Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The die is cast in the contest for the October 10 Ondo State governorship poll. In the forthcoming battle which is less than one month away, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Eyitayo Jegede will be confronting the state governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Rotimi Akeredolu and the deputy governor, Ajayi Agboola of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
But for the PDP, the October 10 contest, is not just about the Ondo governorship seat. It is about winning more grounds, especially in the South West, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Analysing the chances of the parties objectively, many believe the duel is more or less a straight fight between Jegede of the PDP and the state governor who is of APC. This would be the second time, the PDP candidate will be confronting Akeredolu in a governorship contest. Jegede had locked horns with the latter in the 2016 governorship contest in the state, with Akeredolu emerging victorious.
Despite having lost in the past to Akeredolu, in the run-up to the forthcoming poll, the PDP candidate is confident that he is going to defeat the governor in the contest this time. Jegede, who served a quit notice on the incumbent governor, at the flag off of the opposition party’s campaign in Akure, last Saturday, noted that there is no stopping the opposition party in the next poll.
The PDP candidate, while speaking at the flag-off of the party’s campaign, said: “Today, we serve notice on the APC government and by the grace of God, they will pack and leave the Government House for us.”
He added “By the grace of God, come 10th of October, 2020 we shall vote and we will win. Come 23rd of February, 2021, there will be a new face in Government House. The PDP flag will fly, economy will grow, there will be jobs for the youths, there will be industries, there will be agricultural development, school fees will come down. There will be joy for the people.”
The PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, says the opposition party is looking beyond the Ondo governorship poll. Secondus , at a recent party engagement, stated that the objective of the party is to recover all the states it hitherto controlled, which are now in the hands of the APC.
Therefore, analysts say Ondo State governorship poll, is more or less a litmus test for the opposition party in its quest to regain control of the South West in the 2023 general elections.
The party has never hidden it’s desire to regain control of the politics of the South West geo-political zone. The PDP had taken control of the politics of the states in the South West, with the exception of Lagos State, after the 2003 general elections but, since then, the opposition has been locked in a titanic battle with APC and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), for the soul of the South West.
The PDP buoyed by its success in the 2019 general elections in the Oyo, and the winning of a number of seats in the National Assembly in the zone, is no doubt aspiring for a total control of the South West, beginning with the Ondo governorship poll.
Former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, told our correspondent in a recent interview that the PDP is taking steps to resolve all issues that will militate against its success in the South West during the next general elections.
Babatope, who is a leader of the PDP in Osun State opines that the opposition party is better prepared than ever to win the South West, beginning from the Ondo governorship polls.
According to him, the emergence of Seyi Makinde as Oyo State governor has given the South West PDP a greater impetus in its quest to regain control of the region.
“Don’t forget that we have a good person who is leading the party right now. That is Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. He is level headed. He is an achiever. We are going to resolve the issues and march forward, because it is not just by words of mouth that we are saying that we want to win the South West. We are determined to ensure that we have victory in the South West. And we are going to have it,” the PDP leader stated.
Instructively, Makinde, who is the chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council for the Ondo governorship poll, will be leading the opposition party to battle in the October 10 political duel.
The Oyo governor, while speaking at the flag-off of the PDP campaign, in Akure, stated that there was no stopping the opposition party from winning the October 10 gubernatorial contest.
He accused the ruling APC of trying to lure the people of Ondo with a promise of Yoruba Presidency in 2023, arguing that the governorship poll is about voting for the PDP, so that Ondo will be in the league of the states championing the restructuring of the country.
“This election is about you choosing between continuous servitude and freedom. We want freedom for the entire South-West. It has started from Oyo State, it will continue in Ondo State on October 10. Will you rather stay with a candle when you have the sun? Ondo State is the sunshine state. They have been lighting candle for you, so it is time to let the sun shine again.
“They are saying you should vote for them because they want Presidency to come to Yoruba land. This election is not about Presidency to Yoruba land, This election is about delivering Eyitayo Jegede and putting Ondo State among the states that will lead the charge to restructure Nigeria”, he said.
Makinde, at the inauguration of the PDP National Campaign Council last month had stated that one of the responsibilities of the party was to go into the election with a united house.
He added that the party has intensified efforts to get all its members and leaders in Ondo State to work together before and after the polls. “I don’t have an atom of doubt that Ondo will soon come under the PDP,” the Oyo governor had stated.
Luckily for the PDP, unlike in the 2016 poll, it had a hitch-free gubernatorial primary. And Makinde, alongside other leaders of the party have been able to rally round the members and leaders of the opposition party in Ondo to unite behind the party’s governorship candidate.
Recall that in the last governorship poll, the opposition party had had parallel gubernatorial primaries, where Jegede and Jimoh Ibrahim emerged as candidates. However, the Supreme Court later affirmed the former as the authentic PDP candidate, few days to the governorship poll, by which time, it was impossible for Jegede to make impact in the election.
Analysts say the ability of the party to unite immediately after the primary is a plus for the opposition party in its quest to replace the APC as the ruling party in Ondo State.
Makinde said all the PDP needs to win the Ondo governorship poll is a level playing field by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and nothing more.
“We are not afraid of competition. We will highlight all the desirable features of our candidate. The election of October 10, is about choice between progress and stagnation; it is a choice between continued hardship and prosperity. The PDP is presenting the people of Ondo State the right choice. We are not asking INEC to favour us; we only ask that they do their work,” he posited.
Nevertheless, the PDP leader, warned the Ondo State government against using the state security outfit, Amotekun to muzzle the opposition during the governorship poll.
He said: “we want to warn that state security outfits are at experimental stages and any abuse will mean the end of it. The people of the South West desired Amotekun, to secure them, anything otherwise would be undermining the will of the people.”
Like Makinde, Secondus believes that once there is a level playing field and the security agencies remain impartial, the PDP would win the Ondo governorship poll.
Consequently, the PDP chairman challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure a level playing field polls, so that the votes of the people can count.
“This government can do this by ensuring that they respect the Constitution and the Electoral Act as well as the ruling of Supreme Court of Nigeria that says that security operatives particularly the military should not meddle in election matters outside providing adequate and equal security to all the parties within the requirements of the law.
“PDP therefore expects that in both Edo and Ondo states’ elections, the military should be kept out of it completely and Police and other security agencies who are supposed to be at election venues should be made to operate within the dictates of the law.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should refuse to be intimidated and strive to always carry out their duties strictly as set out by the law,” Secondus stated.