Political tension has gripped the sunshine state, as the action packed tenure of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the People’s Democratic Party ( PDP), draws to an end.
The governorship election is slated for October 2016.
The two major political parties in the state , the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), have commenced subtle campaigns ahead of the election.
Both parties have reasons for wanting to capture the state. The PDP has lost out in the politicalpower game in the country and is doing everything possible to survive. The loss of the state will be a disaster to its hope of rising again.
The party has also lost even states won earlier, as election tribunals have upturned its victories in Rivers, Taraba states.
The APC on the otherhand, is hoping to repeat its feat in the presidential election in the state, when it trounced the PDP.
It is also trying to consolidate the APC national victory as the nation’s ruling party.
Obvious signs of heightened tension can be seen in utterances of gladiators. The APC in particular, which is in opposition, has been attacking the ruling PDP on all fronts. The party querried the dome project, the state’s N7b loan by Zenith bank, ——.
The PDP on the other state, has responded with strongs words in defence of its actions.
Billboards and posters have been pasted across the state while silent underground campaigns are on going across the state.
At a recent function in Owo, headquarters of Owo Local Government Area of the state where the Governor commissioned the Caring Heart School, he told his audience to support the PDP and ensure that the PDP candidate emerges in the next election. This, Mimiko said would enhance the continuation of all his lofty programmes and agenda of his party for the state.
The PDP relies on Mimiko, considering his acceptance by the people of the state including civil servants and artisans, while the APC is basking on federal might, being the party at the centre .
Political observers say achievements of
Governor Mimiko in the last seven years in the 18 local governments of the state, may influence the voting pattern.
Others place the bandwagon effect of the APC nationwide, as well as growing popularity of President Muhammadu Buhari , as strong points for the APC.
Others however say political calculations may influence voting pattern. They state specifically that forcing a candidate on a party may negatively affect the party’s chance if not properly managed.
Fielding an unpopular candidate, even if he scales through normal procedure could spell doom for the party, as this could lead to mass defection.
Poor handling of marginalization, as the Deji and people of Akure are claimimng , could equally be diasatrous.
Others warn of over confidence or neglect of smaller parties and groups, saying this could affect such a party badly.
The unwritten zoning arrangement which has has been the order of the day in the state since the return to democracy in 1999, is equally an important factor that could make or mar the chances of any of the political parties.
If the zoning system is adhered to, the coast is becoming clearer for Ondo south and Ondo north senatorial districts to produce the next governor and it appears both districts seem to have drawn a battle line as far as the race is concerned.
Ondo Central is ruled out, as incumbent Governor Olusegun Mimiko is from the District.
Since the advent of the current political dispensation in the state in 1999, Ondo north senatorial district has presided over the affairs of the state for four years with the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati (1999-2003), while the pendulum swung to the south senatorial district with late Dr. Olusegun Agagu governing the state between 2003 and 2009, and the incumbent Governor, Dr Mimiko who took the baton in 2009 is from the central senatorial district, thereby completing the cycle.
There are conjectures that the two major political parties in the state may not pick their candidates from the same senatorial district , considering areas where their strengths lie.
Considering the results of the elections held in the state after the merging of the Labour Party and the PDP, the PDP seems to have dominated the southern district, while the APC strength lies in Ondo North senatorial district.
Even before the structures of the LP and PDP were fused, the south senatorial district was a stronghold of the PDP as it had always won sizeable number of votes from the area. The result of the last gubernatorial election in 2012 attested to this with Chief Olusola Oke, who was the PDP candidate in the election losing the contest to Mimiko with just a little above 100, 000 votes, while the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) came a distant third in the Governorship election. The bulk of ACN’s vote came from the north, while the PDP also had a good show in the south. The results of the just concluded general election also reflected the same pattern.
Against this backdrop, it is clear that the PDP, in order to continue its dominance of the state will look southwards in producing Mimiko’s successor.
PDP might want to look inward to where its strength lies.
However the APC may pick its candidate from the north to guide against the bitter experience it had following the defeat of its candidate, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) in the 2012 Governorship election. It was believed that picking the next governorship candidate from the south senatorial district with the running mate from the central district will be an advantage for PDP, as the voting population of these two districts is enough to win the state for the party.
Political pundits however noticed that those who could have made personality difference in PDP in the North senatorial district had all left for APC. These include the immediate past Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, former speakers of the state House of Assembly, Hon Victor Olabimtan and Taofeek Abdulsaalam, among others.
Analysts argued that those who remained in the PDP in the northern senatorial district might not have the clout and the political sagacity of the “heavyweights” like Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Olabimtan, Akeredolu among others that the APC parades in the area.
They concluded that it might be political suicidal for the PDP to pick its candidate from the north.
Alternatively, those who are left in APC in the south also lacked the political muscles to match the arrays of political gladiators from the PDP. They noted that the last general election exposed the lapses of Oke, who is now regarded as the leader of the party in the area that people voted for PDP and not Oke’s personality.
Among those speculated to be interested in the race in the PDP from the south senatorial district are former Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Hon Kingsley Kuku , Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim , the Director General, National Aids Corps, Dr Pius Osunyikanmi, Dr Olu Agunloye and a commissioner in Mimiko’s administration, Chief Sola Ebiseni. However others may indicate their interest in the race in future.
Of the four mentioned above, Kuku and Ebiseni are highly favored while Osunyikanmi, who hailed from Ile-Oluji, Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo Local Government Area is seen to be more of Ondo origin in terms of culture, language and location.
Jimoh Ibrahim is not seen as a serious contender as far as the next governorship race is concerned in the state , as he is neither here nor there and he has been exhibiting the “siddon look” attitude after the fusion of LP and PDP in the state. Furthermore, Ibrahim is believed not to be in the good book of Governor Mimiko who is said to be the one to determine who his party, the PDP picks for the election.
Looking at the six sub ethnic divisions in the state which include, the Akoko, the Owo, Akure which encompasses Ifedore and the two Akure local government areas, Ondo speaking of Ondo, Ile Oluji and Idanre, Ilaje speaking nation, the Ikale and the Ijaw speaking, it is only Akure, Ilaje and Ijaw ethnic groups that have not produced a Governor in the state.
The Akoko had it in Adefarati, the Owo had it in Ajasin, the Ondo have it in Mimiko and the Ikale speaking group had it in Agagu. The two other politicians speculated to be interested in the race, Kuku and Ebiseni are regarded as serious contenders, who understand the politics of the state and have great influence with financial resources to tackle the race. They have been relevant in the politics of the state, though they belong to different political groups until last October when the LP and PDP came together in the state. Kuku came to limelight through his involvement in the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) before he was elected as a Member of the Ondo State
House of Assembly where he served as Chairman of the House Committee on Information for four years. He was appointed Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on the Niger Delta and he was the Chairman Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme.
The rumour making the rounds is that Kuku may be favoured by the political class in the PDP, given that he has offered leadership inspiration in the party in the past and had attracted many followers in the party in the state. He is also said to be enjoying the full support of the political leadership in the state cutting across various political divides.
If that permutation is anything to go by, then there could be hope for the PDP in the future politics of the state.
Ebiseni, a lawyer,former chairman of the old Ilaje/Ese-Odo LocalGovernment Area and currently Commissioner for Environment in the state, is believed to command a positive influence among the people of the southern district too. He knows the intricacies of the local politics being a grassroots mobilizer and he has endeared to himself a mature leadership before becoming commissioner in the state. He is also said to have displayed a high sense of leadership in the management of affairs as Commissioner for Environment and could do better if given the opportunity as a governor.