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Ondo gov’ship: APC, PDP running mate hunt heats up polity

With the emergence of candidates for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Ondo State governorship election…

With the emergence of candidates for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Ondo State governorship election slated for November 16, the lobby for running mates has intensified.

Last month, the political parties concluded their primaries to choose candidates for the governorship election. Although no fewer than 20 political parties are vying for the Alagbaka governor’s seat, only the APC and PDP have dominated the electorate’s attention in the state.

The APC’s incumbent governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, emerged as the party’s flag-bearer after defeating 15 other aspirants, while Agboola Ajayi secured the PDP’s governorship ticket. Both Aiyedatiwa and Ajayi previously served as deputies to the late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who died in December last year.

With the primaries concluded, focus has shifted to selecting deputy governorship candidates for Aiyedatiwa and Ajayi, in compliance with the Electoral Act (2022), which stipulates that a governorship candidate must have a running mate. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is expected to publish the final list of candidates on June 18 in accordance to its timetable.

As political alignments take shape, many political heavyweights, chieftains, and interest groups are pressuring the two main candidates to consider their interests or allies for the deputy positions.

Both Aiyedatiwa and Ajayi hail from the southern senatorial district of the state, particularly the coastal region, which has long been agitating for representation in government. This has led political pundits to suggest that the governorship race will be a straight and fiercely fought contest between Aiyedatiwa and Ajayi, both of whom served under Akeredolu.

The southern senatorial district of the state had only produced former Governor Olusegun Agagu, who ruled from 2003 to 2009 before the unwritten zone rotation moved to the central district, leading to the election of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko.

Amidst speculation about who will win the governorship election, the regional politics of the state are putting pressure on both candidates to select running mates from the central senatorial district, which boasts numerous political heavyweights.

Sources indicate that Dr Olayide Adelami, the current deputy governor to Aiyedatiwa; Tayo Oluwatuyi (Tukana), the Secretary to the State Government; Omowunmi Olatunji Ohwovoriole; Olumuyiwa Adu; and Kehinde Fasoranti, the son of Afenifere leader Reuben Fasoranti, are prominent contenders for the APC deputy slot.

For the PDP, it is likely that the running mate will be chosen from the Akure division, comprising Akure South, Akure North, and Ifedore LGAs. Honourable Festus Akingbaso, Oluseye Olujimi, Kemisola Adesanya, Dayo Awude, and Balarabe Abiodun Akinwunmi are among the prominent politicians being considered.

A few weeks ago, a group of women, led by Adebimpe Adebiyi, urged both the APC and PDP to consider female deputy governorship candidates, highlighting that Ondo State has yet to provide an opportunity for a female deputy governor despite being the intellectual base of the region.

But driving their own agenda, the youths in the state, through the Ondo State Youth Network (OSYN), are pushing for a deputy candidate under 45 years of age, while the Ondo Youthful Muslims (OYM) are advocating for a Muslim running mate to ensure religious balance.

In a recent interview on Channels TV, the PDP candidate emphasised the importance of the deputy governor’s role.

Sharing his views with Daily Trust, an Akure-based political analyst, Omolafe Adegboruwa noted that both parties face significant pressure in choosing their running mates, given the various agitations and the political strength and influence of potential candidates.

“The lobby for the deputy governorship slot is intense, especially for those who worked for the emergence of the candidates. Different factors will shape the nomination of these running mates, including the agitations of various social and political groups and the political weight of the candidates,” Adegboruwa said.

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