As the race for the October governorship election in Ondo State intensifies, at least 10 aspirants of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), have registered their readiness to battle the incumbent governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, in the primary holding today, Monday.
They are: Olusola Oke, Segun Abraham, Olaide Adelami, Bukola Adetula, Jumoke Anifowose, Sola Iji, Isaac Kekemeke, Jimi Odimayo, Nathaniel Adojutelegan and Awodeyi Akinsehinwa.
The primary is being supervised by an APC committee led by the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello.
Mr Bello had reiterated the APC’s position that an indirect method of primary will be used. This implies that delegates, including elected party officials at wards and local governments, as well as top political appointees and elected officials such as lawmakers will elect the party’s eventual candidate.
Majority of the aspirants, excluding Mr Akeredolu, had demanded a direct primary where all party members would vote. That request was rejected by the party.
PREMIUM TIMES highlights the profiles of some of the major contenders for the governorship ticket.
The Ondo State governor, Mr Akeredolu, was a former attorney-general of the state and a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
He had his primary education in Owo, where he was born to Christian parents before proceeding to Aquinas College in Akure, Loyola College in Ibadan, and the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he obtained his law degree.
In 2012, in a keenly contested primary election of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr Akeredolu emerged the party’s governorship candidate and ran against the former governor Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party (LP), and Olusola Oke of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He finished third, polling 143,512 votes behind Mr Oke’s 155,961 votes. Mr Mimiko won with 260,199 votes.
In 2016, on the platform of the APC, Mr Akeredolu ran again, and won.
Mr Akeredolu has the Unity Forum, a faction of the party headed by former deputy governor, Ali Olanusi, believed to have been formed to thwart Mr Akeredolu’s ambition, to contend with.
But the governor has asserted his readiness and confidence to defeat whoever the Unity Forum endorses.
Apart from this, he would need to contend with the loss of his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, the state secretary, Ifedayo Abegunde, and the former chairman of APC in Ese-Odo LGA, Samuel Olorunwa, who have all left his camp.
A two-time governorship candidate in the state, Mr Oke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), came respectively second and third in both the 2012 and 2016 elections, first on the platform of the PDP and then Alliance for Democracy (AD).
From Ilaje, the second most populous local government in the state, he left the APC in October 2017 after a controversial primary election which produced the incumbent governor, but rejoined in January 2018.
Mr Oke was reported to have emerged the party’s ‘factional consensus aspirant’ to run against Mr Akeredolu in the coming party primaries, a speculation dismissed by the Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroface, who is a strong voice against the re-election of the incumbent governor.
“The media report suggesting that Unity Forum has adopted a consensus candidate to represent the Forum in Ondo APC governorship primary election is misleading,” the senator representing Ondo North, the governor’s constituency, at the National Assembly said.
Subsequently, the seven-member committee that ‘falsely’ declared Mr Oke as the faction’s consensus candidate was dissolved while Ali Olanusi was also removed as chairman of the forum.
An indigene of Ese-Odo LGA, Mr Kekemeke, with a political career spanning over 28 years, has a chest full of badges from both the PDP and the APC.
Mr Kekemeke is the state’s founding chairman of the APC (2014-2018), a former secretary to Ondo State Government (2007-2009), a former Commissioner for Works, Lands, and Housing (2005-2007), and Commissioner for Justice (2003-2005).
He served in most of those capacities during Governor Olusegun Agagu-led administration.
Mr Kekemeke’s suspension as the state’s chairman of the APC and the appointment of his deputy, Ade Adetimehin, believed to be loyal to the incumbent governor, as replacement in 2018, lay bare the polarisation in the state chapter of the ruling party.
He was suspended by the party’s disciplinary panel over alleged “gross misconduct and anti-party activities.”
Mr Kekemeke, in an interview with journalists in late May 2020, vowed not to step down for anyone in his camp “even the incumbent governor.”
He revolves his campaign promises around the maximal use of ICT, education, tourism and agro-allied industries if elected.
Mr Abraham, an ally of the party’s national chairman, Bola Tinubu, is considered a dark horse in the race.
This is the third time the Ikare-Akoko-born aspirant will be throwing his hat in the party’s governorship primaries race.
In 2016, Mr Abraham was among the over 20 aspirants under APC jostling to unseat the incumbent governor, Mr Mimiko, from the Alagbaka Government Office.
Despite being the anointed candidate of party leader, Bola Tinubu, he was defeated by Mr Akeredolu.
He had also declared his intention to run for the governorship seat in 2012 under the ACN but was defeated by Mr Akeredolu who emerged the party’s flagbearer.
One of the arguments against the candidacy of Mr Abraham is that he often leaves the state for Lagos, where most of his businesses are, after elections and returns when another election approaches.
Despite the many obstacles against women in Nigeria political space and offices, some women have shown they can still compete.
One of such is Ms Ajasin-Anifowoshe, a lawyer and former Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in Ondo State.
Asides being the daughter of the first executive governor of old Ondo State, Adekunle Ajasin, she is the only female among the 12 aspirants jostling for the 2020 APC governorship ticket.
Like the incumbent governor, she is an indigene of Owo, an alumnus of OAU, and was among the over 20 aspirants who contested for the same ticket in 2016.
Ms Ajasin-Anifowoshe was at the time the Alliance for Democracy (AD) local government chairman in Lagos State and contested for Ondo ACN (now APC) chairmanship at a time, but lost.
Mr Adelami is another kinsman of Mr Akeredolu from Owo. He is an Harvard-trained administrator and a former deputy clerk of the National Assembly.
His campaign promises around job creation for the youth by harnessing the state’s agriculture potentials, without neglecting the place of education, healthcare and security, if elected.
A known associate of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Executive Director of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Ifeoluwa Oyedele, has stepped down despite being cleared to contest. He stepped down for Mr Akeredolu.
Others contesting are Olubukola Olarogha, Sola Iji, Odimayo Jimi, Awodeyi Akinsehinwa, and Nathaniel Adojutelegan.