Now that INEC have announced the date for the Edo and Ondo State Governorship elections for 21st September 2024 and 16th November 2024 respectively, all critical stakeholders are jostling for places on the track to sit in premium positions. If you are a sprinter on the track for the 100 or 200 metres Mens’ event, it is a well-known secret that clocking the fastest time in the Heats will place you on the track in one of the middle lanes either Lane 4 or Lane 5, from where the winner usually emerges, not the inner or outer lanes. But if you are Formula One racing car driver, going up against 20 or more other competitors, you know that the time you clock in practice sessions will possibly put you in Pole position at the start of the Grid. It follows that all things being equal, with a fast car; a good financially-backed unit; excellent team strategy; superb technical crew and engineers for Pitt stops, re-fuelling and mechanical issues; then the driver in Pole position more often than not, ends up winning the race. The arena of governorship elections may well be very similar.
As a matter of speaking, “Edo no be Ondo” and vis-à-vis, even though close neighbours. Nonetheless, Ondo State in my humble submission is at a slight vantage point in the sense that, Edo will serve as a template or pointer for what emerges from the stalls of the major Stakeholders ahead of each election. In this regard, careful considerations should go towards things such as:
the guidelines and dictates coming out from INEC with regards to party Primaries; Campaigns and the eventual conduct of the elections;
the decision(s) of the political parties in respect of conducting their primaries and choosing their party flag-bearers;
the effect of incumbency in the choice of candidates, given that in Edo State the APC is currently in opposition, whilst being the incumbent in Ondo State;
the role of the APC National Working Committee in regards to sale of forms; consensus candidacy; the conduct of party Primaries; Appeals arising from the primaries; reconciliations and their general approach to the Campaigns;
the mood of the electorate especially given that each of the states are in different geo-political zones and are therefore subject to different dynamics, underscored by the recent APC performance and outcomes in the 2023 General Elections for Edo and Ondo States;
the scope, extent, degree and nature of involvement that may be exerted by the President (and/or Federal might) in relation to the emergence of APC candidates from the long list of interested aspirants and the mileage it will cover to enhance victory of APC at the polls. It was generally conceived that President Bola Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, chose not to get too involved in the political intrigues of governorship elections during his 8-year tenure and it is yet to be seen whether or not Asiwaju will tow a similar path or deviate from it. The off-cycle governorship elections of Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa, which held in November 2023, were barely 5 months into his administration and perhaps too early for President Tinubu to exhibit any political bias or otherwise, particularly with a raft of many other pressing national issues and international engagements on the horizon at the time;
the impact and persuasive effect that the recently concluded governorship cases in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court will have on the conduct of all stakeholders, including the but not limited to the candidates; political parties; INEC; and to the eventual petition litigants and their legal advisors in the knowledge that in this country we have a culture of not accepting political defeat. Everyone concerned will do well to learn for the various Judgments and Decisions of the Tribunals and Courts and in particular the interpretation that the courts have given to various courses of conduct, which may have been vague hitherto, that arose from the newly enacted Electoral Act 2022.
Even at this early stage, Ondo APC can borrow a leaf from what is happening in Edo State in order to avoid making similar mistakes and creating unnecessary tension, particularly in the processes leading up to their choice of candidate. Some friction has already been created within the Edo ranks as a result of the abortive attempt to try and prune down the number of realistic potential aspirants that will eventually purchase forms and proceed to party primaries.
Our amiable Governor, Hon. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa has assumed leadership of the APC in Ondo State by virtue of his position as Governor and it is commendable that he has promptly called for unity amongst all levels of party leadership, from ward to local government to state levels, in order to ensure success of the APC at the November 2024 governorship elections. He is clearly interested in the collective corporate success, regardless any personal ambitions he may or may not be nursing and such should be the drive and motivation of all members of the party, be you leader or follower.
For those misquoting him out of context him as saying, “there is no vacancy”; I ask them this question, “Is it not a fact that the present governorship tenure expires in another 13 months, towards the end of February 2025?” Therefore, in my view, Governance is paramount for now and what our Governor needs to do is to choose his Deputy, as a matter urgency, to create immediate balance in the Government Office and then continue to set a focused and purposeful Agenda for all levels of leadership across the State that will lead to programmes and policies which will endear the teeming masses to vote overwhelmingly for APC at the November 2024 election.
I conclude this piece with another analogy from the athletics track in acute contrast to the one proposed at the summit. Supposing the race to become the new occupant of Government House Alagbaka by February 2025 is not a sprint at all but rather a middle or long distance race. Then, in actual fact the strategy and tactics for winning will be very different. In these types of races, there is usually a pace-setter who is there to ensure that the race is run at a steady pace consistent with previous times. But history has shown that the winner usually emerges from the pack of runners and makes his mark towards the end of the race when his opponents must have exhausted all their energies in the earlier stages of the contest. In a marathon for instance, the champion seldom leads from the front, but reliant on stamina coupled with careful planning and precision, he knows exactly when to make the decisive move to burst through for victory.
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).
23rd January 2024