On Saturday, Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu aims to match Olusegun Mimiko’s record and become the second person to be voted for a second term at the Alagbaka Government House. For him, it is almost a sense of deja vu as his opponents are familiar faces. Eyitayo Jegede lost to him in 2016, while Agboola Ajayi was his running mate four years ago. The 2016 governorship election saw Mr Akeredolu victorious at the second time of asking, beating Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP and Olusola Oke of the AD. It is important that the dramatis personae in the 2012 governorship election remain key players. Although Mr Mimiko is no longer contesting having done so and won twice, he is believed to have been very central in the determination of his successor, showing a strong preference for Mr Jegede over the businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim. Akeredolu Ale, the APC candidate, was also the candidate of ACN in 2012. Olusola Oke, one of those who contested the primary on the platform of APC, but lost out and defected to pick the ticket for the AD, was the PDP candidate in the 2012 election. These added interesting dimensions to the 2016 gubernatorial election.

Rotimi Akeredolu was duly returned as the APC candidate for the elections, but his deputy, Agboola Ajayi had ambitions to contest, and decamped to the PDP, only to lose the primary to Eyitato Jegede. Mr Ajayi decamped again, this time to the Zenith Labour Party and secured the ticket there. In a sense, history appears to be repeating itself. In 1983, Adekunle Ajasin’s deputy, Akinwole Omoboriowo, decamped to the ruling NPN to contest against his former principal. Olusola Oke who was formerly of the AD in 2016 and the PDP in 2012, returned to the APC to contest against the incumbent and lost.

The turnout for the Ondo elections is expected to be lower than in the last two cycles, in line with trends at the national and state levels. The just-concluded elections in Edo – Ondo’s neighbour to the East – saw a turnout of only 27.5% of registered voters. It would be little surprise if a similar outcome was recorded, especially with heightened tension in the state due to the competitive nature of the election. Voters may opt to stay away if there is a credible chance of violence. Tension has been building in the state over the last several weeks, with clashes between PDP and APC supporters, as well as plenty of attacks on the press. The most highly publicised of the clashes took place on 16 September in Oba-Akoko, Akoko South-West Local Government, in which 5 were injured. Both campaigns have also traded blames over who is responsible. The potential for violence, as mentioned above, could further depress turnout.

This report aims to look at the key factors likely to influence voting in the gubernatorial elections in Ondo State. The Ondo election will be a three horse race yet again, and promises to be an intriguing contest. What remains to be seen is whether the inability of the opposition PDP and ZLP to unite will see Rotimi Akeredolu return as governor. Rising incidents of violence across the state will depress turnout even further, an event that will raise issues of legitimacy. A failure to keep the peace during campaigns will scare more people away from the polls, and this is not good for Nigeria’s democracy.

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