On Saturday, October 10, residents of Ondo State will head to the polling booths to elect a new governor. Incumbent Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu SAN will get an appraisal of his first term in office. The electorate will either give him a pass mark and return him to office or reject him outright and elect a replacement.
As an off-circle election, the Ondo guber poll shares similarities with the Edo gubernatorial poll held on September 19. Like the Edo election, it should be easy for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organize as the commission’s commitments elsewhere are less compared to the general election period. Also, many career politicians bored with sitting around for over a year after the 2019 general election will get to test their mettle once again.
However, the Ondo guber poll will be different from that of Edo for five reasons highlighted below. The list is by no means exhaustive…
Three main candidates: Although there are 17 parties contesting the election, the Ondo guber poll is expected to be a three-man contest between Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Eyitayo Jegede SAN of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), which many prefer to call the “third force”. In comparison, the Edo election was largely a two-horse race between eventual winner and PDP candidate, Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of APC.
No godfather: In Edo, the gubernatorial election was portrayed (who did the portrayal is a topic for another day) as a contest not between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu but between Obaseki and evil forces of godfatherism represented by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate-past governor and former National Chairman of APC. As Oshiomhole knelt and begged across the state for his preferred candidate, he unwittingly presented Ize-Iyamu as a puppet and an “errand boy” through whom he wanted to rule the state for a third term. At least that is what the PDP said. Although Ize-Iyamu shouted himself hoarse about his ‘SIMPLE Agenda’ to bring about the economic development of the state, Edo people apparently believed PDP’s explanation that he would hand over the state to his ‘paymasters’ if elected. It did not help that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who has been accused of singlehandedly picking Lagos governors since 2007, released a video a few days to the election to attack Obaseki.
Unlike in Edo, there are no visible godfathers to lead any candidate by the hand in Ondo. The three leading candidates are leading their own troops of supporters and craving votes on their own merits. Their ability to convince the electorate will reflect in the number of votes they secure on election day.
Choice of campaign bosses: The jury is still out on whether the Chairman of APC National Campaign Council for the Edo election, Abdullahi Ganduje contributed to Ize-Iyamu’s loss. Recall that the Kano State Governor was enmeshed in a bribery scandal prior to the 2019 general election. He was supposedly shown in several videos collecting bribes in dollars from contractors in the state. While the people of Kano re-elected him in spite of the scandal, the people of Edo did not appear so forgiving. Shortly after Ganduje’s announcement as APC campaign boss, the Obaseki-led state government erected giant electronic billboards at the popular Ring Road, Benin City primarily to play the videos! Whether that worked against Ize-Iyamu is debatable but it is incontrovertible that the APC candidate could have done without the excess baggage. On the other hand, PDP chose Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike as its national campaign council chairman. Through regular appearances on television and in press statements, Wike drew attention to Ganduje’s scandal, chipping at the APC campaign chairman’s credibility directly and Ize-Iyamu’s ultimately. He also did a number on Ize-Iyamu by constantly reminding Edo people that Oshiomhole once called the APC candidate a “fake pastor”, a “thief” and a cultist who poured acid on a fellow student back in school. Although Ize-Iyamu debunked the accusations, the damage had been done.
For the Ondo election, the APC chose Lagos governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu as its campaign boss and the PDP went for Oyo governor, Seyi Makinde, two relatively scandal-free politicians. At least the respective candidates won’t have to worry about becoming collateral damage of the scandal of the party’s campaign boss.
Divided house: The three major candidates in the Ondo election are heading to the polls with their party ranks pretty united. It undoubtedly played to the PDP’s advantage in Edo that the APC hierarchy was divided. Many APC bigwigs still smattering from the disqualification of Obaseki by the APC governorship screening committee refused to campaign for Ize-Iyamu. Some even campaigned for Obaseki at the risk of being disciplined for anti-party activities. They just did not care.
Less attention: There may be violence in the Ondo election, unlike the Edo guber poll that was relatively peaceful. Although President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed that the polls would be peaceful and credible and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu has promised to arrest and prosecute merchants of violence, the geography of Ondo makes it violence-prone. A lot has been written about violence breaking out in the riverine areas of the state, which is more difficult to reach, and therefore harder to monitor.
Also, the Edo election enjoyed considerably more attention than the upcoming Ondo poll. The intense traditional media scrutiny and social media coverage in the previous election, coupled with the timeliness of the US threat to ban violent and election-rigging politicians, helped to keep violence down in Edo. The media obsession has waned and the US threat is not as fresh and so political thugs could have a field day.
It, therefore, behooves the police to put modalities in place to prevent the breakdown of law and order during and immediately after the election.