Politics

Ondo PDP: Furore over Mimiko’s planned defection

BABATOPE OKEOWO reports on the controversy over the planned defection of a former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and some of his loyalists from the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

 

Former Governor Olusegun Mimiko and some of his loyalists in Ondo State have perfected plans to return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) ahead of the 2023 general election.

 

While many see the move as a welcome development, others see it as an avenue to hijack the party’s structures. However, their planned move to the mainstream opposition party is already shaping the political landscape of the Sunshine State. Among those expected to join Mimiko in his move to the PDP are the immediate past deputy governor of the state and the candidate of ZLP in last year’s gubernatorial election, Hon. Agboola Ajayi as well as his running mate, Engr. Gboye Adegbenro.

 

Olusegun Mimiko

Mimiko could be described as the most mobile politician in the state. He has been in Alliance for Democracy (AD), PDP, Labour Party (LP), back to PDP, later ZLP and now on his way back to PDP. The two time governor of the state is the National Leader of the ZLP.

He was a senatorial candidate of the party in the 2019 elections but lost to Senator Ayo Akinyelure of the PDP. Mimiko also supported Ajayi in the October 2020 governorship election in the state, a development that made him to clash with Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu who wanted a second term.

It was the support given to Ajayi during the election that made Akeredolu to refer to Mimiko as his ‘bogus’ enemy and promised not to have anything to do with his long-time friend again.

 

Akeredolu and Mimiko’s friendship date back to their university days and the former was one of the lawyers that represented the latter in the court during the battle to reclaim his governorship mandate in 2007.

 

Agboola Ajayi

Another mobile politician in the state is Agboola Ajayi, the immediate past Deputy Governor of Ondo State. He was in PDP between 1999 and 2003. He later moved to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 when the ticket for the senatorial election was taken away from him having won the primary.

 

He became deputy governor in 2016. He moved back to PDP in 2020 to contest the primaries  of the party but joined the ZLP after losing the party’s governorship primary to Eyitayo Jegede.

 

Ajayi is one of the most experience politicians in the Sunshine State, having served as supervisory councilor, councilor, local government chairman, member of House of Representatives and senatorial candidate before he ran election with Governor Akeredolu in the 2016 governorship election.

 

The belief in Ondo State is that his return to the PDP will shape the politics of Ondo South where he comes from ahead of the 2023 elections.

 

Gboye Adegbenro

Although relatively young in the politics of the state, Adegbenro was the Ondo Central senatorial candidate of ZLP in 2019 before he ceded it to his boss, Mimiko. He had earlier served as Special Adviser and Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure.

 

He was the running mate to the governorship candidate of the ZLP (Ajayi) in the last governorship election.

 

Since the election, both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP have been inviting him to join the party. If he joins the PDP, he will be the leader of the party in the Ifedore axis of the state.

 

The diatribe

The decision of the trio to join the mainstream opposition party is generating brouhaha in the PDP in the state as some people are of the opinion that with their coming, they will wrestle the leadership of the party from the present leaders.

 

This development has made the leader of PDP Support Group, Hon. Bode Obanla, to threaten to take Mimiko to court if he eventually joins the party. But many members of the party said there was no justifiable reason for him to challenge the ex-governor’s defection in court.

 

Obanla’s case

 

In the last few days, the only talking point of Ondo State politics has been the rumoured return of Mimiko to the PDP from ZLP, a party he founded and which he is its National Leader.

 

Ordinarily, it would have been a thing of joy for a person of Mimiko’s experience and pedigree to join the PDP, but Obanla is of the view that “considering his antecedents in the party, l will wait for him to officially join the party before l take the necessary legal actions to protect our great party from suffering harm from him, like in the past.”

 

He added: “It is also a measure to strengthen our democracy in the face of nomadic politicians, whose conscience is so fluid that, they can be found in a political party in the morning and change to another by the evening of the same day. Interestingly, the 2017 PDP Constitution (as Amended) envisaged situations of this nature and had made adequate provisions.

 

In chapter 2, section 8, subsection 17, the Constitution states expressly that “A person who has earlier decamped from the Party, but later decides to return to the Party shall lose the seniority and privileges conferred on him by his previous status.”

 

This is the part of our constitution l intend to give effect to through a competent court of jurisdiction. “Perhaps, it might be necessary to briefly x-ray the activities of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and how it had affected the PDP that has necessitated my actions as a loyal PDP member.

 

In 2003, shortly before the governorship election, Mimiko joined the PDP. His first request was the deputy governorship slot which had been ceded to Otunba Omolade Oluwateru.

 

As compensation, Dr. Olusegun Agagu announced Mimiko’s appointment as Secretary to the State Government at the Akure Sports Complex inauguration ground on May 29, 2003.

 

Thus becoming  the first political appointee of a party he just joined after abandoning the Alliance for Democracy (AD) government of Chief Adebayo Adefarati. “When Chief (Mrs.) Mobolaji Osomo, was dropped as a Federal Minister, Dr. Mimiko replaced her in 2005 as Minister of Housing.

 

The magnanimity of the PDP did not discourage him from quitting the party. He floated the Labour Party (LP) in 2007 under which platform he dealt the most devastating blow on the PDP.

 

The Court of Appeal, sitting in Benin gave victory to Mimiko and the LP, ending the six years reign of Dr. Agagu as governor. The truth is that, the PDP has never been the same in Ondo State since 2009, when Mimiko became governor. “Before the end of his eight year tenure as governor, Mimiko manipulated himself back to the PDP in 2014.

 

This was when he went for the final kill of the party. As a sitting governor, he caused the entire PDP structures from the ward to the state level to be dissolved and installed his loyalists as party executives. While, he literally hijacked the party structures, he never allowed any PDP member to be part of the state government as against what was agreed as part of the merger.

 

“The 2015 general election in which he promised to deliver two million votes for former President Goodluck Jonathan became a calamity as the PDP lost miserably in Ondo State. Many major stakeholders who were frustrated with his antics left the party for him.

 

This was the situation before the 2016 governorship election. We did not need a soothsayer to know that the PDP vehicle was no longer capable of winning any election the way we were badly fractured and disorientated.

 

“Having led the PDP to its catastrophic outing, Mimiko now left the PDP to float ZLP, a party under which platform he contested the senatorial election in 2019. He lost to the PDP candidate Senator Ayo Akinyelure.

 

This is the background to the Mimiko and the PDP story in Ondo State. I will save myself the details of Agboola Ajayi, the ZLP governorship candidate in  the 2020 election, who is aboard the Mimiko’s return flight.

 

As long as effect is given to the provision of our constitution, l have no qualms with their return to the PDP family. The more the merrier.”

 

PDP’s Reaction

 

Aside the PDP, which said it would welcome new members into its fold, many prominent members of the party also described the planned defection as a welcome development, saying it would make the party stronger ahead of 2023 elections.

 

The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kennedy Peretei, who said that Mimiko, Ajayi, Adegbenro and others are welcome to the PDP, described their planned defection as a welcome development. He said: “I am aware that Mimiko and others are joining the PDP.

It is a welcome development to the extent that politics is a game of number and there is nothing wrong with people who have made their mark in the politics of Ondo State joining the party.

“Mimiko was governor for eight years in Ondo State and there is nobody that has such record. Ajayi is a former deputy governor.

 

Although we have former deputy governors in our rank, their coming will however be to add value to what is already on ground. “They should come to add value to the existing structures of PDP. I also believe that if they join us they will swell our rank; they will come with their supporters.

 

No doubt, there are misgivings but that already belongs to the past, we must be able to navigate and go into a brighter future for PDP in Ondo State. We don’t have anything against them; there is nothing personal against them.

 

“Whatever happened in the past was about interest and now that they are coming back to come and join us, they will continue to push for PDP’s victory in 2023 and beyond. You know also that PDP has its registration procedure, they have to go to their wards and register, and then we will work with them. They are fully welcome into the party.”

 

Support for Mimiko

 

Besides the PDP leadership in the state, other leaders of the party have also expressed support for Mimiko’s planned defection with his loyalists.

 

A former chairman of the party, Hon. Ebenezer Alabi, in his reaction said: “I have taken quality time to go through the PDP Constitution, searching for the provision(s) Mr. Bode Obanla will rely on to institute his case against Dr. Mimiko but yet to find one.

 

It is time we forgive each other and rebuild our party. I have just gone through an unjust suspension orchestrated by the leadership of the party. Whoever that has not sinned should throw the first stone. I heartily welcome the great Iroko back to PDP.”

 

The Immediate past senator for Ondo South, Yele Omogunwa, who also defected from the APC to PDP, described the coming of Mimiko and others to the PDP as a welcome development.

 

His words: “Your Excellency, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, you are highly welcome back to PDP. No single person, no matter how strong he is, can win even his unit alone, how much more ward. In case His Excellency is willing to stage a comeback, any right thinking person should be happy.

 

If he returns, I am sure he will come with so many of his supporters. There is nothing to share in zero. I am sure Dr. Mimiko has options and if his preferred option is PDP, the better for the party.

 

“A political party is a choice of free entry and exit. We should be magnanimous and be our brothers keepers. The stature of Dr. Mimiko, a two-term governor, a former minister, Secretary to State Government and commissioner should be appealed to come on board.”

Reacting to Obanla’s threat of blocking Mimiko’s plan return to the PDP gthrough the court, Omogunwa said: “Bode should be more mature and know that two wrongs don’t make a right.

He should know that many current PDP governors have defected to APC, so there is no need threatening litigation against Dr. Mimiko. Are you working for PDP’s success or not? If you don’t want people come to the party, we move away or you are nursing personal animosity and want to take revenge?

If you really have the interest of this party at heart, there is nothing you alone can do to make PDP victorious except you are speaking for the party. “Although Dr. Mimiko never carried me along but I was happy when I heard about his defection.

 

This is the time all political warlords should come together except we are happy with all that is happening around us. Let us work together in the interest of our people. Mimiko is welcomed to the fold and I will join others to welcome him but he should not come with black legs.

 

A Public Affairs annalyst, Mr. Wale Obanigba, on his part, said Hon. Obanla needed to be properly guided before going on a futile journey of litigation.

 

According to him, except there are other reasons not mentioned in his write up, there is simply no cause of action in this. The lawyer added that there is no law in Nigeria that bars a person from moving in and out of a party except a lawmaker who must fulfill some conditions.

 

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