The All Progressives Congress (APC) has an upper hand in the permutations for the next general elections in Ondo State. But, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) cannot yet be written off because the calculations may change with time. Correspondent OSAGIE OTABOR examines the state of the two major parties in the state
The outcome of the 2019 general elections in Ondo State was shocking to many political gladiators. No political party could sweep the entire polls. The people voted for candidates in their respective zones and not for political parties, which resulted in smaller political parties securing electoral victory in some areas.
It was a surprise win for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency; and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) won the Ondo East/Ondo West. The major opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) won four seats in the House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate, while in the House of Assembly election. The Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) also won one seat, while the PDP won two.
However, in last year’s governorship election, three political parties, the APC, the PDP and the ZLP showed strength ahead of the polls, but the APC won the election with a landslide. Its margin of defeat surpassed votes secured both by the PDP and the ZLP. The victory of the APC was made possible, according to analysts, by the unity of purpose displayed by the bigwigs in the party and its ability to get the support of some factions in parties like the ZLP, the SDP, the African Democratic Party (ADP) and the PDP.
The ZLP, which touted itself as the “third force” crashed after it secured a little over 60,000 votes. Its candidate and Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi, could not win in any of the 18 local government areas. There are talks that some chieftains of the ZLP would jump ship to either the PDP or the APC as 2023 approaches.
Other political parties like the SDP and ADP could not take a common ground in the October 10 governorship election. Crisis crept into the ranks of the SDP that the party leaders were split between endorsing Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Eyitayo Jegede. Its governorship candidate, Prince Oyeleye Fasua and lawmaker in the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Adefisoye declared their support for Akeredolu, while the Acting Chairman, Dele Thomas endorsed Jegede.
In November last year, Adefisoye formally defected to the ruling APC; a development which deprived Ondo SDP its only elected representative.
The weakened structure of parties like the ZLP, the SDP and the ADP has made Ondo a battleground for the APC and the PDP in 2023.
The APC assumed power in Ondo State in 2016. It consolidated its hold on power in last year’s governorship election by securing a landslide victory even though the PDP has filed a petition at the tribunal. All stakeholders in the party worked unison and dropped their personal differences to ensure victory for Governor Akeredolu.
Indications are that the APC has taken some steps to avoid a repeat of what happened in the 2019 general elections. Part of the steps is for Governor Akeredolu to ensure all stakeholders are part of his administration in the second term, unlike in the first term when only “Team Aketi” was accused of hijacking the administration.
There are however concerns by some leaders that the party would be divided over who to support for the party’s presidential ticket. It is not clear yet whether the Ondo APC would support a Southwest presidential aspirant or toe the line of the so-called “Abuja boys”.
Its Chairman, Ade Adetimehin said the APC has never lost any election since the 2019 general elections and would not lose any future elections in the state.
His words: “When you talk about Ondo, it is a progressives’ state. The APC is the only progressive party in Ondo State. The best materials in terms of capacity (politicians) are in the APC. People that have a record, who have performed extremely well in their chosen career, who have been tested, who have vision and mission for the problems of the state are in the APC. When you look at all these, you will see that our chances of APC sustainability of the state are high. We are presently trying to maintain the cordial relationship among party members. Ability to sustain the tempo of peace is what we are asking God to give to us. The moment we can maintain the cohesion among the rank and file of Ondo APC, the party will continue to lead the state. The performance of the APC in the state in the last four years has beaten all other administrations in the state. We are up to date in salary payment.
“Since 2019, we have not lost any election in Ondo State. We need to maintain cohesiveness within the party. Some of the problems then were caused by the national leadership of the party. Politics is from the bottom to the top. What we were doing in the state was at variance with what they were doing in Abuja. The moment you hold the party from the units and wards, there will no crisis.
“When the presidential candidate emerged the whole thing will be settled. That is the essence of the revalidation of members we are about to start. The process of electing a flag bearer will not cause rancour within our leaders. Many of the things are media hype. We trust our leaders. We will not have any differences. We have the ability to resolve our differences, the anxiety people are having about the APC is media hype.”
Ondo APC spokesman, Alex Kalejaye said there would not be a repeat of what happened in the 2019 general elections. He said: “As at that time, the party was divided but in 2020 we were able to work together and put our differences behind us for the common good of the state chapter. There will not be a distraction ahead of 2023.
“During the primary of 2020 we emphasised the point that it is when your party wins that you can realise your ambition. We all decide our party will remain in power. People have realised that you do not gain anything from point zero. We have resolved that the interest of the party will come first, we are bringing up a crisis management mechanism so that we can tackle issues before it becomes a major crisis.”
Leaders of the Ondo State PDP are not on the same page in terms of Southwest leadership of the party. The State Executive led by Comrade Fatai Adams recognises Governor Seyi Makinde as the Southwest leader, but some chieftains are loyal to the leadership of former Governor Ayodele Fayose. The upcoming Southwest zonal congress of the PDP has further polarised the party as those loyal to Fayose have nominated their expected zonal leaders from the state.
Despite the internal wrangling, the party still has high hope of securing victory at the tribunal in the petition filed by Jegede.
Its Spokesman, Kennedy Peretei said the 2023 political permutation would be determined by the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on the petition against Akeredolu’s election.
He said there was no crisis in the Ondo PDP. His words: “The process of challenging Akeredolu’s election is still ongoing. Until the Supreme Court gives a verdict, Akeredolu can not say he has won that election. Ondo State is insulated from the Southwest leadership tussle. Some people are trying to create the impression that Ondo PDP is divided. Ondo PDP is not divided because the congress that brought in the present crop of leadership is not contested. The congress went well and everybody was happy.
“Ondo State is not affected by seeming division in the Southwest leadership. It is linked to the upcoming Southwest zonal congress. After the congress, there will be alignment. We do not know about any crisis. If somebody is suspended, it does not mean there will be a crisis.
“It is understandable that the outcome of the last governorship might affect the outcome of the 2023 general elections. The outcome of the court case at the tribunal will determine that. If the court declares the PDP winner, the political calculation in the state will change. We are in high spirit and we have no cause to fear any challenges.”
A political analysts and lawyer, Tope Temokun said it would be difficult to predict how political parties would fare in the state because ‘performance of political parties or their governments in power has never been the determining factor for their electoral performance in a country with a highly monetised electoral system. In fact, nowadays, political parties and their governments in power prefer to steal enough money for keep and leave the populace hungry for the purpose of stocking money up to buy votes than carrying out any welfare programme or embarking on any infrastructural projects that benefit the people.”
Temokun said he is not certain whether any political party could spring surprises in 2023 in the state. He said: “I am not certain because there is this very retrogressive political culture that just evolved now, and that for smaller political parties to struggle to produce candidates in an election, not to build the party to a formidable force or to aspire to win power for the purpose of running the government but for the purpose of negotiating with bigger political parties with apparently brighter chances and trading of their party structure for monetary gain.
“In the past, the culture of political alliances was part of our political history. Political parties with defined party ideology and manifesto might form an alliance with parties of bigger structure and such alliance would be on the basis of their party programmes and principles. But such was that era.
“In this era where parties no longer have manifestoes or party philosophy, alliances are hung on monetary bargaining and the highest bidder carries the day. So, the chances that any third force with formidable structure would pose a threat to any of the big parties or displace any of the big parties are very slim. All the parties are sharks looking for fish to eat and the bigger sharks do eat the smaller ones.”
On the role of the civil society ahead of 2023, Temokun said it was the only platform that holds out some ray of hope for the people.
“Unfortunately, again, the ruling class knows their way around civil society organisations. They use the instrumentality of the state apparatus to intimidate and liquidate the radical uncompromising forces and use money to mop up the rest.
“But there is no short cut than for the civil society to continue to mobilize the people for action against bad policies of the government in power, sensitization of the people to the evils of the monetisation of our electoral system, unifying the youth using their common weakness and adversity, which is lack of jobs, as strength of unity in the struggle for a better society. With a vibrant, virile and viable civil society championing civil resistance to bad government, only from such black pot can a white pap of a new movement spring up to overthrow this decadent and bankrupt APC led government.”