Ajayi’s defection unsettling PDP, APC ahead of Ondo guber election
The hostility between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his estranged deputy, Agboola Ajayi, seems to be growing by the day. Ahead of the October 10, 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, the two former allies have continued to give insight to the nature of electioneering they intend to pursue.
Ajayi left the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he is expected to challenge his former principal in the gubernatorial poll if he clinched the party’s ticket. He refused to quit the governorship, insisting that it is only the electorate, being his employer that can sack him.
Though his deflection to PDP was a common knowledge in the political calculations towards the election since last year shortly after the general election. This may not be unconnected to the successes of PDP in the last election, when it won the presidential election in the state, two senatorial seats and three House of Representatives’ seats out of nine.
According to many political watchers, Ajayi’s deflection to PDP is a journey back home for the deputy governor, who came to political limelight in PDP. From 1999 till date, he had served as a council caretaker chairman, substantive chairman, House of Representatives member (2007) until he pitched his tent with APC to emerge deputy governor in 2016.
Though not without a fight when the police prevented him from moving out of Government House, he resigned his APC membership at his Ward 2 in Ese-Odo council on Sunday. Unequivocally, Ajayi, had publicly announced to PDP members in Akure when he was formally received to the party by the National Working Committee (NWC), led by the National Chairman, Uche Secondus, on Monday, that he had come to add value to the party.
This laid to rest the political guesswork his preparedness to contest the governorship election in PDP against his boss, an action, which has further caused tension in the leading opposition party. Since the 2016 election that produced Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Ajayi under APC joint ticket, PDP had been going through a lot of rough patch, especially after the former governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, left the party.
There was noticeable gap in the party’s leadership save the efforts of the candidate of the party in the 2016 governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede, who had since declared his ambition to recontest. This, like it happened in 2016, had raised some dust within the party on the propriety of picking the candidate of the party from the Central District, where Jegede and Mimiko, who broke the two-term jinx, come from.
It is noteworthy that the major reason PDP, a ruling party in 2016, lost the last governorship election was due to the imposition of the party’s candidate, who was also the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. There was a lot of political implosion in the PDP then as many party stalwarts refused to work for the victory of the party, especially members from the North and South District, which are the strongest base of the party since 1999.
Meanwhile, some supporters of Jegede and family members blamed Mimiko for the defeat of PDP, alleging that the former governor undermined the chances of the party for the emergence of his age-long friend, Akeredolu. The highest number of PDP aspirants are from the South District, namely Dr. Eddy Olafeso, PDP South West Chairman; former state Publicity Secretary, Banji Okunomo, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Bamidele Akingboye, and Chief Sola Ebiseni.
In the North District, there are Bode Ayorinde and Dayo Fadahunsi while only Jegede is gunning for the party’s ticket from the Central District.
However, many political analysts have said Jegede’s worth in the 2020 election is not the same as it was when PDP was in power in 2016. They note that Mimiko is no longer with him. According to them, the former Attorney General was able to garner such popularity due to the political structure he enjoyed from the former governor, although he is also a close ally of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
In the past few days, there had been a cold war within the opposition party, as there were rumours that the party’s leadership had conceded the party’s ticket to Ajayi. This was heightened when it spread like wild fire that Jegede had agreed to be the running mate of the deputy governor in the bid to defeat APC. It was alleged that the NWC got some inducement from the deputy governor.
Most PDP governorship aspirants kicked against any kind of imposition by insisting on primary election. Many of the aggrieved PDP members hinged their objection to the fact that Ajayi left PDP for APC in 2016 and so cannot harvest where he had not sown. Aside refuting the rumour that he had agreed to be running mate to Ajayi, Jegede insisted that the party’s leadership should consider his loyalty and efforts to rebuild the party since 2016.
Without mincing words, Eyitayo Jegede Campaign Organisation (EJCO) said, “Jegede does not intend, either now or in the future, to become a deputy to Mr. Ajayi.
“The aspiration of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede predates the emergence of Mr. Ajayi as a deputy to the incumbent APC governor and is an aspiration that carries the spirit of every PDP member who has remained loyal and has laboured for the continuity of this party against the consequences of the actions of those who worked against our party’s victory in the last election.”
A PDP chieftain, Wale Koledoye, however, said: “It’s a welcome development that he is coming to our party. But one thing is clear: the NWC will have us to contend with if they accept his proposals on the primary committee and go ahead to deliver him as they have plotted in Abuja.”
“Here is a man who was in charge of the politics of the government after the governor delegated undeserved privileges to him. To us in the PDP, the deputy governor is a most treacherous politician in this state because he has remained the most powerful man in that position; so, we can’t trust him.
“How can he now come to our party and insist on running as sole candidate to the extent of nominating the chairman and members of the primary committee. Or is it the reason he hired an aircraft for the NWC members that will come tomorrow to receive him? It’s the height of insults.
“The real game will start soon after he joins; let’s wait and see as events unfold because we are not fools in this party.”
Nonetheless, Secondus, while receiving the deputy governor and his supporters, said the significance of the visit was to show the entire Ondo people that PDP is a mass movement in the country.
“Your exit from the APC to PDP is the act of God, and we know that your coming will be like a Tsunami. APC members are still coming to PDP. We believe that with this mass movement in Ondo State, it will move to other states and I believe that Ajayi is going to bring changes and add value to the party.”
He assured all aspirants and members of the party that the NWC would conduct free, fair and credible primaries, urging them to discard all the rumours about imposition or endorsement.
Secondus further assured the people, “Our coming here today is not to endorse a particular aspirant; it is for the generality of the people. The deputy governor has said that he is not coming to alter the rules or seek for any favour from the party. But we know that with him and others joining the party, we can reclaim Ondo State so that people can have fresh air and good governance.”
Ajayi had declared that he would not resign as deputy governor, saying, “My people that voted for me did not ask me to resign. So, I remain the deputy governor of this state. I was duly elected as a deputy governor.
“I am here to officially announce to you that, as from today, I cease to be a member of APC. I came to tender my resignation letter to the ward chairman. The reason I am taking this action is known to all of you.”
While speaking on the alleged endorsement by the NWC, Ajayi said he would not ask for any favour that negates the constitution and regulations of the party as a founding member of the party.
However, the pioneer state chairman of the ruling APC party, Isaac Kekemeke, faulted the claims by the deputy governor and PDP chieftains that his defection would cause mass exodus from APC to PDP.
Kekemeke, who is also aspiring to get APC governorship ticket and Ajayi’s kinsman, said: “The deputy governor is my very good younger brother; he is someone with whom I enjoy mutual respect. Even though we may not always agree politically, we have mutual respect for each other. I must respect his right to his decision on who he associates with. He has a right to aspire; he also has a right to choose his platform.”
He recounted that he received the deputy governor into the party when he joined APC in 2016, saying the ruling party had an impressive performance in the 2015 elections before Ajayi came.
“He wasn’t there during the presidential and National Assembly elections when we did so well in 2016,” kekemeke said. “He joined us after those elections, made his own contributions and got his own decisions. And now he has decided he has to go somewhere else.
“I really wish him well. And on the so much tsunami said to happen after his defection, I can tell you categorically that Kekemeke will be the only tsunami that will happen in this election; getting the party together like I did before.
“All I need to do is to work hard as I did in 2016 to put everything together, and once I emerge, if it is a prophecy, that tsunami will happen in PDP.”
Politics of impeachment
Sequel to the impeachment scare in Ondo State on Tuesday, Ajayi raised alarm that Governor Akeredolu had pooled N260 million together for his removal from office. He alleged that the state’s lawmakers had been asked to impeach him.
In a statement made available to journalists yesterday in Akure by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Babatope Okeowo, stated that Governor Akeredolu had resorted to “illegal and unconstitutional means” to remove his boss from office.
Meanwhile there were rumours on Tuesday that the police stormed the Assembly Complex in a bid to offer security to the 26 lawmakers, who are still in recess. This development came barely 24 hours after the PDP National Chairman, Secondus, led the National Working Committee (NWC) members of the party to receive Ajayi formally into the party.
According to Okeowo: “The illegal impeachment move would be carried out through financial inducement of members of the Ondo State House of Assembly to the tune of N10 million each.
“As the moment, Ondo State House of Assembly complex has been besieged by men of the Nigeria Police, while parliamentarians that are known not to believe in the charade are being prevented from entering the complex.”
He noted that the deputy governor is a tested politician of note, justifying his deflection to the PDP ahead of the October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state.
While revealing that his boss is prepared for “this type of kangaroo and infamous move from the desperate and drowning governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu and his group,” he said Ajayi has not committed any crime.
“He has only exercised his constitutional right of freedom of association according to Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended),” he said.
According to him, Ajayi, who is a bona-fide member of the major opposition party, PDP, is more popular and powerful than the governor in the state politically.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we state unequivocally that the governor and his allies do not have and cannot muster the requisite majority in the House of Assembly for the removal of the deputy governor under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 in any free, fair and transparent process.
“We remain undaunted in the move to throw off the combined weight of those kneeling on the neck of Ondo State. Our state shall not be allowed to suffocate. At the appropriate time, the people of Ondo State shall decide the right person, who will serve as the arrowhead of the bid to save the state from the nepotistic clique kneeling on her neck.”
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, however, described Ajayi’s defection as “the height of perfidy, another pernicious warp from an intellectually challenged and treacherous personality. Knowledge cannot be procured, but only be acquired. For anyone to aver that lawmakers have been financially induced is a gross display of emptiness.”
Ojogo averred that the governor would not involve himself in any act of witch-hunting or moves to repress anyone politically, let alone wasting public funds on frivolities.
“It becomes more laughable when such comes from someone who had boasted about having majority members in the Assembly,” he said. “Clearly, while the executive led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu does not believe in inducement, it is left for our very reputable legislative arm to either confirm or debunk this spurious allegation.”