No fewer than 10 chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are eyeing the governorship ticket in Ondo State. Damisi Ojo examines their chances at the primary.
THE people of Ondo State will go to the poll this year. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) will celebrate his third year in office next month.
The irregular timetable for the governorship election was taking due to the battle between the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu and Dr Olusegun Mimiko. The latter was victorious and the outcome permanently altered the political timetable.
As expected during any electoral process, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have returned to the drawing board.
While the PDP may have a tough time to pick its candidate from among the 14 aspirants that have so far expressed their interests in the race, the APC is struggling with crises that have factionalised the party.
The problem started with the manner Akeredolu managed his victory immediately he emerged as the flagbearer, and after his victory at the general election.
He treated most of his co-aspirants at the primary as enemies instead of embracing them and welcoming their ideas to develop the state. Also, he hijacked the party structure and positioned his foot soldiers as party officials at various levels.
The misadventure by the governor tore the party apart as aggrieved leaders and members broke away to form the Unity Forum, which is the umbrella that accommodates aggrieved members.
With the calibre of members in the forum under the leadership of a former Deputy Governor and Board of Trustees (BoT) member, Chief Ali Olanusi, the forum has practically become a rallying point for about 80 percent of APC members.
The fact that those who have expressed their intentions to run for governor have done so on the platform of the Unity Forum lends credence to the credibility and acceptability of the group.
It is on record that Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice, Chief Olusola Oke, Chief Bukola Adetula, Engineer Ife Oyedele, Ambassador Sola Iji and Jibayo Odimayo are eyeing the ticket of the party on the platform of the Unity Forum.
But for conflict between the governor and the group, members of the party by now should be mobilising support with little stress for his second term in office.
But as it stands, this appears as an uphill task as the Unity Forum has become a force to contend with.
This is more difficult now that the party at the national level had announced that it would engage the direct primary in conducting its future elections.
Observers have advised that in selecting the candidate, the party should be guided by certain factors and historical antecedents.
It is very important to note that Ondo has been operating the principle of rotation since 1999. While it is admitted that this is not a legal matter, it is incontrovertible that it guides the state.
From Adebayo Adefarati(1999-2003) to Olusegun Agagu (2003-2009) to Mimiko (2009-2017) to Akeredolu (2017 till date), the principle has been respected, despite the fact that the governors were not of the same party.
It starts from the North to the South to the Central and back to the North where Akeredolu hails from. Adefarati could not get a second term because he was ousted by Agagu.
Agagu could not complete his second tenure before Mimiko took over from him. However, Mimiko made history as the first civilian governor to complete the maximum of two terms in office as provided by the constitution.
Pundits are in support of the clamour by the North that the zone should complete its second term with or without Akeredolu. This will be in the spirit of fairness and equity.
Looking at the North at the moment, Akeredolu with his structures across the 18 local government, is aspiring for a second term.
The 4+4 group consisting majorly of his political appointees is also working for him and he has funds to throw around to get things done.
But, analysts are of the opinion that he has a lot of hurdles to cross. Allegations of maladminisration, marginalisation and anti-party activities are burdens on his neck.
On the list of those eyeing the ticket from the North is the senator representing Ondo North District and the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Professor Robert Ajayi Boroffice. In terms of credentials and pedigree, Boroffice has all it takes to clinch the ticket and with his present relationship with the Abuja power bloc, he is an aspirant to watch out for.
Another figure from the North is a member of the Unity Forum, Bukola Adetula, who is Akeredolu’s kinsman from Owo. He participated in the 2016 primary that produced Aketi as candidate.
Being a second timer in the race, he appears to understand the game better and has resuscitated his structure in readiness for the contest.
He is the son of Pa ZOK Adetula (ZOKA), a foremost Awoist and protege of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
From the South, Chief Olusola Oke (SAN) is in the race. He has the prerequisite political experience and sagacity to vie for the office.
Ife Oyedele is a new entrant in the race and a green horn too. He is believed to have built a financial warchest to slug it out with his co-aspirants. The Okitipupa born politician is new in the politics of the State.
Comrade Sola Iji is a progressive of long history and currently Nigeria’s ambassador to the Republic of Togo. He recently declared to run for the number one seat at the Unity Forum’s meeting.
The youngest among the pack is Jibayo Odimayo, an Irele-born politician.
At the moment, no one has shown interest from the Central District in the APC and this may not be unconnected with the respect for the principle of rotation.
However, if anyone eventually emerges from the North District and wins the election, he can only occupy the office for four years and cannot run for another term in the spirit of rotation. It should be the turn of the South after four years.