Ondo 2023: PDP at Dilemma over Deputy Governor’s Aspiration

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Mr Agboola Ajayi

• Ajayi declines comment on age falsification allegation
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Party has been at dilemma over the decision of a 2009 Election Petitions Tribunal in Ondo State that indicted the state’s Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi for alleged age falsification and perjury, THISDAY has learnt.

Although an appellate court upturned the decision of the tribunal on technical grounds, THISDAY learnt that some governorship aspirants had already petitioned the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) that Ajayi’s candidature might cost the party victory even though it wins at the poll.
Confronted with compelling evidence from the tribunal, THISDAY learnt that the NWC members “are at dilemma and unwilling to field a governorship candidate that can jeopardise the victory of the party after winning the election.”

Consequently, it was gathered, the NWC might disqualify Ajayi during the screening of governorship aspirants scheduled to hold on July 25 in Abuja, though the party legal team had started to study all the petitions submitted to the NWC.

A chieftain of the opposition party, who privately spoke with THISDAY, explained how the tribunal indicted the deputy governor of age falsification and perjury in a petition that challenged his election into the House of Representatives in 2007.

He said the tribunal “upheld the allegation that he sent mercenaries to write his school certificate examination in a secondary school in Mobolorunduro, while he was chairman of Ese-Odo Local Government, in 2004.”
In the said exam, the party source explained that Ajayi was reported to have reduced his age by 12 years from 1968 to 1980 in order to gain qualification to sit for the papers.

The source said: “He afterwards went ahead to reverse his date of birth to 1968, through a court affidavit, knowing that his 1980 claim would never fly anywhere. The tribunal upheld all these allegations and subsequently nullified Ajayi’s election into the House of Representatives.”

But the source said the appellate court threw out the decision of the tribunal that indicted the deputy governor, not because he did not commit the offences, but because the court ruled that the allegations were pre-election matters.

On these grounds, the source disclosed that different affiliate groups in Ondo PDP had petitioned the NWC, warning the leadership not to jeopardise by fielding a governorship whom court might disqualify his candidature if challenged.

The source said all the petitioners described Ajayi’s governorship ambition as a potential jeopardy, citing the instance of Bayelsa State, where the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost its electoral victory to the PDP.”
On these grounds, Sunshine Redemption Group (SRG) urged the PDP leadership to disqualify Ajayi from contesting the coming primary election of the party.

In a statement its chairman, Mr. Emmanuel Agbara, and secretary, Chief Ebiemi Williams issued yesterday, the group warned that the party risked losing an eventual victory in the coming governorship election to its runner-up, should Agboola’s qualification become a legal contest.

The statement said: “While we welcome the deputy governor to our party, we are surprised that his first move is to grab the governorship ticket of the party, whereas he is coming in with an uncleared baggage.
“In the first place, the main issue for the cancelation of his victory into the House of Representatives by the Ondo State Election Petition Tribunal in 2009 has not been fully discharged,” the statement warned the party leaders.

It equally cited a petition Ondo Committee on Ethics and Good Governance had addressed to the Body of Benchers, accusing the deputy governor of perjury with respect to a claim that he attended Igbinedion University, Okada at a time he was occupying various political offices.

The statement said the deputy governor had claimed that he obtained his Bachelor of Law at the Igbenedion University and that he was called to the Bar in 2010, after his graduation from the Nigerian Law School.

“Whereas, he was elected between 2007 and 2011 into the House of Representatives for Ilaje/Ese-odo Federal Constituency of Ondo State.

“While in the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011, Ajayi served as Chairman of the House Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and also served as a member of the House Committee on Gas, Habitat, Justice and Committee on Industry.

“We should all at this juncture realise that admission into the Nigerian Law School is on full-time basis and that the membership of the National Assembly is also on full-time basis and as such, he could not have successfully combined his attendance at the Law School with his attendance of sittings in the House of Representatives,” the statement said.

However, the Chief Press Secretary to the deputy governor, Mr. Tope Okeowo, declined comments yesterday when THISDAY sought his reaction on the phone.

Okeowo told our correspondent in Akure that his principal had directed him not to respond to allegations relating to age falsification and perjury.