By Richard Elesho
The road to last Saturday’s Ondo State Governorship election came was characterized with high drama. For one, the ease with which the Deputy Governor of the State, Agboola Ajayi dumped his principal, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, switched parties will dwarf the imagination of even a gifted Nollywood script writer.
Within a record time, Ajayi had moved from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP before finally anchoring with a fringe Zenith Labour Party, ZLP, the platform on which he contested against his boss and 15 other candidates.
In the same vein, pitching of Akeredolu against Eyitayo Jegede – the two major candidates in the election – was in many respects a rehash of rivalry.
Both men had slugged it out in the last governorship election of the State in 2016. During that last contest, with Akeredolu narrowly defeated Jegede, who like him, was a former Attorney General, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and even married to woman outside of his geopolitical zone.
Clashes between supporters of All Progressives Congress, APC and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP- the platforms on which Akeredolu and Jegede contested on in some parts of the State during the campaign had given rise to fears that the election itself may be marred by bloodbath.
Though there were few reported incidents of violence, the fear of bloodbath did not materialize.
The election itself substantially passed the credibility test with Akeredolu securing what can best be described as a landslide victory. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Returning Officer, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka of the University of Ibadan while declaring the result said the APC candidate won in 15 out of the 18 Local Government Areas, polling 292,839 votes to defeat Jegede who garnered 193,585 votes. Ajayi came a distant third with his 60,051 votes.
The governor has been in a festive mood since the result was declared last Sunday.
These factors contributed to Akeredolu’s victory at the election.
First tenure performance/ Incumbency:
There is a common saying that you don’t change a winning team. That also holds in politics. The Governor may not have met every expectation of the electorate in his first tenure. It is however true, that if his score card was so bad, voters would have refused to vote him in for a second term.
True, the Governor had several challenges, including being deserted by close aides and associates, including Agboola his second in command. But Akeredolu weathered the storm by reaching out to other critical stakeholders within the APC to mend fences where possible. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria through several meetings and consultations managed to address the obvious drift and keep the party together. He met several group including the powerful Unity Group for reconciliation. He was also able to reconcile with Senator Ajayi Borofice the strong man of Akoko politics.
As the election drew nearer, he kept his eye on earning public trust by intensifying the delivery of dividends of democracy. He constructed many roads across the state. He also commissioned the new administrative complex of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic and a Chocolate factory in Idanre in late September.
Without doubts, being an incumbent played a major role in his victory at the poll.
Closely related to his first term performance were the campaign promises of the Governor. The crux of his message at the campaign was a promise to industrialise the state if elected for a second term. The message seemed to have struck the right cord with the electorate.
In Nigerian political parlance, the concept refers to support from the Federal government and its organs notably the presidency and security agencies. Akeredolu ran on the platform of the party that control government at the centre. There were unconfirmed speculations the Governor may have received funding support from the centre.
The obvious spirit of camaradie as demonstrated during the campaigns helped straightened his political trajectory. For instance some ten governors and many national Assembly members from different parts of the country attended the last APC rally that ushered in the election. All of them drummed support for the governor with some still hobnobbing in the State on election day.
Zoning and unwritten understanding for power rotation were also factors that contributed to Akeredolu’s second term victory. He is from Owo in Ondo North Senatorial District. The people from the zone believed they were entitled to a second term. See their reason.
The last Governor of the State, Olusegun Mimiko from Ondo Central was Governor for eight years. His predecessor, late Olusegun Agagu was from Ondo South. Thus Ondo North people with a predominant population wanted their son as Governor for eight years before the position will go to another zone.
The people demonstrated this mindset at the poll. Akeredolu received massive ballots from the zone leaving remnants for his opponents. The home support tilted the scale in his favor.
Deployment of Funds
Massive fund was deployed to the field to get an inroad into the minds of the electorate. Aside the usual funds for campaigns and other logistics, there reports of voters inducement during the election. Allegation of vote buying was rampant during the election.
It was mostly done under cover. In some cases some emergency disbursement centres were created per polling unit, in others, the voter went to the house of a party chieftain to pick his reward after casting his vote. Voters were generally paid between N2, 000 and N5, 000 depending on local dynamics and who made the disbursement.
The News encountered a young man at a restaurant in Owo who claimed to have been paid N3,000 for his vote. “I have collected it. I know that is what I will spend for the next four years. But if I did not collect the money I will lose the more.
Every other factor considered, the Governor believed God was involved in his reelection for a second term. After casting his vote on Saturday, he told journalists he was confident of winning because of his faith in the love of God.
INEC, on Tuesday issued Certificate of Return to Governor Akeredolu and Deputy Governor-elect, Lucky Ayedatiwa for winning the governorship election in Akure, Ondo
Speaking after receiving the certificate of return, Akeredolu thanked INEC for conducting a credible poll which he won.
He dedicated his victory at the poll to God.
The election is now over. It is time for Akeredolu to assemble his team and get back to work.