Sunday, 20 November 2016

Can PDP Participate on Ondo Guber?

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The uncertainty in the political atmosphere in Ondo has continued to confuse the electorate. The fear is that if all the legal battles are not resolved before the poll, how are they sure their votes would count, especially as whoever they vote for may be axed after assuming office by the court.

Hence many are of the opinion that the candidate without any legal encumbrance should be queued behind. Although the candidates are criss-crossing the council areas of the state wooing the electorate and rolling out promises upon promises, the atmosphere is lukewarm.

The candidate of the mainstream ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, in the state and his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, are facing legal challenges and this may work against them in the poll if not resolved.

While Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was, last week, cleared by the party’s National Working Committee NEC, Jegede appears to be making a headway to remove the legal web woven around him by the claim to the governorship ticket of the PDP by Mr Jimoh Ibrahim who has, in fact, officially, been recognised as the candidate of the party by INEC.

Oke is making waves across Ondo but the “resurrection” of the AD by him is attracting criticism from stakeholders who accused him of pretending to be a progressive. The families of two former governors associated with AD, the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin and the late Adebayo Adefarati, have kicked against the use of their names to campaign by Oke.

Notwithstanding, the movement of members of the APC to the AD following the emergence of Akeredolu as the APC candidate in the election is alarming. But the alleged desperation of Oke to become the governor “at all costs” may work against him. Meanwhile, majority of the people of the state are said to prefer a technocrat and not a “full fledged politician” to succeed Mimiko.

The support Oke is believed to be receiving from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the APC National Leader, whose candidate, Dr Abraham, lost the primary election to Akeredolu, is alleged to be giving the party leaders sleepless nights.

On his part, Akeredolu’s inability to fully reconcile aggrieved members of the APC after his controversial emergence as the party’s candidate, especially Tinubu and others within the state, is affecting his chances. Meanwhile, sources said he has the backing of some elements in the Presidency which may give him some advantage in the poll, Jegede, before he was replaced with Jimoh Ibrahim by INEC as the PDP standard bearer in the poll, was ahead of other candidates in terms of popularity and acceptance.

But a spanner was thrown into the works and others overtook him. Jegede is still battling to reclaim his ticket while Ibrahim has vowed to pursue the matter to the Supreme Court. But, if, by mother luck, Jegede is asked to fly the flag of the PDP by the Court of Appeal , then the battle would be between Jegede; Dr Olu Agunloye, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP); Oke and Akeredolu.

The sympathy that Jegede would receive would be gargantuan and that may give him victory in the election, otherwise the ruling party may have to work with Agunloye or Akeredolu for relevance in the coming administration. Jimoh Ibrahim is not taken serious across Ondo. He just kick started his campaign two weeks ago. Political observers alleged he is acting the script of the Presidency to scuttle the chances of Jegede. He may eventually work for Akeredolu if Jegede’s appeal sails through. All said, the legal hurdles against Akeredolu and Jegede may cost them some votes which may go to Agunloye. The SDP candidate was twice Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Agunloye, who was also pioneer Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, may equally be the lucky man that will benefit from this political quagmire. The primary election that produced him was smoothly conducted and his choice of running mate, Modupe Akindele, was commended across the country as the only candidate who picked a female as his deputy. Since he showed interest to govern Ondo on the platform of the SDP, his fame has continued to spread across the state and beyond because of his pedigree ,leadership qualities, sound integrity and intimidating credentials. Everywhere he went within the last few months to solicit for votes, the electorate have queued behind him with the optimism that he is the right man for the job. The crises in the two major parties in the state, PDP and APC, have made him the preferred candidate in the poll. If any of the other parties candidates emerges after the November election, many people believe such a governor would be distracted by post-election legal battle. Political observers in the state are also of the opinion that it would be an injustice to allow the next governor emerge from Ondo Central where the outgoing governor hails from. This may also be a plus for Agunloye as the electorate from Ondo South and North may support anyone who emerges from either of the zones. In short, they are opposed to the back-to-back arrangement of the ruling PDP in the state. The sentiment attached to zoning apparently resulted in the APC and AD picking their candidates from the South and North since Mimiko, like Jegede, is from Ondo Central. Agunloye has, over the years, generated large followership through his Omoluabi Platform which has touched the lives of a lot of people across the state . Also working for him is that beneficiaries of his employment scheme while in public service are responsible for the high presence of Ondo indigenes in the Federal Civil Service especially in the FRSC. Many chieftains of other parties have, because of this situation, jumped ship and are looking towards SDP with the symbol of a white horse ostensibly to ensure their votes count at the end of the day. Another factor working in Agunloye’s favour is the support he is receiving from the leaders of the Yoruba political group, Afenifere, such as its National Chairman, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, and Chief Olu Falae, who is also the National Chairman of the SDP. His promise to pay salaries and pension as and when due as well as clear salary arrears owed civil servants in the state within three months of his assumption of office have endeared them to his cause while students have equally gone all out to support him for promising them regular scholarship and bursary payment. All things being equal, the votes from the north ern area of the state, especially the four LGAs in Akoko, would go en-bloc to Agunloye, while the choice of his deputy, Akindele, a grassroots mobilizer, is targetted at pulling good votes for SDP party from Ondo South. Oke’s choice of a deputy, also from Ondo North, may not yield much for the AD because Ganny Dauda is said not to be that popular notwithstanding that his being a Muslim may work for the party. And the crisis Ondo Central promises to work in Agunloye’s favour as discussions are said to be on with him and leaders of the PDP and APC to work for him during the election. The flag-off of the campaign of the SDP in Akure, the state capital was well attended by politicians even from the other political parties who were not sure of what would be the fate of the other gladiators (Akeredolu and Jegede ) as a result of the court cases. Speaking during the flag-off ceremony, Falae electrified the venue when he promised that the party would provide job for 100, 000 youths, within a year in office if the party wins the election. The party has mapped out a state’s apprenticeship scheme that would empower and ensure that five scores youths are gainfully employed within one year of the SDP-led government”, he stated. The former Finance Minister and Secretary to the Government of the Federation assured that Agunloye as the next governor “would proffer immediate solutions to the existing problems and implement a sustainable economic and infrastructural development for the state”. The state Chairman of the party, Chief Korede Duyile, while justifying the choice of the SDP governorship candidate, said the candidate stood tall amongst the candidates contesting the November 26 governorship election. He described Agunloye as a seasoned politician with high integrity, adding that what the people of the state needs at this crucial time is a tested and trusted technocrat. Duyile assured the people of Ondo that Agunloye would not play politics with the future of the state. Accepting the party’s flag from Falae, the candidate assured the people that he would build on the achievements of his predecessors. “Whatever is good in the late Adebayo Adefarati’s government, the administration of the late Dr Olusegun Agagu and the legacies of Governor Mimiko, I will not discard. “I will only review and rectify past policies that are not beneficial to the people. I will continue with the beneficial projects and build on them with my goodwill, integrity and love for the people.” The former Minister also promised that he would pay all outstanding salaries and pension allowances to public servants and retirees. He pointed out that his mission “to rescue and rebuild Ondo State” was driven towards creating enabling environment for youths as job providers rather than being job seekers, infrastructural development, meaningful engagement of women among others.

In an interview with Sunday Vanguard, Agunloye said that the SDP, which is an offshoot of the defunct Action Group (AG) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), would revamp Ondo if given the mandate to rule. “I need to say that SDP has presented itself as an alternative channel for progress. It has presented itself as a party that has responsibilities to the people of Ondo; it is an offshoot of the old AG, UPN and SDP in which late Chief M.K.O Abiola won the June 12, 1993 presidential election”. Meantime, preponderance of opinion favours a shift in the poll following the legal crises in the two main political parties in the state, days to the election but the Ondo Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Olusegun Agbaje, says the election will hold as scheduled. Where the pendulum would swing is in the belly of time.



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