Now that Ondo election is lost and won

Rotimi Akeredolu

Rotimi Akeredolu

After all the drama, suspense and apprehension, the much hyped Ondo State governorship poll ended with losers and winners. Although the election took place in an atmosphere considered to be peaceful, free and fair, its eventual outcome produced bitter after taste in the mouths of lovers of democracy.

A post mortem of the governorship poll cannot, therefore, produce a verdict of transparency of process and innocence on the part of the participants. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could be exonerated from the observed infractions on election day, but that does not exonerate it from the allegation of complicity in the hocus pocus that bedeviled the candidacy of one of the major contending political parties. It’s decision to delist Eyitayo Jegede, whose primary election INEC witnessed, remains unexplainable.

INEC’s innovation, which threw up simultaneous accreditation and voting, has continued to earn it some plaudits since December 5, 2015 when the experiment started in Ijaw South Local Government Council of Bayelsa State.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, noted that politicians exploit the social and psychological poverty of voters through inducement, stressing that there is so much poverty in the country.

That fact reflected heavily in the Ondo governorship, beginning with the parties’ primary elections to the main election. It has as yet not been well canvassed how inducement of voters, which is tantamount to rape, constitutes electoral offence, because no individual or political party has been punished for that.

Vote trading in the election began at the primary stage. Some aspirants on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), were alleged to have paid delegates as much as N300, 000.00 to secure their votes. Within the divided house of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite the lack of open accusation or incidence of inducement at the primary election (the one held in Akure), make-believe candidate, Jimoh Ibrahim, accused INEC of asking him for gratification as pre-condition to carry out the bogus order of Justice Okon Abang.

Although the accusation of bribe solicitation was cancelled out by lack of evidence, it went down to underscore the fact that illicit money exchange hands at elections. Recall also that some electoral officers are due to be tried for accepting huge sums of money during the 2015 general election.

However, all those incidents pale into insignificance when viewed against the backdrop of what transpired between field officers of the governorship candidates and voters in Ondo. Perhaps mindful of the body language of the federal power incumbency, the police looked askance while ballots were haggled for openly.

Based on what happened in the Ondo governorship election some people have started asking questions why the APC has not disclosed how much it spent to prosecute the last presidential election, not to talk of the sources.

The implications of accepting money as basis to determine where they cast their votes would soon dawn on the voters. They have acted on the native wisdom that after all what they got was their share, but they should not complain when roads are not constructed, hospitals go without medicines, workers are not paid and pupils sit under trees to learn.

Possible Reasons Why Akeredolu, Not Jegede, Won
The unique selling features of candidates in an election include face and recognition, pedigree and antecedents. On paper, many pundits believed that the PDP candidate, Chief Eyitayo Jegede, would win the November 26 governorship poll, basically on account of incumbency propulsion and support.

But placed side by side, Jegede did not seem to connect or command wonderful presence in the eyes of the voters. Chief Rotimi Akeredolu contested the governorship against Governor Olusegun Mimiko in 2012, during which time he was beaten to a distant third place as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate.

Some of the factors that worked against Akeredolu then, was the suggestion that he was not only an imposition of a former Lagos State governor, but also that he would be ferrying substantial portion of the state’s income as tributes to the godfather in Lagos.

With the intervening period between 2012 and 2016, Akeredolu must have extricated himself from the burden of having an offshore godfather, as well as, aligned with the powers that be in the corridors of federal might.

Based on this new reality, the voters in Ondo seem to have felt better and at ease with the fact that instead of playing as internal colony of Lagos, it was better to align with the Federal Government, “from which huge things come.”

On the flipside, Ondo voters may have reasoned that having rejected outside godfather, it would be outlandish to groom another internally, which was what Jegede’s election would have represented. Did the voters reject the Iroko as political godfather? That seems most likely, but compared to Akeredolu, Jegede was a fresh face that most voters could not connect to.

Desperation Of Buhari, APC
APC did not have things easy in Ondo. It was evident that as happened in Edo before it, losing Ondo would have put serious dent on the image and composure of the party, especially in the light of its poor showing in economic and social empowerment promises.

What is more, the wrangling within the party, accentuated by the open call by one of its national leaders on the national chairman to resign, recast the image of APC’s incomplete metamorphosis. The decision of the presidency to drag President Buhari to campaign for Akeredolu, not only showed that the party was desperate to win so as to show that it is not over.

Having dragged the president into the fray, something he did not do in Kogi and Bayelsa editions, the party went the way of PDP by causing some commercial banks to open for business into the small hours.

While the APC governors had access to cash via their security votes, it was easy to facilitate their operations in Ondo as fund was not the headache of the governorship campaign headed by the Plateau State Governor, Solomon Lalong. It is not on all occasions that rural dwellers have access to mint fresh naira notes and the sight of such was enough to make voters ‘well behaved’.

APC’s candidate may have won the war, but it does not seem as if the party would win the battle in Southwest. The predisposing circumstances did not bring the best of the Zone that is, if it had planned to stonewall against the federal political foot-soldiers.

The latter statement from the presidency signed by Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, pointed to the fact that Tinubu was restrained from doing anything that could harm the party’s interest in the Ondo governorship. It is left to be seen whether the former Lagos governor was given a carrot or threatened with a stick.

It was the late Moshood Abiola that said it is injurious tomove against a moving train. Whatever offers, overtures or propositions that were made to Tinubu, it does not seem as if the man would play the script for long. Making Tinubu seem less than he is may backfire in the foreseeable future. Or, would the new kids on the block carry on to show that their tutelage was not a wasted enterprise?

Ambivalence Of Mimiko, PDP
It was a combination of pluck and clever deal making that produced Mimiko as governor, against the machinations of the then federal might. Having regained his mandate that was stolen by the PDP through the courts, Mimiko was accused of reneging on a purported agreement to cross over to the defunct ACN.

In 2012 the outgoing governor still latched on as the lone governor of the Labour Party (LP), won a second term in office. But when the Iroko moved to the PDP to shore up support for then President Jonathan, a lot of people started wondering whether the governor understands the import of political freedom. As LP governor, Mimiko did not have to worry about the intrigues of jobbers and Abuja hangers-on that made PDP look like a big pond full of sharks.

Part of the burden he had to bear was the displacement of political actors in Ondo State chapter of PDP. It was from there that the man started experiencing the up and downs that threatened his succession plan. And to compound the governor’s woes, PDP lost the presidential election and ACN joined the merger that produced APC.

Worse still, the PDP into which Mimiko ran, went into fractions. It was that division more than the loss of federal political might that became source of the governor’s undoing. Moreover, whatever informed Mimiko’s decision to settle for Ondo central to select his preferred candidate for governor, did not seem to be a sound political calculation, even though it bordered on electoral arithmetic.

When the challenge from the Sheriff Camp gained momentum, it was a distraught and terribly harassed Iroko that continued running from Akure to Abuja, in search of succour and stability. And in that he opened himself up for the internal intrigues within APC. Did he make a deal with APC to avoid falling into the hands of his former allies in ACN/APC? What transpired between Mimiko and Okorocha at the Akure Airport that led them coming out with the APC governorship in tow? If Okorocha wanted to extend his political bubuyaya to Ondo, he succeeded in selling the perception that Mimiko was talking with APC.

Akeredolu: The Pang Of Victory
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu must have snatched a painful victory. When he takes over in February, governor-elect will learn how to lament, because he will definitely get first hand, the loud bang of recession on the treasury. He has promised not to probe the outgoing administration, perhaps, as part of the pre-election bargaining. But by February when he gets down to brass tags, Akeredolu may be compelled to ‘look into’ the books.

He may continued the dalliance with Mimiko for some time until the political push and pull in the Southwest gets to its crunchy level. Refusing to acknowledge Tinubu for recognition, what Akeredolu would become when the APC insurgence in Southwest demands his leadership is left to be seen.

Against the background of Ekiti Governor, Ayodele Fayose’s kite that he may prosecute his succession battle on a different political platform, could it be that the Southwest has some political games up their sleeves? If third place runner-up, Olusola Oke, disclosed that he has started preparing for the 2020 governorship, does that signal the possibility that the Alliance for Democracy (AD), could be used for strategic bargaining? When that happens who are likely to be the arrowheads of political battle in the zone? That question would be answered in 2018 when the real battle for 2019 would have gained currency.

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