Saturday, 25 July 2015

Politicians in warm-up for Ondo Governor poll in 2016

Some interested aspirants are warming up for the 2016 governorship election in Ondo State expected to be a major battle between the Southern and Northern senatorial districts, Ade Akanbi writes
Barely two months after the general elections, politicians have started strategising for next year’s governorship election in Ondo State. But the major issue among the interested aspirants for the governorship position is which senatorial district will produce the next governor. Currently, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who hails from Ondo Central Senatorial District, is occupying the Alagbaka Government House as the state governor.

Mimiko’s second term tenure will end in 2017. It is therefore necessary for power to shift to either the North Senatorial District or the South Senatorial District in the 2016 governorship poll. The state has 18 local government areas with each of the three senatorial districts comprising six local governments. The six local governments in the North are Akoko South-East, Akoko South-West, Akoko North-East, Akoko North-West, Owo and Ose. In the Central Senatorial District, there are Akure South, Akure North, Ifedore, Ondo East, Ondo West and Idanre local government areas. The Southern Senatorial District consists of Ilaje, Ese Odo, Irele, Okitipupa, Odigbo and Ile Oluji/Oke Igbo local government areas.

Power has rotated among the three districts since democracy returned to the country in 1999. It started from the Northern Senatorial District with the former Governor, the late Adebayo Adefarati, who hailed from Akungba-Akoko in Akoko South-West Local Government Area. Power also shifted to the Southern part of the state in 2003 when Adefarati’s successor, the late Olusegun Agagu, from Iju-Odo in Okitipupa Local Government Area was elected as the governor.

As Mimiko vacates office in February 2017, it is expected that the governor will hand over power to the winner of the poll from either the North or the South because the political calculation no longer favours the Ondo Central Senatorial District.

Investigation revealed that political gladiators from the Peoples Democratic Party, the All Progressives Congress, Accord Party, Labour Party and other parties in the state are preparing to make known their intentions to run for the governorship position. Some of the gladiators have been making consultations with the leaders of their parties, associates and their community leaders.

Also some of them have been pasting posters while some local radio and television stations in the state have been airing jingles of compliments sponsored by the aspirants. Others even sponsored political programmes on the local electronic media.

Though none of the gladiators has made their intention known to the public, some APC chieftains said to be interested in the governorship seat include the Senator representing the Ondo North Senatorial District, Prof. Ajayi Borofice; a former Commissioner for Special Duties in the state, Mr. Niran Sule; and a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Victor Olabimtan. They all hail from the Northern Senatorial District.
Similarly, Chief Olusola Oke, who hails from the Southern part of the state, dumped the PDP for the APC during the last general elections. He is also said to be warming up for the contest.

In the PDP camp, it was gathered that a former Minister of Power, Dr. Olu Agunloye, from Akoko North-West Local Government Area and the immediate past Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Mr. Gbenga Elegbeleye, from Ikare-Akoko, Akoko North-East Local Government Area are aspiring to fight for the ticket of the party. A reliable source revealed that the ex-Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs and Chairman, Amnesty Programme, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, from Arogbo in Ese-Odo Local Government Area in the Southern Senatorial District is also planning to join the governorship race.

There are indications that the political parties that will field candidates for the governorship poll may consider ethnicity as one of the deciding factors in picking their candidates. For example, there are two major ethnic groups in the Northern Senatorial District – Akoko and Owo. The former has produced the state governor in the person of the late Adefarati, while the first executive governor of the state, the late Pa Adekunle Ajasin, hailed from Owo. But Owo people claimed that they have not produced the state governor since the beginning of the current uninterrupted Fourth Republic.

Also in the Southern Senatorial District where we have ethnic groups like the Ilaje, Ikale and Ijaw and some parts of Ondo, it is only one Ikale man, Agagu, who had been elected as the governor of the state.
Meanwhile, feelers from the two major political parties revealed that the APC chieftains like Rotimi Akeredolu (Owo), Borofice (Akoko) and Oke (Ilaje) respectively may battle for the party’s ticket, while Elegbeleye, Agunloye (Akoko) and Kuku (Ijaw) may slug it out for the PDP’s ticket.

Another cardinal factor that may determine where the pendulum will swing in the power shift is the voters’ population which is higher in Ondo South than the North. Incidentally, most of the Ondo South people are predominantly members of the PDP. Of the six local government areas in the senatorial district, the PDP is strong in five, while the last one is the APC’s stronghold.

The defection of Oke and his supporters to the APC shortly after the last presidential election boosted the party in Ilaje Local Government Area. Though the PDP candidates were declared winner of the state House of Assembly election in the local government, it was not a landslide victory as it was in previous elections.
But Oke’s ambition of getting the ticket may not be as smooth as one would think because it is not certain if the APC will pick its candidate from the South as the party is more popular in the North than any other senatorial district in the state.
Secondly, there are more gladiators for the APC in the North than in the South. The likes of Akeredolu, Borofice, Olabimtan, Sule and others may make the party’s primary tough.

It was also gathered that the leadership of the APC in the two other senatorial districts had a meeting where it was unanimously agreed that the candidate of the party should emerge from the North.
Moreover, of all the ethnic groups in the state, it is only the Ijaw that has not produced any representative for the top political job in the state. The highest political position the ethnic group has attained is the representative at the state House of Assembly which is being rotated between the Ijaw and the Apoi (the Yoruba in Ese Odo LGA) on one term agreement. So, the appointment of Kuku as Special Adviser to the former President was seen as a blessing to the Ijaw people as it was believed to have moved them closer to the Federal Government then.

With the current situation of things in Ondo South, it appears that no PDP chieftain is as politically popular as Kuku. It was reliably learnt that there is also a serious pressure on Kuku by many people in Ijaw land and the entire PDP family in the South Senatorial District to contest for the governorship poll.
In the Northern Senatorial District, however, the perceived leading aspirants are Akeredolu and Borofice. Though the duo showed interest in the ticket of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in the governorship election in the state, the latter finally won the ticket. But this time around, no one is sure about who may finally pick the APC ticket between the men for the next year’s poll. But it was gathered that Borofice and Akeredolu have been working seriously underground to grab the ticket.

The leadership of the two political parties will determine where their parties’ candidates will emerge from to contest the election. For the PDP, Mimiko will also play a prominent role in deciding who will succeed him among the party gladiators while the APC leadership in the state and at the national level, considering many factors, may decide who will fly the party’s ticket.

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