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The primaries are over but the rumblings continue. The candidates of the two major parties, the APC and PDP, are shopping for running mates. One consideration that must be uppermost in their mind is to beware of an Agboola Ajayi! No one will want to choose a running mate who will drag the seat with him. Finding a loyal deputy will be uppermost in the mind of Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu as he flies the APC flag in the October 10 governorship election. Akeredolu is aiming at an encore; what is generally referred to as second term.
Conversely, Eyitayo Jegede who flies the PDP flag in the same election will want to avenge the defeat of 2016 when he was beaten to the prize by the same Akeredolu. Jegede might not have been governor but he, too, is not new to betrayals. He was traded off by his godfather in the 2016 governorship election. And in the just-concluded primaries of his party, some PDP governors he thought were in his corner showed off their hands in support of new-comer Agboola Ajayi. It was by the mercies of God that Jegede was not consumed.
The Ondo South senatorial district has suddenly become the beautiful bride in the search for a running mate. Both Akeredolu and Jegede have, tentatively, chosen their running mate from there. They may still make substitution before the deadline set for such exercise by the INEC expires on August 18. Will the exigency of Ajayi making a volte-face on his pledge not to defect from the PDP mean that Akeredolu and Jegede will have to re-jig their running mate permutations? Time, as they say, will tell!
Recall that we had raised the idea here that Ajayi may move on in search of a platform to still contest the Ondo governorship election, having failed in his effort to snatch the PDP flag from Jegede, who was the favourite from the outset. Ajayi is from the Ondo South; if he joins the race that may affect the permutations that are on ground. Where will Ajayi’s running mate come from? Will his choice be the rumoured ex-Secretary to the Ondo State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde?
Ever before his defection from the APC, the rumour mill had been awash that the Ondo State deputy governor would defect to another party to contest the election and that Abegunde, from the Akoko area within Ondo North (where Akeredolu comes from), could be his running mate but while Abegunde resigned as SSG as rumoured, he had stalled from defecting from the APC. If he is favoured or named by Ajayi as running mate, will he now defect?
A three-horse race means that none of the candidates may be able to win an absolute majority of votes cast. That was the case in 2012 when Olusegun Mimiko beat Akeredolu and Olusola Oke to win the contest. To keep one’s home base securely while making appreciable forays into the stronghold of other contestants is vital to doing well in a three-horse race. If Ajayi eventually joins the race, then, it would mean a repeat of 2012 when the three contestants each came from the three senatorial districts of Ondo North, Ondo South, and Ondo Central.
Back to our templates on a new political template for elections not only in Ondo State but also nationwide; we set the sixth rule as that of giving an incumbent the right of first refusal. At first, it looked like Akeredolu was going to be denied the APC flag but commonsense eventually prevailed and he was allowed to contest – and he won. Many readers misinterpreted this template to mean support for Akeredolu; it was not. This template, if followed, has a lot of merits. One: It will encourage the political parties to be meticulous in choosing its flag bearers unlike the present anything-goes system where the selection process is whimsically done. This template tells you that once someone is selected, he may be there for eight years, especially if he wins the election. Two: it helps in reducing the heating up of the polity that primaries every four years signify. Three: It saves money, time and resources that an incumbent wastes on seeking the party flag again. Four: It saves us of the distraction that incumbents suffer, leading to the abandonment of governance while the incumbent plays the politics of securing a second term. Fifth: It prevents the political hara-kiri, the type that Edo State has witnessed, where a sitting governor defects to another party with the attendant political crises that sets the whole State on edge. Finally, this template helps to rein-in over-ambitious deputy governors anxious to torpedo their “Oga at the top” after just one term in office.
The seventh template that we set concerns rotation of political offices. We were unabashedly in support of rotation, stating that it amounts to doublespeak or approbating and reprobating at the same time if we demand rotation at the Centre but condemn or abridge it at the State level. Nevertheless, we said these politicians still intent on contesting should not be prevented from doing so. It needs to be stated, however, that we cannot have our cake and eat it. The case for rotational presidency is weakened when we rubbish the same principle at home.
If Ajayi does not throw his hat into the ring as rumoured and the contest is between Akeredolu and Jegede, both of them have a foot in Ondo North. Akeredolu’s father is from Owo. Jegede’s mother is from Ipele via Owo. As our people will say: Unable to get “Igun” for the mandatory sacrifice, settle for “Akala”
Another template we set has to do with the ruling class having a set of rules and obligations that must bind them. Here, politics has become all-comers affairs without rules and regulations; without consensus; and without set goals and objectives. Everyone just wants to get into office and then they can behave as they wish. This is what I have seen as the greatest drawback of our politics since the collapse of the Second Republic.
There were political parties properly so-called in the First Republic and, to some extent, in the Second Republic. Since then, we have had only dispensable platforms meant to contest elections – that is all. Political parties as the assemblage of like-minds committed to shared goals and objectives are no more in existence. Politicians operating on the platform of a political party as an assemblage of like-minds committed to shared values are no more. That is why they cross from one party to the other at will. And that is why the so-called political parties accept defectors without squirming and offer them their platform at any level to contest elections.
For those who thought we operate party politics, that erroneous impression was cleared with the shenanigans that unfolded before our very eyes in Edo State. We have also seen it on parade in Ondo State. Someone can defect today, get waiver tomorrow and become eligible to contest for the highest office the next day! The waiver clause in the constitution of the parties must be expunged. Someone defecting to a party must have a tutelage and learning period to observe before he can be eligible to contest election under the banner of that party. Until this is done, sanity will not prevail in the parties.
A corollary of the above template is the one which says that defecting politicians must leave behind their offices and posts. They must not be allowed to go into their new parties with the instruments as well as the paraphernalia of the office they were voted into on the platform of the party they are defecting from. Should this template be made policy, then, defections by political office holders will cease or be reduced to be barest minimum.
One vexed issue that has heated up the polity is that of politicians who defected but held on to the offices they had been voted into under another party. This is sheer opportunism. It also means that the defector is not sure of himself! If you are so sure of your popularity, you will resign and return to the electorate for a renewal of your mandate under your new party, especially so when court decisions tend to affirm that it is the party that stands before the people in elections, and not the individual contestant.
Were Agboola Ajayi and Godwin Obaseki mandated by law to relinquish their office as deputy governor and governor respectively, would they have had the temerity or audacity to defect? That is one lacuna in our electoral laws that the law makers must look at – if they will! My pessimism is that law makers are wont to leave or insert loopholes that can be exploited by their ilk. With the way National Assembly members themselves defect from one party to the other without relinquishing their offices, how can we expect them to insert a provision forbidding such in the laws?
Finally for today, a way must be found to rein-in the governors; they are too much independent and on their own. When Adams Oshiomhole took over as the APC chairman and said he would instil party supremacy, I sat up in my chair and said, perhaps, something good was about to happen. Obasanjo made State governors into the tin-gods they are today. They said that was how governors were powerful in the United States whose presidential system we had copied. Since then, there has been no looking back! Unfortunately, Oshiomhole missed it!
Another evil done to party politics and party supremacy by Obasanjo was how he made the PDP chairmen one after the other toothless bulldogs; they were treated as mere appendages by Obasanjo who hired and fired them at will. Party secretariats ought to be the engine room of political parties; it is here that the policies and programmes of the party should be formulated for implementation by their party in government. It was so in the First Republic and, to some extent, in the Second. But, no more!
I thought this was what Oshiomhole wanted to resuscitate and was glad. These days, once elected, the politicians are on their own; accountable to no one and free to do as they please. They can rubbish policies they met on ground and start their own fancies, The whims and caprices of governors are what go for governance all over the country today.
Personally, I have witnessed the charade that masquerades as governance in many of our states. There can be no meaningful development until there are higher moral authorities set above the governors – whoever is elected.
There must be a road map for the governors to follow. There must be those who can breathe down their neck in the collective interest of the citizenry and call them to order. In the absence of these, regardless who is elected as governor, it will be jamborees of varying proportions all the way.