In Ondo state, there is a popular saying that Owo is one. The mantra can be traced back to the early days of concerted efforts to resolve the kingship crisis that plagued the ancient kingdom in the wake of the new millennium. The mantra made entrant into the state’s political firmament with the advent of stable democracy and an understandable desire for each of the old nine divisions that made up the Sunshine state to jostle for a chance to govern the oil rich state. Interests within had to align as one in order to achieve a common goal.
Fast forward to 2020 and an unbroken twenty years democratic dispensation, an Owo man in person of the incumbent, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is the Executive Governor of Ondo state. With his tenure winding down, another election to usher in a new government is scheduled for October 2020. Interestingly more aspirants across party divides in Owo, the Governor’s hometown have shown the desire to take over his present office even though he is by law entitled to a second term.
As at the moment of writing this article, not less than five aspirants including the incumbent are contesting to become the next Governor of Ondo state in 2021. This is the highest from a single local government in the whole eighteen local government areas that comprise the state. It is believed that the high number of aspirants from Owo is occasioned by the general belief within the state that Owo did not put her best foot forward when it fielded the incumbent to govern the state in 2016. While this is debatable as we wait to see if we’d ever get a chance for a fair comparison, it is understandable that astute politicians and seasoned administrators from the town would rather try and substitute than lose a chance to complete an eight year possible tenure in office as Governor after former Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, an Ondo man broke the jinx just three years earlier.
Whether the sentiments of the average Owo man would sway their political party on who eventually gets the party ticket to contest the gubernatorial election would not be the headache of this writer. Party structures will decide. But let’s briefly x-ray the five people aspiring to become the next Governor of Ondo state from Owo and what their candidature might mean from an insight into who they are.
For lack of time and space, the metrics for profiling shall be limited to political antecedents, professional experience, acceptability in their hometown and personality traits.
*Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN:* Aketi as he’s fondly called is the incumbent Governor of the state. At sixty-three going to sixty-four in July, Aketi is running for a second term in office having contested for the office two successive times before winning. He is a lawyer by profession and a SAN to boot. Before his emergence, Aketi was generally known as a technocrat even though it takes more than being a SAN to emerge as Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association which he has been before now. Also noteworthy is the fact that record shows he has been a former commissioner in the state between 1997 and 1999. Despite being relatively unpopular at home, he stunned everyone to emerge as APC candidate in 2016. He is known to be blunt and opinionated, a trait that has also been dubbed as lack of tact within political circle in the state. His political slogan for the 2020 gubernatorial election is *IBI GIGA* an otherwise convenient plagiarism of President Buhari’s *NEXT LEVEL* slogan for the 2019 Presidential election. It is still unclear under which party Aketi plans to actualise his dream as he has been having a running battle with strategic members of Ondo APC since his administration began in 2017. While some believe he has an ace up his sleeves just the way he outplayed his detractors to get the present ticket, others vow he is going to get the Ambode treatment.
*Chief Bukola Adetula* : Fifty-eight years old Bukie is an American trained successful lawyer. He’s reputed to be the first Niherian to own a law firm in New Jersey. According to an interview he recently granted a national daily, he has won nothing less than 200 cases in the United States of America. He is not new to the system having aspired to be Governor of the state back in 2016 under APC. He leverages well on his father and grandfather’s popularity as a former member, Federal House of Representatives (1979-83) and Sasere of Owo kingdom respectively. Unsurprisingly, he seized the 20th anniversary of the latter to declare his ambition in February 2020. His political slogan for the 2020 gubernatorial election, *BIBIRE* says how much of his lineage’s antecedent Adetula relies on to clinch his party’s ticket. He is well known in Owo for obvious reasons. He was made the Akingbayi of the Source in 2004 by the late Ọ̀oni of Ifè, Oba Okunade Sijuade. He is contesting under APC ticket and he is one of the 10 people shortlisted by the Unity Forum faction of the party in the state.
*Hon. (Dr.) Bode Ayorinde:* Fifty-nine years old Ayorinde is a practising lawyer, businessman, an educationist and a former Member House of Representatives. He is a known name in Owo chiefly as the founder of Achievers University. He contested under APC to become a Rep member in 2015 but cross carpeted to PDP in 2018 and lost the party primary ticket to re-contest the office to Arc. Sodiq Obanoyen the following year. He contested the APC governorship ticket with Akeredolu in 2016 just a year after becoming a Rep member. This didn’t sit well with the average Owo man who felt he should have contented himself with his new position as MHR. It is rumoured that this led to the cold war between him and Aketi which finally led to him leaving the party for PDP. Very little is known about his ambition aside an interview he recently granted the Vanguard newspaper where he claimed he is contesting for a single term to complete Owo’s eight years tenure. He is yet to adopt a campaign slogan.
*Jumoke Anifowose Ajasin:* The only female aspirant in the mix is a seasoned lawyer and last child of former governor of Ondo state, Pa Adekunle Ajasin. The sixty-nine year old is aspiring to govern the state for the third time successively having shown interest in 2012 and 2016 respectively losing to her kinsman, Arakurin Oluwarotimi on both occasions. She was one time Commissioner for Justice under late Adebayo Adefarati tenure in 1999. She also held the position of Chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria ACN from 2010 to 2012. During President Jonathan’s administration, she was appointed as Board member, Federal Medical Centre, Yola. She is presently the Chairman, Abuja Investment and Infrastructure, an appointment she got from President Muhamadu Buhari. Being the daughter of a renowned figure as Ajasin means Mrs Jumoke Anifowose does not need introduction in Owo. She is respected for upholding the family’s legacy. Little is known of her campaign to become the number one of citizen of Ondo state aside that she is one of the 10 aspirants under the Unity Forum caucus of Ondo state APC.
*Chief Olayide Adelami* *_mni_* Chief Adelami celebrated his 62nd birthday in April. A retired federal civil servant, Adelami is a philanthropist, a financial expert and an alumnus of the prestigious Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies. He is reputed to have set up the Finance and Account department of the National Assembly and years later also pioneered the Procurement and Supplies Department of the National Assembly. His foray into partisan politics began after his retirement as Deputy Clerk in the National Assembly two years ago. He was appointed as Ondo State Coordinator, President Support Committee (PSC) 2019 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION with a mandate to reconcile aggrieved APC members as well as coordinate the activities of various support groups working for the re-election of President Muhammad Buhari. Adelami enjoys popularity in Owo his hometown through the philanthropic gestures of his NGO, Elizabeth Foundation which takes care of widows. He was honoured with the chieftancy title Amuwagboye of Owo Kingdom by the late Olowo of Owo kingdom, Oba (Dr) D.V.F Olateru Olagbegi III in recognition of his strength of character. Not much of a talker, he caught everyone by surprise as one of the ten man list considered for APC party ticket under the Unity Forum caucus of Ondo state APC. His political campaign slogan is O lami laaka, a clear pun on his name Adelami and a reaffirmation of character distinction.
While the burden of selecting a gubernatorial candidate rests on the shoulders of each party, it is left to be seen if the electorates are ready for the second coming of an Owo indigene at the helm of the state’s affairs.