If the cockroach wants to rule over the chicken, it must hire the fox as a bodyguard. African proverb.
The concluded gubernatorial elections in Ondo State have answered a few questions and raised a lot more. Let us first see off some of the answers. Please feel free to disagree. First, Ondo voters elected a good man on the platform of a party that, many warts and all, offers the best prospects for some returns, at least in the short term. Second, INEC under its new Chairman has now successfully tucked away two key elections under its belt bulging full with inconclusive elections and a few that may not be held at all until 2019.Three, the judiciary showed how it is in every respect a major player in our electoral process, and it will be foolhardy to think it is finished, even in Ondo. Four, PDP's self-destruct mode is still active, and Ondo could just be what it needs to go its separate ways. Finally, the Ondo elections provide a speculator's dream, and there will be no penalties for asking the wrong questions and getting the right answers.
If the voters of Ondo State elected Rotimi Akeredolu largely on his merit alone, meaning that they thought he will make a better governor than Jegede and Oke, you would say they have shown a remarkable and consistent degree of level-headedness in a most confusing context where just about every voter had two or three competing loyalties tugging at his vote. He is indeed prepared for the position of governor, but not all preparations guarantee success. His success, despite the hostility of major strands of mainstream APC in the region, the almighty quarrel which it engineered within the APC and ominous signs that he may have to cosy up to new step godfathers all suggest that his first major engagements are going to test his capacity to cover his flanks while dramatically showing the difference between him and Mimiko. Akeredolu will govern as part-orphan, part free man, and what he makes of this ambiguous status will be critical to his tenure and the volatility of southwest politics.
If Akeredolu's victory is product of the poverty of the PDP and AD in the politics of the Southwest, the type of poverty that even an APC working substantially against itself does not mitigate, it is going to be difficult to see a meaningful recovery of the opposition to the APC in the region, unless it is supported with a much stronger muscle and greater damage from within the APC. But that will be only one way of looking at it. If it still has members who undertake critical analyses of results, PDP should open at least a few champagne bottles. Its performance even while engrossed in a vicious civil war suggests that it could benefit from the attrition coming from within the APC itself. Akeredolu and those designing a new APC without the Asiwaju and his loyalists in the southwest will do well to pay heed to the dangers of an alliance between a faction of the PDP and those APC members who are already stopping taxis on their way out. First, though, the PDP will have to survive the fierce and ultimately destructive quarrels that will follow a defeat.
If APC's victory had confounded circles that were indifferent or hostile to it, or had encouraged others who worked for it, it does not show in the initial responses. The deluge of congratulations to Akeredolu belie a simmering and deep-seated rancour in the ranks of the APC. The rituals of lining up behind success of party men and women provide opportunities to sheath swords and melt with the multitude. Many genuine supporters of the APC will hope that copious and apparently sincere felicitations from President Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Odigie- Oyegun , Atiku and Saraki and a host of others deeply involved in influencing the direction and fortunes of the APC are real signs that Ondo will represent a strategic turning point. Just days ago, many will confidently place bets that the elections will be a tipping point for the worse. This is the same party that is still basking in the glory of snatching a vital one, Edo State, away from its nemesis, the south south.
If Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the master he is reputed to be, then he would be playing a game few will be familiar with. His instant message of congratulations to Akeredolu could buy him time without showing his hands entirely. He and his core loyalists have moved so far from this victory that it will be naïve to believe that he is undergoing a spontaneous conversion to a situation that showed him up in all his political undergarments. He could be calculating the cost of sustaining a cold war while he reinforces his defenses, against the benefits of taking up his new, slightly humbler place near the top in a party with a lot up for grabs. He could be counting on Akeredolu being nudged towards the reputed direction of power in the region and being reminded that life could be altogether more comfortable if he is in the warm embrace of a man who did not want him to be governor. If Akeredolu proves difficult or distant, the Jagaba could shrug off an irritation and either live with it or attempt to design a master plan that isolates it.
If those who believe they have bloodied Asiwaju's nose with Ondo crow longer and louder than necessary, they could heighten attention at what appears to be a serious decline on his hold, if not entirely around southwest politics, then at least at the level of the APC in the region. The rumoured attempt at demystification of Asiwaju designed in Abuja and a few state capitals could be at work, and a hatchet job of a post mortem could do further damage to Tinubu. An attempt could be made to show that he had thrown his entire political weight behind the defeat of Akeredolu without success. That will serve the purpose of hinting that he has lost his crown to new powers in the region, and this will be important in evaluating him in relation to 2019. Or it could be revealed that he neither campaigned for or against Akeredolu with any vigour, choosing indifference that some will interpret as dangerous complacency for a politician that never slept with both eyes closed. Either way, the Asiwaju will lose feathers.
If there are winners with bigger prizes than Akeredolu, at least in symbolic terms, they will be president Buhari and the APC. There will be vigourous efforts to enlist Asiwaju by all concerned in the victory parade, but his spat with the party over Ondo could not have failed to register a major drift between Buhari and a man he had held at the highest esteem this time last year. There were certainly people whose project around creating cleavages received a boost from the tantrums thrown up by Tinubu, and if a few people, including Buhari and Oyegun worried that Edo and Ondo could be threatened or lost, you wouldn't accuse them of being alarmists. Edo was vigorously shielded to victory by sheer dint of hardwork and an impressive turnout of Buhari loyalists who saw the dangers of losing Edo. Then Ondo pitched Buhari and Asiwaju on opposite sides of the divide in Ondo. For a president facing many questions on the state of the economy, challenges from old and new security threats, rising frustrations from citizens who think the war against corruption should have prison cells bulging with the corrupt whose stolen trillions are being ploughed back to fight poverty, and political allies openly strategizing for their own places in the sun in 2019, Ondo is by all standards of judgment a major boost of confidence for Buhari. For the APC, a defeat in Ondo would have caused an irreparable setback, compounding the problems of a party in power fighting hard to not to drown from internal subversion and indifference from critical life sources.
If APC has the vision of sustaining its hold on the nation beyond 2015, it should see Ondo as an invaluable gift. Attempts should be made to build strong bridges to bruised egos and hurt pride. For president Buhari in particular, this is no time to leave things to sort themselves out. Unless, of course, things have been left unattended for too long. 2019 is a lot closer than many politicians realize. Those with less luggage and chronically restive spirits would be on their ways out. A few could be persuaded to stay because the atmosphere outside is hostile and uncertain. A few ambitious younger Turks will attempt to scuttle a re-engineering process. In any case, you will not know how things will work our until at least you make an effort to build on the strategic victory that was Ondo.