Ondo Election: Top 5 Candidates And How They Stand (Analysis)
Written by Wale Akinola
In less than twenty-four hours to the conduct of the much-awaited Ondo state governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again reiterated its commitment to making another history after the Edo election.
The chairman of the INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, promised that the conduct and other electoral processes during the Ondo election would be far better than what was witnessed in Edo state on Saturday, September 19.
Information on the website of the electoral umpire indicates that 17 political parties would contest the October 10 governorship election in the state.
The voters in the 18 local government areas and three senatorial districts of the state would either re-elect Governor Rotimi Akeredolu for another four years in office or elect one out of the remaining 16 candidates.
But out of these contenders, it is believed that the race to the Alagbaka Government House, is widely seen as a tight contest between three lawyers from three different senatorial districts and three major political parties in the state.
Governor Akeredolu is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Eyitayo Jegede is representing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Agboola Ajayi is flying the flag of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), which is regarded as the third force. The three major candidates have strong structures in the 18 local government areas of the state.
Apart from the trio, pundits said two other candidates of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Adelegan Adedapo Oluwaseyi, and the Accord Party (AP), Rotimi Akindejoye, may equally pull a surprise.
Here are the strengths and weakness of the contenders:
1. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu – APC
Akeredolu hails from Owo in Owo local government area in the Ondo North senatorial district. He was first elected governor of the state in 2016. He won the election by defeating the candidate of the then ruling party, Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP.
Since the country returned to civil rule in 1999, only a few incumbent governors have lost re-election and Akeredolu stands a big chance to win another term if incumbency is the only metric for evaluating a candidate’s chance in an election.
Another major factor that may assist Akeredolu to win is the unity among the members of the APC in the state for the election.
All the members of the party are solidly behind him, drumming and canvassing support for his re-election across the length and breadth of the state.
2. Eyitayo Jegede – PDP
Jegede is the candidate of the PDP. He was the candidate of the same party in 2016 but lost to the incumbent governor.
There were issues around his candidacy in 2016 until the courts finally resolved that he was the right candidate of the PDP, barely a few days to the election. His supporters said he would have won the 2016 election if he had enough time to prepare for it.
Jegede has a likeable personality, quiet, decent and generally warm. He is also considered to be well-mannered and mentally sound and he is a household name in the state, having contested in 2016.
Another factor that may swing votes in favour of Jegede is the support he enjoys from the former vice president Atiku Abubakar and the governor of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde.
However, the unwritten zoning formula may be an albatross to Jegede’s chances. He comes from Ondo Central, which is the same zone with the immediate past governor, Mimiko, who ruled the state for eight years.
It is a popular narrative in the state that it is not yet the turn of the zone to produce the governor of the state.
Also, the Ondo state chapter of the PDP at the moment is polarised and this may affect Jegede’s chances of winning the election.
The polarisation is a fall out of the party’s gubernatorial primaries that saw the emergence of Jegede as its flagbearer.
While some aspirants, who vied for the ticket with him, have pledged to support him in the election, some have left the party while others, who chose to stay back, have been unusually quiet.
3. Agboola Ajayi ZLP
Ajayi is the incumbent deputy governor, though estranged from his boss, Akeredolu, over irreconcilable political differences.
He parted ways with the governor when he defected to the PDP in spite of assurances and reassurances that his relationship with his principal was cordial and that he would work for the re-election of the governor.
After spending less than a month in the PDP, he vied for the party’s ticket but ended up a runner-up to the winner, Jegede. He eventually ditched the PDP for the ZLP.
The failed impeachment move against him has led to the suspension of some lawmakers believed to be pro-Ajayi.
He is a grassroots politician who is reputed to have the capacity to connect well with the people.
The allegation against Governor Akeredolu that he has not been fair to the zone in terms of developmental projects also seems to be working in favour of the deputy governor.
Beyond Ondo South and Central, especially in Ondo town and Ifedore, where his running mate, Gboye Adegbenro, comes from, the ZLP is not so strong in Ondo North, the senatorial district of Akeredolu.
The zone has the smallest number of registered voters in terms of percentage; Ondo North is 27%, South 33% while Central has 39%.
4. Adelegan Adedapo Oluwaseyi – ADC
Adelegan is a public relations expert and the president and chairman of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Before he became the candidate of the ADC, he tried picking the race ticket of the APC under Unity Forum, an APC group formerly opposing the second term ticket for Akeredolu.
He later decamped to become the candidate of the ADC.
5. Rotimi Akindejoye – APC
The candidate of the Accord Party has a history of speaking for the youth. The political science graduate has boasted of getting the support of young people in Ondo but lacks strong structures.