu (of blessed memory). Not only would Jegede make a name for being one of the few politicians to lose governorship elections consecutively on the platform of the same party; it would also mark a difficult time for the PDP in its quest to wrestle power, first from the Labour Party (with Mimiko as the then governor) and the APC (with Akeredolu in charge).

Until recently, Governor Akeredolu had a somewhat lukewarm relationship with APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, with some praising the governor’s decision to remain his own man. However, Tinubu was recently in Akure to raise the hand of the governor in preparation for the D-day. To demonstrate his faith in Akeredolu’s candidacy, Tinubu pronounced PDP dead in the state and tasked voters to rally behind their governor for a second term.

A victory for Jegede would be a big blow for Tinubu who will have to make do with a state less in the South-West, having already seen Oyo taken away by the PDP.

Battleground

Ondo South with a voting population of 33.12 per cent is the home of the ZLP candidate, Agboola Ajayi and the people are naturally expected to go behind their son today. Although, the party may find it pretty difficult to throw up the kind of resources available to the two other parties, Agboola is not a push over. He is likely to give a good account of himself.

Analysts believe that the outing of Jegede and Akeredolu in Ajayi’s zone would determine the winner and loser of this big test.

Indeed, today’s election is as intriguing as it would be interesting for many-layered reasons all linked with the 2023 election cycle.

ONDO: Facts and figures

By Clifford Ndujihe

CHRISTENED the Sunshine State, Ondo, which was created on February 3, 1976, has a current estimated population of 4,671,695 persons distributed across 18 local councils within a land area of 14,788.723 Square Kilometres.

Located in the South-West geo-political zone of Nigeria, Ondo State is bounded in the North by Ekiti/Kogi states; in the East by Edo State; in the West by Oyo and Ogun states, and in the South by the Atlantic Ocean.

Ondo State is a multi-ethnic state with the majority being Yoruba while there are also the Ikale, Ilaje, Arogbo and Akpoi, who are of Ijaw extraction and inhabit the riverine areas of the state. The state plays host to 1,233 public primary schools, and 280 public secondary schools and a number of tertiary institutions including the Federal University of Technology, Akure; Adekunle Ajasin University; Ondo State University of Science and Technology; University of Medical Sciences; Ondo State Polytechnic, Owo; Federal College of Agriculture, Akure; and Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo among others

Arguably, Ondo is one of the most resource-endowed states of Nigeria. It is agriculturally rich with agriculture contributing about 75 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The main revenue yielding crops are cocoa, palm produce and timber. Ondo region is now the core of the Nigerian cocoa belt accounting for about 60 per cent of Nigeria’s annual output. Other tree crops include kola, rubber, coffee, oil palm and exotics especially Tectona grandis and Gmelina arborea. Arable crops like rice, cassava, maize, yam, pepper, beans, tomatoes and a host of other vegetables are cultivated mostly in the northern part of the state.

The creeks and coastlands of the state are rich in prawns and lobsters and the state is said to have reserve for stock fish. Ondo is also blessed with mineral resources such as petroleum, tar sand (bitumen), kaolin clay, iron ore, granite and quartz.

Since its creation, Ondo has been ruled by 18 men -12 military, six civilians.

For today’s election, there are 17 candidates of which only one is a female – Okunade Taiwo of the Labour Party, LP.

The fate of the 16 men and one woman will be decided by 1,478,460 voters. This is the number of registered voters, who have collected their Permanent Voters Cards PVCs from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The state has 1,822,346 registered voters.

Past rulers of Ondo State

Name Title Took Office

Left Office Party

Ita David Ikpeme Governor Mar 1976 Jul 1978 Military

Sunday Tuoyo Governor July 1978 Oct 1979 Military

Michael Ajasin Governor Oct 1979 Dec 1983 UPN

Bamidele Otiko Governor Jan1984 Sept 1985 Military

Michael Akhigbe Governor Sept 1985 Aug 1986 Military

Ekundayo Opaleye Governor Aug 1986 Dec 1987 Military

Raji Alagbe Rasaki Governor Dec 1987 Jul 1988 Military

Bode George Governor Jul 1988 Sept 1990 Military

Sunday A Olukoya Governor Sept 1990 Jan 1992 Military

Bamidele Olumilua Governor Jan 1992 Nov 1993 SDP

Mike Torey Administrator Dec 1993 Sept 1994 Military

Ahmed Usman Administrator Sept1994 Aug 1996 Military

A Onyearugbulem Administrator Aug 1996 Aug 1998 Military

Moses Fasanya Administrator Aug1998 May 1999 Military

Adebayo Adefarati Governor May 1999 May 2003 AD

Olusegun Agagu Governor May 2003 Feb 2009 PDP

Olusegun Mimiko Governor Feb 2009 Feb2017 Labour

Rotimi Akeredolu Governor Feb 2017 ????? APC

 

16 men, one woman

contesting today’s poll

Candidate Party sex

Rotimi Akindejoye Accord M

Joshua Adewole AA M

Adeleye Peter AAC M

Adelegan Oluwaseyi ADC M

Martin Olateru-Olagbegi ADP M

Rotimi Akeredolu APC M

Olowoloba Dele APGA M

Aminu Olarenwaju APM M

Adesanya Olaoluwa APP M

Okunade Taiwo LP F

Ojajuni Eniola NNPP M

Funmilayo Ataunoko NRM M

Eyitayo Jegede PDP M

Babatunde Alli PRP M

Fasua Oyeleye SDP M

Ojon Dotun YPP M

Agboola Ajayi ZLP M

Vanguard

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