Although there are 17 candidates in the contest, it is a three-horse race. Interestingly, the three leading candidates are spread across the three senatorial zones in the state. Rotimi Akeredolu, the incumbent governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is from Ondo north, Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is from Ondo central while Agboola Ajayi of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) is from Ondo south. One interesting factor about these candidates is that they are all lawyers. Akeredolu and Jegede are senior advocates of Nigeria (SANs)
Each of the candidates is expected to put up a strong performance in his senatorial zone. The entrance of Ajayi into the race changed the calculation. In 2016, he had teamed up with Akeredolu in the contest against Jegede. After falling out with the governor, Ajayi defected to PDP where he failed to secure the party’s ticket. He was welcomed to ZLP where Olusegun Mimiko, the only person to govern Ondo twice, is the strongman. A grassroots’ politician, the ZLP candidate is a former member of the house of reps.
Challenging Akeredolu for the number one seat, Ajayi brings back memories of how in 1983, Akin Omoboriowo, then deputy governor of Ondo, contested against Michael Ajasin. Although Omoboriowo was declared winner of the election, the exercise was later annulled
Jegede, the former commissioner of justice in the state, is also expecting the tides to swing in his favour. Olanrewaju Taju, a voter in Ondo, told TheCable that the victory of Godwin Obaseki in the Edo gubernatorial election served as a boost to the camp of Jegede. Until 2016, Ondo was under the control of the PDP. Currently, the PDP has three seats in the house of representatives, two seats in the senate and two in the state house of assembly. In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari lost Ondo to Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the PDP. Obviously, PDP is not a party to relegate to the background in Saturday’s exercise.
For Akeredolu, one of his major strengths is the federal might. When he flagged off his reelection campaign, at least 10 governors were in attendance while ministers and key APC figures including Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader, were on ground.
Despite criticisms, Aketi, as he is fondly called in political circles, believes he has done well. He lists his major achievements as road construction, creation of an industrial park, renovation and building of schools, in addition to raising the internally generated revenue from N600m to over N2bn.
During his campaign tour, the governor promised the people that he would do more if given another chance. It is clear that the election is like a referendum on his government, having occupied the exalted office for close to four years.
Akure south is the most densely populated council in Ondo state. This is the stronghold of the PDP candidate. Despite being the state capital, no Akure indigene has governed Ondo since its creation in 1976. Majority of the people who hail from this LGA believe this is an opportunity for their kinsman to occupy the Alagbaka government house. Jegede is expected to perform well in this area.
This council is part of Akure metropolitan area but with territories stretching into rural areas. PDP performed well in the LGA during the last two general elections, winning both the house of representatives and senate elections. But Tayo Alasoadura, minister of state for Niger Delta affairs, who is one of the strongest supporters of Akeredolu is from this council. He recently campaigned for Akeredolu publicly, saying it’s not the turn of Akure to produce a governor. However, victory for Jegede looks likely as Alasoadura no longer wields such a strong influence there, unlike when he was a senator and had a large following.
IDANRE: AKEREDOLU HAS THE ADVANTAGE
The local government area is where Ade Aladetimehin, chairman of the APC in the state, hails from. Also, Tajudeen Adefisoye, the house of representatives member representing Idanre/Ifedore constituency, who is of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), has thrown his weight behind the governor. The governor may also look forward to some of his projects in the area to swing votes. One of such projects is the 15 kilometres virgin road from Ijoka in Akure to the hilly town.
IFEDORE: BATTLEGROUND FOR THE TOP THREE
Ifedore will definitely be a battleground for the three candidates. Gboye Adegbenro, deputy governorship candidate of ZLP, hails from here and he would do his best to deliver for his party. Due to its proximity to Akure, the PDP candidate also stands a chance in the area. Bamidele Oloyelogun, speaker of the state house of assembly and chieftain of the APC, is also from Ifedore. What is certain here is that whoever wins on Saturday, the margin will be close.
ONDO EAST/ONDO WEST: COUNCILS LIKELY FOR AJAYI
The political sagacity and popularity of Mimiko may just be too strong for whatever structure the APC and PDP have on ground in the councils. Iroko, as Mimiko is fondly called by his supporters, has never lost election in these areas. The two councils are regarded as the stronghold of the ZLP. Joseph Akinlaja, the state chairman of the party, is also from the area.
VERDICT: Akeredolu, Jegede and Ajayi may win two LGAs each in Ondo central.
ESE ODO: AJAYI’S STRONGHOLD
This is the local government area of the ZLP gubernatorial candidate and from all indications, the PDP and APC may not have much chances here. Ajayi rose through the ranks in his political career from his base. He started as a supervisory councillor there in 1998, he was elected caretaker chairman of the LGA, substantive chairman in 2004, house of representatives member representing Ilaje/Ese-Odo federal constituency in 2007.
Ajayi will hope to extend his influence to this council while Olusola Oke, former governorship aspirant of the APC will be on ground to checkmate him. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, deputy governorship candidate of the APC, also hails from Ilaje. Kolade Akinjo, a house of representatives member, is not a pushover in the council; he is rooting for PDP and its candidate. We can’t say who will win here.
OKITIPUPA: ANOTHER STRONGHOLD OF AJAYI
Ajayi with Mimiko
This local government looks secure for Ajayi though Gboluga Ikengboju, the member representing Okitipupa/Irele and the deputy governorship candidate of Jegede, hails from here. Other key personalities who will also make the race tough for Ajayi are Femi Agagu, brother of a former governor of the state who is now late. Segun is the present commissioner for education. There is also Oladunni Odu, chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB); Eddy Olafeso, immediate past vice-chairman of the PDP (south-west).
But apart from the political structure of Mimiko which is solid in Okitipupa, Jumoke Akindele, first female speaker of the state house of assembly, is also on the ground for Ajayi.
IRELE: AJAYI HAS AN IMPRESSIVE PRESENCE HERE
Ajayi towers above the two other candidates in this LGA. The PDP running mate, Gboluga, representing Irele/Okitipupa federal constituency, is struggling for acceptance in the area. The clamour for a governor from the southern area of the state will, however, be a plus for the ZLP candidate in this area.
ILE-OLUJI/OKEIGBO AND ODIGBO: VOTES FAVOUR AKEREDOLU
Though Nicholas Tofowomo, the senator representing Ondo south, is from Ile-Oluji; the LGA and Odigbo are strongholds of the APC. The industrial hub established by Akeredolu is in Odigbo. Ajayi also has his men in these councils. However, victory for Akeredolu looks likely.
VERDICT: Ajayi may clear three LGAs, Akeredolu two, while one remains a battleground.
ONDO NORTH: APC’S STRONGHOLD
The four LGAs in Akoko, Owo and Ose are considered the foremost base of the APC in Ondo. APC has consistently won elections in these six LGAs — the reason the party is expected to dominate once again. The entire zone looks secure for the present governor.
Ajayi Boroffice, the only senator of the APC from the state, won in Ondo north. The party also won the three house of representatives seats from the zone. It is a zone aligned to the progressives since the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Akeredolu is from Owo LGA. Even on a bad day, the governor can beat his chest that he will win here.