Though three major political parties and their contenders have always been at the fore of discussions for the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State, there are other 14 parties and candidates in the race.
As officially announced early last month, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that 17 candidates from different political parties had been screened to participate in the election. The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, noted that the publication was in compliance with Section 31(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Okoye explained the reason for making the list and particulars of the candidates public, adding that section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act empowers the general public to verify the claims made by the candidates. According to him, any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given in the affidavit or any of the documents submitted by any of the candidates is false may file a suit in court seeking a declaration that such information is false.
The electoral umpire listed the parties to include the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Action Alliance (AA), Accord Party (AP), African Action Congress (AAC), and African Democratic Congress (ADC).
Others are Action Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), All Peoples Party (APP), National Peoples Party (NPP), National Resistance Movement (NRM), Young Progressive Party (YPP), Labour Party (LP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).
Sequel to the July 20, 2020 primary election of the ruling APC, it was believed that the October poll would be a strong political battle between the party and the major opposition party in the state, PDP. However, there are speculations that ZLP would provide a third force in the election due to the political weight of its national leader and immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
Although ZLP was the first party to conduct governorship primary election in the state, but its original candidate, Mr. Solomon Benjamin emerged in a shadow poll.
Meanwhile, until INEC released the names of candidates for the October election, the name of Ajayi was not on the list. He ditched APC to contest PDP primary on July 22, 2020 and was narrowly defeated by Jegede. Ajayi, however, swapped places with the ZLP candidature a few hours to the expiry of the window of replacement by INEC. He deflected eventually to the party after entreaties requesting Jegede to make him running mate hit the rock.
Some analysts tend to indicate that the election should be beyond zoning and rotation among the three senatorial districts, whose major contenders: Akeredolu, Jegede and Ajayi represent the North, Central and South Senatorial interests respectively.
Nonetheless, the other 14 political parties and their candidates are also making efforts to present themselves to the electorate in the bid to occupy Alagbaka Government House on February 24, 2021. These contenders, some say maybe in the race to seek relevance or last-minute negotiation, and thus whittle down claims of zoning and rotational arrangements.
Like the three major political parties, these fringe parties are also plagued by internal crises that range from leadership tussles, lack of transparency, financial constraints and ideological direction. Most of these governorship candidates only have their presence on social media and no impact in the public space. As soon as INEC published their names as candidates, nothing has been heard of them since.
However, the case with AP candidate, Rotimi Akindejoye and his running mate, Bibiresanmi Akinyemi, appears different. They are both young candidates, who have been speaking to the youth segment of voters on the need to take over the government.
The AP candidate could easily get the support of young people, but he is struggling with raising structures for the party.
In addition, there was a crack within AP recently as two factions within the party, led by some notable leaders, declared support for Governor Akeredolu’s re-election and the major opposition party’s candidate, Jegede.
But Akindejoye, who is a political science graduate from the South District, dispelled the moves as a mere political gimmick to distract the party from winning the forthcoming election.
“I heard as rummour that they negotiated for N200 million with Governor Akeredolu,” he said, “this is the more reason we are telling the good people of Ondo State that my running mate, Mr. Bibiresanmi Akinyemi and I are not part of the negotiations. We will go ahead in the governorship race.
“We are young politicians and cannot allow monetary inducement to spoil our future. We dissociate ourselves from their actions. I was jolted when I heard the news that the Chairman of our party in Ondo State, Dr. Ajibola Falaye, and the party’s BoT chairman at the national, Pastor Adebayo Adeniyi and one other party member that had been expelled for his misdemeanor, came to Ondo State to negotiate with PDP for the purpose of working for Eyitayo Jegede.
“As if that was not enough, the national secretary led another faction to pledge allegiance to APC and their readiness to work for Arakunrin Akeredolu. All these negotiations were done without my knowledge and consent as the candidate of the party. I secured the ticket of the party through legitimate process and in line with INEC’s guideline. Now a group of leaders has split the party into three just because of their selfish interest.
“We are telling the people of Ondo State that Accord Party will contest the governorship election on October 10 this year. I remain the candidate of the party, so lovers of Accord Party should not be demoralised by the actions of so-called leaders who have sold out to APC and PDP.”
ALTHOUGH AA actively participated in the last general election in the state, with many believing that Akeredolu might switch to the party as the crisis in APC raged, not much has been heard about the governorship candidate, Joshua O. Adewole and his running mate, Williams Ogunleye.
The Same obscurity seems to also befalls APGA guber candidate, Olowoloba Dele and his running mate, Babalola Aderemi; APM’s flagbearer, Aminu Akeem Olarenwaju and his running mate, Taiwo Omoyeni; APP’s governorship candidate, Olaoluwa Adesanya and his running mate, Akinrinlola Adewale-Stephen; LP’s candidate, Taiwo Okunade and his running mate, Adebowale Ibitoye.
Similarly, NPP’s candidate, Eniola Ojajuni and his running mate, Sunday Aroge; NRM’s candidate, Jenyo Atanuoko and his running mate, Adetutu Mafimisebi Adetutu; PRP’s candidate, Francis Alli and his running mate, Oluwasesan Oladele; SDP’s guber candidate, Peter Fasua, and his running mate, Olufunmilayo Ajayi are not making waves.
However, the African Action Alliance (AAC) candidate, Adekunle Adeyeye and his running mate, Samuel Omotosho, are making some noise. They are relying solely on the goodwill and fortune of the party’s presidential candidate in the last election, Omoyele Sowore. Political analysts say the party stands a chance of getting visibility due to the #RevolutionNow campaign, especially among the youth. The party leader, Sowore, is also from the state. Party members are making use of social media to campaign for their governorship candidate.
The governorship candidate for ADC is Adelegan Adedapo Oluwaseyi and his running mate is Akinfotire Temitope Oluseyi, while the candidate of ADP is Martin Kunle Olateru-Olagbegi and his running mate is Balogun Olugbenga Victor. The ADP candidate is believed to be running the best issues-based campaign, leveraging the ‘Ondo Advantage’ initiative, which is driven to utilise the economic and industrial potential in the state.
Adelegan, who is a PR expert, President and Chairman of Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has admirers and considerable following, though a faction of the party recently declared support for and fused its structure with APC. Adelegan was one of the 10 governorship aspirants initially jostling to get APC ticket under Unity Forum, an APC group formerly opposed to second term ticket for Governor Akeredolu.
Adelegan, after the APC group failed to reach a consensus candidacy, deflected to ADC to actualise his governorship ambition after due consultation and blessings of South West leaders like former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Young Progressive Party’s (YPP) candidate, Dotun Ojon, who is the youngest guber contender in the election at 38, and his running mate, Hajarat Dupe Usman, are pushing a formidable campaign effort to the admiration of the people of the state. Ojon, who is a journalist and from the minority Ese-Odo council of Ondo South District, has worked in so many organisations as a media expert and public administrator.
Despite his minority background, he vowed that he would defeat the two major parties, APC and PDP. Speaking at his official declaration on June 12, he said: “We must know that it is more than mere coincidence that I have set the day apart to revamp our hope in democracy by publicly declaring my mission to contest in the October 10 Governorship election in Ondo State, using the platform of the Young Progressives Party.
“I must state with emphasis that many states across Nigeria have a similar challenge of leadership failure, but we must all combine the strength embedded in our education, exposure and innovation to bail our dear state out of leadership missteps that have characterised governance in Ondo, and place her in the forefront of scientific and solution-based leadership.
“It has always been my belief that a sane state can be created out of a seemingly confused country if the citizenry agrees to put aside partisan considerations and religious sentiments to support a person of courage, character and competence.”
Unveiling his development plan tagged ‘LEAP AGENDA,’ Ojon added, “We as citizens must equally reflect on the sacrifices of our past heroes and be courageous enough to face a direction that will ensure that the gain of representative government is enjoyed by all irrespective of social status.”
Like other political parties, Ojon believes that YPP would harvest the political bounties that would happen as a result of the internal crises bedevilling the major political parties. According to him, members of the parties will see a viable alternative in YPP as a force to send the ruling party and Governor Akeredolu out of Government House next year.
However, there are some noticeable shortcomings evident in the 14 parties, as none of them has lived up to some critical demands by a section of the electorate, especially Muslims who have kept clamouring for Christian-Muslim joint ticket.
Also, none of the political parties has a female governorship candidate in pursuance of ideals of gender balancing. Only three, namely SDP, NRM, and YPP have Ajayi, Mafimisebi and Usman as female running mates, which many see as not being representative enough in an age of inclusive political culture.