Who succeeds Dr. Olusegun Mimiko as the governor of Ondo State? This question would be laid to rest tomorrow when voters go to the poll. In this analysis, THE NATION writes on the interests that will determine where the pendulum will swing.
The die is cast. Twenty-eight political parties will tomorrow slug it out in the 18 local government areas of Ondo State to elect Governor Olusegun Mimiko's successor for the next four years.
Three of the 28 parties – Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Progressives Party (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – are leading contenders in the governorship election expected to be a tough contest.
Interestingly, the three senatorial districts in the Sunshine State have tickets of the leading parties and the three flag bearers are lawyers. The AD candidate, Olusola Oke is from the South; Rotimi Akedolu (SAN) is from the North and Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) hails from the Central.
Of the trio, only Jegede will be going to the poll tomorrow as a new comer. Oke and Akeredolu are returning candidates. They took shots at the Alagbaka Government House in 2012 as candidates of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and PDP respectively.
Observers say tomorrow's election would not be an easy win for any of the candidates. According to them, the incumbency factor in the state would be of no consequence to the PDP candidate. The federal might will also be inconsequential to the APC flag bearer, who won in just three out of the 18 council areas in the last governorship election.
Unlike during the 2012 election when the PVCs were not deployed, tomorrow's poll will be difficult to rig as only voters with the PVCs would be accredited electronically. So, parties who think they could manipulate the system through multiple balloting will be disappointed.
In the Central Senatorial District, the base of incumbent Governor Mimiko and his anointed candidate, Jegede, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has distributed 527, 199 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) across the five local government areas in the zone. The councils are Akure North, Akure South, Idanre, Ifedore, Ondo East, Ondo West and Ile Oluji/Okeigbo.
The zone which is the largest in the state, has the highest vote and it is Jegede's political base. Mimiko, who contested on the Labour Party platform in 2012 has his political future tied to tomorrow's election. The former PDP candidate, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim accused the incumbent of fighting for a third time on the Jegede ticket. He accused Mimiko of plotting to succeed himself.
But, political analysts said that Mimiko threw his hat into the ring for Jegede to preserve the legacies of his two-term tenure in the state. However, some analysts said the battle would not be a walkover for Jegede since his political godfather is not the one on the ballot.
"He should be ready for battle even in the Central Senatorial Zone. To rely on votes from the district to win the election may be a miscalculation. He should make inroads to the North and South senatorial districts", one of the analysts said.
Although, Jegede's running mate, Ola Mafo hails from the South Senatorial District, voters in the district would prefer Oke.
A total of 404, 330 PVCs have been distributed in the South Senatorial District, Oke's political base. Being the most experienced of the three leading candidates, he is expected to consolidate his hold in the zone. His choice of Ganny Dauda, from Akoko in the North Senatorial District, as his running mate has been described as an added advantage. Besides, the fact that who is who in Akoko politics have not been supporting the APC candidate following the controversial shadow poll that produced him would help the AD flag bearer in the North. APC chieftains, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Olusegun Abraham and Mimiko's former deputy, Alhaji Ali Olanusi were not supportive of Akeredolu's ambition for the period the electioneering campaigns lasted.
It is believed that supporters of the chieftains would be more comfortable to cast their ballot for the AD in protest of the controversial primary and the attitude of the APC leadership to their grievances.
But, analyst have warned Oke against relying on experience but to take the battle to the PDP in its Central stronghold and take advantage of the discordant tunes in the camp of the APC in Akeredolu's political base in the North.
The North Senatorial District is Akeredolu's base. A total of 350, 050 PVCs have been distributed in the sisix local government areas in the zone. The councils are: Akoko North, Akoko Northeast, Akoko Southwest, Owo and Ose. In 2012 when Akeredolu contested on the ACN platform, he won only in Owo and Akoko Southwest, losing the other four local governments to Mimiko's Labour Party. The other local government he won was Odigbo. The Ose council which he lost in 2012 has been declared a battleground for the three leading parties. But Ose is believed to be leaning towards the AD. The votes of Owo, being the hometown of the APC flag bearer, will be won by Akeredolu. He would have to do extra work to retain the Akoko Southwest as he was said to have won the council during the last election because of the influence of Senator Boroffice.
Observers say that the turnout of voters in tomorrow' election might be lower than in 2012 because only voters with PVCs would be allowed to participate.
They recalled that only Ondo West and Okitipupa in the Central and South senatorial zones recorded 50 per cent PVCs' distribution. Going by the distribution, of the 181 registered voters in Akure South, only 74,337 have collected the PVCs; in Akure North, 21,447 out of the 47, 031 registered voters have collected PVCs; 55,174 collected in Ondo West's 111,857 registered voters; 15, 087 collected PVC's out of the 32, 074 registered voters in Ondo East and 41,487 out of the 79,466 registered voters in Okitipupa have collected the PVCs.