By Olatunbosun Oladimeji
The die is cast as the people of Ondo brace up for the October 10, 2020 governorship election. And the electorate have a clear choice in spite of the number of candidates jostling for the governorship seat. The man they would overwhelmingly cast their votes for is none other than the incumbent Governor of the state, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, who has been piloting the affairs of the state with tremendous success since February 24, 2017, having won the shadow election of APC on September 2, 2016 and the gubernatorial election on November 26, 2016 respectively. Just like the keenly contested elections in 2016, he is the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress for the election on October 10.
He fought a battle that saw him clinch the governorship ticket of his party, defeating his opponents by a wide margin in the primary election of July 20 which was widely adjudged free and fair. The majority of delegates from the 18 local government areas of the state pitched their tents with Akeredolu, alias ‘Talk and Do’, the trusted and capable choice, thus giving him victory.
Before the party primary, there were all sorts of distractions designed to undermine the re-election bid of Governor Akeredolu. The major distractions were the defection of his deputy, Agboola Ajayi from the ruling APC to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party and the resignation and blackmail of the former Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde. Ajayi’s desire was ostensibly to actualise his vaulting ambition of becoming the governor of the state. But the ambition crashed like a pack of cards when he ran for the PDP ticket and was defeated by Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN.
Despite his defeat, Ajayi is still running from pillar to post seeking where to actualise his inordinate ambition. At the beginning, the rumor was thick that he was going to the SDP. He is said to be desperately shopping for any party by whatever name he could pick the governorship ticket to run as the standard bearer. As of the time of this report, there was speculation that he had concluded plans to join the Zenith Labour Party, having visited the arrow head of the party and the former governor of the state, Dr Rahman Olusegun Mimiko in his home town, Ondo and as well met with Alhaji Alli Olanusi, the erstwhile Mimiko estranged Deputy Governor and leader of the dying Unity Forum. Ajayi believes and hopes to pick the party’s ticket with the daring and deadly moves to bring cats and mouses together to win the October 10 guber election. What a nightmare!
But after such a grand unfulfilled planning and betrayal, Ajayi has no place to hide.
However, Arakunrin Akeredolu has brushed aside the distractions of traitors, his Deputy and Secretary, by appointing another formidable Akure born Mr Temitayo Oluwatuyi as the new SSG and settled for a home grown popular, reserved politician, Mr Lucky Orimisan Ayedatiwa as his running mate for the October 10 governorship election. Ayedatiwa was commissioner and representative of the state on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
There is another chess game that Ajayi is set to unveil soon in nailing and killing the PDP in the next few days as he is about to deplete the strength of the party after the outcome of the party congress held last week Tuesday, August 4 during which Hon. Fatai Adams emerged as chairman of the party. As usual, Ajayi is plotting to pull out a huge number of the party members to ZLP, with allegations that Jegede engaged in winner takes all by not allowing supporters of others who contested against him to be elected into the yet to be constituted party Exco. In the few weeks that Ajayi has paraded himself as a member of the PDP, he has already become an albatross for the Uche Secondus-led party. What a regret to Ondo State PDP family! With all respect to Akure-based political analyst, Mr Yinka Akinola, Agboola Ajayi is the latest political ‘human virus’ that kills more than COVID-19. After the October 10 election, PDP and ZLP may never be the same again!
A pointer to how the October 10 election will look like are the deft moves by Arakunrin Akeredolu for reconciliation with aggrieved co-aspirants, party leaders and members immediately after the July 20 APC primary election. Aketi, as the governor is popularly called, has been extending the olive branch to everyone in the APC. He is visiting, receiving and meeting all the party stakeholders in his genuine desire to work together and win together to continue to develop the state. Without mincing words, Akeredolu is determined for real and truthful reconciliation!
As the governorship election campaign gathers steam, candidates of the 17 political parties participating in the election have been talking tough even though most of them know they are no match for the incumbent governor who had defeated all the candidates that contested against him in 2016. Among them is Eyitayo Jegede who is contesting again as the standard bearer of the PDP. No wonder, Akeredolu sent a clear message to Jegede in particular while at the National Secretariat of APC recently. Akeredolu vowed to defeat him in what he said would be a replay of what happened in 2016. Just as they proved to be no match for him in 2016, because most of them are just pretenders masquerading as contenders, history would certainly repeat itself on October 10 when they shall taste the bitterness of defeat once again.
In deed what the electorate in Ondo need to do is adhere to the principle of not changing a winning team. They have to re-elect Governor Akeredolu, the head of the team, for sustainable development and continuity in 2021. The Governor’s impeccable records of governance speak for him ahead of the October election. The 4+4 programme with AKETI as an acronym anchored on Agriculture, Knowledge, Entrepreneurship, Technology, and Infrastructure, is a road map for the sustained existing developmental stride in Ondo State. By the time Ondo Deep Seaport in Ilaje is commissioned, a new vista of economic prosperity will be unleashed in the state. With the largest coastline, the port will facilitate the quick evacuation of goods to the eastern corridor of Onitsha in Anambra State since it is less than two hours drive from Ilaje to one of the largest commercial hubs in the South-East. The presence of the port will lead to massive industrialisation and agricultural revolution with the attendant value chain.
Ondo has one of the largest bitumen deposits in the world and the largest in Africa, and its full exploitation and production will bring about an unprecedented internally generated revenue to the state. The arrival of the equipment at the instance of the Federal Government for the production of bitumen has put to shame all the detractors who hoped and prayed that the project should not come into fruition during the tenure of Governor Akeredolu. An indigenous company, the South West Bitumen Exploration Limited is to commence the modular exploitation of the bitumen deposits and is targeting an output of 50,000 tonnes monthly at its facility at Lamidifa in Irele LGA of the state. Though some think bitumen exploration in Ondo State is a political gimmick because of election, the time line for the execution of the project shows the seriousness attached to the project and a practical demonstration that the project has come to stay.
The timeline is: February 2017: Expression of Interest from SWB to work with Ondo State on Bitumen Exploration; March 23, 2017: Presidency engages states and requests to provide focus industries for diversification; April 2017: Ondo State writes to Federal Government emphasizing 4 areas namely Gas, Bitumen, Agric and FTZ development; May 2017: State Government engages Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel with SWB on accelerating the bitumen project development.
The timeline also include: July 19, 2017 – FG announces it will be issuing Exploration license at Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative conference (PEDI) in Akure; October 23rd 2017 – Exploration license awarded. This license is different from the ones owned by state owned firm, BEECON; November 7, 2017: President Buhari shows full commitment to bitumen exploration project in Budget speech; May 18, 2018: First ever mining lease granted to mine bitumen in Nigeria granted to SWB; September 2018, South West Bitumen engages state to facilitate MOU with host community Petu, in Irele. SWB pays millions in compensation to host communities.
Also included is September 2018: South West Bitumen commences development of Centre for Bitumen Research & development at the Federal University of Technology Akure; January 24, 2019: State govt facilitates the issuance of C of O to South West Bitumen for designated mining areas; June 14, 2019: South West Bitumen presents project update to the governor on activities to date; November 2019: SWB begins the preparation of company yard for equipment and production; and August 2020: SWB invites state to inspect facility and equipment to commence production.
Olatunbosun Oladimeji, a Senior Special Assistant on Publications to the Governor,Ondo State writes from Akure