The choice of a deputy governorship candidate and the planned defection of the incumbent deputy governor, Hon. Agboola Ajayi are piling enormous pressure on the chances of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP succeeding in its moves to unseat the APC in the forthcoming Ondo State governorship contest.
Ajayi, who lost the PDP primaries contest to the eventual winner, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, had after initially conceding defeat and promising to work with Jegede, however continued with plans to find a platform that he would use to run as a governorship candidate in the forthcoming polls. He is now widely expected to defect to the Olusegun Mimiko-run Zenith Labour Party later in the week.
As is to be expected, this move is generating a lot of heat within his People Democratic Party. This is aside from the continuing rumbles over the choice of who will be the deputy to Jegede.
The Ajayi challenge is actually a very difficult one for the party, given that he had defected from the ruling All Progressive Congress to the PDP over irreconcilable differences with Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
On contesting the last PDP governorship primary, he came second and is clearly dissatisfied on why he should remain with the party. This situation has thus led to a crisis situation, particularly when it is placed alongside the other continuing challenge of running mate selection.
Remarked one of the leaders of the party who spoke on the matter:
”We are seriously appealing to the deputy governor not to dump the party at this crucial time and at the same time; the party’s candidate is battling with leaders of his choice of deputy”.
Indeed, leaders of the PDP within and outside the state including governors have been mounting pressure on Ajayi not to dump the party. A source revealed that one of the options being considered is for the NWC of the party to impose Ajayi as the running mate to Jegede as part of the moves to halt his defection ZLP.
At the moment, our source says, party leaders from the state have reportedly met with party leaders in Abuja to prevail on Jegede to accept Ajayi.
“Jegede may not have the choice than to accept Ajayi as running mate. We can’t afford to go into the poll with a divided house. APC members in the state are on a daily basis uniting. Governor Akeredolu was in Lagos recently to introduce his running mate, Lucky Aiyedatiwa to one of his erstwhile political antagonists, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. If Akeredolu could unite with Tinubu, I don’t see why Jegede should reject Ajayi.
“Jegede must understand that Ajayi, despite being defeated during the primary, is still doing us a big favour and remains a big fish in the politics of Ondo State.’
However, close aides to Ajayi say he was not happy the manner he was treated before and after the governorship primary of the PDP. According to him, Ajayi had complained that the party was lukewarm and felt unconcerned over the impeachment threat by the state House of Assembly.
“The deputy governor was treated like an outcast by the party in the state before and during the primary. Also the conspiracy against him by the other governorship aspirants before and after the election was too much that he can’t remain in that party.”
Already, Ajayi has reportedly held several meetings with the national leaders of the ZLP in the state and in Abuja in the last one week on his defection plan. And the icing on the cake is that the choice of his deputy in the new party would be decided ahead of his public declaration.
Contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to Ajayi, Tope Okeowo said that his principal “is consulting and will make his stand known in due course. Okeowo added that he was yet to resign his membership of the party. Officially also, the Ondo PDP is playing down the planned defection of Ajayi to douse the tension and disquiet within the party. The party’s Director of Media and Publicity, Zadok Akintoye in a statement said that in their full estimation, Ajayi remains a valuable and respected PDP member.
“We take note of the information being promoted and spread across social media platforms that HE. Barr. Agboola Ajayi, the incumbent Deputy Governor and Member of the PDP has concluded plans to join the Zenith Labour Party.
” For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Agboola Ajayi remains a valuable and respected member of the PDP and has not informed the party of his intention to leave and remains a committed member of the party.
“Please note that clarification on the allegation has been sought from the Deputy Governor and assurances given to the leadership of the party of his intention to stay in the PDP.
“We, therefore, implore all members of the party and the general public to disregard the information as H.E. has assured the party leaders and elders of not leaving. Our efforts at winning the next election remain ongoing and we are committed to removing the incumbent governor through a free and fair election,” Akintoye emphasised.