By Eric Elezuo
As eligible voters of Ondo State extraction troop out in their numbers to cast their votes today, it is either a new governor is elected or the incumbent retains his seat.
Following the defeat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the September 19 Edo State election by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), fears have pervaded the camp of the ruling, while courage seem to surge into the camp of the opposition party as they believe that anything can happen.
The build up to the election itself has been anything but cordial as tantrums were thrown from one end to another, fostering uncertainty even as the day finally arrives.
One can confidently say there’s no love lost between the candidate of the APC, Rotimi Akeredolu and his estranged deputy, Agboola Ajayi, who is now comfortably pitching tent with and flying the flag of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). Both candidates have continually been on each other’s neck, and from some of the utterances of Akeredolu, the enmity created may extend beyond the elections, but one never knows with politics and politicians.
The candidate of the PDP, Eyitayo Jegede, may just cash in on the brouhaha between the governor and his deputy to spring a surprise.
There are others however in the race as well, but their clout is far from seeing them beyond their respective polling units.
Below is the description of the three major candidates and their chances as presented by Premium Times.
Rotimi Akeredolu – APC
The incumbent governor is seeking re-election under the banner of the APC. He had earlier served the state as attorney-general and was also a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Mr Akeredolu hailed from Owo in Ondo North Senatorial District where he had his primary education. He attended Aquinas College in Akure, Loyola College in Ibadan, and the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he took his law degree.
Mr Akeredolu first ran for governor in 2012 as the flagbearer of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the parties that fused into the APC in 2014.
He ran at that time against the then Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party (LP), and Olusola Oke of the PDP.
Mr Akeredolu finished as second runners-up with 143,512 votes behind Mr Oke who polled 155,961 votes and Mr Mimiko who won with 260,199 votes.
In 2016, Mr Akeredolu ran again under the APC and won.
He earlier had issues with many of his party’s leaders, including those in a faction – Unity Forum – headed by a former deputy governor, Ali Olanusi, believed to have been formed to thwart Mr Akeredolu’s reelection ambition.
Mr Akeredolu and his deputy also had issues which led to the exit of Agboola Ajayi from APC.
Agboola Ajayi – ZLP
Agboola Ajayi is a popular grassroots politician who has been in the game since the 80s under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), PDP and APC.
The lawyer and businessman was the chairman of Ese-Odo Local Government Area between 2004 and 2007.
He was later elected to the House of Representatives to represent Ilaje/Ese-Odo federal constituency under the PDP.
At the green chamber, Mr Ajayi was chairman of the house committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) between 2007 and 2010.
He also served as a member of many other committees, including gas, habitat, justice and industry between 2007 and 2011.
The Ese-Odo born politician in Ondo South dumped PDP for APC to run as the runningmate to Mr Akeredolu in the November 26, 2016 governorship election which they won.
But they fought in the buildup to the 2020 election, following which Mr Ajayi joined the PDP. But he left the PDP a month after following his defeat in the party’s governorship primary. He switched camp to the ZLP with the support of former governor Olusegun Mimiko. He also survived attempts by the state’s lawmakers to impeach him after his defection from the APC.
Eyitayo Jegede – PDP
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria hails from Akure, the capital of the state, in Ondo Central senatorial district.
He was the Chancellor of Anglican Communion of Jalingo, Taraba State. Mr Jegede is also a former Chancellor of Anglican Dioceses of Yola and a member of the Implementation Committee of the American University, Yola, Adamawa State, as well as a member, Chairman Board of Governors, ABTI Academy International School and member, Board of Trustees, Elizade University, Ilara Mokin, Ondo State.
In May 2009, Mr Mimiko appointed him as the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Ondo State.
There were disputes around his candidacy in 2016 but the court resolved them in his favour a few days to the election, which he lost to Mr Akeredolu of the APC.
Mr Jegede is one of the most popular candidates and has vowed to defeat other contestants.