Electorates in Ondo State will head
to the polls today, as 17 governorship candidates and their political parties battle over who occupies the Alagbaka Government House.
According to the IndependentNational Electoral Commission (INEC), 1, 478, 460 eligible voters will exercise their franchise across the 3009 polling units and 203 wards of the state.
The three major contenders in the race are incumbent Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
For some pundits, the outcome
of the Ondo election is projected to not just chart a new course in Ondo politics, but it will also determine, to a large extent, the direction of Southwest politics ahead of the 2023 general election.
But considering the characteristics of the political parties, the candidates, and their senatorial spread, the contest may not be different from what was witnessed in the state since 2012, when the incumbent governor first contested.
They will surely leverage on their areas of advantage to win today’s poll. However, due to the incessant clashes between the leading contenders, there are concerns of voter apathy.
But the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu, at the meeting in Akure, the state capital warned violence-mongers to immediately desist from their uncharitable deviant activities or be prepared to face the consequences.
Adamu who also disclosed that no fewer than 33,783 police personnel have been deployed for today’s election, urged all the political parties to embrace the virtues of democracy by seeing elections as a call to service of the people and not ‘a do or die affair’.
The IGP hinted that the deployment will comprise of 30,933 conventional police personnel and 2850 special police units.
According to him, “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 Nigerian police Airwing will provide aerial surveillance. The personnel shall be deployed to adequately
secure the 3,009 polling Unit in 203 wards spread over the 18 local government area 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 election,” he said.
Adamu informed that the deployment became necessary due to the intelligence analysis arising from the threat assessment of the Ondo State governorship election.
That notwithstanding, the election is projected to be intriguing due to the fact that the three major contenders are from the three senatorial districts of the state.
While the incumbent, Governor Akeredolu, is from the Northern senatorial district, his estranged deputy, Ajayi, who is also the candidate of the ZLP, is from the southern senatorial district.
The PDP candidate, Jegede is from the central senatorial district of the state.
However, with the reconciliation held immediately after the primary election in the ruling APC, the party and its candidate is poised to up an impressive outing at the polls.
Following the primaries, the governor had embarked on the reconciliation process within the party which united all APC political gladiators behind his candidacy.
Presently, all the co-contestants such as Chief Olusola Oke, Hon. Isaacs Kekemeke, Ambassador Olusola Iji, and Dr. Segun Abraham have promised to support Akeredolu’s second term bid so that the state will remain an APC state.
Basking on the success of the reconciliation moves within his party, the governor will also seek to leverage on the support of the people of the state, his achievements in office in the last three and half years, and the backing of all the progressives governors of the ruling party to win the election.
LEADERSHIP also observes that all political office holders including the newly elected local government chairmen and councilors, spreadacross the 203 wards, would want to deliver their units in favor of APC and Akeredolu.
Also besides incumbency factor and financial wherewithal, another factor that may aide Akeredolu’s bid in the contest is the geopolitics of the state as reflected in the zoning arrangement.
In the Northern Senatorial District, there are six local government areas, with 418,926 registered voters representing 27.1 percent.
Of the six councils, Akoko zone alone, where Dr. Segun Abraham, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, and other leaders who are now in the camp of Akeredolu hail from, has four
Also, Owo zone, which is Akeredolu’s political base, has 264 polling units with a voting power of over 119,000 registered voters.
He has his strength in the Northern senatorial district where he is expected to garner the majority of the votes although he has many well-known politicians as his allies across the state.
While the crisis in his party has largely been resolved, there are concerns over his rift with the deputy governor, who hails from the Southern senatorial district.
There are speculations that had the deputy governor not left the party, APC’s victory at the poll would have been sealed before now.
On his part, the ZLP candidate, Ajayi, is often described as a grassroots politician, particularly in his Southern senatorial district.
Political watchers are of the opinion that since Ajayi started his political career as a counselor and rose through the ranks to become the deputy governor having served as a House of Representatives member, it may not be difficult for him to galvanize his people to support him.
Pundits are of the opinion that since he is from the Southern Senatorial District, ZLP may have an edge since the people of the area have adopted his project as their own.
Ajayi is also hoping to leverage on the political clout of former governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko who is the national leader of the ZLP.
With Mimiko’s support, observers project good outing for Ajayi in Ondo West and Ondo East local council areas.
However, the ZLP candidate is currently battling with a moral burden in the political space in the state. He is perceived to be slippery, having traversed three political parties within one month.
Others argue that his over ambitious posture might be an albatross he has to contend with. The ZLP candidate may also have to convince the elites that he can deliver on his promises to provide more democratic dividends than other candidates.
Jegede, the PDP candidate, is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria just like Governor Akeredolu.
He was PDP governorship candidate in 2016 and came second at the polls after losing to Akeredolu.
The PDP candidate who hails from Akure is currently the sing-song in different parts of the state. In the history of the state, a native of Akure has never been elected governor, a situation which seems to have energised the people of the town, which has a huge voting population, to the governorship ambition of their son.
This is in spite of the situation in 2016 when Akeredolu defeated Jegede by winning in 16 out of 18 local governments that make up Akure.
In the Central senatorial district of the state where Jegede hails from, about 615,157, which represents 39:78 percent are in their kitten. This may work for him in the poll.
Apart from his cool mien and capacity, the pivotal roles he played in the administration of Mimiko as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice endears him to the elite and civil servants in the state, his supporters argue.
Besides basking on PDP’s recent victory in Edo State, Jegede is seen as someone who could raise the bar of development in the state because being a professional in politics; he would not be encumbered by political considerations.
However, the main disadvantage working against Jegede is hailing from the same senatorial district with the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
It is a popular narrative in the state that it is not yet the turn of the zone to produce the governor of the state. This situation worked against him in 2016.
Also, Jegede’s fallout with Mimiko, his political godfather in 2016, will no doubt affect his chances at the polls particular in the Former’s stronghold of Ondo West and Ondo East local governments which interestingly are the only two council areas where Jegede won in 2016.
Another Opportunity For Army To Display High Level Of Professionalism – Buratai
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai has reminded personnel that today’s election in Ondo will afford them the opportunity to display high level of professionalism as witnessed in the last Edo State Governorship election.
The Army Chief said this yesterday at the closing ceremony of the Combined First, Second and Third Quarter Nigeria Army Conference held in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The COAS who pledged the unflinching loyalty and commitment of the Nigerian Army to the defence of democratic governance in the country, expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari, for his immense support to the Nigerian Army even in these times of lean national resources.
He said this year’s conference which began on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 served as an avenue to appraise the level of implementation of the Nigerian Army Forecast of Events 2020 and the Year 2020 Training Directive earlier issued.
“We have also had extensive deliberations on current operational, administrative, logistics matters as well as other security issues that are crucial to the stability of our Country,” he said.
Akeredolu’s Kinsman Not Appointed As Returning Officer– INEC
However, INEC has debunked PDP’s claims that the vice-chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Eyitope Ogunbodede, was appointed as returning officer for this Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State.
INEC was reacting to claims by chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council and governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who during a press conference yesterday alleged that INEC has appointed Ogunbodede, a kinsman of Akeredolu as the returning officer for the Ondo polls.
But in a statement signed by INEC chairman Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, the commission said the returning officer for the election is not an indigene of Ondo State.
Okoye added that he is also not from the university mentioned during the press conference.
The statement reads in part: “While the Commission will not be drawn into speculations relating to the performance of its constitutional and statutory functions, it is imperative to set the records straight for the benefit of the people of Ondo State and the integrity of the electoral process,” he said.
NSCDC Deploys 7,079 Personnel, 60 Dogs
No fewer than 7,079 personnel and 60 sniffer dogs had been deployed by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSCDC), to provide adequate security for the people during Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State.
The Deputy Commander General (DCG) in charge of Operation, Hillary Madu, disclosed this while speaking with the newsmen yesterday in Akure, the state capital.
Madu, who explained that the personnel were drawn from different seven command in the country said that four Assistant Commander General (ACG) and seven Commandant were also deployed.
He explained that the deployment was part of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Commander General of NSCDC, Abdullahi Gana Muhammed to provide security during the election.
According to him, the personnel have been warned to remain apolitical during the election adding that any personnel found wanting will be sanctioned.
“We have come to Ondo State to monitor and provide security for the governorship election scheduled for Saturday.
“And we have deployed 7,079 personnel, four Assistant Commander General (ACG), and 7 commandant. And this is not a joke though we will ensure they remain apolitical during the exercise.
“We promise Ondo State people that the exercise is going to be very peaceful election and I will advice people of Ondo State that nobody should die because someone want to become a governor.
“We want to call on our royal fathers, religious leaders and our mothers to warn their wards that they don’t cause any havoc during this exercise.
“The state belong to youths but let us have a credible and peaceful election coming Saturday.
“This number of personnel deployed came from the fact that when we come for an election we don’t take out our sight on our core mandate for protection of our critical national assets and infrastructure,” Madu said.
BY TUNDE OGUNTOLA, TOPE FAYEHUN, Akure AND FRANCIS OKOYE