Ondo 2016: Looming crisis in PDP

Exactly a month to the governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State, leading stakeholders are enmeshed in intrigues over the process that will produce a standard-bearer, reports HAKEEM GBADAMOSI.

AS different parties step up plans for the November 26, 2016 governorship election in Ondo State , it seems that all is not well within the camp of the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the choice of its standard-bearer. Two out of the three senatorial districts in the state, the North and the South, are alleging a grand plot by the party leadership and the incumbent the state governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, to  impose an aspirant, Eyitayo Jegede, from the Central senatorial district, on the party.

Stakeholders behind the allegation within the party from the two zones are demanding a level-playing field in order to avert a possible backlash. In short, they have promised to resist such imposition on the ground that the Central senatorial district has had its fair share of power. According to them, power should shift to either the North or the South as the incumbent governor, Mimiko, who will be completing his two terms of eight years in February, 2017, hails from the Central district.

It will be recalled that the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, who governed the state between 1999 and  2003, hailed from Akoko in the Northern senatorial district. He was succeeded by the late Dr Olusegun Agagu from the South for six years (2003 to 2009) before a court sacked him to pave the way for Mimiko (Central senatorial district). Thus, all the senatorial districts in the state have had the privilege of having their individual turns in power at one time or the other.

However, three major schools of thought have since emerged over the controversy of the perceived power rotation among the senatorial zones. While some observers say the pendulum could swing to either the North or the South, others are of the view that the governorship slot could be seeded to any of the three districts as they have all produced governors at different periods since 1999. The third school of thought is that the process of rotation should go back to where it started in the interest of fair play and harmony.

But the major stakeholders and leaders of the PDP  from the South and North districts are kicking against the alleged discreet moves by the powers-that-be to impose Jegede from the Central district on the party. To avert the perceived injustice, the leaders have been involved in a series of high-level meetings and consultations aimed at checkmating those behind the hidden agenda. The first salvo was served by the leaders of the Southern PDP when they summoned a meeting at the instance of the lawmaker representing the South senatorial districts at the Red Chamber of the National Assembly, Senator Yele Omogunwa. The people re- affirmed their resolve to produce the governorship candidate of the party.

They opposed the purported support of Mimiko for Jegede, who hails from Akure, and emphasised  the need for the governing party to go into the election as a united entity in order not to lose the state to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Omogunwa, who spoke on behalf of the people, said: “We have a peculiar situation, especially as regards the emergence of the PDP governorship candidate, and it is important that we all go into the election as one because it is only this way that the PDP can be victorious at the poll.” They alleged that the governor had met with some leaders in different parts of the state informing them of his preferred choice.

Among those that attended the Southern  Stakeholders’ meeting were Honourable Kolade Akinjo, Honourable Mayowa Akinfolarin, Chief Eddy Olafeso, Dr Lucas Gbakinro, Pastor Segun Ayerin and Honourable Akin Sowore.  They unanimously declared: “As much as we should support the candidate of the governor, we also have the right to fight for what we believe is the right cause.”

Similarly, aspirants from the Northern district, who included Senator Remi Okunrinboye, Rt. Honourable (Dr) Bakkita Bello, Bamiduro Dada, Prince Nekan Olateru-Olagbegi, Dare Emiola, Honourable Gbenga Elegbeleye, Dayo Fadahunsi, and Yekini Olanipekun frowned at the purported backing of Jegede. The aggrieved aspirants and stakeholders further alleged that the governor had earlier held a meeting with them, with state and local government executive members of the party in attendance, where he told them that he had not endorsed an aspirant from the central senatorial district as PDP’s candidate.

Therefore, the northern district stakeholders urged Mimiko and other leaders of the party promoting the Central senatorial district agenda to align with the rotational/zoning principle of the party in the interest of equity, fairness and justice.  Specifically, they called on the political stakeholders in the state not to renege on the agreement signed in respect of zoning before the 2012 governorship election that produced Mimiko as governor.  The core term of the agreement, according to them, is to rotate the choice of PDP’s candidate among the north and the central senatorial district, adding that it was the turn of the North to pick the party’s ticket.

Mimiko, who defected from the Labour Party (LP) to PDP in 2014, was not part of the agreement. Besides, most of the stakeholders who signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) have left the party to opposition APC in the state. Thus, some analysts  say Mimiko might not be bound by such agreement since he was not part of it.

But the northern aspirants said that such  “position by Mr Governor is considered a miscalculation that will further put Ondo North Senatorial district at a serious political disadvantage, putting the state PDP at a loss and laying bad precedence in the state. That all the undersigned leader align their position with the rotational/zoning principle of our party. This is in accordance with the MOU reached by the state leadership of the party towards the October 20, 2012 election, that the governorship of the state be rotated amongst the three senatorial districts.”

Some youths from the aggrieved camps in the state PDP under the North/South Senatorial Youths Campaigners (NSDYC), have joined in fray. They have promised to frustrate the adoption of Jegede as the party’s candidate. He is the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

They accused the state PDP leadership of planning to destroy the party to pave way for the opposition to win the forthcoming election in the state by presenting a weak candidate to the electorate. They also alleged that the party was working in collaboration with a former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, towards providing logistics for Jegede’s campaign if he emerges as the party’s candidate.

However, observers say the current disputations among stakeholders in the state PDP border on both individual and group interests. While some see the whole drama partly as a gang-up against Jegede, it is believed in certain quarters that the governor, during a meeting, told some stakeholders that Akure had been sidelined politically since the creation of the state.  He was quoted as saying all the aspirants were close to him and would not want the primary to generate any form of bad blood within the party. Mimiko is yet to publicly anoint Jegede as his choice for the ticket thereby keeping virtually everyone guessing based on his body language.