All Eyes on Ondo State as Oct 10 Approaches.

As people of Ondo state goes to the poll on Saturday, October 10 to either reaffirm their support or otherwise for incumbent Governor Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, EMMANUEL IRIOGBE takes a look at the gladiators and events that will play out.

The whole world especially Nigerians are focused on the forthcoming election in Ondo state as the people in the state of the rising sun goes to the poll to elect a governor that will stir the affairs of the state for the next four (4) years.

Like the just concluded Edo governorship election, the one in neighbouring Ondo has generated a lot of tension as people fear for a repeat of the infamous ‘operation wetie’ of the first republic where arson, violence and general breakdown of law and order characterised the election in the state when it was still in the old Western region.

Only recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) office located in Akure the state capital was gutted by a mysterious fire that destroyed Voters cards and other sensitive materials.

In the forefront of the governorship election are the APC candidate and incumbent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP and Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP.

A breakdown of the candidate’s popularity and strength in the three (3) Senatorial Districts that make up the state reveals that the 3 have their strength spread around.

Akeredolu hails from Ondo North where the senator representing the zone, Ajayi Borofice is an APC member just like the governor. Also, the 3 members representing the district in the House of Representatives are all APC card carrying members. With the above, many will conclude that the district is all there for the taking by the APC candidate. However, all is not well with Akeredolu in the area as people are very angry with some of his policies which have pitched him against the people, not only of the senatorial district but the entire state. One of such policies is his decision to hike the school fees paid by students in the state university located in Akungba and established by Former Governor Adefarati. The people of the area and state had enjoyed an almost tuition free era with students paying as low as fifty (50,000) thousand Naira as annual school fees. Akeredolu decided to jerked it up to Two Hundred and fifty Thousand (250,000.000) Naira and this has led to many students dropping out of school due to inability to pay the new fees. This has pitched angry parents against the governor and they have vowed to pay him back by voting against him come October 10. Opposition parties are latching in on this to campaign against the governor.

Another sore point against the governor is on the issue of a mother/child health care programme put in place by past administrations which involved free medical care for pregnant women. The governor on assumption of office put a fee of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand (150,000:00) Naira on patients. This has not also gone down with the people who saw the move as anti-people and are of the opinion that if voted out, a new administration will overturn the decision. Opposition is campaigning with this and have promised to reverse the decision if voted into office.

In Ondo South Senatorial District, the PDP seems to have an edge as the main gladiators are all from the party. The senator representing the district in the upper chambers, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo and running mate to the party’s governorship candidate, in the person of Hon. Gboluga Ikengboju (a two-term House of Reps member) are both from the zone. The zone is a traditional stronghold of the PDP with Ilaje and Ese-Odo constituting more than half of the voting population, a no go area to other parties. They will be very happy to have one of their own as deputy governor in the coming dispensation.

According to pundits, Ondo Central holds the key as to who wins the governorship election since it remains the most populous of the three senatorial districts. The district plays host to the seat of government with Akure south with a voting population of 207,238 is the most populous local government area in the state.

A breakdown of the election result in the last senatorial election conducted in 2019 saw that the three main political parties, PDP, APC and ZLP that dominated the election had a total vote of 183,430 votes shared amongst them. While the eventual winner, AKINYELURE PATRICK AYO of the PDP scored 66,978, his closest opponent, ALASOADURA OMOTAYO DONALD of the APC garnered 57,828 and leaving former governor Segun Mimiko of the ZLP with a total vote of 56,624

While in the North Senatorial District 178, 333 votes were shared among the 3 candidates of the strongest parties. PDP, s Nicholas Tomowo garnered 81,892 votes to defeat Omogunwa Yele of the APC who scored a total of 55, 610 votes and Olatunji Adeoye of the Action Alliance, 40,833 votes.

In Ondo South Senatorial District, where the APC holds sway, a breakdown shows that BOROFACE ROBERT AJAYI MALE APC scored 53,199 votes, ABAYOMI OLATUNJI OLUPELUWA  AA, 43,100 and PHILLIPS OLUSEGUN KIKIEDAOLUWA of the PDP garnered 33,048 votes.

When compared to what played out in the other two senatorial districts, it is safe to allude to the fact that going by what happened in the last elections in the state, the central has every likelihood of falling once again to the PDP. It is instructive of note that that the real threats to Governor Akeredolu,s re-election bid hail from this senatorial district in the persons of PDP,s Jegede and Mimiko of the ZLP. Mimiko’s name may not be on the ballot paper as a contestant, however, he is believed to be the brain behind the ZLP, s candidate, Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi.

Ajayi until recently was in the APC where he contested with Governor Akeredolu as running mate. To the chagrin of the party, he dumped it at the twilight of the administration and pitched camp with the PDP. He contested the primaries with Jegede and lost out making him to quickly move to the ZLP where the governorship ticket was awaiting him. A known Mimiko Protégée, Ajayi is a grass root political heavyweight in the state and constitutes a real threat to both the chances of the APC and PDP.

However, people view his eventual emergence as a continuation of Mimiko’s governorship, a situation they frown at. They want to vote for personality and not for individuals who are standing in gap for another person.

What remains to be seen is if the election will be allowed to follow the Edo format where votes really counted. People are confident that a free and fair election where rigging will be minimal is possible with INEC,s introduction of the electronic voting system come October 10.

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