For some, it is still a rude shock how the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, lost last Saturday’s 2020 governorship election in Ondo State despite the seeming fanfare, seeming acceptability in Ondo Central, which has a huge voter population A considerable number of people were of view that the party would win the election based on sentiments across Akure, the state capital, which is also the hometown of the state’s former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Jegede.
But governor OluwaRotimi Akeredolu and candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who hails from the North District, defied such odds and emerged victorious, thus repeating history and beating the two other major opposition parties and districts as it was in the 2016 guber race.
There were a lot of campaign issues against Akeredolu. These were coupled with some draconian policies of the APC-led Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari, which many believed would jeopardise the governor’s re-election. He did not help matters too with some homegrown policies like increase in tuition fees in tertiary education in the state. Moreover, the performance of the major opposition party in Edo State a few weeks ago, when the PDP governorship candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki, defeated the APC flagbearer, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, had given Jegede and his supporters hope of replicating same feat in the Ondo election.
Since the party’s victory in Edo State, the hope of PDP supporters surged in the state. They were upbeat that the same fate would befall the ruling party without considering the circumstances that made Ondo State election peculiar and different from Edo’s.
But the result of the election, as announced by the Returning Officer of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, clearly proved the underestimated factors that worked against the major opposition party at the poll.
Akeredolu, who hails from the North Senatorial District of the state, defeated his close PDP rival, Jegede, under the same circumstance that played out in the 2016 election, winning all the councils in both South and North Senatorial Districts, and three LGAs in the Central District, where Jegede hails from.
In summary, Akeredolu won 15 local government areas, namely Akoko North West, Akoko North East, Akoko South West, Akoko South East, Ose, Owo, Idanre, Ondo West, Ondo East, Ondo West, Odigbo, Irele, Ilaje, Ese-Odo, Okitipupa and Ileoluji/Okeigbo LGAs.
The PDP candidate and second runner-up, Jegede, polled 195,791 votes to win three councils namely Akure South, Akure North and Ifedore, while the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) candidate and Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who scored 69,127 votes, even lost his Ese-odo Local Government Area.
For the second time, Akeredolu defeated his age-long friend, Mimiko. First, in 2016 when he supported Jegede and on Saturday when he chose to support the state’s embattled deputy, Ajayi. The election, as noted by political readers, re-enacted the 2016 realities, when Governor Akeredolu cashed in on the disunity between the South and North districts to win the November 26, 2016 governorship election for his first term.
According to observers, a lot of sentiments led to the defeat of the PDP candidate, Jegede, who was picked to succeed the former governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. They noted that the candidature of Jegede was a bad choice for the ruling party then, because he hails from the same Central District with Mimiko, who had spent eight years as governor after breaking the second term jinx.
The South District, which has been the stronghold of the PDP since inception of democracy in 1999, felt marginalised and decided to support the emergence of a third force in 2016. Bearing same semblance with 2020, each district had a strong contender in the 2016 election, but the North and South Senatorial Districts united to defeat the political recklessness of the PDP and Central District represented then by Jegede and Mimiko.
As said then by political analysts, it was morally wrong for the PDP to perpetuate a district at the expense of other districts, especially the South, which has been clamouring against marginalisation and abandonment by successive governments. The agitation since 2016 has given the South and North Districts some mutual grounds for agreement to always work against the major opposition party, the PDP and the Central District, suspected of plans to hold onto power forever.
Just like 2016, immediately Ajayi lost out in the July 22, 2020 PDP primary election, majority of the southerners believe that they could wait for Governor Akeredolu and APC to finish the next four years rather than Jegede becoming the next governor in which case they would wait for another eight years. Also, the inability of the South and Central to work together, as typified in the last minute decisions of the former to present Oke and Ajayi as third forces in 2016 and 2020, respectively, punctured the chances of the PDP and gave APC and Akeredolu tremendous advantages.
Taunting the PDP over its performance at the last polls, the APC stressed that PDP had lost the ability and capability to win election in the country, declaring that the party’s victory in Edo State election on September 20, 2020, was a mirage. Without mincing words, the Secretary of the APC National Campaign Council for Ondo 2020, Mustapha Saliu, stated that the Edo and Ondo elections were two different scenarios, on which the PDP had earlier tailored their narratives for unrealistic advantage.
Saliu, who is also the Acting National Secretary of APC, noted that; “I want to tell you categorically and unequivocally that there is a difference between campaigns and rallies.”
“Even the Edo election was APC election. The governor is still a progressive. It is the manifesto and the works he did based on progressives’ principles and ideals that made Edo people vote for him again. So, it is not PDP. This election was different compared to Edo.
Meanwhile, Jegede and Ajayi, who emerged second and third respectively, are yet to make any public declaration on the election, but their parties disclosed that they were studying the results and would make their decisions public soon.
As confirmed by several civil society organisations and observers, large-scale voter-inducement drastically dictated the outcome of the poll. But constitutional lawyer, Mr. Kayode Ajulo affirmed that all participating parties were equally involved in the process, particularly the three leading political parties, adding that they tried in the game of outspending and outwitting one another.
He explained that the only difference was the financial strategy, wit and coordination of the political parties involved to facilitate the act, attributing PDP’s failure on inability to present a united party for the election. He said it negated its chances at winning.
Reeling out the unwritten zoning formula of the state, Akeredolu, alongside