Recent developments in the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the October 10, 2020 governorship election in Ondo State show that the party is walking a tightrope. This is just as the jostle for the position of running mate for the party’s flagbearer in the election, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, has intensified. Out of political necessity, he is being urged to pick a deputy governor from the South Senatorial District so he could assuage the wounds already being felt in the zone.
Many believe that if the situation is not handled with utmost care and caution, it may lead to implosion, which will eventually deprive the party a chance of making impact in the contest. Shortly after the July 22 governorship primary, where Jegede defeated seven other aspirants, one from the North District and the other six from the South District, some persons have begun to tip the second-placed and Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi for the job.
A pressure group from the South District, which is the strongest base of PDP in state, Ondo State Southern Senatorial Patriotic Movement (OSSSPM) is urging Jegede to consider Ajayi as his deputy governor. Meanwhile, there are six aspirants from the South District, namely Ajayi, Eddy Olafeso, Banji Okunomo, Boluwaji Kunlere, Sola Ebiseni, and Godday Erewa. Anyone of them could also be considered for the position of running mate.
The group’s coordinator, Mr. Wale Edamisan, who harped on the political weight of the deputy governor, implored the national leaders of the party to see the possibility of an excellent performance in Jegede-Ajayi joint ticket.
According to Edamisan, “Our party’s national leaders must ensure that we have a genuine reconciliation among the governorship aspirants. Agboola Ajayi must be pacified and compensated with the deputy governorship slot.
“We must save Ajayi from going into political oblivion and we should understand that his defection has added great value to our party. We can’t afford to lose votes to the APC in the Southern Senatorial District.
“The aim of the people in the south is to produce the next governor, but with the emergence of Jegede and Akeredolu as PDP and APC candidates respectively, PDP candidate needs a running mate that is well-grounded in the South Senatorial District.”
But many PDP leaders have warned that Ajayi should not be paired with the party’s candidate due to the former’s antecedent and the manner of his leaving the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to contest in PDP.
To douse tension, Jegede, who won with 888 votes as two-time candidate of the party, assured party members, who are agitated over his choice of running mate, that the party’s leadership would choose for him. Contrary to insinuations from some quarters, he stressed that PDP’s Elders Council and the national leadership of the party would decide the right person to be his deputy after proper consultation.
The Guardian gathered that there are four persons already being tipped for the position: two governorship aspirants in the last primary election, Okunomo and Erewa, and two others: Banke Sulton and Ikengboju Gboluga. The presence of Erewa, out of seven other governorship aspirants at the Abuja secretariat of the party on Monday, when Jegede got his certificate, has raised a lot of suspicion and distrust.
Some aggrieved members fear that Erewa, who polled 13 votes in the primary, may have been endorsed for the position to the chagrin of other party leaders. They said the other five aspirants from the South might not support Jegede as a result of that choice.
Meanwhile, fresh news emerged the same day that Jegede had sent the names of two persons: Sulton, the former Chairman of Ondo State Micro-Credit Agency during the tenure of immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, and Gboluga, a current House of Representatives member for Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency, for consideration. The emergence of Sulton and Gboluga on the scene has caused a lot of infighting within the party, as many believe that the deputy governor’s slot should be used to unite the various caucuses within the party.
Already, speculations are rife that the incumbent deputy governor, Ajayi is said to be considering ditching PDP for Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) due to his current romance with his maternal kinsman and former governor, Mimiko. Ajayi polled 657 votes in the primary 30 days after he defected from APC.
Many political readers point out that the deputy governorship ticket should be zoned to Ilaje Local Government Area, the council with the highest votes in the district. According to them, the ticket should be given to the camp of any of the aspirants, especially the three from Ilaje, namely: Okunomo, Erewa, and Ebiseni. The council has never enjoyed the slot.
The agitation for a young and vibrant deputy governor seems to place the former state publicity secretary of the party, Okunomo, on a favourable pedestal to get the job. In the last primary, he was adjudged to have the best structure and campaign from the district. Aside being the youngest, Okunomo scored 90 to beat Ebiseni and Erewa, who polled 29 and 13 votes respectively.
Unexpectedly, there are dissenting voices against the choice of Sulton and Gboluga, whose names were purportedly sent to the party’s leadership. The two worked tirelessly for the emergence of Jegede in the primary election and many believe they are being rewarded for it.
A PDP Chieftain from Ilaje, Isaac Metibemu, pointed out that the former micro credit boss, Sulton, who hails from Aheri Kingdom, does not have the political wherewithal for the job.
“Banke Sulton is one of those who worked for Jegede in the last election,” Metibemu stated. “It is believed she does not have the political clout and not really rooted in Ilaje politics. She is not really known in the politics of Ondo South.
“Her popularity may not have an impact on the governorship election in the southern district because many do not see her as a grassroots politician.”
While also speaking on the chances of Gboluga’s choice sailing the party to victory, some PDP chieftains, who spoke from Okitipupa, revealed that his choice would further endanger the chances of the party at the poll. They said: “He is not in good terms with Eddy Olafeso, a man believed to be his benefactor, who was instrumental to his emergence as member representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency in the 9th Assembly.
“Many leaders in his constituency are reportedly not in good terms with him as well. PDP leaders believe he is arrogant, and doesn’t pick people’s telephone calls since he became honourable member.
“He is over-ambitious. He is a serving member of the House of Representatives, who hasn’t spent up to two years in office and he is also desperate to become the deputy governor.”
According to them, Gboluga’s choice will create a vacuum for the party in the House of Representatives. They expressed fears that PDP may not be able to win a by-election if Jegede eventually wins the governorship poll.
Meanwhile, the erstwhile PDP South West Chairman, Olafeso, who came third in the primary, has stressed that only well-defined consultation would make him support the party’s guber candidate. Coupled with the South District’s sentiments on zoning, the choice of Gboluga may further distance him from the party’s efforts towards the October poll, although he has accepted the primary’s result in good fate.
At the moment, choosing who becomes running mate is causing a lot of disaffection in the major opposition party, leaving the standard flagbearer and the party leadership at a crossroads. Nonetheless, the chairman of Coalition 2020, a non-partisan group, Chief Akin Akinbobola, has made plans to endorse a credible candidate for a people-centred governance.
Akinbobola noted that all governorship candidates participating in the election would be subjected to questioning with a view to identifying who among them is ready to serve the people. He explained that Coalition 2020 is a pressure group, spread across 37 political parties, with over 300 social organizations, labour unions, professional associations, and artisans.
He added that the coalition has the sole aim of seeing to what could be done to bring about real change to enhance dividends of democracy in the state.
“We are going to call their candidates (political parties) to interface with the people,” he said. “We must not fall victim of deceit. We must vote for someone who would respect the people.
“And this can be done if everyone comes together. So, it shall become a stakeholders’ meeting. People must not take us for a ride. They have to serve us.
“The bottom line is that we need a servant and not a ruler for the state. The scrutiny will take place in late August. With the pandemic, we will need to design it in such a way to achieve maximum result.
“At the moment, the coalition has no candidate until the scrutiny of all the candidates is done. We need a candidate that will take the state to the real next level so that the people can feel the gains of governance. We don’t want our people to spend money on what government should provide.”
Akinbobola has Chief Samson Obanibi, Publicity Secretary and Sikiru Adetona, Secretary, just to mention a few, as other leaders of the coalition.