While last Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo state has been won and lost, political pundits are still trying to come to terms with the factors that were responsible for the total routing of the candidates of both the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olusola Oke by Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party. It is amazing that despite the pre-election rating that gave Mimiko little or no chance of returning to the Alagbaka Government House, the governor was able to floor the two candidates at the polls.
It does not require any keen observation to know that two key factors played the decisive role that ensured the overwhelming victory for the ruling Labour Party in Weekend’s gubernatorial election in Ondo state. The resentment some Yoruba/Afenifere leaders harboured for Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) National leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the division within the ranks of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), were largely contributed to the huge loss both parties recorded in the election that was described as free and fair.
Observers of the keenly contested election therefore ascribed Mimiko’s victory substantially to deft planning and the exploitation of the weaknesses in the two major rival political parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A source told Peoples Daily that Mimiko played up the angle of a ‘godfather’ desirous to direct the affairs of the state from the comfort of his home in Lagos to sway the people to his side. “The people of the state accepted the campaign message of the Labour Party candidate, Mimiko that a mere expansion of the political territory of a rival party leader would not work for the people”, said the source.
“So, the people voted on Saturday against some hegemonic interests in the South- West, hence the support of Afenifere, a socio-cultural group that had always wanted to pay back a particular party leader who allegedly attempted to destroy the group, the same leader from Lagos who now wants to capture Ondo…,” was the way an elder analysed what happened last night.
Also, Mimiko was said to have capitalized on useful information from the PDP, revealing a lack of cohesion among its national leaders to give unflinching support to the party candidate.
Some of the national leaders allegedly undermined concerted efforts by the party to raise enough funds for Oke. While the Labour Party and the Action Congress of Nigeria had unfettered access to cash for the conduct of the election, Oke was said to have been starved in such a way that he hardly had enough to prosecute his campaign successfully.
“The opposition to his candidacy was so stiff that some people penetrated the party’s national body to work at opposite direction to his ambition. That was why only a paltry N600 million or thereabouts was available to their former National Legal Adviser, Mr. Olusola Oke who gave Mimiko the biggest headache in the race”, a source said. It was not even clear if the president’s support for Oke’s candidacy was total.
It was learnt that last Wednesday, when the president met with Oke in Abuja, the division within the party was clear when the president himself opened up to him about why he (Oke) was left in the lurch for a long time. And that meeting led to the militarisation of the state before Saturday election.
It was understood that Oke had been uncomfortable with the dearth of support from Abuja where he was until recently the ruling PDP’s Legal Adviser.
Sources close to the meeting said the president told Oke that he had not initially been keen about the Ondo state election because a former President from the South-West had earlier told him to back off from the Ondo state project on the ground that PDP had been very weak in the state and would therefore not be able to win an election there.
Besides, the president was said to have told Oke that he (president) was, however, jolted recently when the same former president who discouraged him from supporting the Ondo PDP was spotted campaigning on television for the PDP candidate in Ondo.
However, his last minute change of mind to campaign for the PDP candidate when he stormed the state capital shortly before the election failed to sway the people who had already made up their mind on where their votes would go.
Another factor for Mimiko’ success was a 2011 miscalculation on the part of the PDP that gave him the opportunity to nominate almost all political appointees from Ondo town and its environs. The minister from Ondo state is from Ondo, a daughter to a high chief in the town. The presidency is regretting the 2011 miscalculation whereby even the Special Adviser of Foreign Affairs who is from Ile-Oluji near Ondo is not from the ruling party.
It was believed that these people could not campaign against Mimiko as they are from either the same town or from the same senatorial zone and overtime have become very inseparable.
The acrimony between the ACN and Mimiko dated back to the post election period of 2007, when the latter was shopping for helping hands to prosecute his legal battle against former governor Olusegun Agagu. Tinubu offered him his assistance and probably took it for granted that Mimiko would join rank with the ACN after his judicial victory.
So pained was Tinubu that he allegedly relocated to Ondo for about two weeks to personally direct affairs of the campaign. While Tinubu and his group continued to whip up sentiments against Mimiko, he, in turn, busied himself infiltrating the ranks of Tinubu’s political enemies. It was therefore not surprising that some groups that had hitherto stayed away from the campaigns surfaced at the last minute to condemned Tinubu’s foray into Ondo state politics while they gave open endorsement to Mimiko.
Another factor that worked against the chance of the ACN is the general perception by the people that only two governors, Mimiko and Fashola are really performing among their peers in the south west. They therefore see no reason to send a performing governor away when they are not sure of his rival’s pedigree of service.
The final result released by Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) indicated that Mimiko polled 260,199 votes winning in 13 local councils; Chief Olusola Oke of the PDP came second in terms of figures with 155,961, winning two local councils while Rotimi Akeredolu of the ACN scored 143,512 votes, winning three local councils.
The governor was returned with 44 percent of the 594,244 valid votes cast from a total voter population of 1.6 million, while 30,415 votes were rendered invalid.
Moments after the announcement was made around 2 p.m. yesterday, the state capital, which in the last three days had been taken over by various security forces to ensure a hitch-free polling exercise, erupted into frenzy with hundreds of residents jubilating along major streets of the metropolis.
Addressing a crowd at the Government House, Mimiko, in the company of the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Dan Nwanyanwu and some political office holders, including Kayode Akinmade, the Commissioner of Information, said the glory of the election should be given to President Goodluck Jonathan “who created the atmosphere for us to be joyous today. The president came here and promised to provide a level-playing field for all contestants. He said he was going to deal with anybody that planned to thwart the decision of the people of Ondo state. He said he was going to protect the sanctity of the ballot paper. And the President did that. That is why we are all happy.”