HAKEEM GBADAMOSI examines activities in the opposition party in the Ondo State governorship election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), how its aspirants are gearing up for the party’s primary coming up next month as well as their strength and weaknesses.
AS the October 10 governorship election draws near in Ondo state, the people of the state are gearing up and studying political events in the state, it is apparent that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is working hard to give the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) a good fight in the election and take over power in the state.
The outcome of the primaries, no doubt, would give impetus to the direction of the October 10 governorship election in the state on whether to retain the incumbent governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu or test another leader or party for another four years. Akeredolu and the APC dislodged the PDP in the 2016 governorship election, defeating its candidate in the election, Eyitayo Jegede, the anointed candidate of the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
The defeat, according to Sunday Tribune findings had sent leaders of the PDP back to the drawing board, regrouping, reconciling and restrategising to put the party on track. The rebuilding processes in the opposition party paid off in the 2019 elections, where the party, surprisingly won the state for its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The PDP also won two out of the three senatorial seats and about three House of Representatives seats against the prediction of political pundits who had written the party off before the election.
The 2019 elections exploits of the opposition party seem to be the tonic the party needed to relaunch itself to reckoning as the party has been attracting traffic of political bigwigs from other political parties and turning out to be the new bride in the state. This, interestingly, has accounted for the number of political gladiators scrambling to fly the party’s flag in the October governorship election in the state.
So far, no fewer than 20 members of the party initially signified their intentions to contest for the governorship ticket of the party before the real men are separated from boys. But only nine of the 20 have been able to obtain the nomination forms to vie for the party’s ticket and test their popularity among the party members.
The aspirants include, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, who is the immediate past zonal chairman of the party in the South-West; Bamidele Akingboye, Banji Okunomo, Godday Erewa, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Sola Ebiseni, Eyitayo Jegede, Honourable Bode Ayorinde and the new entrant into the race, the deputy governor of the state, Honourable Agboola Ajayi.
Obviously, these aspirants are no pushovers, as most of them have held high governmental positions in the state and at the national levels.
A look at the array of strong politicians from the PDP shows that seven of the aspirants hail from the southern senatorial district of the state, while one each hailed from the central and northern district. Many attributed the large numbers of the aspirants to the preponderance of the opinion that the south should produce the next governor in the state.
While the preponderance of opinion favours the south to produce the party’s candidate for the October election, politicians from north are insisting on completing the eight years of the incumbent, Akeredolu, who many of them said has failed to measure up to standard in terms of good governance.
Political analysts are of the opinion that the ticket of the PDP can go to any of the aspirants from the south if all the aspirants from the area speak with one voice and support the best among the seven contenders for the ticket.
They maintain that if the aspirants fail to agree on a consensus candidate among them, it may rob them the opportunity to present a southerner as the party’s candidate which may favour Jegede or Ayorinde, as the votes of the delegates may be shared among the seven aspirants. Added to this is the defection of the deputy governor to the PDP and his intention to run for the office of the governor on the ticket of the party. His entrance into the race has altered political calculations within the party and sent many of the aspirants back to the drawing board, considering the political support, popularity and antecedents of Ajayi in the state.
The stage appears set for the primary to determine who will eventually fly the flag of the party in the election coming up later in the year. Unlike in the ruling APC, where the mode of primary has become contentious, between those rooting for direct and advocates of indirect primaries, not much noise has emanated from the PDP on the mode of primary to be adopted. The PDP party leadership has promised that the primary election of the party will be free and fair.
Although the electoral contest is expected to be fought by as many political parties as the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has on its register, what has become of interest to political watchers is how the battle will be fought by the two major political parties. In fact what is of more interest to the majority of voters in the state are challenges within the APC and PDP due to the intrigues likely to attend the primaries of the two major parties and the belief that one of the two parties will produce the governor.
With the calibre of aspirants jostling for the PDP ticket, some political stakeholders believe strongly that the party seems to be ready to take over power from the APChinging their belief on strong personalities of the aspirants and their experience as individuals who understand the politics of the state. Whoever emerges as the candidate of the party will be the candidate to beat.
While Jegede is the choice of the party leaders from the central for the number one seat in the state before the defection of the deputy governor of the state, the defection of Ajayi has forced the camp of the former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in the state to return to the drawing board.
Jegede was the party’s candidate in the 2016 governorship election and lost to Akeredolu. His choice as the party’s candidate in 2016 caused crisis in the party as many saw him as the imposition of former governor Olusegun Mimiko on the state.
Many perceived the crisis of confidence in the party and Mimiko’s connection as being responsible for the defeat of the party in the 2016 election. Many of the party members were said to have maintained a “siddon look” posture during the election, while some members were alleged to have directly worked for the emergence of Akeredolu as the governor.
There was also the argument that Mimiko being from the central district should have allowed power to rotate to another district rather than imposing a candidate from the same district as himself in the 2016 election. This was seen as a major political mistake of Mimiko and it took the party a long time to get back its political rhythms.
Jegede, according to some, is seen to have failed to rally members along after losing the election and provided expected leadership after Mimiko exited the party. But some of his supporters would have none of that. Their counter argument has always been that being a sound legal mind who understands the dynamics of party politics, he is being careful not to step on toes.
There is also the sentiment that no indigene of the state capital, Akure, where he hails from, has ever governed the state. But how well he would be able to exploit this to full advantage for his electoral victory is yet to be seen or if other party stakeholders would flow with him on the project.
If Jegede eventually clinches the party’s ticket, there is the belief that he would have the support of major stakeholders in the like Alhaji Abubakar Atiku,, among others.
Ayorinde is a former member of the House of Representatives from Owo/Ose federal constituency and the founder of Achievers University in Owo.
He contested the APC primaries during the 2016 governorship election, but lost to Akeredolu. Ayorinde dumped APC for PDP and contested the National Assembly election in 2019, but also …. to APC.
He is the only aspirant in the race for the PDP ticket from the North. He is from Owo. He told newsmen he is in the race to complete the eight-year tenure of his kinsman, Akeredolu.
Another strong contender in the race is the former Information Commissioner in the state, Dr. Eddy Olafeso. He is the immediate past National Vice Chairman, South-West, of PDP, the position he resigned to contest the governorship election.
Olafeso hails from Idepe in Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state and has name recognition across the state and is regarded as one of the most formidable politicians in the state. Though Olafeso is not consider to have a deep pocket, he is surrounded by political associates and friends who may be ready to finance his aspiration.
A grassroots politician and notable apostle of the late Governor Olusegun Agagu, who is strongly favoured as a strong contender, Olafeso is reputed to have impacted many lives while in office.
Olusola Ebiseni is a lawyer and one of the few politicians who understand the politics of the Sunshine state. He became Ilaje/Ese-Odo council chairman at age 27 and a three- time commissioner in the state.
Ebiseni contested the party’s ticket and lost to Jimoh Ibrahim in the Ali-Modu Sheriff faction of the party and is regarded as one of the best brains in the state. He is one of the representatives from the South-West to the 2014 Confab. Many stakeholders consider him a good material for the coveted seat. and a strong contender for the seat. He is deeply rooted in the politics of the state. But how deep his pocket is and/or whether he has the clout to prosecute his political ambition is not known.
Banji Okunomo is another strong contender for the PDP ticket. He is a former publicity secretary of the PDP in the state, and a former council chairman of Ilaje Local Governmeent Area of the state.
Okunomo, who is a young blood but with political experience, is making waves across the state and his aspiration is being supported by youths in the state who believe he can make a difference. He is seen as a strong contender, who may spring surprise in the primary in July.
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