Nigeria: Gubernational Election In Perspective

Elite Political Culture and Voting Patterns: Analyzing the 2016 Ondo Gubernatorial Election

Nigeria elections
Nigeria elections

In his book Political Culture and Political Development, Lucian Pye distinguishes the developments in democratic political systems using the theory of political culture. He sought to know if there were certain cultures that promote political development and democratic values. He observes that political culture is simply a combination of sociological factors and views the political system as consisting of two distinct tendencies which are: individual orientations and structural rules. Although Pye sees culture as innate at the individual level, his research observed the patterns at the aggregate level which make up culture. Based on the observed distinctness in and among cultures, Pye suggests that there is no single pattern in political culture that is universal. He then stresses that all political systems have distinct culture consisting of norms, values and beliefs (p.7).

In this study, we see Elite political culture as having a different category of norms and expectations which are orderly, structured and rule-compliant upon which Elites will act in compliance with the expectation of the masses. In doing this, the Elite will be expected to display tacitly in behavior about what the masses expect of them at every time as their supposed representatives.

The Ondo 2016 Governorship election reflects Pye’s elitist patterns. In 2008, there was a major shit Ondo political landscape- Labour Party (LP) candidate, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was declared winner of the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial election. This judgement will redefine politics in the state as Governor Mimiko will defy his “godfathers” to win a re-election in 2012.

The 2016 governorship election is unique for many reasons:

First, the main political gladiators are or were part of the state’s elite at one point in their lives. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Eyitayo Jegede(SAN) is the state’s immediate past Attorney-General. The All Progressives Congress (APC), Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) is also a former Attorney-General in the state in addition to been the former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president. The Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Olusola Oke is the former PDP National Legal Adviser and has worked closely with the party’s administration in the state.

Second, each “bloc” has influential backers among the elites either within or without the state. While Governor Mimiko is seen to be the pillar of support behind Jegede, and is touted to be running in the election by proxy, other forces mostly from outside the state appear to be battling hard to stop the governor. Oke is widely reported to be supported by the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whose anointed candidate, Olusegun Abraham, lost the party primary in September. Akeredolu on his part is reported to be backed by forces from Abuja especially the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who may have axe to grind with some influential party leaders.

Third, the three leading candidates reflect the geo-political spread in the state. Oke is from the state’s south senatorial zone; Jegede is of the Central zone and Akeredolu is of the northern geo-political area of the state. This makes the contest a sort of competition among the senatorial zones with varying voting strengths.

The Unresolved Issues in 2016 election
Party Unity
For this election, political analysts are unanimous in their views that the last has not been heard of the many objections raised in some quarters, to the candidature of both Rotimi Akeredolu and Eyitayo Jegede, due largely to inconclusive party primaries of the APC and PDP respectively. While the crisis in the APC led Olusola Oke to move with his supporters to the AD, seeming unending litigations have led the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognize Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate.

Apart from Oke leading his supporters to another party, at least three other top aspirants of the APC are yet to accept Akeredolu’s nomination by the party’s national chairman as its governorship candidate. This is just as the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) remained polarized over the submission of Akeredolu’s name to INEC by the national chairman, Odigie Oyegun.
Is “Zoning” still a factor?

This analysis is based on the assumption that Eyitayo Jegede will be PDP’s candidate; Rotimi Akeredolu will APC candidate and Olusola Oke will fly the flag of AD in the November 26, election. With the main political parties having settled for their candidates, the question of the earlier clamor for the tickets to be zoned to certain parts of the state appears unanswered. We think this will still play very significant role in deciding the outcome of the election. As things stands presently, the PDP fielded someone from Ondo Central, (the same zone the present Governor hails from) and the APC settled for an Ondo North candidate (which has historically produced governors) shows the two parties have will be having many questions to answer over the zoning issue when the electorates go to the polls on the 26th of November. The AD chose someone from Ondo south which has the lowest voting strength in the state.

While it may look good on the surface to argue that the APC may have satisfied the yearnings of the Owo people of Ondo North for the coveted governorship seat, the PDP, following its decision to pick its candidate from the same Central senatorial district as the outgoing governor, may have difficulty in getting the support of voters in Akokoland and other parts of the northern zone of the state.
Logically, the calculation in picking Jegede, who hails from Ondo Central Senatorial District, which already produced Mimiko for two terms, may be because of the district’s voting strength.

Incumbency factor
Going by the patterns witnessed since 2015, it could still be argued that incumbency is still a strong factor in deciding the outcome of election as it was the case in neighbouring Edo when the incumbent party’s candidate, Godwin Obaseki (APC) won. Yet there is the factor of the characters involved in the impending match in Ondo. Some of the candidates also featured in the 2012 governorship election in the state, which Mr. Mimiko, then of the Labour Party, won. Messrs. Oke and Akeredolu were candidates in that election.

If the figures of the 2012 election were anything to go by, the combination of Messrs. Akeredolu and Oke may barely bring them victory. The combined total votes of both men would have defeated Mimiko.

The situation is not exactly the same this time but the incumbency factor is certain to play a role in the November 26 poll. It is assumed in some quarters that Mr. Mimiko is running the election by proxy. As a man extensively knowledgeable in Ondo politics, Mr. Mimoko is sure to deploy his political machinery and goodwill to help Mr. Jegede garner votes.

A Third Force?
In 2007, Mr. Mimiko left the PDP for the then unpopular LP to contest against the incumbent, Olusegun Agagu, and emerged winner, even though he only assumed office more than a year later through the courts. This breaking of the bipolarization of the state’s politics by Mimiko with his Labour Party (LP) appears to be the source of optimism Mr. Oke’s supporters. Will history be repeating itself?

Deciding Factors
The deciding factors (barring any last minute changes) that will shape the outcome of November 26 election appears very complicating. There are several of them, but for constraints of time and space, we will be limited to:
First, the choice of deputy governorship candidates is one of those factors that will boost the chances of the candidates. The zone a party’s deputy governorship candidate hails from will influence the outcome of election. The three main contenders have so far been tactical in exercising this choice For instance, Mr. Olusola Oke of AD who hails from Ondo South has picked, Hon. Gani Dauda an Akoko man from Ondo North as his running mate to pacify voters in the zone. Hon. Dauda is also a member of the House of Representatives. On the other hand, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP who is from Ondo Senatorial District, has picked former Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Prince John Ola Mafo, an Ilaje man from from Ondo South as running mate. One his part, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC who is from Ondo North has picked a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, an Eso-Odo man from Ondo south as running mate.
So far, PDP’s Jegede may be interested in deflating the AD’s Oke’s political base in Ilaje by his selection of an Ilaje man as running mate. At the same time, Oke may have weakened Akeredolu’s political base in Akoko (the largest voting unit in the north) by his selection of his running mate. There seems to be no challenge to Jegede’s political base at the central zone since there are no “strong” deputy governorship candidates from the zone. But, the majority of the votes are from Akure South, considered as a melting pot of various ethnic groups in the State.

Second, we must not leave out the financial strengths of the parties/candidates as a factor in Ondo Politics. All the camps in the election appear have their campaigns well financed by some elites within and without the state. Financial inducements will play a critical role in the election. Vote buying, bribery of election officials and security agencies and the likes will affect the outcome of the election; it is just a question of who the highest bidder is.

The PDP candidate seems to enjoy the support of the party and governmental elite in the state. He also enjoys the advantage of hailing from the zone (Ondo central) which has the largest voting strength in the state. His biggest challenge will be how his party handles the deep crisis over who the party candidate should be given INEC’s recognition of Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate. This may finally play out in the outcome of the election. But will he be able to cage the AD candidate whose profile is rising especially in Akure and its environs?

The AD candidate on his part enjoys a well-funded and highly motivated campaign structure. Electorally speaking, he hails from the zone with the least voting strength in the state. The fact that he also enjoys some in-house unity in his party whose popularity is growing fast may be another boost to his chances. He is reported to be enjoying the tacit support of a faction of PDP in the state. His greatest weakness may be his reported endorsement from an APC chieftain outside the state which hunted a candidate during the 2012 election.

The APC candidate enjoys the confidence of the national leadership of his party which controls power at the Federal level. He seems to have a well-funded campaign structure as he did in 2012. There are also recent reports that he may end up benefitting from a major re-alignment with a PDP in the state. His greatest undoing may be the disunity in his party as fallout of the party primary in September.

On November 26, if the present trend continues, there is the possibility of a stalemate which may end in a possible re-run of the election. The three main parties AD’s Olusola Oke, PDP’s Eyitayo Jegede and APC’s Rotimi Akeredolu will battle to share the spoils in this election and will battle to change the political landscape in the state. In the event of a re-run, unpredictable factors like the possibility of realignments between the three main parties may decide who will ultimately emerge. In all mathematical probability, the AD and PDP candidates have nearly equal chances of getting elected with the PDP having slight advantage with its support from the incumbent governor. Otherwise, the AD candidate stands a good chance of getting elected on November 26. The APC candidate may spring a last minute reported alignments with a PDP faction, but the mathematical possibility of this scenario is very low as at the time of this analysis going by the reports from credible polls in the state.

Pye, L (1965) Political Culture and Political Development, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press)

Source: Olalekan Waheed ADIGUN

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