The friction among the opposition platforms may give the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) an edge in the Ondo State governorship election this Saturday, ISRAEL DARAMOLA writes
The signing of the Peace Accord by the candidates in the Ondo State governorship election indicates a resolve to have a free, fair and credible election.
All the stakeholders have pledged to ensure that the process is violence-free and transparent.
Candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Rotimi Akeredolu; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede; Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) Agboola Ajayi among others, signed the peace pact, Tuesday, in the Ondo State capital, Akure, pledging to shun violence and avoid actions that may undermine the peace accord before, during and after the election.
The event, facilitated by the National Peace Committee (NPC), had the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Mahmood Yakubu and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, in attendance.
Others in attendance included the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah; executive director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo; traditional rulers from the state and the DIG Of Police, Research and Planning, Oyebade Adeleye.
The build up to the election has recorded incidences of violence, resulting in trading of accusation between the two leading parties, APC and PDP.
The buildup to the polls has been intense. The outcome of the Edo governorship election, barely two weeks ago, had heightened the stakes in Ondo State. The parties have been in campaign mode, trading tackles over the outbreaks of violence.
The ruling APC and its candidate/incumbent governor, Akeredolu have been projecting their programmes in the state amid attacks from the opposition platforms, led by Jegede of PDP and Ajayi of ZLP.
Interestingly however, the opposition in the state is far from united a situation which is likely to divide their ranks and work in favor of the ruling party, analysts opine. Pundits argue that the opposition now seem more engrossed in outdoing themselves than unseating the ruling party and its candidate, Akeredolu.
The emergence of Ajayi as ZLP candidate, having defected from PDP, had caused an upset and division in the latter party.
Ajayi, in his quest for power, fought his boss, Akeredolu, who had entrusted much political power on him. He later defected to PDP upon some form of assurances from some governors that he will secure the party’s ticket. But that never happened as
Jegede, the party’s candidate in 2016, won the ticket a second time.
Following Jegede’s refusal to pick him as running mate, Ajayi defected to ZLP where he emerged as the standard-bearer.
Many people had expected that Jegede and Ajayi would team up against the APC candidate and Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu.
But the PDP candidate announced Gboluga Ikengboju as his running mate. Ikengboju is a member of the House of Representatives, representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency.
Speaking on a TV programme, Jegede said Ajayi could not have been his running mate because the deputy governor’s ambition was to become a governor.
When asked why he didn’t team up with Ajayi for a sole ticket, Jegede replied, “Ajayi chose not to be my deputy. His ambition is to be a governor under a political party. He left the APC, came to PDP, defeated in our primary, and went to ZLP.
“I took opinions from virtually everybody. People chose who became my running mate. When a choice is made we must respect it. One should not allow his ambition to override the choice of the people.
“All the policies that we are fighting, the pains we want to end are the product of Akeredolu and his deputy. He was in our party (as a member) for just six weeks. He is a very powerful person and humble, you cannot do away with that.
“If Ajayi is part of the policies the PDP are fighting, one may not be wrong to conclude that this could be a reason for Jegede not to accept him as his running mate, however, for his ambition to become a governor may identify him as a man seeking his own interest and not the interest of the party or the people he wants to represent,” he said.
Teaming up to win the election against the ruling party might be his reason for defecting to the party, but as it is now, how much confidence does PDP have in winning the elections now that there are divisions within the party?
Moves by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to forge some form of allegiance between PDP and ZLP appeared not to have made much progress.
However, the APC are confident of winning the election not just based on the misunderstanding and division trailing the PDP, because of the good works Akeredolu is doing in Ondo State, some pundits aver.
One of numerous APC chieftains, former general secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, believes that Akeredolu will carry the day.
He said, “Ajayi is now in Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), so he is no more in PDP, Ajayi is jumping from party to party and again I am a party man, I have always had the zeal for the PDP right from time because I felt they have very bad leadership and hope the APC will not go that same way.”
Kokori who reiterated his confidence in Akeredolu getting Ondo back said that apart from the division in the PDP, the work he is doing will speak for him.
“I know that Akeredolu will win, honestly, I believe he will win, especially with what I am seeing on ground, it may not be like Edo State, and it is still going to be transparent because it is out of season election except for the riverine areas. I know Akeredolu will win for the APC, the result from the PDP and the ZLP will not be too much and so it will create leading edge for Akeredolu to win,” he stated.
On his own part, the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan expressed confidence that PDP will win the Ondo election because the people are determined to remove the APC for failing them in the state.
“What will happen is that the PDP will win the October 10 election in Ondo State. The reason is because the people are determined to reject and remove from APC from office through the ballot. It has failed the people.“
Asked about the defection of Ajayi to ZLP and the implications it may have on PDP in the coming election, Ologbondiyan said, “there will still be a team up because the election is not today and I believe there are people in our party who are working on that team work.”
Asked whether Agboola could be working with the PDP to take away government from the APC in the election
He said that “PDP has not for close working with ZLP and any other political party operating in Ondo State towards ensuring that the wish of the people of Ondo State to remove Akeredolu through the ballot is achieved.”
While party chieftains defend their parties and hope to secure victory, it remains dicey nature of the contest makes it hard to predict who will win the election.
Still an election observer, Eagle Badger Consulting on Monday, released findings on political activities ongoing across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State.
The report which was made available to media houses by the Political Communication advisor, Eagle Badger Consulting, Mikka Erem, indicated that respondents on the side of the Governor were going for him because of two basic issues infrastructural development and continuity.
Those for the PDP candidate, Jegede, said they will go for him because he promised a reduction of school fees and the creation of jobs.
While the two main priorities for Ajayi’s supporters were the reduction of school fees and access to affordable healthcare.
The report reads in part, “Scheduled to take place on the 10th of October 2020, the Ondo State Governorship election is one of a handful of out-of-cycle elections the Independent National Electoral Commission will be conducted outside the 2019 General Election window.
“Coming on the heels of the competitive but largely peaceful Edo Governorship Election, the Ondo election is slightly more complex as this time we have three main candidates, rather than the two major contestants that slugged it out in Edo State.
“An Eagle Badger Consulting telephone survey of Likely Voters across the 18 Local Government Areas of Ondo State has revealed that incumbent Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) of the APC is – by the slimmest of margins – polling slightly behind Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) of the PDP 36% to 37%. The current Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi of the ZLP trails behind both of them, with only 22% of respondents indicating that they would vote for Mr. Ajayi. 5% of respondents stated they were undecided as at the time of the survey.
“The Ondo State Survey of Likely Voters was conducted September 29th-30th, 2020. The margin of error is +/- 7% with a confidence level of 95%. The randomly selected sample population was made up of 122 males and 58 females. 90% of the respondents voted in the 2016 Ondo State Governorship elections.
“Who won what, and where? An examination of the LGAs won by the candidates revealed a surprising fact: excluding two LGAs where the potential votes were split equally between the APC and PDP (Idanre) and between the PDP and ZLP (Irele), Dep. Gov. Ajayi won the most LGAs (6) while Gov. Akeredolu and Mr. Jegede won 5 LGAs each.”
The report further posited that Ajay was unable to secure significant interest from potential voters outside LGAs he has support. Conversely, both Gov. Akeredolu and Mr. Jegede not only managed to win their LGAs, but were able to win significant support in the LGAs they lost to their rivals.
“All candidates enjoyed home-court advantage as Gov. Akeredolu won in his LGA of Owo, Mr. Jegede won in his home LGA of Akure South, and Dep. Gov. Ajayi won in Ese Odo LGA. For Mr. Jegede, his LGA victory is especially important as Akure South has the highest number of registered voters and PVCs collected,” the report concluded.