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Ondo gov’ship: Issues as parties, aspirants prepare for primaries

The political atmosphere in Ondo State is full of jostling, scheming, horse-trading and anxiety as political parties and aspirants prepare for party primaries where candidates…

The political atmosphere in Ondo State is full of jostling, scheming, horse-trading and anxiety as political parties and aspirants prepare for party primaries where candidates would be picked for the November 16 governorship election in the state.

Strategic meetings and consultations have commenced among the stakeholders as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has slated April 6-27, 2024, for primaries.

Being an off-season election, all eyes are on Ondo over how political parties, INEC and other stakeholders would conduct themselves before, during and after the elections.

Like the previous exercise, pundits have predicted that it would be a straight battle between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite the existence of Labour Party (LP) and other opposition parties in the state.

Our correspondent reports that ahead of the party primaries, aspirants are reaching out to party leaders, godfathers, moneybags and others that matter, with the hope of getting tickets.

Analysts said it would be an interesting game considering that Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa has confirmed his entry into the race. His confirmation last week has heightened anxiety in the state, especially within the APC fold.

Aiyedatiwa broke the long-awaited news on national TV, a few hours after his predecessor and principal, Rotimi Akeredolu, was buried. The governor, who is completing Akeredolu’s tenure, had noted that he would be running because “I am already a sitting governor. And let me say this nobody wants to be governor for one year.”

But the APC national publicity secretary, Barrister Felix Morka, had ruled out automatic ticket for Aiyedatiwa during a Channels TV interview recently.

Crack in APC

Since the emergence of Aiyedatiwa as the governor after Akeredolu’s death, the APC in the state has been divided. A recent open letter written by six federal lawmakers in the House of Representatives from the state – Adesida Abiodun Cornelius (Akure North/South), Timehin Adelegbe (Owo/Ose), Festus Ayodele (Ileoluji-Okeigbo/Odigbo), Ojogo Donald (Ilaje/Ese-Odo), Odimayo Okunjimi (Okitipupa/Irele), and Adegboyega Adefarati (Akoko South West/South East) – to President Tinubu, accusing Aiyedatiwa of creating a crisis in the party and exhibiting disdain for his late boss has further deepened the crisis within the party.

The lawmakers had told the president that the governor had been associating with arch-political enemies of his late predecessor by giving them political appointments, an allegation that had, however,  been denied by aides to the governor.

Also, the Engr Ade Adetimehin-led APC executive in the state is sharply divided along the crop of governorship aspirants in the party. Some of them particularly, those loyal to the party chairman, are against Aiyedatiwa’s return as governor.

When contacted for comments, Alex Kalejaiye, the state publicity secretary of the APC, said the leadership of the party would decide the modalities for the emergence of its candidate for the governorship election.

PDP in crisis

Similarly, the main opposition PDP has been enmeshed in crisis since the removal of its former chairman, the late Fatai Adams, who was accused of anti-party activities. Also, the last by-election conducted in the state for the House of Representatives slot deepened the crisis in the party.

Meanwhile, it is left to be seen how parties would field their candidates and perform at the September 21 governorship election in the state.

Over 25 aspirants jostle for APC, PDP tickets

Aside from the incumbent governor, Aiyedatiwa, no fewer than 15 governorship aspirants are jostling for the ticket of the APC ahead of the primaries.

They include Wale Akinteriwa, the immediate past commissioner for Finance; Oladunni Odu, Secretary to the State Government (SSG); Mayowa Akinfolarin, a former member of the House of Representatives; and Olugbenga Edema, a former representative of the state on the board of the NDDC.

Others are Olumide Ohunyeye, a former director of finance at the Nigerian Defence Academy; Jimoh Ibrahim, business mogul and incumbent senator representing Ondo South; Olusola Oke, former governorship candidate; Isaacs Kekemeke, APC national vice chairman (South West); and Ifeoluwa Oyedele, executive director at the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited.

Also in the race for the APC ticket are Adedayo Faduyile, erstwhile president of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA); Paul Akintelure, former governorship aspirant; Jimi Odimayo, a member of the House Representatives from Okitipupa federal constituency; Olusola Iji, former governorship aspirant; Funmilayo Adekojo, businesswoman and entrepreneur among others.

Of the aspirants in the APC,  Ms Adekojo is the only female contender.

In the opposition PDP; no fewer than 10 aspirants have shown interest in the governorship ticket of the party. They are Sola Ebiseni, Agboola Ajayi, Bamidele Akingboye, Adeolu Akinwunmi, Bosun Arebuwa and John Ola Mafo, among others.

However, none of the parties has officially confirmed the mode of primary – direct, indirect or consensus – it would adopt in the selection of its candidate for the election. However, our correspondent reports that PDP has commenced the process of pruning the number of its aspirants toward adopting a consensus arrangement.

In the APC, pundits say if President Bola Ahmed Tinubu decides to anoint a candidate, he or she would clinch the party’s ticket.

Also, though there is no pronouncement by either the APC or PDP on the issue of zoning, almost all the aspirants of the two political parties are from Ondo South. This followed agitations by the people of the zone that it was their turn to produce the governor of the state.

So, it is left to be seen how the parties would field their candidates and perform at the November 16 governorship election in the state.

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