New Telegraph

Ondo Guber: Aiyedatiwa’s Choice Of Running Mate Alters Political Calculation

Pseudo candidates and running mates are giving way for authentic candidates that would fly the flags of their respective political parties in the November 16, governorship election in Ondo State. Babatope Okeowo reports the issues surrounding choice of running mates in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)

Ahead of the November 16 governorship election in Ondo State, the various political parties have picked their candidates. However, the choice of running mate of Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa has altered the zoning arrangement in the Sunshine State.

The APC candidate and governor of Ondo State, Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa has picked the deputy governor, Dr Olayide Adelami, as his running mate contrary to the existing arrangement in the state that a zone to produce the governor after the incumbent should produce the running mate.

Adelami, an indigene of Owo, a local government in Ondo North senatorial district, was picked to complete the tenure of his kinsman, late Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who died before the end of his tenure.

Trajectory of deputy governor

Since the beginning of the present democratic experience in 1999, the arrangement in Ondo state had been that the zone which is next to produce a governor after the incumbent governor will produce the deputy. In 1999, Chief Adebayo Adefarati was the governor, while Afolabi Iyantan was the deputy.

Adefarati was from Ondo North, while Iyantan, his deputy was from Ondo South senatorial district. After the tenure of Adefarati, his successor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, from Ondo South took over from him. Interestingly, both Agagu and Iyantan were from the same Okitipupa Local Government Area in the southern senatorial district of the state. Similarly, Agagu’s deputy, Otunba Omolade Oluwareru hailed from Akure South in Ondo Central senatorial district.

Their tenure ended when Dr. Olusegun Mimiko from Ondo town in the same Central senatorial took over after a protracted legal battle. Mimiko, picked his deputy, Alhaji Ali Olanusi from the North Senatorial district. Another deputy governor, Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo, from the same North Senatorial district, took over from Olanusi, when he was impeached. Governor Akeredolu, who maintained this tradition, picked his running mates in the two elections – Hon. Alfred Agboola Ajayi and Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa from Ondo South.

Akeredolu said it repeatedly that the next zone to produce a governor after him should be the South. The rotation arrangement in the state explains why a majority of the aspirants of the major political parties for the 2024 poll came from the South. Out of 16 governorship aspirants in the APC, only two were from outside Ondo South whose turn it is to produce the next governor. None of the aspirants from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was from outside the South Senatorial district.

The political tradition that the running mates of the candidates should come from the next zone to produce the governor after the incumbent made many chieftains of the APC from Ondo Central Senatorial district to lobby to be the running mate of Governor Aiyedatiwa.

Among those who showed interest in the position of running mate and likely deputy governor included Kehinde Fasoranti, son of Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti; a former minister, Prince Ademola Adegoroye; Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Hon. Tayo Oluwatuyi, Dr Olumuyiwa Adu, Hon Omowumi Owovoriole and Engr Rasaq Obe (the state commissioner for Energy).

Likely placeholders/candidates

The choice of Adelami from Ondo North Senatorial district has made many people see the deputy governor as a placeholder pending the agreement on the actual running mate to Governor Aiyedatiwa.

It must be noted that the governorship candidate of PDP, Hon Alfred Agboola Ajayi chose his personal assistant, Mr. Samuel Ogunmusi, as his running mate, according to the list pasted by the Independent

The political equation in Ondo State APC with the governor from the south, deputy governor from the north and Speaker from the central, is strong enough structure to win the election

National Electoral Commission (INEC). Ogunmusi has since relinquished the position for Hon Festus Akingbaso, the House of Representative member representing Idanre/Ifedore federal constituency. INEC had published the names as well as the particulars of 16 candidates and their running mates that may likely contest the governorship election in Ondo State on November 16.

The list, Form EC9, which was pasted at the state headquarters of the electoral body as well as the 18 local council offices of the commission, has the personal details and academic credentials of candidates and their running mates. This development indicates that the 16 political parties met the May 20 deadline for the submission of candidates’ lists by the participating political parties. However, some of the political parties used placeholders as candidates or running mates.

For instance, the PDP candidate, Ajayi, submitted the name of his personal assistant, Mr Samuel Ogunmusi as his running mate. Both Ajayi and Ogunmusi are from the same Ilaje/Ese-Odo federal constituency, while Aiyedatiwa submitted the name of his deputy, Dr. Olayide Adelami as his running mate, contrary to the precedence of choosing running mates in the state.

Some of the candidates submitted by 16 political parties are also placeholders waiting for the aggrieved aspirants of the major political parties to approach them for the ticket of the party ahead of the election. Aside Aiyedatiwa and Ajayi, who emerged through competitive primaries, other candidates and their running mates published by INEC include Abbas Mimiko/Morgan Fadoju (Zenith Labour Party –ZLP), Festus Olorunfemi/ Olubukola Adu (Labour Party – LP), Otitoloju Akinmurele/ Ayodele Obe (Young Progressives Party – YPP), and Olusegun Oyebolu/Gift Dada (Social Democratic Party – SDP). Others are Omolere Akinuli/Adetunji Adeyemi (Action Alliance – AA), Ajibola Abraham/ Samuel Ikuyajolu (Accord – A), Adeyemi Nejo/Rasheed Ibrahim (African Democratic Congress – ADC) and Oluwatosin Ayeni/Abigail Omoyugbo (New Nigeria Peoples Party – NNPP) and Babatunde Alli/Olusegun Famesa (Peoples Redemption Party – PRP). The rest are Adekunle Ajayi/Victor Lijofi (African Action Congress – AAC), Isaac Ogunfeyimi/Folorunso Afolabi (Allied Peoples Movement – APM), Babatunde Fadoju,/Abimbola Ajaguna, Olatunji Popoola/Taiwo Adedeji (All Progressives Grand Alliance – APGA) and Kehinde Paul/Otitoleke Olupitan (Booth Party – BP).

The electoral body said the participating political parties have until June 18 to make any substitutions for their candidates if necessary. According to INEC, the deadline is crucial as it allows for proper finalisation of the list of candidates that will appear on the ballot during the election. Following the publication of the list, INEC revealed that campaign activities for the November gubernatorial election would kick off on June 19.

The candidate of NNPP, Oluwatosin Ayeni and his running mate, Abigail Omoyugbo, have since resigned from the race and gave Hon Olugbenga Edema and Mr Adeyemi as the authentic candidate and running mate for the party. Other pseudo candidates have up to June 18 to replace the candidates of the parties.

Discordant tunes over Aiyedatiwa’s running mate

Many political analysts, who reviewed Aiyedatiwa’s choice of running mate, disagreed with the notion that a man with the pedigree of Adelami, who is a one-time governorship aspirant of the APC, can be used as a placeholder. They said it would be difficult for anybody to ask the deputy governor to write a resignation letter to INEC to withdraw his candidature.

According to them any attempt to force him out of the race may spell doom for the party. Expressing his disappointment with the choice of Adelami, one of Aiyedatiwa’s campaigners on the platform of ‘Masses for Aiyedatiwa’ Dr Olanrewaju Akeredolu, said: “The recent political scenario in Ondo State has taken another turn. The governorship primaries of the various political parties have come and gone, and INEC has also released the list of the various candidates and their running mates.

“There is no doubt that the son of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, Kehinde Fasoranti had earlier shown interest. I took up the challenge and advocated for the family to be remembered in my little way. No reasonable individual can question my sincere intention about the state and utmost passion for fairness.

“It was clear that all my struggles for justice and fairness were devoid of personal gain, reward, or inducement if anyone does not believe that I am sure that Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa is a living witness that during the darkest hours of his political career, I put my life in the line to preserve his seat without knowing him me or asking for an appointment in compensation even till today.

“The elderly man, Pa Reuben Fasoranti was in his house, along Fiwasaye Girls High School, Akure, when some of us called on him for intervention in the impeachment saga and threatened the current governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, then a deputy governor. The elderly man indeed invited some of us into a meeting, listened to our agitation, and called on the presidency for help and the cabals were dismantled.

“Before this period, his son, who had earlier contested for House of Assembly in 2019 showed interest in the deputy governorship that should automatically come to Akure or Ondo central senatorial district in APC. I felt it would be a golden opportunity for the society and Ondo State to appreciate the selfless nature of this man, I mean Pa Reuben Fasoranti who had never betrayed the course of the Yoruba race at any time.

“He had been serving in various capacities, and when it was the turn of the people to serve him, he rejected the governorship slot given to him by the Alliance for Democracy in 1998. The most painful thing is that anytime there is a problem, the first person they think of is Pa Reuben Fasoranti. The current President of Nigeria, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, when he had a problem with the President, Muhammad Buhari between 2016 and 2019, came to Akure, had a meeting with this elderly man in a plan to leave APC for Buhari and his cabals.

“In the same vein, Tinubu came twice to visit him for prayers before the presidential primary and general election of 2023. It is an open secret how this 98-year-old man was dragged to Abuja to ensure the current governor has his ticket. Also, he has been trying to intervene in the current court case by calling for a meeting with Senator Jimoh Ibrahim.

If the man could not be honored with an ordinary deputy governorship slot, then why must the aged man be disturbed with affairs of the state or the nation at large? “I think the man deserves some rest at this stage, let the current political gladiators find another means of settling their issues. The man is contented and served the nation with the fear of God which might explain why the terrible and dreaded Gen Buhari/General Tunde Idiagbon regime couldn’t do anything to him despite being the commissioner for finance for four years under Pa Adekunle Ajasin as the governor.

“If I were any of his sons, I think these ingrate politicians should find another way of finding solutions to their problems, not through this man again, they should allow him to live his remaining days in peace, it is obvious they don’t love him but capitalizing on his good name and influence to have their ways.” Justifying the choice of Adelami as running mate, Seye Adeoye said it was the makebelieve tradition and unconstitutional act that creates a link between where the governor and his deputy would emerge.

He said this has generated a crisis between the governor and the deputy who eventually preoccupied himself with how to succeed his boss at the expiration of their tenure, thus instigating undue rivalry and reducing governance to lower ebb. Adeoye said: “In the current dispensation, individuals with self-serving agenda desperate in their bids hired the services of media experts to sing a loud tune on why the Deputy Governor should come to the central senatorial district since the Governor is from the south.

“Against their wishes, and in alignment with his political sagacity, Governor Ayedatiwa, possibly drawing experience from history, knowing the implications of such an unholy agenda in the past, chose to stick to his diligent and loyal deputy, Dr. Adelami, an astute technocrat, who to date has proven that he can be in the saddle with Mr. Governor, without rocking the boat.

“To me, this is the best decision ever, by the governor as this would at least in the next four years, put to rest, the unbridled rivalry that the choice of a Deputy Governor from the central senatorial district, would have generated. As it is, those with veiled interest from the central, seeking to use the deputy governorship position to launch their governorship ambition later, would have to tarry. “All thanks to God and the political sagacity of Governor Aiyedatiwa.

The political equation in Ondo State APC with the governor from the south, deputy governor from the north and speaker from the central, is strong enough structure to win the election at any time and any day. Safe for any selfish and primordial interests, all party faithful should set machinery in motion towards harvesting the much needed victory come November, this year.”

Postscript

It must be noted that since Ondo was created in 1976, no governor in the Sunshine State has been able to produce his successor.

As much as Mimiko, the only governor that has spent eight years uninterrupted in office tried to produce Bashorun Eyitayo Jegede as his successor, he failed because he chose a candidate from the wrong zone of the state.

So, whether or not choosing a running mate from the wrong zone will spell doom for the ruling APC would be determined on November 16.

 

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