WILL RUNNING MATES DECIDE WHO WINS OR LOSES IN ONDO GUBER RACE

As political parties prepare for this year’s governorship election in Ondo State, Osagie Otabor, in Akure takes a look at the politics of running mates and how it would affect results of the election

AS political parties prepares for this year’s governorship election in Ondo State, Osagie Otabor, Akure takes a look at the politics of running mates and how it would affect results of the election

With the emergence of Ondo State Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, as governorship candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, the October 10 governorship race is now a three-horse race. Other main contenders are Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress and Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party. The three candidates are each from the three senatorial districts. Akeredolu hails from Owo in Ondo North Local Government Area, Jegede hails from Akure in Ondo Central while Agboola hails from Kiribo in Ondo South Senatorial District.

Ondo South has the highest percentage of registered voters with over 39 percent followed by Ondo South with over 33 percent while Ondo North has over 27 percent of registered voters.

Ondo North is the stronghold of the APC, Ondo South is the stronghold of the PDP while Ondo Central is supposed to be the bastion of the ZLP but in the 2019 general elections, former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who is the leader of the ZLP, failed to secure a win for the party. The ZLP is confined to two local governments, Ondo East and Ondo West.

The three candidates, therefore, had to rely on votes from other senatorial districts to secure victory in the October 10 governorship election. They had to resort to pick running from areas with high voting population.

It was gathered that Governor Akeredolu’s experience with Agboola’s alleged disloyalty as his deputy made him to pick a less ambitious party man, Lucky Ayedatiwa, as his running mate. Jegede picked a member of the House of Representatives, Hon Gboluga Ikengboju, representing Irele/Okitipupa while Agboola picked a former Ondo Commissioner for Works, Engr. Gboye Adegbenro.

Ayedatiwa hails from Ilaje Local Government in Ondo South, Hon Ikengboju hails from Okitipupa also in Ondo South while Engr. Adegbenro hails from Ifedore in Ondo Central. Ilaje, where Ayedatiwa hails from, has the 4th highest voting population. Okitipupa has the sixth highest voting population while Ifedore is number 10 in local government voting strength.

But an insider who pleaded anonymity said running mates have never determined electoral victory in Ondo State. He said the people have always decided who to vote for irrespective of where the Deputy Governor is picked from.

Jegede had to resist pressure from political leaders to pick one of the aspirants that contested against him. He rejected Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who was first runner up at the primary, on excuse that he needed somebody he could trust.

One of the aspirants, Godday Erewa, in a statement said the selection of a running mate was a crucial component of the electioneering process and could be instrumental in either boosting or hampering the electoral victory of a political party, especially in an election that is bound to be fiercely contested.

According to him, “Against this backdrop, it is quite confounding that the Ilaje nation was deliberately neglected in the choice of a running mate for the PDP candidate. Are we saying that there is no one in Ilaje nation to be so nominated by the PDP?

“This decision to ignore us is generating palpable tension and disenchantment and if not properly managed, the consequences would be immensely catastrophic.”A former local government chairman in Okitipupa Local Government Area, Hon. Solomon Bitire, accused Jegede of failing to give a sense of belonging to members of the PDP outside his political camp.

”Jegede is on a vengeance mission since he emerged the candidate of the party.

”The last straw that breaks the camel’s back is his insistence to choose another member of his political camp as running mate.”

Also, members of the PDP who are supporters of another aspirant, Banji Okunomo, said they have backed out of campaign activities of Jegede until further notice.

But a PDP chieftain, Bode Obanla, said the party is happy with the choice of Hon Gboluga. “We are okay with the running mate. It is strategic. Aketi picked from Ilaje. Ilaje said they want governor, so they will not vote APC. Jegede picked from Okitipupa which has high votes. Issue of old PDP and new PDP is still there. As we pick from Okitipupa, the other constituency will vote for us. We will win Okitipupa, Irele and Odigbo. Ilaje will vote for Jegede because they will produce the next governor.”

To Dayo Akinsehilo, “When you pick your bearer from the Central, you have to pick from the South. The South is the stronghold of PDP. If we give it to the South, that is enough reason for the leaders to support the project. All of them must rise up to support Jegede irrespective from the area the running mate was picked from. Agboola from the south will not be a threat. The ZLP has no structure to win election.”

Also, the choice of Adegbenro was not pleasing to some members of ZLP who felt the party should have picked a running mate from Akoko area in Ondo North with a view to give Akeredolu a fight.

According to the source, “In as much as ZLP is not picking its running mate from Akoko, the party should forget about the votes of Akoko people.

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