Ondo election : ‘Real reasons Akeredolu won, Jegede lost’


..Power of incumbency, naira rain — five reasons Akeredolu won

Rita Okonoboh

If poses were prophecies, one interesting photograph of the candidates during the signing of the peace accord in Ondo would have offered a relatable cryptic message. Akeredolu stood a little distance away, arms behind him, decked in a shirt, jeans and a fez cap – he appeared relaxed. Eyitayo Jegede was next, hands clasped in front of him, smiling to the camera – his pose radiated ‘anything could happen’, while Agboola Ajayi seemed to be consciously trying to avoid breathing the same air as his former principal; he chose instead to stand inches behind Jegede. That was October 6, 2020 — four days to the governorship election.

To say it was a keenly contested election may be rendering it an overstatement on varying levels, considering the peculiarities of the candidates and their political parties, but for the players that took an active role in the just concluded election in Ondo State, especially for the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), the political possibilities were dicey.

Barely one year ago, despite the internal ramblings said to be affecting the ruling APC, Akeredolu seemed to be sitting pretty on the re-election seat with Agboola Ajayi, his grassroots political deputy, by his side. However, the cards became crudely shuffled when Ajayi announced his exit from the APC in June 2020, and pranced his way into the PDP, where he was welcomed amid wild jubilation. On losing the ticket, Agboola again danced into the waiting arms of Olusegun Mimiko, former governor of Ondo and face of the ZLP, and this time, he was given the flag of the party for the governorship election.

In the build-up to the election, following accusations and counter-claims, it looked like Akeredolu’s chances may not be so bright after all. Then election day dawned and it became up to the voters to make the final choice. Although violence was not as pronounced, voter inducement was too obvious to ignore. Across various polling units of the state, party agents were seen publicly offering cash to residents to vote particular candidates. Eventually, the election process was concluded, despite the rains, and it was time for results.

As results started to trickle in from polling units, it seemed like the APC was in a comfortable lead, trailed a long distance off by the PDP, while ZLP was yet to take off from the starting line. Around 2:30am, INEC had announced results from 12 LGAs, and called for a break till 9am for the remaining results. At this time, the race had heated up with APC on a precarious edge by a margin of less than 30,000 votes – six LGAs were yet to turn in results.

Later on Sunday morning, more results arrived at the central collation venue, and after hours of waiting, Akeredolu swept, albeit on a tight ship, to victory, polling 292,839 votes against Jegede who secured 193,585 votes. Ajayi’s ZLP eventually jogged a few steps behind PDP and finished the race with 60,051 votes.

But could Akeredolu have won the election strictly on his previous performance in governance? A little hard to say, but one thing was sure — several contributing factors laid the foundation for his victory, five of which are presented below:

INCUMBENCY

Although there have been a few examples of big-name politicians performing woefully during polls, it is not very common within the Nigerian political setting for governors to lose their seats as incumbents, however overwhelming the opposition may be – Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom, and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano readily come to mind. With too many faction-induced theatrics in the build-up to the election, a victory against Akeredolu may have been possible, but the governor took major steps to put his house in order just before the election. After all, the government was his to run as he saw fit and the senior advocate of Nigeria did not look ready to lose. Using resources at his disposal, he inaugurated major projects across the state, including the new administrative complex of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, which was declared open seven days to the governorship poll, and also inaugurated a chocolate factory in Idanre in late September. Using his influence as the sitting governor, Akeredolu moved to mend fences with political heavyweights, including the prominent unity group of the APC in Ondo.

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FEDERAL MIGHT

“I have no doubt that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is a good brand for the APC to market,” were the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, hours to the election. And the party at the federal level did its best to market him to the Ondo populace. Moving to the state in large numbers, led by an entourage of at least 10 governors and Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader, the APC big-wigs campaigned for their brand relentlessly, with the full support of the administration at the centre. Unlike Ize-Iyamu who held the APC’s flag in Edo, Akeredolu basked in the warmth of Buhari’s influence, which extended to him receiving support across board within the top ranks of the party. Did his deputy leaving APC dry also contribute to providing the necessary sentiment to receive solid backing from the federal ranks? Very likely!

AGBOOLA, SSG AND THOSE WHO WALKED AWAY

Although there were reports of issues between Akeredolu and others on his style of governance, not many saw Ajayi abandoning the APC ship weeks before the election. Following the exit of the deputy governor from the party, Ifedayo Abegunde, the secretary to the state government (SSG) dropped his resignation in July 2020. At this time, it became obvious that the governor needed to make serious moves to reunite the party in the state at the risk of losing his seat. After all, with his influence, Ajayi appeared to be on the top list of popular faces familiar with the grassroots. As such, between July and October, the governor moved within and outside state borders, holding meetings with key figures within the party, with his efforts yielding fruits, including securing the support of Oke. The SSG also returned to the party. Besides, anyone who followed the 2016 election may understand why Akeredolu may have needed Oke to join his camp. They had contested on opposite platforms – Oke ran for governorship on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) – and secured an impressive 126,889 votes against Akeredolu’s 224,842 votes at the time. This time, Agboola had taken away his influence, but that was easily countered with Oke’s popularity within the state. Ilaje, Oke’s LGA, did impressive with votes by bringing in 26,657 for the APC, against 11,128 and 4,405 votes secured by the PDP and ZLP, respectively.

OSHIOMHOLE’S TIMELY SUSPENSION

“In election matters, the more you look, the less you see,” were the words of Olusola Oke, after the APC declared Akeredolu its governorship candidate. However, the weeks before the final decision of the primary election were characterised by intrigues that may have possibly cost Akeredolu the party’s ticket. Under the leadership of Adams Oshiomhole at the time, the party had suspended Akeredolu alongside Rochas Okorocha, former Imo governor, Ibikunle Amosu, former Ogun governor, among others, over anti-party activities in the build-up to the 2019 elections. Though not listed in official quarters, Akeredolu had been reportedly accused of supporting an opposition candidate for the position of member of the House of Representatives. However, in December 2019, the party lifted the suspension. At this time, Oshiomhole was already deeply involved in a major tussle with Obaseki over control of the APC in Edo state.

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There are also reports that following the suspension, the Ondo governor and Oshiomhole may not have been on the smoothest of relationships, raising concerns over the possibility of the party handing the ticket to another candidate. However, in June, the court of appeal affirmed Oshiomhole’s suspension. And just like that, whether connected or otherwise, events started to line up in Akeredolu’s favour. One month later, he clinched the party’s ticket — a move which led to serious cracks within the party in the state, especially as the unity group of the APC had preferred Olusola Oke. However, whoever would dismiss the influence of the unity group, would be doing so at a great risk — one which Akeredolu probably weighed and decided against ignoring. Reconciliation moves started and after ultimatums and meetings, Oke — Akeredolu’s major contender who had openly expressed reservations about the party’s decision to go with the incumbent governor — collapsed his structure in favour of the APC.

NAIRA RAIN

If money were a person, that man or woman would come daringly close to carrying the prize for the most influential factor in the Saturday exercise. According to reports from election observers and journalists, while not much in terms of violence was witnessed during the governorship poll, the distribution of cash for votes, although done discreetly in many polling units, was the order of the day, with many party agents who claimed to be representatives of the APC outspending their rivals.

From classrooms to tree shades, and in some cases, apartments converted to emergency ‘distribution facilities’, informally-dressed agents were seen carrying bags of various shapes and sizes, armed with notebooks and pens, as they took down records of persons who voted for the party and exchanged same for cash ranging from N5,000 to N2,000 in some cases — and with the full cooperation of the voters in many cases, irrespective of age or social standing within communities. Save a few polling units where such moves were strictly resisted, if anyone asks if money influenced the election, without doubt, it did.

JEGEDE’s ALBATROSS

Makinde vs Fayose, ‘cold treatment’ from PDP govs… five factors that led to Jegede’s loss

Chinedu Asadu

Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been declared winner of the Ondo state governorship election, thereby securing another term of four years.

He polled 292,830 votes to defeat Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who contested against him for a second time, having lost to the governor in a similar manner in 2016.

After PDP’s victory in Edo State, political pundits predicted that Jegede stood a great chance of winning the poll but the result has shown otherwise. We bring you some possible factors that could have contributed to his loss.

FAYOSE VS MAKINDE

Makinde was involved in a battle when he ought to be marketing his party’s candidate.

One of the strongest factors that worked against the PDP in Ondo was its inability to unite its chieftains in the south-west, particularly Ayodele Fayose, immediate past governor of Ekiti, and Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo and chairman of the PDP national campaign council for the Ondo election.

The duo had been at loggerheads long before the election after Fayose moved against Makinde whom he accused of tampering with the leadership of the party in Ekiti and the entire south-west.

The infighting got so bad that Fayose was attacked by suspected thugs at the PDP rally in Ondo, just three days to the election. While he blamed Makinde for his experience at the rally, the governor said he would remain focused and not be distracted from his assignment in Ondo. Well, it turned out he may have been distracted.

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UNPOPULAR RUNNING MATE

Jegede’s deputy couldn’t deliver his LGA

In Politics 101, it is said that the first test of strength and popularity in an election is the ability to deliver your primary constituency for your political party.

In the case of Ikengboju Gboluga, the PDP deputy governorship candidate, he not only suffered defeat across the three wards in Ilutitun, his hometown, but also lost his local government area – Okitipupa – to the APC. He failed to deliver the LGA for the PDP which managed 10,367 votes as against the APC’s 19,266 votes.

Before the election, not much was known about him outside Ondo apart from being a member of the House of Representatives representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal constituency. In fact, his choice as Jegede’s running mate sparked another round of crisis in the party.

In Ondo, he is not very popular among his people and did not come across as a grassroots politician.

LACK OF STRONG BACKING FROM GOVERNORS

Makinde did his best but it wasn’t good enough

Just three weeks ago when the PDP had a victorious outing in Edo, Godwin Obaseki, the governor and its candidate in the state governorship election, had the unwavering support of governors in the party – despite defecting from the APC in the last minutes – for two reasons: he is a serving governor and the six states in south-south were in the hands of PDP. Compare that outing to the Ondo election where Jegede was seeking to displace a serving governor in the south-west which has only one PDP governor. Only two PDP governors – Makinde and Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto – were on ground when Jegede inaugurated his campaign. Although the governors in the party had stormed his mega rally just before the election, the support was not as massive as that of Obaseki whom the governors and even former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar were loud about their support for.

FAILURE TO WIN AJAYI OVER TO THE PDP

The race would have been more interesting if Ajayi and Jegede had worked together

It is believed that Jegede could have performed better if he had joined forces with Agboola Ajayi, deputy governor of the state, who contested the election under the Zenith Labour Party.

He first joined the PDP from the APC but left for the ZLP after failing to secure the party’s governorship ticket. As a grassroots politician and mobiliser, Ajayi had the support of a significant portion of the masses which could have worked in his favour and that of the PDP if they had partnered together. In fact, some in the state believe he would have performed well if he contested under the PDP rather than the ZLP, a party seen in the state as a one-man army built around Olusegun Mimiko, a two-term governor of Ondo.

JEGEDE’S OUTING DURING THE DEBATE

Although Jegede did not perform poorly in the governorship debate between him and Akeredolu, the governor was believed to have had a stronger hand during the exercise.

Apart from speaking from a point of incumbency and arguing to consolidate on his “achievements”, Akeredolu also taunted Jegede with projects he said his administration had carried out in the state, including a road leading to Jegede’s house.

During the debate, the governor had asked Jegede if he had seen the “impact of good governance” since he began to tour the state, but the PDP candidate responded that he has not seen much. He then went ahead to list some areas in the state which lacked developmental projects.

Akeredolu, however, interjected and began to list some of his projects, adding: “Tayo, in your own time, the road leading to your house was not tarred. I have done it for you … I have done a lot.”

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