#OndoDecides: 3 things we learnt from the Ondo governorship debate

Earlier this evening, the only governorship debate for the Ondo elections on Saturday, November 26, took place. Here are three takeaways.

  1. Aketi conspicuously absent: in Nigerian politics, the pattern is increasingly that it is those who dodge debates who are in the lead. Muhammadu Buhari didn’t debate anyone in 2015, and Goodluck Jonathan did not debate in 2011 either. Both went on to win. This time, Rotimi Akeredolu stayed, and the third paragraph of this explanation by the APC was telling:

“As we write this, Akeredolu is tucked deep in the riverine communities of Ilaje local government most of which have no electricity to watch television”

Ultimately, elections are about votes, and the APC candidate has made it clear where his priorities lie. Since there is little evidence that these debates move the needle, Aketi has made a cold calculation. We will see how that works out on Saturday.

  1. Jimoh the populist: Jimoh Ibrahim took full advantage of this, and established himself as the populist candidate in the race. He says he will abolish personal income tax because of the economic situation, relying on voluntary contributions instead. An increase in the minimum wage is on the table (“my driver earns N75,000 a month”) and he also says that he will not use security votes either, preferring to channel all those funds into security.

They certainly make for great soundbites, but how will he pay for it all? He made vague references to ‘leadership’, ‘innovation’ and so on, and while it is hard to see the figures adding up, it is easy to see how his message could resonate, especially in a three-way race.

  1. Olusola Oke, the Alliance for Democracy candidate that could end up profiting from the disarray in both the PDP and APC, was reasoned and steady. He will not raise the minimum wage immediately, or scrap security votes, or cancel personal income tax. He also did not hesitate to ask how Mr Ibrahim would pay for his proposals, a question that was predictably dodged. He emphasised transparency and accountability in budget processes, and generally comes off as reasonable.

Oke also had to fend off insinuations that his campaign was being funded by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is reportedly not happy at all that Akeredolu flies the APC flag in Ondo, instead of his own candidate, Olusegun Abraham. Oke even went as far as saying that he left the APC because it was ‘laden with corruption’.

All that talk is now over, and it is left to the people of Ondo to decide at the polls on Saturday. It will be clear which candidates’ tactics and message worked the best.


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