The 2016 governorship election in Ondo State may have been scheduled to hold in October, but heightened political activities have already begun as politicians affiliated to major political parties scheme for their respective parties’ tickets, writes TEMITOPE ADEDEJI.
Political horse-trading and realignment of power blocks have dominated the landscape across the Sunshine State, as the question about who would succeed incumbent Governor Olusegun Mimiko continued to occupy the consciousness of the state’s politically-savvy residents.
Dr. Mimiko, a major power broker in the Peoples Democratic Party, will step down in February 2017, having completed two terms in office. His above-average performance over the past 7 years has attracted the interest of ambitious individuals of varied backgrounds because they know his benevolence would be highly consequential to not just win the party’s ticket at the primaries but to become the next occupants of Alagbaka Government House.
Two most prominent associates of Mimiko who have been widely rumoured as the possible nominees of the PDP are Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, and Chief Sola Ebiseni, the Commissioner for Environment. That the frontrunners are serving members of Mimiko’s cabinet is hardly a coincidence, according to a source involved in the Governor’s political permutations. The source said although the field contains a sizeable proportion of political heavyweights outside Mimiko’s cabinet, the Governor has already zeroed in on someone who has served him assiduously against all odds throughout his leadership.
“Governor Mimiko has told us he is choosing someone he could trust because he has a lot at stake in terms of his giant strides which we all know surpass those of his counterparts in the South-west,” the source said. “The question is not about whether the governor would pick someone within the cabinet; it’s about who he will choose amongst those he’d shortlisted.”
Indeed, loyalty has been a key component of politics throughout recorded history. Placed in a position of influence, an average politician would prioritise loyalty above all else. Still, political analysts say they expect the Governor to maintain a non-partisan optics to avoid pitting himself and his proteges against party bigwigs like businessman Jimoh Ibrahim and Kingsley Kuku, a former top presidential liaison, both of whom have publicly declared their intention to contest the primaries.
The All Progressives Congress also has a packed field in 2016. Senator Ajayi Boroffice, representing Ondo North Senatorial District, and renowned legal practitioner, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, are slugging it out with about 13 other aspirants.
Hoping to ride on their party’s nationwide success in the last poll, APC candidates are deploying a sentiment that held sway in states like Lagos last April. They’re informing voters that they must remove Ondo from the shackles of opposition if they want to maximise the dividends of democracy in their locality. This bargaining chip would be mulled by a good chunk of the electorate because they understand the huge influence the centre wields in the affairs of Nigeria.
Political observers expect the APC primaries to elicit interesting dimensions and widespread intrigues, considering the pedigree of politicians involved. Boroffice, who chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Science and Technology, and Akeredolu are joined in the race by other bigwigs like daughter of late Afenifere chieftain and former Ondo State Governor Adekunle Ajasin, Chief (Mrs) Jumoke Anifowoshe, and former PDP National Legal Adviser, Chief Olushola Oke, each of these two commands a wide array of influence amongst all demographics in Ondo State.
Quite a few of them are estranged PDP chieftains and Senator Tayo Alasoadura, who’s now APC’s most prominent figure in the state, served as a commissioner and was first elected to the Upper Chamber by riding on the PDP structure. Many of them who have severed relationship with the ruling party in the state blamed Mimiko’s alleged “political dictatorship” for their exit.
Conversely, Alasoadura’s shrewdness as the APC’s confederate figure in Ondo State would be put to test as candidates fall over themselves to secure his endorsement.
While the quest for a reliable successor has left Governor Mimiko perpetually flustered, the real work may lie in the need to keep the PDP united ahead of the guber election in October, notwithstanding what happens post-governorship primaries.
Nonetheless, if what the grapevine suggests is anything to bank on, then a carefully-orchestrated political compromise, presided over by Mimiko, might be the eventual outcome of the PDP primaries, consequently precipitating yet another defining era for the future of the agriculturally-rich state.