The Oasis Reporters
June 28, 2020
Many watchers of Ondo politics from the outside some four years ago were mouth agape that a relatively unknown quantity in political consciousness like Rotimi Akeredolu could cause such an upset by beating all odds to emerge as Ondo State governor.
Akeredolu’s first major battle was to humble the strong man of South West politics. Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
Tinubu simply did not want Akeredolu. Tried all that he could during the APC primaries, it was obvious that he would lose to hidden and visible barriers as a candidate seeking for the ticket.. So Akeredolu stormed out of the APC and joined a new purpose vehicle to actualize his ambition. He went to the Labor Party.
That was not his major battle. The most formidable one was in confronting the PDP, then governed by the man readily referred to as the Iroko.
Known as the Iroko, Ondo born Rahman Olusegun Mimiko, was about rounding up his second tenure, many say on the backdrop of a sterling performance. One of his signature monuments was the establishment of a Medical University for the State. That was beside his world class health care system that won awards globally, especially his free and qualitative antenatal program that was easily accessible. Women didn’t have to die needlessly again at childbirth.
Despite the mountain of obstacles, Akeredolu beat both the political machines of the APC and the PDP to win the gubernatorial election, hands down.
As governor, he has done his best. Driving through Ile-Ife in Osun State from Ibadan in Oyo State last Christmas season, travelers noticed that the portions of the road that were receiving attention, were in Ondo State. That is on one’s way to the South South and South East.
Beyond that, the real political quantity in the State lay in the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi. Political watchers in the State Capital, Akure say that practically all the members of the House of Assembly and even the cabinet are his loyalists. Leveraging on that, Agboola Ajayi is said to have made his move to do what the 1979-83 deputy governor of the state, Akin Omoboriowo did. He defected to the National Party of Nigeria, NPN so as to contest against Owo born Governor, Adekunle Ajasin.
This time around, Agboola Ajayi has defected to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP to run against, yet again another Owo born governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.
Therefore if Akeredolu’s camp seems to fret over Ajayi’s cross carpeting, they are fearful of history repeating itself against Owo born politicians.
A good section of political watchers also say that the Achilles heel in Akeredolu’s politics was his jacking up of fees at Adekunle Ajasin University from a modest 30,000 naira to about 150,000 naira, an amount considered too exorbitant for poor rural cocoa farmers to afford to pay for their children. Chief Adekunle Ajasin was Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Minister of Education during the first republic and he laid, but implemented the Western Region’s free education policy, and the building blocks were from Owo.
Akeredolu lost so much goodwill over that. No politician can maintain his popular image in Ondo State if he tampered with their freebies on education. The parlous state of the economy must have encouraged Akeredolu to do that so as to maintain facilities in the University.
But could he have done any better? Did he have any other options ?
Ondo State is a cocoa producing state. Yet it’s economic intelligentsia have been hamstrung in designing a structure to uplift the economy from a raw cocoa exporting state to harness the value chain, produce cocoa derivatives like beverages and exportable chocolates that has made countries like Switzerland wealthy, without a single tree of Cocoa. Grenada too produces world class chocolates. But with all it’s education and cocoa growing economy, it’s still basically rural and poor.
A failure of academia streamlining to industry or impacting vigorously into industry.
Second grudge Ondo State people hold against Akeredolu is a seeming perception that his wife has too much influence on governance. But this may be a perception, especially after the appointment of a young Igbo lady, 26 year-old Owerri-born Ngozi Ugochi-Igbo as a Special Assistant on Gender, Research and Documentation.
All that apart, the Ondo State Governor has been known to be a team player in the South West, traversing across party lines to serve the interests of the South West people while cementing South West and South East relationships through appointments and family ties.
The defection of the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, from the APC to the PDP, has added to the number of swarming governorship aspirants on the platform of the PDP.
Apart from Ajayi, other governorship aspirants are Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN; Dr. Eddy Olafeso, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, Mr. Banji Okunomo, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Mr. Bamidele Akingboye, and Mr. Godday Erewa.
Vanguard reports that of the lot, Jegede, who was the party’s candidate in 2016, appears to be the front runner. While some people are of that opinion of giving Ajayi the treatment Obaseki got in Edo, the two situations are, however, different.
Obaseki is a sitting governor and, in the Nigerian circumstance, a governor weilds more power and influence than a deputy governor.
Ajayi may have been touted as having a good measure of commissioners and legislators on his side. When he was being received by the PDP chairman, the entourage that he was boasted to be coming with, simply did not show up.
Right from the alleged muscling of the deputy governor that was said to have almost prevented him from leaving the government house could be viewed as strong arm tactics. The supposed supporters may have been frightened into abandoning Ajayi. But if truly such support exists, there hand may be seen hours before the poll, unless they are just a bubble.
In an analysis by Vanguard news, “considering the circumstances that led to Jegede losing the 2016 poll and the subsequent rebuilding of the party for it to be able to trounce the APC in the 2019 general elections, an in-house candidate in the PDP could be better than any emergency outsider coming in.
Before the 2016 governorship election in Ondo State, the internal wranglings in the party led to a situation whereby it was only 48 hours to the poll that Jegede could be sure of being on the ballot.
The PDP was factionalised and the Ali Modu Sheriff group almost ensured that the party did not field a candidate in that election.
Despite all the odds, Jegede made a respectable showing, coming second after the eventual winner, Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu.
After the election, some PDP leaders left the party, including former Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The rebuilding process took almost three years but the party came out of it stronger.
Referring to that period, Jegede recently said that when some people abandoned the party and left it in the lurch, people like him did not jump ship.
He said he stayed back to rebuild and reorganise the party and that their efforts paid off.
They secured two senatorial seats and half of the House of Representatives seats in the 2019 general elections. They even won the 2019 presidential election in the state for the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Ondo was the only state in the APC- dominated South-west to achieve that feat”.
Politics is a game of numbers and the defector, Agboola Ajayi, would definitely bring some quality to PDP but the new expanded PDP needs to exercise caution, restraint decorum in managing Ajayi’s defection from APC to PDP so that the party will make a strong showing.
Additional information from Vanguard.