By Dayo Johnson Akure
FROM the last count, 17 governorship aspirants under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party have thrown their hats in the ring to contest the October 10 election in Ondo state.
But findings showed that only six or at most seven of them were serious contenders that can muster funds to purchase the party’s governorship form put at N25m while others are mere pretenders.
However, the number of the contenders may increase with the purported interest of the incumbent deputy governor, Hon Agboola Ajayi. Ajayi may soon defect to the opposition party to contest the July primary election.
Those eyeing the coveted seat include the National Vice Chairman (South West) of the party, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, the party’s candidate in the 2016 governorship election in state, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, a former House of Representatives member, Hon. Bode Ayorinde, a former commissioner, Barrister Sola Ebiseni, a former information commissioner, Hon John Ola Mafo, former Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, former council chairman, Hon Banji Okunomo, Bamidele Akingboye, former state chairman of the NUJ and a Special Adviser on Labour Matters, Hon Dayo Fadahunsi, Engr. Ogunwa Omoniyi Oboli, Barr. Bimpe Olatemiju and host of others.
Seven contestants are from the South senatorial district of the state following the believe that it is the turn of senatorial district to produce the next governor after the two other districts, the Central and the North had produced governors at different times.
Olafeso, Ebiseni, Okunomo, Mafo Oboli, Omoniyi and Akingboye are from the South while Jegede and Ayorinde are the only aspirants from the Central and North respectively. Consequently, the politics of endorsement have set in amongst the aspirants in the South.
While Olafeso insisted that he had been endorsed to represent the Okitipupa axis, the likes of Kunlere and Akingboye have distanced themselves from such arrangement. Also, Okunomo battled Ebiseni and Mafo on his endorsement to represent the oil rich Ilaje axis in the same south.
The party, in its wisdom, recently inaugurated a screening and advisory committee headed by a member of the party’s Board of Trustee, BOT, to screen the over twenty aspirants in the primary election of the party fixed for July to a manageable number.
No zoning in our party—Ondo PDP
Reacting to how the array of aspirants in the party would not be another albatross, the party’s Media and Publicity Director, Zadok Akintoye said “Our party in Ondo State has never zoned its governorship seat and there is no history where you would find the party deliberately zoning its gubernatorial ticket. We will allow all contestants regardless of the zone they come from to contest in the election. The best of them will emerge in a free and fair election. Our job as a party is to ensure that there is freedom of choice by party members as to who would become the party’s candidate.”
Fight for consensus candidate
While the preponderance of opinion favours the south to produce the party’s candidate for the October election, the politicians in the north are insisting on completing the eight years of the incumbent, Rotimi Akeredolu who to them had not measured up to standard.
Findings however showed that if the aspirants from the south fail to agree on a consensus candidate among the seven, this may eventually rob them of the opportunity which may favour Jegede or Ayorinde. While Jegede is the choice of the party leaders from the Central he may find it difficult to pull much weight from both the North and the South.
Ayorinde who is the sole aspirant from the North and the kinsman of the incumbent governor is bent on completing Akeredolu’s eight year tenure. Ayorinde was a former member of the House of Representatives from Owo/Ose federal constituency. He is the founder of Achievers University in Owo and contested the 2016 primaries of the APC but lost to Akeredolu. He later defected to the opposition PDP.
A cursory analysis of the aspirants showed that Jegede having contested in the last governorship poll, this should give him an advantage over others but many party leaders are not at home with his disposition after he lost the last poll. His alleged failure to put on the leadership shoes after the exit of Mimiko from the party was seen as a big minus for him. Although his aides said he was being careful not to step on toes but others saw it differently. Many see him as a political lightweight until Mimiko carried him on his soldier and literally imposed him as the party’s candidate in 2016.
Mimiko’s action caused the party its defeat as party members revolted. The imposition of Jegede was seen as a major political mistake of Mimiko. They have since parted ways after the party’s defeat.
If Jegede eventually clinches the party’s ticket, he has a deep pocket and loaded friends amongst whom is the former Presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku who, many people believe will bankroll his campaign. He is a strong contender.
Olafeso, a former Information commissioner, is presently the National Vice Chairman, South West, he is a household name across the state and a formidable politician. His picket isn’t that deep but he has goodwill, having impacted many lives while he was in office. He is highly cerebral and an orator. He is one of the apostles of the late Governor Olusegun Agagu. He is a strong contender.
Mafo, who was the deputy governorship candidate in 2016 and a former information commissioner is a grassroots politician, who is popular with both young and old. He is very intelligent and knows the state very well. Mafo is also one of the apostles of late governor Olusegun Agagu. He is a strong contender.
Ebiseni was a former Ilaje/Ese-Odo council chairman at age 27 and former Environment commissioner. He is one of the best brains in the state, he represented the South West in the 2014 Confab. He is a good material for the coveted seat. He is also a strong contender.
Okunomo, a former Ilaje council chairman and a former Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, he is making waves across the state. He is popular and may spring surprise in the primary in July. He is a strong contender.
Kunlere, a former Senator, is a veteran politician. He was a former state secretary of the PDP, a member of the State House of Assembly and a former Okitipupa Local Government chairman. He contested against former governor Agagu in the April 2011 Senatorial election on the Labour Party platform and won. He is a strong contender.
Fadahunsi, aside from being a veteran journalist, he is a labour leader, and is popular amongst the workers having served under former governor Olusegun Mimiko as Special Adviser on Labour matters. He is banking on the workers support.
Akingboye is a serial contester, who takes off after losing in every party primary. Many don’t see him as a serious contender. Has deep pocket but has never hit it politically.
Not much is known about Messrs Ogunwa Omoniyi Oboli and Bimpe Olatemiju other than having stepped down for Olafeso during one of their meetings in Ode Aye area of the state.
Bode Olajumoke screening committee
Meanwhile, party members are still awaiting the report of the Dr Bode Olajumoke committee on streamlining the array of aspirants. The outcome may throw up a fresh crisis that may be difficult to manage and drag into the election.