Biyi Adegoroye, Cajetan Mmuta, Benin and Adewale Momoh, Akure
overnor Godwin Obaseki’s entry into the governorship race on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the planned defection of the Ondo State’s Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi to the PDP for the same purpose have started causing ripples within the party in both states.
Already, a number of loyal party chieftains and governorship aspirants, who have obtained nomination and expression of interest forms for about N22million each, have expressed displeasure over plans to give both aspirants preferential treatments ahead of the primaries.
Obaseki and his deputy (Philip Shaibu) were given waivers to contest the Edo governorship election following their defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC), in a bid to realize his re-election bid, while embattled Agboola Ajayi is expected to defect to PDP and pick his nomination form any moment from now.
Before the PDP postponed till this week the Edo governorship primaries, apparently to give sufficient time for Obaseki to perfect his defection, three of the aspirants, Gideon Ihama, Omoriege and Kenneth Imasuagbon had already been screened by the party. The trio told Sunday Telegraph that they have been under pressure since the governor’s defection to drop their ambition ahead of the forthcoming governorship September 19 election fixed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Obaseki, who had held series of meetings with the leadership of the PDP at the national and state levels after his defection, as well as some governors in the South-South is expected to slug it out at the party’s primaries slated for Thursday with the three governorship aspirants who had earlier been screened by the party.
The hurdle before the governor, however, is the unshaken resolve of some of the party’s gubernatorial aspirants not to step down for Obaseki.
They insisted that Obaseki has just joined the party and therefore his coming into the fold cannot just sweep them away years of efforts in the struggle to achieve their desires towards serving the interest of people of Edo State, stressing that such arm-twisting game is not line with democratic tenets, due process, the country’s constitution and the Electoral Act.
Already, investigations yesterday revealed that the aggrieved aspirants are taking different positions on the move by Obaseki, who is believed to be working closely with some key actors within the party at the state and national levels, to wade into the situation with a view to perfecting his plans for a smooth sail second term ambition.
Sunday Telegraph learnt major actors in the Edo political logjam said to be working in collaboration with sacked National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, are stopping at nothing with a straightened dragnet to cage the governor such that his schemes will come to nothing in the re-election project.
Two members of the National Assembly close to Oshiomhole were said to have been deployed from Abuja last week to pressurize some of the screened PDP governorship aspirants not to step down for Obaseki, a move that is believably designed to scuttle his chances.
Source close the two chieftains of the APC, who pleaded to be anonymous, disclosed that two of the governorship aspirants were asked to maintain sealed lips on the plans against Obaseki.
But one of the aspirants, Engr. Gideon Ikhine when contacted last night promised to speak on Obaseki’s entry into PDP and the much speculated pressure to step down at a press conference to be addressed tomorrow (Monday).
On his part, Barrister Kenneth Imasuagbon in a telephone interview said: “I cannot step down for Obaseki, he should be the one to step down for me. I am going to step down for anybody. We have concluded the congress before Obaseki came.”
On whether there is pressure coming from eminent personalities, key leaders and elders of the PDP, Imasuagbon admitted that, “Yes from them” but stated that “it is not about pressure but about doing the right thing in line with the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria, due process and the Electoral Act.
“It is disappointing and a big shame in Edo State and the entire nation and it portends danger for the country and the party. Nigerians should rise up against what is happening we are not in the jungle, it is no do or die affair but about the process. It is totally unacceptable,” he said.
The move, it was gathered has caused apprehension within the PDP fold particularly among aspirants who have been long time members of the party with their eyes already set on the party’s tickets.
The situation is not different in Ondo as the purported move of the Deputy Governor, Hon. Agboola Ajayi may put the state chapter of the PDP in disarray. Some party leaders said that Ajayi might be imposed because of incumbency and access to funds.
Barring the unforeseen, Ajayi is likely to formally announce his defection to the PDP any moment from now even as he is said to have secretly bought the party’s membership form.
Ajayi’s desire for an automatic ticket as well as the pressure mounted on PDP governorship aspirants were reportedly resisted as almost all the aspirants insisted on running at the primary.
As a result, the deputy governor, whose relationship with Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has become irredeemable following his insistence to run against him, was said to have initially brokered a deal with some PDP national leaders with a view to fielding him as running mate to the party’s 2016 governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede.
A member of the PDP National Working Committee, who spoke on the development in Akure, the state capital, disclosed that the earlier arrangement to make Ajayi running mate to Jegede appears to have been repudiated.
According to him, the first plan, which was hatched barely two weeks ago, was revisited after some “national leaders saw the need to properly assess the popularity and experience of both Ajayi and Jegede” with a view to bringing the best combination to the table.
“Honestly, we at the national level want the best for the party and that is what we have been working day and night to do as far as the Ondo State governorship election is concerned.
“We are on the verge of receiving the deputy governor into our party and he is no doubt, a big fish that will give the APC a good fight in the forthcoming election. One clear message we have been giving to all aspirants is that none of them will have anything to share,” he said
But reacting to the development, the former National Vice Chairman of the PDP (South-West), Dr. Eddy Olafeso said: “He (Ajayi) is still not a member of our party and has not collected any form and I can confirm to you that as of today only seven people have collected the PDP governorship form for the election – Erewa, Okunomo, Ayorinde, Jegede, Eddy, Oba Akingboye and Kunlere.”
Meanwhile, a former Head of Service (HoS) in Ondo State, Mr. Ajose Kudehinbu has berated Hon. Ajayi over his purported move to contest the governorship seat with his boss, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu at the polls.
According to Mr. Kudehinbu, Ajayi, a former local government chairman and one time member of House of Representatives, is the least qualified to rule the state.