It was no longer news that Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has been re-elected for a second term in office after the just concluded gubernatorial election that was held last Saturday in the state with 292,830 votes to defeat his closest rival, Eyitayo Jegede of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who scored 195,791 votes as well as Agboola Ajayi of the Zenity Labour Party (ZLP) that polled 69,127 votes.
A number of civil society groups such as Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and YIAGA Africa, among others, had in their reports, indicated that vote-buying by party agents across polling units in the state was a major factor which contributed to the victory of Governor Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Our Correspondents, who were on ground and visited three Ondo Senatorial Districts, namely, Ondo Central, Ondo North and Ondo South during the poll, also observed that political parties spent whopping sums to buy votes, sharing between N5,000 and N10,000 in addition the 3kg domestic gas cylinders to electorate in order to corner their votes, this was very common among the three major parties that contested the election – APC, PDP and ZLP, but that of the ruling party was most pronounced.
Besides, majority of people in the state, also indicated the role of vote buying across the 3,009 polling units last Saturday, saying without that – sharing of money and 3kg domestic gas cylinders – APC would not have won at the poll. This is a clear case of Biblical sales of birthright between Jacob and Esau as the people of Ondo South, who always complain of being marginalised and shortchanged despite being the oil-producing area of the state, could not vote for their own – Agboola Ajayi of ZLP, who didn’t win just a local government area out six in the Ondo South Senatorial District.
Yiaga Africa in its reports observed, “In clear violation of the Electoral Act, political parties engaged in the distribution of money and gift items in a bid to curry the support of voters. The campaigns were a contest of the highest spender as opposed to debates on policies and manifestoes.
“In most cases, the parties were negotiating with the voters on the amounts to pay on election day for their votes. Voter inducement was prevalent in 12 LGAs namely Akoko South West, Akoko South-East, Akure North, Akoko North West, Okitipupa, Akure South, Odigbo, Ese-Odo, Irele, Ifedore, Ondo East and Ilaje LGA.”
It was the case of sectional celebration in Ondo state after Governor Akeredolu was declared winner by INEC as only Owo and adjoining towns in the Ondo North Senatorial District where Governor Akeredolu hails from, jubilated as many people particularly in Akure, the state capital and Ese-Odo where Eyitayo Jegede of PDP and Agboola Ajayi of ZLP respectively hail from, were not happy with the outcome of the election process, according to them because their sons, lost the elections; they were rigged out by the ruling party.
Although 17 political parties were registered to contest the election, only the APC, PDP and the ZLP had the mettle and the widespread support for the challenge as the final results as declared by INEC showed that Akeredolu win with 292,830 votes (51.1%). He was being followed by Jegede, who scored 195,791 votes (34.2%), while Ajayi, the deputy governor and ZLP candidate came third with 69,127 votes (12.1%).
According to the INEC, the total accredited voters for the election were 595, 213, which represent 31.6% turnout of voters. The total valid votes however stood at 572,745. Also, 18,448 votes were rejected, while about 16,000 votes were cancelled.
No doubt about the fact that Akeredolu was able to win the election because of the powers at his disposal as the incumbent governor of the state. Besides, all the APC guber aspirants, who didn’t make it at the end of the day, worked together for his re-election, unlike what happened with the PDP candidate who was not supported by some aspirants in the build-up to the election.
Another major factor that contributed to the victory of APC in Ondo is the intervention of the government at the federal level which gave its full support to the incumbent governor, having also used some serving and former governors of APC to disguise as friends to the embattled deputy governor, Ajayi, to plead on him not to join PDP’s Jegede despite the intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as they promised to support his ambition with funds which they didn’t later do.
Indications of financial and logistical supports in big time, even the conspiracy of security operatives at polling units that facilitated vote buying could be listed as part of the federal support.
Belief of many people in the state before the poll was that with the matching up of Jegede and Ajayi against Akeredolu, it would change the government, but this did not happen and Akeredolu won, eventually.
It is now very clear that zoning arrangement would not shift to southern senatorial district after another four years tenure of Governor Akeredolu who hails from North.
It is believed that since Olusegun Mimiko who is from the central zone had completed eight years administration, the northern zone should have the same portion of the grace and this was the reason why the southerners according to some political analysts gave Akeredolu full support with the hope that it would be their own turn when his tenure expires in 2025.
According to these political analysts, South and North zones didn’t want Jegede to win because his zone, Central had been taken by his former boss and benefactor, Mimiko’s administration.
Besides, it would be recalled that Akeredolu himself had told Jegede to wait for another 12 years before contesting for the governorship position saying “when I complete my next four years in the north senatorial district, it will go back to the south.
“The south will rule for another eight years and after that, it will come back to the Ondo Central senatorial district. So, it is not yet the turn of Akure, Ondo Central they should go and wait for their turn.”
Meanwhile, political analysts are now disturbed with the aftermath of the guber poll with the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, who lost on all grounds having fallen out with his boss, Governor Akeredolu.
Recall that Ajayi complained of being sidelined by his boss which prompted him to dump APC and went to PDP, but when he lost PDP’s governorship ticket to Jegede, he moved to ZLP and it finally lost the election without winning a local government.
Now, his days at the Alagbaka Government House are numbered and Governor Akeredolu had said during his visit to Aso Rock Villa to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his support during Ondo governorship poll, that Ajayi should resign honourably and he if didn’t resign, his days are numbered.
But as a response to Governor Akeredolu’s statement, Agboola Ajayi said through his Media Adviser, Allen Sowore that, “I have been a politician right from my youth days, and I will continue to be a politician.
“This just concluded election is not a big deal, that victory was procured. But I will continue to provide good leadership for my people and show courage. I still remain in ZLP.”
The question on the lips of many is, will Agboola complete the tenure as a deputy governor of his boss turned foe with shame as Governor Akeredolu said, or will continue in order to position himself ahead of 2024 when the table of informal zoning arrangement will turn to Ondo South Senatorial District? Only time will tell.