As the only governor elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the South west, the appointment of Seyi Makinde as the chairperson of his party’s National Campaign Council for the Ondo Saturday’s governorship election was expected.
But for the Oyo State governor who has not hidden his desire to be reckoned with as one of the key decision makers in the affairs of the opposition party, the election may also be a referendum on his ability to ‘deliver’ for the party when it matters most.
And for the PDP, the Ondo gubernatorial election really matters. For one, the party is going to Saturday’s election on the crest of its barely three weeks’ old victory in the neighbouring state of Edo where against all permutations, its candidate, Godwin Obaseki, defeated Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of All Progressives Congress, APC, to earn a second term.
Analysts say PDP’s victory was made possible by the mismanagement of the crisis which led to the exit of Obaseki from APC to PDP as well as a well-oiled propaganda machine depicting those against the second term ambition of the Edo Governor as ‘godfathers’ any over lack of access to loot resources belonging to the State.
Nevertheless, members and chieftains of PDP are already seeing the Edo victory as a prelude to what is possible in 2023 in terms of their ability to push the ruling APC out of power at the states and national levels.
Winning the October 10 governorship election will be another step in that regard for PDP. The victory will also solidify Makinde’s claim to be among the ‘influencers of events’ in the PDP, by earning him additional bragging rights just as his brash counterpart in Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who have been riding on the party’s feat in Edo to lay claim to being one of the major political heavyweights in the country.
In his last assignment, as the chairman of PDP National Campaign Council for the November 16, 2019 Kogi governorship election, Makinde’s bid to kick out APC out of the North Central State failed. A similar failure in Ondo will not only be a setback for the PDP, but for the Governor.
It will also be another bump for Makinde’s efforts to firmly take over the leadership of PDP in the Southwest for which he has been in a battle with former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose.
The struggle for the control of the party’s structure in the sub-region manifested during the grand finale campaign of the PDP in Ondo town on Wednesday when some hoodlums harassed and removed the cap of Fayose.
The former Governor had accused Makinde and former deputy national chairman of the party, Olabode George as being behind the attack. Makinde had denied the claim, while appealing to Fayose to allow him to concentrate on his Ondo governorship election task. Fayose will subject the Governor to taunting to no end if he failed to deliver the election.
So, in a sense, the Oyo State Governor is desperate to ensure that his party is victorious in the Saturday’s election. This desperation was reflected in the alarm he raised on Thursday on the alleged selection of Prof. Eyitope Ogunbode, the vice-chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) as the Chief Returning Officer for the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Speaking with journalists in Akure, Makinde said the election may not be free and fair with Mr Ogunbodede who he described as an ally of the candidate of the APC.
According to him, INEC brought the vice-chancellor from the same university where Mr Akeredolu graduated from. He later called for the intervention of the international community and replacement of the returning officer. INEC officials dismissed the claim while wondering how the PDP Campaign Council got to know the identity of the returning officer for the election when the name has not been officially announced.
But Makinde and indeed, the PDP are not new to such propaganda. Wike, who led the campaign for the Edo election had similarly raised such alarm, which turned out to be false less than five minutes later when there was a temporary delay in the release of result from Orhionmwon Local Government, the local government where the candidate of APC in the election hails from was delayed. The result was not only released few minutes later, but the PDP defeated the opposition candidate in his local government.
In the same vein, Makinde had also during the Kogi governorship election raised alarm claim that his hotel was invaded by security operatives. But the police said they went to the hotel based on information that some people who did not have anything to do with the election were lodging there.
The claim of the police later turned out to be true when one Sunday Igboho, a chieftain of National Union of Road Transport Workers admitted at an occasion few days later that he indeed was in the company of the Governor in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State.
More of such propaganda and alarms will certainly make media headlines in the next 48 hours.
While speaking during the launching of the party’s campaign for Ondo election some weeks ago, Makinde had asked voters to reject “all phony promises” by the APC in favour of Eyitayo Jegede, the candidate of his party.
He also said a vote for Makinde will be a vote for the restructuring of the country while dismissing claims that an APC victory will enhance the chance of the Southwest producing Nigeria’s next president. “They are saying you should vote for them because they want Presidency to come to Yoruba land. This election is not about Presidency to Yoruba land. This election is about delivering Eyitayo Jegede and putting Ondo among the states that will lead the charge to restructure Nigeria.
However, analysts believe that if the voters in Ondo based their decision on performance, Akeredolu will easily carry the day.
This certainly will be an outcome who Makinde who has been in Akure since the last Monday will not want.
The question is, will Makinde go back to Ibadan rejoicing like his Rivers State counterpart did about three weeks ago on Sunday or will he have to retreat back to his base quietly like some APC chieftains did from Benin after the Edo election?
The question will be answered after the declaration of the result of Edo election on Sunday.