By Gbenga Akinmoyo

Today the term Your Excellency is used for a wide variety of personalities both on political pavements and along the prestigious corridors of governance such that many ordinary people become very confused when the term is applied in conversation. However, let me be very clear from the outset precisely whom I am referring to in this analysis as “Your Excellency”. My attention is focused on the seat of the second citizen of Ondo State, His Excellency the Deputy Governor.
Our former governor, Late Arakurin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN successfully ran for election as Governor in November 2016 and October 2020 and on each occasion chose as his running mates; Hon Ajayi Agboola and Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa respectively, both of whom were subsequently sworn-in as Deputy Governors in February 2017 and February 2021 respectively, following successful election victories. In November 2024, both of these men will now face each other in the governorship tussle to produce the next chief executive of the Ondo State government who will saddle and pilot the political vehicle for the next four years, from February 2025 through to 2029.
Whilst not being a gambling man, I believe it is relatively safe to predict that when you toss a fair coin there are only two predictable outcomes, either you draw heads or you draw tails and since the two major contenders in the forthcoming November 2024 contest are both former Deputy Governors, then our next governor in Ondo State would have previously held the office in capacity as Deputy Governor. Note that it has happened before in Ondo State when a former Deputy Governor was elected as Governor where late Dr Olusegun Agagu won in 2003.
This is by no means a slight on the other political gladiators who have gallantly fought and won primaries in their respective political parties and will be on the ballot paper representing each of the other 15 political parties, but for a long time now, the gubernatorial contest in Ondo State has been a two-horse race, with the second runner-up usually finishing a distant third; so we can conservatively narrow down the contest to a dual between the All Peoples Congress (APC) represented by Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) represented by Hon Ajayi Agboola.
For those who may doubt this predictive assertion, I do not intend to burst your bubble or dampen your spirit, but I advise you to be reminded of the following historical outcomes of the governorship elections in Ondo State since 1999, which form the premise of the conclusions, wherein:
In 1999, Adebayo Adefarati (AD) won with 328,053 votes defeating (PDP) with 195,682 votes out of a total of 544,299 valid votes cast.
In 2003, Olusegun Agagu (PDP) won with 655,968 votes defeating Adebayo Adefarati (AD) with 233,900 votes and 3 other contestants out of a total of 889,868 valid votes cast.
In 2007, it was declared that Olusegun Agagu (PDP) won with 349,258 votes defeating Olusegun Mimiko (LP) with 226,051, but this was later upturned at the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin in February 2009.
In 2012, Olusegun Mimiko (LP) won with 260,199 votes defeating Olusola Oke (PDP) with 155,961 votes and 11 other contestants out of a total of 594,243 valid votes cast.
In 2016, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (APC) won with 224,842 votes defeating Eyitayo Olayinka Jegede (PDP) with 150,380 votes and 26 other contestants out of a total of 551,272 valid votes cast.
In 2020, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (APC) won with 292,830 votes defeating Eyitayo Olayinka Jegede (PDP) with 195,791 votes and 15 other contestants out of a total of 572,745 valid votes cast.
So which of these two Excellencies is in poll position to clinch the day in November 2024?
Sacked by Governor Akeredolu as his Deputy during the first term, Agboola refused to resign from office, but he eventually left the APC to contest the PDP primaries in July 2020, which he lost to Eyitayo Jegede SAN. Determined to achieve his ambition Agboola contested the 2020 Ondo Governorship elections on another platform the Zenith Labour Party, but eventually finished a distant third. He later returned to the PDP to re-strategize and get his project back on track. In contrast, Aiyedatiwa served alongside his boss Governor Akeredolu through the good and the bad times of ill health and even survived impeachment threats in September 2023, only to become the direct beneficiary of Akeredolu’s transition to glory in December 2023, after two controversial stints as Acting Governor. Apart from both men previously occupying the seat as Deputy Governor to Akeredolu, they probably share very few personality and character traits.
Well, unlike the statistical predictions about the toss of a coin, the answer to the question is more difficult in the field of politics and elections, particularly in the Nigerian terrain because so many intrigues, altruistic factors and unconventional permutations tend to come into play often unannounced. A cocktail of situations and circumstances has travailed both Deputies since they last occupied the Number 2 seat and so much more is likely to confront them within the next 4 months that will make or mar their own personal fortunes and those of the political parties they represent, some of which I will attempt to profile here.
The first matter to consider is the aftermath of the party primaries against the internal democratic mechanisms in each of the two major parties. The APC changed the date for their primaries and held their own first adopting the Direct Primaries method which meant that all registered members of the party had a direct say in choosing their flag-bearer. In contrast, the PDP opted for the Indirect Primaries method which bestowed the responsibility for choosing their flag-bearer on a selection of delegates from the pool of party members. Both parties experienced challenges to the respective processes with disgruntled participants laying claims to varying claims of impropriety; even to the extent of petitions being lodged in the Courts. The Jury is still out on where those challenges are and how much mileage they will muster in the weeks ahead. Some participants are claimed to have withdrawn before the exercise commenced and sought other platforms to contest the governorship elections in November, thereby dissipating support for their former political paymasters. Some other unhappy participants have simply gone into hibernation with seemingly tacit support for their party’s elected candidate, leaving observers to engineer speculation on whether they are for or against the party’s anointed. We can recall how one PDP candidate worked against another PDP candidate in 2016 up until 72 hours before the elections when the matter was eventually resolved by the Supreme Court. INEC did not postpone the election date given that it was an internal party squabble, which eventually cost the PDP.
A second matter is the all-important issue of financing prosecution of the governorship election within the legally permitted financial framework. There are clear Rules that govern how much a political party is permitted to spend on an election and INEC is expected to monitor this, even though we have not seen INEC take any serious action against parties in the past. Nevertheless, we recognise the fact that prosecuting a campaign for governorship is a very expensive venture in its most simplistic terms. Huge sums of money are required to recruit party faithful who will canvass the electorate to buy into the party manifesto and accept their candidate as the choice for Governor. Publicity and media platforms are required to give equal opportunity to all participants provided they pay for it and I can assure you this is not a cheap service whether you employ print, electronic or social media platforms to reach the electorate. Vote-buying and selling is prohibited by law, but all participants have been known to provide some type of palliative to voters, on the day of the election, in different forms and for diverse reasons, which ultimately induces the voter to have a soft spot for their candidate. The temptation to offer and accept these inducements is not mitigated by the harsh economic realities in Ondo State with poverty biting viciously and it is no exaggeration to say that cost of living is at an all-time high. At the end of the day, this factor may come down to the basic fact of which camp has the deeper pockets? Is it the incumbent APC governor who has a monthly unquestionable Security Vote and access to the state treasury or the PDP opponent with his wealthy friends from Osun and Oyo states who enjoy similar conveniences?
For what it is worth, there is a third issue many will identify as the incumbency factor. In times past, we have seen this play a very significant role with indentations being projected from local, zonal and national quarters. The APC has been politically dominant at the federal level since 2015 and they have also held sway in Ondo State since February 2017. The combined effect of these power blocs appears to favour Aiyedatiwa and he can also be quietly confident that President Tinubu is facing his first sub-national election in his south-west geo-political base since he became President in May 2023; one which he would be personally embarrassed in the face of an APC defeat. But Tinubu has been known to be mild with his interventions in Ondo State politics from antecedents and it is yet to be seen whether he will be more vociferous and employ the conventional yet sublime “Abuja-Federal Might”, now that he is in the hot seat, with all eyes gazing at him. In addition if recent media reportage and political conjecture is taken into account, then work has already commenced on the 2027 presidential ticket and this election therefore becomes more significant.
It goes without saying that Aiyedatiwa is at a vantage point by virtue of his transition into the office of Governor by the forces of the law last December 2023 following the death of his immediate past boss, Akeredolu. By the date of the election he would have spent almost a year and he will undoubtedly use his position and the paraphernalia of the office to maximum benefit, whether moral critics raise an eyebrow or not. We should expect that both Aiyedatiwa and Agboola will seek support particularly from their South-West allies in Lagos, Ogun, and Ekiti for Aiyedatiwa, whilst Agboola will seek refuge in the benevolence of his brothers in Oyo and Osun States, before seeking support from their friends in other geo-political zones and the national secretariats of their respective parties.
But incumbency has a wider subtle dimension in these elections and it might be useful to critically X-ray proceedings in the Edo State governorship election which is due to take place shortly before the scheduled date for Ondo State. All things considered politicians will not determine who will win the November 2024 elections, but approximately 600,000-strong electorate who will file out on the 16th November 2024; armed with their permanent voters card (PVC); get themselves accredited and then cast their votes. Those voters may listen to the campaigns of the various political parties; they may attend rallies organised in their senatorial districts, local governments and political wards; they may even open their doors to canvassers seeking their votes with political pleasantries and niceties. But at the end of the day the harsh reality is that, every voter is mindful of what is going on in the market place with regards to the price of bread, garri, rice, beans, pepper & tomato, pure water; petrol and cooking gas, etc. – all of which have become unaffordable under the current APC governments at state and federal levels. This will linger in the minds of the impoverished voting populace and only a miracle can remove that from their pysche.
To draw a comparison, Rishi Sunak the former British Prime Minister called for General Elections in July 2024 when he thought the economy was on a high; at a time when the rate of inflation was at 2%, the lowest in the UK in over 10 years and growth rate at its highest over the same period, but the British public did not understand that rhetoric and the Conservative Party were humiliated with their worst ever defeat in the history of British politics losing heavily at the polls. Voters tend to use prices in the market to determine whether the economy is doing well, not the slogans of Economic Advisers and commentators. Ordinarily, APC therefore have an incredible hurdle to surmount, but Ondo voters have been known to be a strange and unpredictable voter specie with a mind of their own.
Given that this is an off-cycle election with all concentration on one single job, this exercise eliminates the confusion that many voters might have otherwise faced if there were multiple elections. It would seem a simple choice for most voters to decide between the APC and the PDP; between Aiyedatiwa and Agboola; between the Broom and the Umbrella, being the iconic symbols of both parties. That being the case the integrity, capability, experience and character of the two candidates ought to be major considerations for the average voter. The manifestoes of the APC and PDP and what they mean in the context of Ondo State should be of primary concern. The projects, programmes and policies that each contestant has in store to offer the electorate must be of paramount importance in making a decision that will inevitably affect the lives of residents of Ondo State in the next four years; but how many voters really listen to this message and take them into full consideration?
On my part I do not claim to have heard from God on this matter and I am not an ordained minister with any spiritual insight on this matter, but in conclusion using my politically synchronised microscopic lens, I once again predict that a former Deputy Governor will be our next Governor in Ondo State, Your Excellency shall win the November 2024 elections and be sworn-in on 24th February 2025, ceteris paribus (all things being equal).
We watch as events unfold and I invite you to respond to this article, with your comments and views.

This article was written by Gbenga Akinmoyo (Hon GaRo), who is a legal practitioner, political & public affairs analyst, Executive Director of Rebuild Nigeria 360°(Ondo2024) and Co-Founder/CEO of LeadIFollow Limited (+234 803 660 9090, +44 7481 306 823 or

7th July 2024

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