By Adesina Wahab
Governorship elections are to hold in September and October this year respectively in Edo and Ondo states.
Political parties interested in producing the governor in each of the states are already working in line with the directives of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to select their candidates for the polls within the set timelines.
As usual, attention is on the two major political parties; namely, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Already, the governorship primaries of the parties for the Edo election have been held. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki have emerged candidate of APC and PDP respectively.
Before their emergence, however, political battles were fought, leading to Ize-Iyamu and Gov. Obaseki swapping positions!
In 2016, Obaseki flew APC’s flag; today, the same Obaseki is flying PDP’s flag!
Conversely, Ize-Iyamu in 2016 flew the PDP’s flag; today, the same Ize-Iyamu is flying APC’s flag!
Though both parties appeared bruised in the battles that led to the primaries in Edo State, the APC appeared to have suffered the most, as the political battles for supremacy eventually led to the sacking of its National Working Committee, NWC, with its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, also losing his seat.
When Obaseki moved to the PDP, there were threats of using the courts to stall his emergence as those that hitherto saw themselves as leading aspirants reportedly were coerced to drop their ambition.
The Edo State party primaries have come and gone, leaving political watchers to now focus on developments in Ondo State.
About the same time that Obaseki dumped the APC, the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, also defected from the same APC to the PDP, adding to the number of swarming governorship aspirants on the platform of the PDP.
Apart from Ajayi, other governorship aspirants are Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN; Dr. Eddy Olafeso, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, Mr. Banji Okunomo, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Mr. Bamidele Akingboye, and Mr. Godday Erewa.
Of the lot, Jegede, who was the party’s candidate in 2016, appears to be the front runner. While some people are canvassing giving Ajayi the treatment Obaseki got in Edo, the two situations are, however, different.
Obaseki is a sitting governor and, in the Nigerian circumstance, a governor weilds more power and influence than a deputy governor.
In fact, on a number of occasions, we have heard deputy governors being described as spare tyres that command little or no practical influence.
Also, considering the circumstances that led to Jegede losing the 2016 poll and the subsequent rebuilding of the party for it to be able to trounce the APC in the 2019 general elections, an in-house candidate in the PDP could be better than any emergency inroader.
Before the 2016 governorship election in Ondo State, the internal wranglings in the party led to a situation whereby it was only 48 hours to the poll that Jegede could be sure of being on the ballot.
The PDP was factionalised and the Ali Modu Sheriff group almost ensured that the party did not field a candidate in that election.
Despite all the odds, Jegede made a respectable showing, coming second after the eventual winner, Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu.
After the election, some PDP leaders left the party, including former Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The rebuilding process took almost three years but the party came out of it stronger.
Referring to that period, Jegede recently said that when some people abandoned the party and left it in the lurch, people like him did not jump ship.
He said he stayed back to rebuild and reorganise the party and that their efforts paid off.
They secured two senatorial seats and half of the House of Representatives seats in the 2019 general elections. They even won the 2019 presidential election in the state for the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Ondo was the only state in the APC- dominated South-west to achieve that feat.
Yes, politics is a game of numbers and the defector, Agboola Ajayi, would definitely bring some quality to PDP.
But it is in exercising restraint and allowing decorum that Ajayi’s defection from APC to PDP will do all the stakeholders some good.
Already, some people are flying the kite that Jegede could be made to step down for Ajayi and serve as his deputy, an insinuation that is ruffling feathers in the party.
Some are even saying that Jegede and other aspirants are afraid of Ajayi’s clout. While Jegede has refuted such claims, the damaging effect it could have on the party should not been lost on party faithful.
The party’s national leadership must also consider that rocking the PDP boat in Ondo State at this delicate period, after the arduous task of successfully rebuilding the party in the last three years, may be Kobo wise and Naira foolish.
Some are asking: Why can’t Ajayi settle for the running mate slot?
Since he has come as deputy governor, why can he settle for just that?
Both Obaseki and his deputy, Shuaibu, who defected from APC to PDP, settled for what they came with. The case of Agboola Ajayi should not be different in Ondo State.
Especially so when he could not deliver on all the bandwagons of defectors he had boasted would follow him from APC to PDP.
Today, he is even battling for his political life, being at his wit’s ends trying to stave off rumoured impeachment.
We all saw the trailer load of defectors that followed Obaseki from APC to PDP.
That is the difference between a governor and deputy governor.
When the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, was formally welcoming Ajayi to the PDP, he promised a level playing field for all.
Secondus said the party would not impose any candidate on its members.
Supporting that statement by the PDP National Working Committee, Jegede intoned that equity and fairness were important ingredients for the success of the PDP in the October governorship election.
Yes, the PDP has adopted the indirect mode for its primaries in which delegates will determine the fate of aspirants; it will do the party a lot of good if it allows the process to be transparent, free and fair for the emergence of a candidate preferred by the people.
For too long, our elections at party and general level have been riddled with irregularities and malpractices.
For too long, there has been a lack of internal democracy within the parties, thus leading to instability and lack of cohesion in the parties.
For too long our politics have been described as dirty, lacking in all morality, decorum and righteousness.
For too long political prostitution has been the order of the day.
For too long political parties have become dispensable platforms for politicians shopping for where to contest election.
For too long, our politics have thus lost respectability and have attracted odium and oppobriumn from far and near.
It is time to change the narrative by turning the tables on political prostitutes and opportunists seeking to reap where they did not toil.