Residents of Ondo State will on Saturday, October 10, visit their various polling units to elect who will oversee the affairs of the state for the next four years.
Even though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that 17 political parties will take part in the election, the race to the Alagbaka Government House is without a doubt between three major contenders.
The contenders are candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Rotimi Akeredolu; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede; and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Agboola Ajayi.
The three are the major candidates with the requisite structure in place across the 18 local government areas of the state.
While the race would be a tight contest, political pundits have explained to PREMIUM TIMES why the elites in the state may go for Mr Akeredolu and why the governor may be rejected by the commoners.
Yes or No?
For elites in the state, Mr Akeredolu’s performance in his first term in office is good enough to return him to office following infrastructural projects carried out in various communities.
Some of the elites and political analysts who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said that many have benefited immensely from his infrastructure and industrialisation projects, such as roads, school buildings, industrial projects, among others across the three senatorial districts of the state.
“Basically when it comes to infrastructure in Ondo State, Akeredolu popularly referred to as Aketi has tried. The governor also came up with a few ideas like the Ore Industrial Hub where Ondo now has the opportunity to be producing thread.”
“Aside from this, there are various roads that he completed in various senatorial districts of the state. So, for elites – he will have their pass mark,” Steven Ajayi – a lecturer and political analyst told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview.
Many white-collar workers in the state, such as bankers and top officials of ministry parastatals, also spoke with PREMIUM TIMES’ correspondent in the state last week.
Bimbo Fashoyin, a resident, described Mr Akeredolu’s first term in office as “development” for the state.
“Arguably, Akeredolu will largely have the nod of the elites but not of the commoners. While he has tried in the aspect of infrastructure, such as roads linking many districts, he has only done little directly for the masses, which may really hurt him severely.”
“The only reason that will make commoners go for a candidate is when they understand that they can benefit directly from his governance. For instance, Ondo residents are seriously wailing as far as healthcare system is concerned.”
PREMIUM TIMES in an earlier analysis explained how opposition parties have continued to draw the attention of the people to the failure of Mr Akeredolu to allow residents enjoy free healthcare, which was one of the major achievements of his predecessor, Olusegun Mimiko.
Speaking on how this may shape the election, Mr Fashoyin, a community leader in Akungba-Akoko, told our correspondent that the grassroots see Mr Akeredolu as an anti-people governor.
“Mimiko gave Ondo people the Mother and Child Maternity Initiative, where delivery was free and the aged paid nothing when need be for them to visit hospitals for treatment.
“There used to be a time when pregnant women had free access to hospitals without any payment and that’s no longer in place. Except you have your delivery materials, you won’t be attended to. This is indeed anti-masses.”
“An elite will not consider the payment as anything because he or she’s rich enough to pay. Rather, elites will focus on the structures and facilities of the healthcare centre. That’s not the case with the poor at the grassroots.”
“It is good that there are good roads and industrialisation is fast-growing but only the elites know the essence of all these.”
In addition to Mr Fashoyin’s position on what the outcome of the election may look like, another political analyst, Raphael Williams, said the hike in school fees will also affect the governor’s chances.
“The major strategy the opposition will use against him is the hike in school fees, especially that of the Adekunle Ajasin University. Parents and students paying over N250,000 will see no reason why they should vote for him for the second time. What about the cases of shuttle buses for school children – all of these will may make Akeredolu’s chances slim on the part of the masses”.
Although Mr Akeredolu in a television programme recently said the hike was due paucity of funds accruable to the state government and something similar was happening in other state-owned tertiary institutions, he recently announced that the hike will be reduced. However, that announcement was seen as a campaign strategy by many.
‘Commoners will overpower elites’
A public affairs analyst and political commentator, Jide Ojo, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, said the masses have the power to re-elect or reject Mr Akeredolu.
“The masses will have the day. From latest developments, the election may be inconclusive because the masses are the voters, not the elites and the state may not want to accept defeat. The commoners will determine the outcome of the vote because elites often keep themselves and families at home during election period.”
“If we go by history, it is only Mimiko from Central that has won re-election in the political history of Ondo State. From Ajasin to Adefarati to Agagu and all.”
Mr Ojo also said political zones will have roles to play. He decried the failure of Mr Akeredolu to look into the total blackout in Ondo South.
“The governor should not expect anything from places like Ondo South when he never considered them during his term. They have been in blackout. The masses, also known as commoners, are very key to anybody’s victory.”
Speaking on why the election may be inconclusive, Mr Ojo stressed that, “unlike Edo, Ondo State is a three-horse race. While Eyitayo Jegede may have difficulties when zoning comes to place because he is from the same place with Mimiko, the North, South and the Central have equal numbers of local governments areas.”
“It is also about 25 per cent in two-thirds. If the South-South pitch their tent to Agboola Ajayi, he will also have the support of Mimiko in Central and the former governor remains influential in Ondo town where there are two local governments – Ondo East and Ondo West. Other places like Ifedore/Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo, also in the Central have the impact of Mimiko. So Akeredolu is likely out of the race except for power of incumbency.”
“The APC should be comfortable if they are certain that all will be well and not be involved in attacks of other opposition parties. Ajayi and Jegede have good pedigree. We should not be surprised to see a repeat of the magic Mimiko was able to perform under the Labour Party. He could do the same with ZLP. It is more of a straight fight between Jegede and Ajayi.”
“Unless federal might is used, we may have an inconclusive election and Ondo people have a history of resistance. Let’s not also forget that APC lost the general election in the state. PDP is also controlling two out of the three senatorial districts and it then means the influence of the ruling party in the state is weak,” he said.
With the election coming up in less than a week, a lot can change overnight. Especially where the majority of the masses decide to go is likely where the pendulum will swing.
“It is better to be in the good books of the commoners than the elites,” Mr Ojo concluded.