• Mimiko as the ultimate decider
Only nine days to the governorship election in Ondo State, there is tension among the opposition camps, which have sworn to stop the second term ambition of Governor OluwaRotimi Akeredolu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
As it is, the major opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) seem to be at a crossroads regarding what to do. If they do not manage their flanks well, they risk giving huge advantages to the ruling party.
The likelihood of a historical repeat of the woes that befell opposition parties in the 2012 governorship election may well be underway when the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and PDP gave Labour Party (LP) an easy ride to victory. Akeredolu as Action Congress of Nigeria’s (CAN) candidate and polled 143,512 votes while Chief Olusola Oke polled 155,961 votes to emerge the second runner up to former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who polled 260,199 votes for LP to defeat the opposition parties.
In the 2020 poll, Governor Akeredolu, who hails from Owo Local Government Area, is the candidate of the APC and hinges his prospects on the acceptance of the party in the North District, while Eyitayo Jegede is the PDP candidate from the Central District.
The third force in the election, Agboola Ajayi, who is the current deputy governor and candidate of the ZLP, hails from the South District. He also hinges his political luck on a supposed zoning formula and sentiments of recurring marginalization of the district.
However, political analysts insist that the dynamics of the election offer the three major parties an opportunity to win it, but they say it would have been keener if PDP and ZLP could form an alliance against APC. They say that if opposition parties could explore the opportunities available to them by harmonizing their strength, their prospect of defeating the ruling party would have been high.
But it appears Jegede and Ajayi are unable to sink their irreconcilable differences as a result of the aftermath of the July 22 PDP primary, when the former defeated the latter and failed to pick him as running mate.
Aside that, there have been outcries of marginalization against the PDP candidate, who had the upper hand in the last congress of the party to favour his caucus, to the chagrin of other party members, especially the South District, the stronghold of the party in the state. This, among other allegations, prompted Ajayi to pick the ZLP ticket to realise his ambition on behalf of the Southern District people who see it as their project against PDP and APC.
On a daily basis, the political camps of the ruling party and PDP get depleted as political bigwigs keep pitching their tents with ZLP, seeing it as a movement to emancipate the people from years of utter abandonment by successive governments.
Another setback that may scuttle the chances of PDP is the ZLP national leader and former governor of the state, Mimiko, who is said to have some differences with Jegede.
It was gathered that the 2016 governorship election, of which Mimiko imposed Jegede as PDP candidate on the party, strained their relationship, with the latter believing that his estranged godfather betrayed him. They have not ben friends, particularly in the 2019 general elections when the Akure people massively worked against Mimiko and ensured he failed in his senatorial ambition at the poll.
Now, the support being enjoyed by ZLP and its candidate in the Central District punctures the hopes of PDP in the forthcoming election, as it gives Mimiko belief in his ability to deliver his candidate, Ajayi.
Meanwhile, there were rumours of an unfolding alliance between ZLP and PDP a few days ago, but the Media Adviser to Ajayi, Mr. Allen Sowore, spontaneously dispelled it as untrue. Sowore stated that “Nothing can be farther from the truth,” accusing PDP as purveyors of fake news. He stressed, “Ajayi had never worked with Eyitayo Jegede before and has not indicated to do so.
He warned, “The purveyors of the fake alliance are henceforth charged to discontinue using the deputy governor’s name to curry favour from the electorate.”
However, it was gathered that PDP had been mounting pressure on the former governor, Mimiko, to support the PDP candidate as a game plan for the 2023 presidential election. Some months ago, it was revealed that Mimiko was contemplating returning to the PDP after the October poll so he could be relevant in the 2023 presidency.
The speculation fuelled the suspicion that Mimiko might dump Ajayi and ZLP even before the governorship election is held. He was said to be in a meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, alongside other PDP leaders in Abeokuta last Tuesday.
Earlier, there was a leak that Mimiko had attended a meeting with a northern PDP governor in Abuja without the knowledge of ZLP members and governorship candidate. According to reliable sources in ZLP, the former governor attended the meeting on Saturday morning before flying into the state to campaign for Ajayi in Ile-Oluji, Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo Local Government Area same day.
It was revealed that the meeting had earlier been planned for Mimiko’s home in Ondo and was to be attended by another governor from the South. But the reason for the change in plan was unknown.
Barring a last-minute change of plan in ZLP, a party chieftain, who pleaded anonymity, said, “There is no longer trust among the ZLP party leaders. Honestly, there is palpable fear in the party at the moment. We are scared that Mimiko may dump Ajayi at the eleventh hour.
“If you have been following the political journey of Mimiko, this should not be a surprise to you. He did this to his former boss, former governor Adebayo Adefarati. In 2003, when Baba was seeking his re-election, he was with him in the morning, pledging his loyalty, but dumped the late governor in the afternoon to join late Olusegun Agagu’s camp.
‘“In 2018, Mimiko declared his intention to contest the 2019 presidential election under ZLP and, having realised that his ambition won’t fly, he asked one of his core loyalists, Engr. Gboye Adegbenro, who was already seeking the senate seat under the ZLP, to step down for him.
“Due to this antecedent of Mimiko, he cannot be trusted. He is full of wonders. Don’t be surprised; he may even align with his estranged friend, Governor OluwaRotimi Akeredolu if he considers his interest will be protected in the APC family.
“Our fresh fears are real and frightening indeed. When we saw that report about the meeting the PDP governors were to hold with him, he complained to someone that it had been leaked to the press that he would be in Abuja.
“For us, we are set for anything that will stop Akeredolu, but if as a leader you are negotiating or holding talks without the candidate there, there will be apprehension and this is real. We are scared simply because since he returned from Abuja, he didn’t say anything about the meeting.”
Though the ZLP State Publicity Secretary, Felix Olatunde, has repeatedly denied any meeting between the party’s national leader and PDP, especially in respect of negotiations to back Jegede.
Nevertheless, a PDP chieftain, who spoke in confidence, said his party was cashing in on the recent Abuja Federal High Court judgment that ordered INEC to publish the personal particulars of Ajayi as reason Mimiko is reconsidering his decision on Ajayi.
Giving credence to the possibility of merger between the major opposition, the spokesperson of the former vice president, Mr. Segun Sowunmi, expressed hope that Mimiko would yield to the PDP at the “thirteenth hour,” and appealed Mimiko to return to the party ahead of the October 10, 2020 governorship election.