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Editorial: Ondo 2020 – Reject APC and PDP, Vote Ajayi




The venerated former United States House Speaker, Thomas “Tip” O’Neil is credited with musing that: “All politics is local.” As the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) grapples with the embarrassing defeat of its candidate in the Edo governorship elections of September 19, 2020, the band-wagon effect of that humiliating defeat will certainly reverberate on next Saturday’s gubernatorial elections in Ondo state, where the pendulum is expected to swing against the APC candidate, incumbent Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who is running against his own Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, of the Zenith Labor Party (ZLP) and Eyitayo Jegede, of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Akeredolu is urging voters to support the APC which controls power at the center; while Jegede insists the time for change has come and change cannot wait. Between these two polarizing opposites, Ajayi offers a viable third option: enlightened and visionary leadership, which is what the people of Ondo deserve. It will be a triumph of justice, equity and fairness, for voters to pick Ajayi as their next governor. Voting Ajayi will be a principled and unpresumptuous exemplar of the time-honored maxim that a man’s party is not better than his character or record in public service. With Ajayi, a new Ondo is possible.


Ajayi is a man of destiny and a reincarnation of history. His candidacy has drawn historical parallels to 1983 when then Ondo Deputy Governor, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, defeated his boss; the incumbent governor, late Chief Michael Ajasin who was seeking re-election. It was a political earthquake and one for the record books. With the election just a few days away, Akeredolu has obnoxiously reduced the stakes to the trivial absurdity of “joining the winning party”. Without mincing words, voting Akeredolu simply because he belongs to the “ruling party” will be a great disservice to Ondo and Nigerian democracy. In any event, Ondo people are also distraught by the vicissitudes of PDP’s rudderlessness, and parochialism evidence in the party’s failure to build consensus around Ajayi, who decamped from the APC in the build up to the primaries. Out of self-serving political ambition, Jegede refused to pick Ajayi as his running mate; a pennywise and pound foolish decision which might ultimately cost the PDP dearly, now that Ajayi has emerged as a third force with the capacity to play spoiler in the election.


If the PDP had any sense of political maturity and clairvoyance, the party would have fielded the formidable dream team of an Ajayi-Jegede ticket which would have been difficult to beat because this would have been a pan-Ondo ticket. Until Ajayi entered the race after his shabby treatment by the PDP, many had anticipated a rematch between Akeredolu who is from Ondo North against Jegede, who hails from Ondo Central. Ajayi is from Ondo South which has produced a governor only once in 2007; but the late Dr. Olusegun Agagu was sacked by the courts and replaced by Mimiko after almost three years in office. The north district has ruled Ondo for 12 years from the time of late Chief Ajasin, late Chief Adebayo Adefarati and Akeredolu. Ondo central produced the immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who served eight years as a two- term governor. Based on political rotation, it stands to reason that the next governor should come from Ondo south.


He who comes to equity, it has been said; must do so with clean hands. The standing view in Akure is that power should rotate to Ondo south to checkmate the growing feeling of marginalization and disenchantment from the region which is the bread basket of Ondo state. For starters, most of the economic potentials of the state are in the south, where there are oil wells that qualify Ondo to be part of Niger Delta region. But Ondo south is the most under-developed region of the state with over 5000 communities living without potable water and electricity. Jegede faces very strong headwinds in Ondo south and before Ajayi joined the race under the ZLP banner, the people of Ondo south which is the strongest bastion of the PDP in Ondo had resolved to vote APC in protest against the PDP for failing to zone the governorship ticket to the south.


But Ajayi’s emergence as ZLP flagbearer triggered an alignment and realignment of political forces as many staunch APC and PDP supporters, especially from the South, moved to the third force camp. The ZLP candidate, who is still part of the APC-led government as Deputy Governor, is leveraging on the weaknesses inherent in both PDP and APC to forge a way for his governorship ambition. Backed by the ZLP national leader and immediate past Ondo governor, Mimiko, the combination of the “Iroko” as Mimiko is fondly known and Ajayi is a nightmare for both PDP and APC as they are renowned for their grassroots mobilization prowess. Ajayi’s running mate, Gboye Adegbenro, a Mimiko political protégé and former Commissioner for Works is from Ondo central; further dissipating PDP’s chances in the central district, where Mimiko wields considerable political clout. The Iroko has built a coalition of the willing behind Ajayi’s candidacy.


As Akeredolu fights for his political survival, it is trite to say the hapless Ondo people are disappointed by a governor to whom much was given; and from whom much was expected. Akeredolu has all but lost interest and is rather more interested in the ceremonial aspects of his job. He has understandably come under fire for his needless display of ostentation and conspicuous consumption in the face of the raging poverty in Ondo state. Specifically, within the last two years, Akeredolu has celebrated the weddings of his children broad, in Canada, USA and Mauritius, without any sense of respect to the Ondo people who continue to languish in poverty.


The jury is not yet out whether Akeredolu and his cabinet and close friends and family members attended these weddings abroad at their own expense. But few would argue that organizing the weddings of his children in Akure or Owo or any other town would certainly have boosted the economy of that environment. Imagine the value-chain those weddings would add to the local economy of whichever town hosted the wedding. Why take the local wealth to expend in foreign lands? Is this a judicious way of spending money instead of holding the events here in Nigeria?


Rather, it is insensitive to the point of bad taste and even provocative that a man like Akeredolu who is elected to serve and improve the lot of Nigerians in Ondo would not see the impropriety in flaunting wealth to the face of the suffering masses. This is even more pathetic as his government owes billions to Ondo pensioners. High public office demands moral leadership. Indeed, the most effective leaders are those who lead by example with moral authority. When the governor of a not-so-rich state as Ondo displays affluence and disdain for his own people, it is his moral leadership that is impugned. And the generally well-educated, perspicacious, bold and great people of Ondo have a history of not condoning betrayal of public trust. Akeredolu is one governor the people of Ondo should never have had and the signs herald the end to a career politician, who has lived on the system instead of living for it. There is a time for everything; and Akeredolu’s time is up!

Jegede’s dignified composure and sagely attention to cultivate the disposition of statesmanship and maintain an eloquent taciturnity of servant-leadership, was, no doubt crucial in helping him win the PDP primaries but he lost a golden opportunity to unite the party by refusing to pick Ajayi as his running mate. This was a great blunder and error of judgment that speaks to a lack of political sophistication by Jegede who symbolizes the self-centered political class, deficient in ideology, bereft of pragmatism and mindlessly driven by convenience rather than conviction.

All things considered, Ajayi is an embodiment of humility and decency; unencumbered by primitive accumulation and conspicuous consumption. He neither schemed, nor sought power for its sake. One of the lessons from his life is that, the real leader is one who is neither vengeful nor intimidating, but one whose altitude is determined by his attitude; one who has been elected by destiny to take responsibility for Ondo people. Given his antecedents and pedigree, it is obvious to all and sundry that Ajayi is the clear choice. In range of vision and depth of conception, he towers above Akeredolu and Jegede and he is endowed with the gift of steady application; someone who will control events, not drift with the tide. Ajayi is highly cerebral, clear-headed with clear conscience and radiate sound knowledge of the problems facing Ondo State. Above all, the people of Ondo should be interested in the content of his character and its application to service not in his party. The people of Ondo have a manifest rendezvous with destiny next Saturday; the choice is clear: vote Agboola Ajayi for Governor! Anything else will give Ondo democracy a bad name.




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