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Disquiet in PDP as Ondo guber poll beckons

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The political theatrics ahead of Ondo State governorship election, slated for October 10, 2020, have become intense within the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as it shops for a consensus candidate.

Many of are the belief that if PDP can put its house together and harness its strength it can reap from the myriads of internal wrangling besetting the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party and wrestle power from Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who is seeking a second term. 

However, many analysts have ascribed the internal crisis within PDP to ‘too many cooks that spoiling the broth.’ This is against the backdrop of the latest development likely to destroy the chances and credibility of the party to emerge as a formidable force in the state. They also noted that it be easy to run for Akeredolu to coast home to victory since the ailment that is affecting the ‘eyes’ of APC’s Unity Forum faction against him is also affecting the ‘nostril’ of PDP. 

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More than nine months ago, the opposition party had over 17 aspirants across the three senatorial districts, with the highest gladiators coming from the South District, which has been the stronghold of the party since 1999. Okitipupa and Ilaje Local Government Areas in the South District have been the political headquarters of the party in the state with eight governorship aspirants jostling to dislodge ruling APC. 

From Okitipupa, which had produced late Dr. Olusegun Agagu as governor from 2003-2009, are PDP South-West Chairman, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Otunba Bamidele Akingboye, Engr. Ogunwa Oboli and Barr. Bimpe Olatemiju seeking to clinch the party’s ticket. Ilaje, the riverine and oil hub of the state whose indigenes hinge the expediency for the race on the fact that they have never produced a governor, has two former council chairmen: Banji Okunomo and Chief Sola Ebiseni, and Chief Ola Mafo in the race. 

The central only had the former Attorney General of the state and PDP governorship candidate in the 2016 election, Eyitayo Jegede, with others also from the North District, particularly from Owo Council, the hometown of Akeredolu. The North District, which validly lays claim to be allowed to finish its second term ticket, has the former Commissioner for Culture, Tourism and Special Duties, Femi Adekanbi and former Special Adviser to Governor Mimiko on Labour Matters, Dayo Fadahunsi.

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Though the party leadership under the chairmanship of Engr. Clement Faboyede, who disclosed that there were 17 guber aspirants but only eight active contenders, had foreseen the imminent crisis and put in place machinery to forestall it. Faboyede explained that the party had set up an Elders Screening and Advisory Council to reduce the number to seven or eight, revealing that the council was headed by Senator Bode Olajumoke, who had since begun work.

According to Faboyede, “By the time we are going for primary, it will either be affirmation or contest between two or three aspirants, because this is a disciplined party; it is not a party that is being divided among interest groups. We are focused on our determination to reclaim Ondo State.” 

But the first cymbal of discord rang from Okitipupa about two weeks ago, when Olafeso, who was also a Commissioner for Information and Orientation during Agagu’s regime, was announced as the consensus candidate for Okitipupa LGA. Political watchers warned that it was a bad omen for PDP ahead of the October poll since the South District, on several occasions, had proven to be the major determinant on how well the party would perform in any election in the state. 

It will be recalled that PDP failed the last guber election after the immediate past governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who hails from the Central Senatorial District and spent eight years, picked a successor from the same district, Jegede, to the chagrin of the south and north districts.

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Forging a common front for the Ikale people, the five aspirants from Okitipupa council did a shadow primary in Ode-Aye and agreed to work for Dr. Olafeso, popularly known as Oloroogun by his supporters, after he had emerged with three votes. But Akingboye and Kunlere later dissociated themselves from the exercise. 

The Coordinator of Senator Boluwaji Kunlere Campaign Organisation (SBKCO), Mr. Bamido Omogbehin, refuted the adoption of Olafeso and affirmed that the meeting was only to discuss PDP’s development ahead of the upcoming poll.
 
According to him, “At the meeting, Ogunwa and Olatemiju agreed to throw their weight behind Dr. Olafeso while the duo Senator Kunlere and Akingboye reinforced their convictions and readiness to pursue their ambition to a logical conclusion.

“I do not begrudge their democratic rights to support whoever they so wish. I am not aware that SBK stepped down for Eddy or anyone. It must be clearly stated again that only Engr Ogunwa Oboli and Barr Bimpe Olatemiju agreed to work with Dr. Eddy Olafeso and that doesn’t translate to a uniform understanding of all other aspirants.”

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Similarly, Okunomo, who is also the immediate past state PDP Publicity Secretary, was endorsed as the consensus candidate for the poll by the party’s executives in Ilaje LGA to the displeasure of some persons. But PDP’s Secretary in Ilaje Council, Evangelist Banjo Ikunogbon, reaffirmed that the decision was collectively taken by executive members across the 12 wards so as to have a formidable front in proper preparation for the poll. 

According to him, 21 party executives and other 35 ward executives in the council, who signed the document to validate the party’s decision, preferred Okunomo above other aspirants. 

While reacting to the displeasure of those opposed to Okunomo’s emergence as the sole candidate, the PDP chieftain said: “For the record, there was no place the excos denied such an endorsement. We challenge anyone to provide to the public a joint denial paper signed by the 21 of us to substantiate this claim. There was no one that pulled out from this arrangement put in place to have one governorship aspirant from the local government.”

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The PDP chieftain further explained, “When Okunomo was endorsed, 21 of us came together to endorse him. 21 out of 30 local government excos resolved for Okunomo and we signed a joint paper and appended our signatures and designations on the same joint paper.

“Again, yesterday, we reaffirmed our earlier decision in a separate statement and we even put our direct phone numbers in the joint statement for onward verification by anyone.

“Consequently, barely 24 hours we endorsed Okunomo, 35 wards executive members of the party out of 48 across the 12 wards of Ilaje Local Government Area further concurred with the endorsement of Okunomo done by the 21 of us being the majority members of the local government excos in Ilaje LGA.”

He also added that “They did not only concur to the endorsement, they also appended their signatures on a joint document to reinforce our resolution for Banji Okunomo as the adopted sole governorship aspirant of PDP in Ilaje local government of Ondo State.”

Ikunogbon urged party members across the 12 wards to support the sole candidacy of Okunomo in order to win the upcoming governorship primaries of the party. 

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“However, we wish to make clear by saying that the endorsement of Banji Okunomo by us does not stop any aspirant in our local government from contesting at the primaries,” Ikunogbon said. “We only exercised our constitutional rights of freedom of expression as to who we think could win the ticket of the party and eventually defeat Akeredolu in the upcoming governorship election in Ondo State.”

He noted that the party’s leadership in the council had set up reconciliation committee to pacify all aggrieved persons, saying they must sheathe their swords in the interest of the council. 

“Our endorsement is not an embargo that can stop any of the aspirants from buying the nomination form of the party to participate in the upcoming PDP primaries,” he said further. “Politics is a game of number. Simple majority will always prevail and that’s the beauty of democracy.”

Referring to Governor Akeredolu, Okunomo affirmed that “electing Akeredolu for the second term is like returning to Egypt,” describing him as “a total failure. How can a government, which only minimally satisfied three local governments out of 18, be clamouring for a second term? It is an absurdity of the highest order and a deliberate act of playing God and playing on the intelligence of the people of Ondo State.”

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Okunomo argued that comparative assessment of different state governments in relation to their performances across the 36 states of Nigeria shows that most of the governors only perform in their first tenures in offices.

According to him, “Their second terms record abysmal failure. Therefore, I use this medium to awaken the consciousness of the Ondo State electorate to this infallible assertion that many second-term governors don’t perform.

”Four years is enough for a serious government to perform and the return of any government to power for a second term should be based on performance, as intended by our constitution.”

Several attempts to speak with the state’s PDP Chairman, Faboyede, proved abortive, but a leader of the party, who pleaded not to be named, said the wrangling in the party is a usual family affair that would be resolved amicably. 

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