Ondo governorship debates: winners, losers and matters arising, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo
Tunji Ariyomo

Can I, a son of the soil, do an objective opinion piece on the Ondo State 2012 gubernatorial debates organized by the Chief Taiwo Alimi led Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) without being biased? I will try!

Several phone calls, SMS and eventually, social media commentaries by Nigerians jolted me to the real impact of the first day of the debate, particularly its potential of creating a new world perception of the average Ondo State person. Before now, the average person from that state was perceived as brilliant and industrious. ‘Olodo’ (dullard) was never a descriptive word for the Ondo people until that first day. On Nairaland (see http://tinyurl.com/cmmvvrk), one commentator said “Worst debate I’ve ever watched in my life. I had to switch over(sic). Horrible”. Another said “Now this shows the caliber of people in ONDO Politricks” while a female candidate said “the state would collide(sic) with Power holdings”.

How did these people emerge as candidates?

Thirteen years of rule by the leading political parties have successfully shielded many of the smaller parties from public scrutiny while some over the years have become the conclaves of a few opportunistic individuals who turned them into avenues to obtain yearly subventions from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Their selfish desire to maintain a firm grip on their tiny empires is the main reason they would never search for the best amongst their people and field them as candidates in order give the larger political parties stiff competition.

Does debate matter?

The ability to articulate one’s vision matters. Alluding to the holy book, ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’! Often, when the mouth is unable to speak sense, the probable cause could be that the heart is shallow. The implication of a shallow heart on communication could include incoherence and uttering mediocre solutions to serious challenges as Ondo State people witnessed during the first debate. On whether the English language matters, yes it does. Apart from English being the nation’s official language, it is not sheer legislative accident that the constitution mandates a minimum education requirement for aspirants. We are in a world that is getting further globalised with each passing day. A governor or deputy governor would never govern in isolation. He or she would attend several national and international events. He must be able to interact with other leaders, communicate his ideas and messages as well as exchange sophisticated modern ideas with national and international players. More importantly, office holders should be inspirations to impressionable kids and older youths. If Nigeria’s founding fathers, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello spoke impeccable English and were capable of brilliantly articulating their views, how can we expect less from 21st century Nigerian leaders?

With the benefit of hindsight, we can all imagine what the quality of our democracy and the quality of leadership would have been had this type of debate been made compulsory since 1999. If we have this in place, even the godfathers of the various political parties would be forced to search for the best among them and would not just put forward any Tom, Dick and Harry as candidates.

So who won the debates?

Saka Lawal of the PDP appeared to be the clear winner in the deputy governorship category followed closely by the candidate of the ACN, Dr. Paul Akintelure. The LP lost in the deputy category because of the absence of its candidate, Alhaji Ali Olanusi which resulted in the speculation that it was a deliberate and well calculated political manoeuvring by the LP.

In the first round of the governorship category, it is my opinion that Chief Olusola Oke of the PDP and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the LP were the clear winners. The candidate of the ACN however appeared professorial, gentlemanly and laid back. He appeared to be at a public lecture as a resource person rather than as a candidate at a gubernatorial debate. His faux pas that “Ondo State people do not have housing problems” reminded me of American’s Mitt Romney’s 47%. Both Oke and Mimiko however demonstrated a strong grasp of issues that are of interest to the average person. They also exhibited strong political acumen and stagecraft needed on such occasions. Oke particularly showed uncommon equanimity at that first encounter.

In the second debate which featured only the three leading candidates, Olusola Oke of the PDP appeared to be the indisputable winner in my personal opinion. He exhibited candour, depth and came out smoking hot. The incumbent governor however did well in holding his ground while Akeredolu of the ACN improved upon his earlier performance. The debate was also richer on issues although the candidates could not escape the temptation of typecasting one another as they laboured hard to adorn opponents with the corrupt tag which was an avoidable distraction.

Need for fact checking

Several ‘facts’ were rolled out in torrents during the debates. The press owes it a duty to the public to promote fact checking. If a candidate knows he would be fact-checked, he might be circumspect in recklessly dishing out untruths. This could further help to strengthen the quality of future debates as well as help psychologically prepare the youths that truth matters.


How do we make debates compulsory? The nation can do this by establishing a non-partisan National Debate Commission similar to what is in place in the USA. Experienced faculties from our universities, non partisan public affairs experts and reputable broadcasters should be in charge of such a commission. Politicians should not be involved at all. The current Nigerian Elections Debate Group could even be adopted and transformed into such a commission. The National Assembly can kick-start the process by enacting appropriate laws for the commission that would cover qualification of members, venue security, media coverage, mandatory candidate participation and limited funding. The law could also contain appropriate sanctions to deter evasive manoeuvrings. Alternatively, the Commission could be made a quasi institute with no government oversight but wholly as a private corporation whose debates are sponsored by private contributions from willing foundations. Essentially, any model adopted should allow enough enforceable legislative protection to compel participation while being independent enough to avoid undue influence. This could raise the quality of internal democracy in political parties by indirectly forcing the hands of party leaders and members to select their best.

Finally and by the way, there was this claim by Dr. Mimiko where he pointedly challenged the legacy of his predecessor in the area of Information Communication Technology. My understanding of his claim is that if his four years is placed side by side with those of his predecessor, he ranks better. Really? Umm, over then to unbiased fact checkers, the jury is still out!




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  • Femi Afolabi

    egbon Light, balanced enough and maturely presented considering the mighty political difference!

  • Sola Badmus (ACA)

    Bros Tunji Light, you have to teach your fellow friends the proper etiquette when dey write like this. I don’t want 2 mention names but partisanship has made many of them become loose cannon in d way they talk & dey are bad example. i enjoyed ur analysis and agree dat sola Oke did very well but Mimiko won in my own view too. but I like d polite & analytical way you always share your views & am a big fan of yours sir. people like you should even be governor now and not d old cargoes. we are waiting 4 u.

  • Jonadex

    You have said it all, especially the last clause, I wondered why he kept on criticizing his predecessors, after all he was part of the game then, our people are too desperate to get to power, he even said that it would be better for them to say the truth, yet ……hummmmm, I pray that God should intervene in the affairs of the Nigerian States.

  • Steve B

    @ Tunji L’ght Ariyomo, I strongly disagree with you in your assessment of who won and lost the two governorship debates in Ondo State. It takes an unbiased mind especially someone that is apolitical to make a good judgment out of these two debates. Needless, to tell you in my own view I think Akeredolu did not only win the debate but also the minds of the people of Ondo State going by the recent disposition of teeming populace towards the ACN, which is now clearly in the lead and cruising to victory in a week time.

    The incumbent governor that you surprisingly gave the second position to in spite of his arrogance, abusiveness and predatory practices at the debate. Imagine him telling Aketi that “you will not get there” as if he is the one that will decide the fate of who get the peoples mandate. He even at a point said Aketi may be a good lawyer but he does not know or do GEOMETRIC at school. Why all this personal attack? for God sake this guy is the incumbent governor what does he want? it is however obvious that Mr Governor is behaving that day like someone under drug influence and jittery of losing his seat to Akeredolu. Yes, Aketedolu because he does not care much about Olusola Oke for obvious reason as not posing any threat to his re-election whatsoever.

    Sincerely, to me this governor did not only perform woefully but a disgrace to the entire good people of Ondo State going by the mega lies he kept telling us throughout the entire debate that we are better off at Ondo State after four years-on of his maladministration and administrative maladies in all spheres of governance.

    As for Olusola Oke, the Barrister really surprised me greatly with his elocution, control and the manner he marshaled his thought on issues raised. At a point I was wondering why this guy has not been given Senior advocate of Nigeria SAN until I gathered thoughts together that this privilege position is only reserved for practicing lawyers who have distinguished themselves in their practice especially after appearing several years as a counsel at the Supreme Court and not for guys who left their gown for full time politics.

    Olusola Oke is a shrewd politician and he was shrewd enough to guess the motive behind the big opportunity the debate will offer him to make big impression to his principals especially those ones in Abuja (no thanks to the saucy remark of Mr governor) who they all believes may not go far in the race but nevertheless are supporting him reluctantly.The performance of Oke that day clearly shows that he was in it for show off. He did not attach much seriousness to the debate. It was obvious he was having a blast of his life and savouring every moment of it. Little wonder he laughs continuously and uncontrollable by exposing his Maclean enhanced white teeth for all to see. “See me I’m Oke and am Ok, I’m enjoying myself If i lose this election, i don’t care, and please watch out I will become a minister”.

    This assumption propelled him to prepare desperately for the debate like his life depend on it. He has good answers for every question asked. Not minding the state of the finance of the state he will always resolved all problem by injecting huge some of money to take care of them all. Lie! lies! lied! just like politicians talk big to turn stone to bread that was all I heard from Barrister Olusola Oke that day. He is only basking on the achievements of Dr Agagu an administration which he only spent some couple of months in. The question is, so Oke is now Olusegun Agagu? How would you say that someone who could only roll- out the achievement of his former boss as if they were his won the debate. Being eloquent does not suggest that a fella is brilliant.Oke was full of oratory on the day of the debate with little explanation on how to achieve his great rescue plan for the state as best discernible as an extraordinary mixture of harsh reality and lofty ideas. Olusola Oke to me came second in the debate and is not likely going to retain same spot in the election.

    Akeredolu has pedigree and is coming from somewhere with great responsibility shoulder on his neck and cannot afford to compromise his integrity by telling mega lies like the two other professional politicians will easily do without blinking an eyes as to the consequence. He conveyed an air of polish and suavity throughout the debate.

    Akeredolu can only promise what he will do when he gets to office and not dance to the gallery like others, especially like Barrister Olusola Oke will promised to do all things possible and in-possible . This is the reason the governor kept controverting most of his armed-charred solution to issues.

    Akeredolu has a pragmatic approach to politics, his submission are apt and addresses core areas of development of ondo State. Worth mentioning was his comment that they are no HOUSING PROBLEM in the urban centres rather in the rural areas. According to him the problem we are having at the urban centres is HOUSE OWNERSHIP. Housing problem and House ownership are two different things altogether and who can controvert this hypothesis.

    Akeredolu just like a lawyer that he is, a good one at that, knew very well that is not how fluent, eloquent or charming you are that will win you a case but the amount of reasoning you can forward that will help your case. He was calm and collected throughout the debate and after? No flippant remark even at the point of provocation from the governor, no sly innuendoes, gossips, lies and half truth. He marshaled his point with a deft motion of his nimble fingers and creativity in a very convincing manner that lack razzmatazz and glamour because he knew how serious and responsible the occasion demand and he doesn’t want to play to the gallery.

    In my final analysis this is how i see the three Candidates. In Akeredolu I saw maturity, while in Oke I saw an activist and in Mimiko i saw arrogance. The choice is yours to decide who becomes the governor.