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By: Adesoji Adetona
It started like a rumour last year but it is now a confirmed information that the Ondo state Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi has concluded plot to dump the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and return to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to actualise his governorship ambition during the election slated for October 10, 2020 in the state.
SUNSHINETRUTH reliably gathered that the political move by the Deputy Governor who is reportedly unsettling camps of some PDP governorship aspirants who believe that Agboola’s political clout in the state may overrun their political structures ahead of the party’s governorship primary scheduled for July 22.
Relationship between Hon Agboola and Governor Akeredolu has since gone sour over issues of trust and betrayal.
The Deputy Governor had denied his defection to the opposition party on several occasions in the past with the hope of striking peace deal with his estranged boss, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, but the irreconcilable political differences had remained unsolved despite intervention of some political gladiators like the Ekiti state Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi.
The duo always claimed that they are at peace with each other but political observers know that all is not well with formerly closed governor and Deputy Governor.
A close ally of the Deputy Governor who preferred on the condition of anonymity, said “the crisis (Akeredolu vs Agboola) has reached a crescendo that Hon Agboola is tired of being in a party (APC) that he is not trusted.”
It was however learnt at the weekend that the planned defection is no longer a rumour but a perfected political tsunami awaiting to hit the the governing APC, while the PDP as a party will be celebrating Agboola’s return to its fold, the governorship Aspirants on the opposition platform are shivering politically especially the leading ones among them.
Some of the aspirants on the platform of the PDP are: the National Vice Chairman (South West) of the party, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, the party’s candidate in the 2016 governorship election, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), a former House of Representatives member from Owo/Ose federal constituency, Hon. (Dr) Bode Ayorinde and a former state Commissioner for Environment, Barrister Sola Ebiseni.
Others are, a seasoned Technocrat, Prince Tony Godday Erewa, a former Senator Boluwaji Kunlere; former council chairman, Hon Banji Okunomo; Bamidele Akingboye; a former state chairman of NUJ, Mr Dayo Fadahunsi among others.
SUNSHINETRUTH further learnt that Agboola, a former Chairman, the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta affairs and represented Ilaje/Ese-Odo federal constituency, has a political project at hand that is being anchored by some powerful PDP governors and bigwigs from across the country as part of strategic plot for the opposition party to return to Alagbaka Government House, Akure.
Although, no date has been fixed for his defection, but it is expected to happen within the next two weeks as consultations with key stakeholders by Agboola had been concluded for his smooth return to the PDP which has 17 other gubernatorial Aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket, with six of them already obtained nomination forms and pay for expression of interest form.
The Agboola’s ally noted that, ”all things being equal, arrangements have been concluded for him to move. You cannot continue to stay in a place where you are not trusted”.
The planned defection of the Deputy Governor had started generating reactions from the key stakeholders including the Ondo State Chapter of PDP and its Aspirants.
In the meantime, the question is can the defection of the Deputy Governor be described as a blessing or curse to the PDP in ondo state? The state chapter of the party provided answer in a press statement recently signed by its Director of Media and Publicity, Mr Zadok Akintoye.
In the statement, Ondo PDP said, “please note that the PDP remains absolutely committed to the principles and ethos of democracy and all intending members are expected to fully register at their ward and also participate in all party activities.
“the party acknowledges the right of His Excellency Mr. Agboola Ajayi and of all members of the public wishing to join our fold and would accord all intending members and aspirants a warm reception as we work together to liberate our dear state from the maladministration of the APC government.”
Reacting to Agboola’s political move, Eyitayo Jegede, said the rumoured defection of the Deputy governor of the state, to the PDP will not threaten his aspiration and others seeking the party’s ticket.
Jegede, admitted that the coming of Ajayi would further strengthen the party ahead of the governorship election
According to him, the defection of Ajayi would further confirm the collapse of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, saying the development showed that PDP remains a formidable party to beat in any election in the state.
Jegeded said “If APC was and is good, Agboola Ajayi would not leave APC. If PDP is bad, he would not say he is coming to PDP. So the fact that he is leaving and he is interested in coming to the PDP has demonstrated again that the APC is collapsed and he needs to look for a good house.
“He has found that PDP is a good house. So he is welcome because we are looking for people. The party constitution is very clear on this,” Jegede noted.
But a governorship aspirant, Banji Okunomo said his ambition is not being threatened in any way by the Deputy Governor’s move, saying there is no automatic ticket for him.
The opposition party also allayed the fear of its governorship aspirants that it would provide level playing field for all of them.
Akintoye said, “”the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo state wishes to inform the general public and all members of the party that the alleged “deal” supposedly struck by the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Hon. Agboola Ajayi (as alluded to by an online publication) is false and non existent.
“We would like to assure all our aspirants and their supporters that the party does not have a preferred candidate and will ensure level playing field to all aspirants or intending aspirant.
“As it has been clearly stated by the State Caretaker Chairman, Engr. Clement Faboyede, no aspirant shall be shut out of the process for picking a candidate as the party has concluded plans to guaranty free, fair, transparent and all-inclusive primaries as is the established custom of our party,” he said.
“We once again assure all aspirants and members of the party that the information as contained in the report is not true neither does it reflect the position of the state and national office,” the PDP spokesman said.
SUNSHINETRUTH learnt that PDP governorship aspirants from Ondo north may not totally be edged out of the race as they may be given the Deputy Governorship slot of the party while the governorship Hopeful will be picked from Ondo South where Agboola is from.
According to a political analyst, Mr Olatunji Ojo, the coming of the Deputy Governor into the PDP and leaving the APC will surely have an effects on both parties.
Olatunji said, “a particular PDP governorship aspirant from Ondo central who is favoured before now, will not be comfortable with their national leadership for bringing in Agboola. For me, I think the Deputy Governor will be a blessing to the PDP at this time.
“For Akeredolu and his party APC, it is very important for them to work on a very strong person as a new deputy governor from Ondo South. They will surely feel the defection of Hon Agboola, but if they manage it well, they will come out stronger,” Olatunji said.
Another issue that will unsettle Akeredolu’s camp is the determination of Agboola to retain his seat even if he leaves the APC, as confirmed by his a close aide.
Spokesman of the Deputy Governor, Babatope Okeowo, said his boss does not need to resign his appointment before contesting for the governorship election on the PDP platform if he wishes to do so.
He described the story that his boss would resign this week as untrue
According to him, Agboola could contest whether in the PDP or the APC without resigning his appointment.
He added that there is no where in the constitution that stipulated that the Deputy Governor must resign if he wants to contest as governor.
His words, “Whoever is alluding that should go and read the constitution.”
It is believed that the Deputy Governor will be defecting with about seven out of 26 members of the State House of Assembly who will be defending Agboola’s interest at the parliament.
Although some Akeredolu’s cabinet members are alleged to be moving Agboola but the State Commissioner for information and orientation, Donald Ojogo had dismissed such insinuation, adding that Akeredolu’s camp was still very intact.
Ojogo said contrary to rumour, Akeredolu was comfortably enjoying the support of the majority of the state lawmakers, adding that giant strides of Akeredolu would earn him the APC second term ticket and victory during the October 10 governorship election.
The information Commissioner insisted that the APC still remains a strong party that would always attain victory in electoral contest in the state.
Happenings in the political circle of the state in the next few days and weeks before the APC primary on July 2020 and the PDP primary slated for July 22 ahead of 2020 October 10 governorship election in Ondo State, will surely be interesting and bitter for political class in the state.