As the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State draws near, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Kennedy Ikantu Peretei speaks with ADEWALE MOMOH on the party’s preparations and determination to win at the polls among other issues
How prepared is the PDP for the governorship election?
The party is very well prepared for the election. You know the PDP is the most established political party in Nigeria at the moment. We have an institutional framework for dealing with every situation. Just like the primary is an established template for the candidate to emerge and after that the nomination for the deputy governorship candidate and all that, all these have been done, rancour-free, credible and fair. The only thing we had was that the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, was moving out of the party to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
What we have seen is just a letter of resignation from the party, and there was no excuse given. The only issues we picked up were from the media where he said he wanted a better Ondo State and things like that. He didn’t spend more than 30 days in the party. It was like a snake walking over a rock. No impact. We are wishing him well into his new sojourn.
As for the state congress of the party, it was rancour-free as well. Only two positions were contested out of the 39 positions. Those who were not so elected did not have any complaints about the process, and we have moved on since then. Everything that has to be done in preparation for the election has been done. We are battle ready and we have put everything in place for the October election. We are convinced and sure that we are going to win as a party.
Would you attribute Agboola’s exit from the party to an alleged hostility in the party leadership in the state?
Well, hostility must be defined. If there was no level-playing ground provided; if there was any attempt to muscle him up or to make things difficult for him, you could have talked about hostility. The National Secretariat gave him a waiver to participate in the primaries.
Also, a good number of people supported him and gave him cooperation. That was why he was able to score as much as 657 votes. If there was any kind of hostility, then it would have meant that there was no level playing ground. Normally, in contests like this, tempers would be high. There would be people on your side and people against you.
That does not amount to hostility. If the National Secretariat promised him level-playing ground, the state also provided him same, there was no hostility of any kind. I’m almost convinced that he just didn’t want to stay in the party. There were lots of entreaties that were made to him.
The flag-bearer went to his house twice to plead with him. After all, about eight aspirants contested for the ticket and yet, the position and that meant seven other people would not win. If level-playing ground was not given to all, one would have expected a petition to that effect.
But it seems that some aspirants did not support the choice of running mate, and with about 60 days to the polls, don’t you think there is a looming crisis in the party?
It is not a crisis. The statement credited to Banji Okunomo Campaign Organisation was gross indiscipline because Banji told us that he wanted to be governor. So, if you are now coming up a month after the primaries to say what he said, it is just outright indiscipline, because there are processes put in place to nominate the deputy governor.
Deputy governorship slot is not a position that is being contested for. It is the party’s leadership in conjunction with the flag bearer that determines who becomes deputy governor. So, it is recklessness to issue such a statement that he passed a vote of no confidence. What is the meaning of that? If the majority of the party people had voted for a candidate, that is a vote of confidence. Their vote of no confidence amounted to their own catchment of votes which they had.
There had been an attempt to integrate all the aspirants into the bodies of the cam- paigns as we as into the party so that the entire party can be in one accord. We have viewed it as indiscipline and necessary action will be taken in that direction. It probably amounts to some kind of ambition that is not captured in the overall mood of the party.
Besides Okunomo, it was believe that the running mate should have come from Ilaje Local Government Area. What is your opinion on this?
There was no such agreement. You must have noticed that about four Ilaje indigenes contested in the primaries. Aspirants like Erewa, Okunomo, Ebiseni and are from Ilaje. So, if in the wisdom of the party in conjunction with the candidate and say this is where we have picked the deputy governorship candidate, morally, everybody is bound to support that ticket. So, if you have any grievance, you should have channeled it to the party. But there was nowhere it was agreed that the deputy governorship candidate would be picked from Ilaje.
If the APC decided to pick from Ilaje Local Government, it is not a guarantee that PDP must also pick from Ilaje. So, there’s no such agreement as to warrant this level of bitterness and anger against the party.
In fact, in military terms, what they have done amounts to mutiny.
You are moving against that party, so that party has the right to crush the person. We are addressing the matter officially.
With the exit of Agboola to ZLP, analysts believe that the contest is now between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. What is your take on this?
I do not intend to say anything that will impede on the personality of the former Governor of Ondo State. He is an elder statesman who we have a lot of respect for. He holds the honour of the only elected person living or dead that had ruled this state for eight years. So, he is someone we hold in very high esteem.
But talking about the deputy governor, he was elected to run with Akeredolu and he joined the PDP, in between, he contested the primaries where he lost and they are now talking about a third force, Ondo State doesn’t know any third force, the people do not know third force and there is a precedent for that.
The former governor himself, last year left the PDP went to Labour Party, from there to ZLP. He ran election to the Senate last year and he came third in that contest. And very recently, the deputy governor and his master, Akeredolu, whatever happened to them, fielded some candidates under Action Alliance for the National Assembly.
They could not secure one seat in the National Assembly election. So, what gives anybody the impression that this team is on its way to produce the governor? It’s an illusion and very ridiculous if anybody says that the race is between Akeredolu and Ajayi because, in actual sense, this is a party that is non-existence.
Their only presence is one seat in the House of Assembly. How can you be comparing that kind of party with a party that has two members of Senate, House of Representatives and the House of Assembly? It is a straight fight between APC and PDP. Those of us who are in the business for this election know who our opponents are. We do not even intend to join issues with ZLP because there is no basis for it.
How is PDP planning to win the election considering the fact that it is trying to unseat an incumbent government?
Ondo State people are already disenchanted with this government. Ondo State people are frustrated by the APC government, either at the state or national level. The people have been so pauperised, dehumanised and frustrated that there is nobody living in this state except those that are running from crumbs from the table of the master.
An overwhelming majority of people in Ondo State want Akeredolu out of government. If you have lived for Akure for some time, you will know how Akure looked like between 2012 and 2017 when they came in and how Akure is looking now.
The whole of Akure now looks like a refuse dump. If you drive through Oba Adesida at night, you won’t know if you are in hell or elsewhere. These are places that normally lit up at night with the streets sparkle clean. Children are out of school; their parents can no longer afford to pay for their school fees. There was about 1000 per cent increment in school fees of tertiary institutions. People are very bitter with the kind of experience under Akeredolu’s government.
If all the students that have been thrown out of school, if only those section of the voting population vote against Akeredolu unless they are thinking of writing figures which is not possible. I don’t see how APC is going to win because they have not done well.
Look at Mother and Child Hospitals. People that used to go there to deliver free of charge even through caesarian section, now pay through their noses. Do you know how people that have died because they cannot afford to pay? This is a man that has brought a lot of misery to our people and our people are going to reject him.
PDP did not partake in the just-concluded local government election. However, what is the party’s view on the process?
We have called on security agencies to be on red alert because it is clear that APC has nothing to offer and they are trying to arm-twist the people through violence, thuggery and whatever means they have to take the mandate of the people but it is a resistance. The violence you are seeing is a resistance that the people are going to resist them.
This state belongs to all of us and nobody has the monopoly of violence. That we are going to have an election does not mean we are preparing for anarchy, no. It is the business of government to ensure that we safeguard life and property in this place. But what we have seen is a resistance that the people will not allow anybody to take them for granted.
We are calling on the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police in the state, the 32 Artillery Brigade Commander and all the other security agencies here to be very careful and ensure that anarchy is not brought to Ondo State.