Jegede: Putting the PDP on Loyalty Test

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In this year’s governorship election in Ondo State, the Peoples Democratic Party will either reward loyalty or encourage contempt for party’s supremacy, writes Shola Oyeyipo

Anywhere in the world, though factors such as financial war chest, popularity and the personality of aspirants are some of the criteria that influence how candidates emerge in party politics, more than anything, loyalty to the party supersedes every other considerations, because that is what will determines whether or not the party could trust anyone it puts forward for elective office.

Thus, ahead of the Ondo State governorship election coming up on October 10, 2020, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is faced with a litmus test on either to consider party loyalty or other extraneous factors in arriving at its choice of governorship candidate. But the party is expected to make the most reasonable decision.

Feeling the pulse of a majority of PDP members in Ondo State, the popular opinion is that though the Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi is deploying money and high-level political treachery to wangle his way through and pick the party ticket, it would be counterproductive if he bulldozes his way through at the detriment of a loyal party member such as the PDP governorship candidate in the 2016 governorship election, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, who has remained a steadfast member of the party over the years.

There are other notable and steadfast PDP members in the race such as the party’s National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Dr. Eddy Olafeso, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, a former Commissioner for Environment, Mr Sola Ebiseni and a former council chairman, Mr. Banji Okunomo.

Governor Oluwatotimi Akeredolu’s second term bid is strongly threatened by multiple layers of gang-ups within his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and among those contending against the incumbent governor is his deputy, Agboola. But, even where the PDP welcomes him, it is most ideal that the party leaders ensure a free, fair and credible primary that would throw up a formidable candidate against the ruling party.

Party members are already sounding warning notes on the implications of bringing a man with his known treacherous dealings into an otherwise serene PDP, especially, in view of his alleged duplicity in dealing with his boss, Akeredolu. That is seen as a trait that is innate and which could have negative impacts on the opposition party.

Another area of concern among concerned party members is that bringing in Agboola and fielding him as the party candidate at a time like this would only be the harbinger of a crisis – it could constitute even a bigger burden on the PDP in the sense that loyal members, who have diligently served the party over the years would be disgruntled.

“If a man, who comes into the party within a month, carries the party banner, it would be a very bad example that cannot but divide the party on the way to a governorship election,” said a party loyalist, who claimed that though the party needed Agboola, not as a governorship candidate.

Some anti-Agboola campaigners are singing it to the ears of the party leadership in the state and Abuja to hearing of the party to be wary of the baggage the deputy governor carries as regards allegations of perjury against his person.

There had been allegation that when he was serving as the chairman, Ese-Odo local government area (LGA), Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi enrolled for the 2004 May/June Senior School Certificate Examination as a full-time student of Community High School, Mobolorunduro, with the registration number: 4291420/058.

This is in violation of a byelaw contained in Section 23 (9) (1a) and (2) of the West African Examination Council Act Vol. 15 Cap. 104, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014, which provides that a candidate for its May/June examination should be a student in a school approved as a centre for the examination.

He was also alleged to have given December 8, 1980 as his date of birth so as to be able to put in as internal student at the school. However, he subsequently deposed to an affidavit for correction of date of birth on March 9, 2006, at the Federal High Court, Akure, where he changed his date of birth to September 24, 1968.

Though Agboola described the allegations as sponsored media attacks, concerned PDP members fear that they were enough to disrepute a governorship election in a state as Ondo, where people are very conscious of academic credentials and integrity, more having in mind the recent experience in Bayelsa State.

Another debate in the PDP is the issue of zoning, which some members have been suggesting as a way to pick the party’s candidate and by which they hope to disqualify Jegede from the race and favour Agboola.

In a January 2020 letter to the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus and the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji AtikuAbubakar, two PDP bigwigs from Agboola’s Ondo South senatorial district in the persons of Mr. Solomon Bitire and Chief Daisi Mafimisebi, said it was the turn of their zone to produce the next governor or else the party stood no chance in the election.

Their argument was that since Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is from Ondo North; his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was from Ondo Central (where Jegede comes from), then, it’s automatically the turn of the South.

They further buttressed their argument by noting that Chief Adebayo Adefarati from Ondo North was in the saddle from 1999 – 2003; Dr. Olusegun Agagu from Ondo South held sway between 2003 – 2009; Mimiko from Ondo Central served from 2009 to 2017 and that if Akeredolu who is from Ondo North serves from 2017 till 2020, someone from South should have the party ticket so as to follow the rotation.

“The winning formula for the PDP in the coming gubernatorial election is for the party’s candidate to emerge from the Ondo South Senatorial District. We also pray the leadership of the party at the national level would not allow itself to be used as instrument to disrupt the political cultures and tradition of Ondo State electorate,” Bitire and Mafimisebi noted in their letter.

This position did not really hold water with some PDP members, including former commissioner from Central senatorial district, Dayo Awude; former member NDDC Board, Benson Amuwa (Southern senatorial district) and former member, House of Representatives, Hon. Bobby Omotosho (Northern senatorial district), who responded in a counter-letter that the PDP has zoned its governorship to the South in the past and yet never got any tangible result.

The trio described the contents of Bitire and Mafimisebi’s letter as “product of the elevated self-interest – an assertion that is very far from the truth,” and “out of touch with reality.”
Maintaining that never in history had PDP zoned its candidacy to any part of the state, Awude said competence and capacity had always been the basis for assessment.

According to him, “A rundown of the PDP governorship candidates since 1999 as listed below supports this position of merit being the driving force than other factors, including zoning. 1999 – Dr. Olusegun Agagu – Southern Senatorial District. He lost the election to the Alliance for Democracy (AD); 2003 – Dr. Olusegun Agagu – Southern Senatorial District (He won and became governor) and in 2007, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, Southern Senatorial District.

“He was sworn in for a second term in office until the tribunal upturned the verdict in 2009 and returned Dr. Olusegun Mimiko as the governor. 2012 – Chief Olusola Oke, SAN – Southern Senatorial District. He lost to the then incumbent governor. 2016 – Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, (SAN) – Central Senatorial District. His name, which was earlier replaced on the INEC list with Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim – from the Southern Senatorial District, and was only restored 72 hours to the election.

“He lost the election due to the distractions and division arising from the intra party crisis that bedeviled the party at the time.”

He reckoned that the PDP had picked four of its five candidates since 1999 from the same Southern Senatorial District, stressing that, “If zoning was the issue, the other senatorial zones would not have cooperated with the party in picking from the same zone on four consecutive occasions.”

Corroborating this view, Chairman of Ondo State Signage and Advertisement Agency (OSSAA), Mr. Remi Ofakunrin stated that, “From the data above, if a virile and versatile mind would allow justice and equity to play their role in the ongoing imbroglio, it’s quite understandable, where the pendulum will swing to.

“PDP will be applauded to have been so generous and magnanimous to the people of Ondo South Senatorial District. If the other two senatorial districts have not been so considered, members of the party in the south should reciprocate the good deeds of the party and embrace its principles.”

Another PDP leader, Chief Olaniran Jogodo disapproved of zoning. He said: “I strongly advise against zoning. Let us go for the best as may be decided through a free and fair primary after which all aspirants will be addressed by leaders and persuaded to join hands and work together to clinch power.”

However, Jegede, who has been calling for fairness for every participant in the election, stands a good chance to clinch the party ticket and subsequently take the party to victory, considering his consistence in the party and widespread acceptance in the state. His political structure of 2016 is also expected to come handy for his campaigns.