In this analysis, BIYI ADEGOROYE looks at how choice of running mates, the defection of the embattled Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi to the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and other intrigues would affect the Ondo State governorship election
With the release of the 17 governorship candidates and their running mates in the Ondo State election slated for October 10, 2020 by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), the coast is now clear for the major contenders for the Alagbaka House.
While the All Progressives Congress, (APC) has Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as its candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede occupies the same position in the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
Others are Agboola Ajayi for the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Rotimi Adeleye Akindejoye, flies the flag of Accord Party (AP); while 67-year-old Joshua Oluwafemi Adewole is of the Action Alliance (AA). INEC also listed Adeleye Adekunle Peter of the African Action Congress (AAC),
Adelegan Adedapo Oluwaseyi of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Martin Kunle Olateru-Olagbegi of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Olowoloba Dele of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and Aminu Akeem Olanrewaju of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
However, since the choice of running mate is very significant for the success or failure of the candidates in the election, attention is now focused the running mates and value they can add to the joint-ticket in the political equation in the state ahead of the election Akeredolu has chosen Hon. Lucky Ayedatiwa, a one time member of the House of Representatives and former representative of the state on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as his running mate.
He is a native of Obe- Nla, an oil-bearing community in Ilaje Local Government Area of the State. Ayedatiwa’s selection as replacement to Agboola Ajayi after left for the PDP was said to be providential, because in 2016 the new running mate was one of the favorites for deputy governorship position. They are both from the same Ilaje stock and there was no love lost with them.
Commenting on the choice of Ayedatiwa as running mate, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Donald Ojogo, said it is a reward for consistency and loyalty. “There is nothing like commitment and loyalty to a cause. Ayedatiwa has not just been consistent, he has been extremely loyal to the party and the principal.
The uncommon attribute of this man is his perseverance and capacity to absorb shock, no matter what happens. “Recall that he was billed to be a member of the board of the NDDC shortly after the advent of this administration but he was not cleared by the Senate after several months if not years. When he was eventually cleared, he spent less than six months before that board was dissolved.
“Again, when it was time for the 2019 senatorial election, he was the choice of the leadership of the party in the state and had indeed, won the nomination but his name was curiously removed by the then NWC of the APC with the active connivance of some persons who had their eyes on the politics of the moment.
“He was sabotaged and the undermined by some forces who have since left the party. Even at that, he didn’t purge. He remained faithful, clinging to the governor without any sign of discontent. He never complained for once and spent his energy and resources to build the party.
“I think he is a man who had to had passed an unusual integrity test because he faced serious challenges and setbacks without betraying emotions in any manner. “Although his choice appears to have filled the gap of the Ilaje in their age long quest for the deputy governorship in the least, this is the first time Ilaje will produce the deputy governorship candidate of a major political party.
“However, some of us believe strongly that given his personal attributes, Lucky Ayedatiwa would still have been picked by Governor Akeredolu even if he hailed from another local government from the South senatorial district,” Ojogo said. Jegede, on his part, has picked Olumide Ogunje, his personal assistant and former member of the Ondo State House of Assembly as running mate as he flies the PDP flag. Ogunje, who is from Ode Irele, in Irele Local Government, is expected garner the support of the Ikales in Irele and Okitipupa for the party.
The choice of Ogunje, which some have described as evidence of confusion came after much touted Ikengboju Gboluga, a member of House of Representatives representing Irele/Okitipupa Federal Constituency would have garnered the votes of Ikale and Ilaje for him.
However, the Ogunje is said to be a surrogate who might be replaced by the PDP before the August 18 window when parties are empowered by law to make substitutions, because the latter is said to have more political clout and followership.
“Jegede is current battling with post-primaries issues and he might pick a fresh running mate from Ilaje to counter and divide Akeredolu’s votes in the area. The man Jegede has picked is like a surrogate, because of the confusion or subterfuge, because when he picked Ikeugbolu, there was problem. So it has really ruffled he waters in PDP and they want to buy time,” a source said.
One of the PDP candidates in the last primaries, Hon. Banji Okuomo, however, said that because political parties still have the time to substitute candidates till August 18, Jegede needs to show that the primaries was not a winner-takes-all issue, hence he can replace his deputy outside his main political camp.
“The contest was mainly between South and Central and in the South the nationality that has not had a short at the governorship is the Ilaje nation, just as Akure has not had the governorship.
So if one takes the governorship position this time, let the other take deputy and the candidate with highest number of votes is Banjo Okuoma with 90 votes, ahead of Sola Ebiseni and Erewa respectively,” he said.
Replay of 2016 Agboola Ajayi’s movement to ZLP is another issue which will badly affect the concerted efforts of the PDP to clinch the governorship seat, because he is said not to be moving with nobody from APC/PDP to the ZLP.
The argument is that Mimiko whom they are looking at as the leader of the party in Ondo State did not win a senatorial election in 2019, hence his prowess and the political myth is no longer there, because he can hardly add any value to Ajayi’s political ambition.
A source close to the Deputy Governor, however, stated that Ajayi would leverage on his success in the last PDP primaries and structures in the state which were influential to the victory of APC in 2016 to spring some surprises. There is however, some confusion. “Agbo is taking a lot of PDP members to ZLP and Jegede seems to be uncoordinated.
He is already having problem with the leadership and the South Senatorial district who are already saying they can no longer wait for additional eight years before governorship position gets to them,” a source said. Again, there is the fear that he has been cornered by Akure elites, hence he needs to pacify other leaders who he is allegedly no longer picking their calls.
Notable leaders from the party see his ambition as an Akure agenda and some local governments are not comfortable with that. By this calculation, it means that while the South appears intact and unanimous in their resolve that additional four years of an Akeredolu are shorter that an eight years of a Jegede’s project, the former is likely to get sympathy votes from the South, especially since he has picked Lucky .. who is from Ilaje.
This is first time an Ilaje man would be picked in a major political party as running mate. Needless to say, the Southern senatorial district of Ondo State which is peopled largely by the Ikale and Ilaje command large votes which would make or mar any candidate’s ambition in the polls.
And the choice of Akeredolu might badly affect the fortunes of the PDP in the South. If Jegede finally drops Ikengboju Gboluga and Ogunje but goes to Ilaje to pick his running mate, it means that the whole of Ikale will be united against him, and if he goes to Ikale to pick, the PDP forces in Ikale that will now work for that person remain to be seen, a source said.
This is because the only leading light in Ikale for PDP is Dr. Eddy Olafeso, who is currently unhappy if not in shocked by the blow and unfair treatment PDP meted out on him by admitting an Ajayi and granted him waiver to contest the primaries shortly after his defection.
After serving the party for many years as commissioner, party spokesman and Zonal Vice Chairman, Olafeso is said to be disappointed over the outcome of the primaries. According to some of his aides, Ajayi did not only split the votes from the South but did a deadly blow on Olafeso’s governorship ambition.
“We have lost interest in PDP in Ondo State and we have to go our individual ways. We are not seeing any major post-primaries conciliatory moves,” said a chieftain of the PDP in Ondo State, adding: “And I can assure you this will affect the outcome of the election.”
But even at that, it has also been argued that the combined forces of Dr. Pius Akintelure, a former Zonal Vice Chairman of the APC in the South-West and Femi Agagu, the Commissioner for Education and the influence of Olusola Oke in Okitipupa would muffle the flickering light of PDP in Ikaleland.
Observers have also posited that Ajayi’s movement from two political parties, first APC and PDP within a month smacks of political desperation that would adversely affect the performance of the PDP in the election.
“With the emergence of Ajayi from Southern part of the state as ZLP governorship candidate, the votes of the South will be massively divided, the same way it affected outcome of PDP primaries. The case is now akin to what Jimoh Ibrahim did with lawsuits in 2016 that paved the way for the victory of Akeredolu. If the poll was easy for Akeredolu in 2016, it is going to be a lot easier for his this time around,” a PDP source said.