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How 2023 polls result exposes Ondo PDP’s weaknesses

By Adewale Momoh, Akure.
10 April 2023   |   4:16 am
Weeks after the Presidential, national, and state Assembly polls in Ondo State, the embarrassing performance of the major opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the elections has continued to worry political observers and analysts.

Eyitayo Jegede

Weeks after the Presidential, national, and state Assembly polls in Ondo State, the embarrassing performance of the major opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the elections has continued to worry political observers and analysts.

They are still shocked over what went wrong in the camp of the Ondo chapter of PDP, which used to be a formidable opposition in the state. The Sunshine State is one of the eight states in the country, where only the National and States Assembly elections held. But the outing of the PDP at the February 25 and March 18 polls fell short of expectation, especially when compared with what the party recorded in the 2019 elections, when it defeated the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the presidential election, making it the only victory recorded in the South-West.

The reverse was the case in the last general elections when the presidential candidate of APC, Bola Tinubu, who is now the president-elect, polled 369,924 to defeat presidential candidate of PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who scored 115,463 to come in a distant second.

Before the election, the PDP had two senators out of the three representing the state at the Ninth Senate, but it lost the senatorial seats to the ruling APC. The ruling party is now in control of all three seats of the upper chamber.

For the House of Representatives, the PDP also lost its major strongholds in the southern part of the state to the APC but managed to secure just one seat in the central senatorial district.

IN the southern senatorial district of the state, business mogul, Jimoh Ibrahim, who ran under the APC platform, emerged the winner. Ibrahim polled 110,665 votes to defeat his main rival, former Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi of the PDP, who scored 65,784 votes.

Ajayi had defeated the incumbent senator, Nicolas Tofowomo, at the PDP primaries held in May 2022 in Okitipupa, the headquarters of Okitipupa Local Council.

It was the same situation in Ondo Central Senatorial District, where the candidate of the APC, Niyi Adegbomire, secured 103,871 votes to defeat the PDP’s Ifedayo Adedipe, who got 74,702 votes. Adedipe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), secured the PDP’s ticket after defeating the incumbent, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, at the party’s primary.

After securing the Central and Southern Senatorial districts into its bag, APC retained its dominance in the Northern Senatorial District with, Jide Ipinsagba. He won with 115,933 votes while his close rival, Tokunbo Modupe, of the PDP, lost after polling 48,842 votes.

For the House of Representatives polls, the ruling party maintained its winning strides by securing eight out of the nine House of Representatives seats in the state.

Also, the party made pronounced inroads into the enclave of the PDP that had for over 15 years been the stronghold of the opposition party. Since the return to democratic government in 1999, the Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal Constituency has always been represented by the PDP. The constituency had a brief stint with the Labour Party (LP), when the immediate past Governor Olusegun Mimiko, held sway in the state, but returned to the PDP after about four years. But former Commissioner for Information in the state, Donald Ogojo, broke the PDP jinx in Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal Constituency, when he was declared winner after he polled 26,306 to defeat the incumbent and two-term lawmaker representing the constituency, Kolade Akinjo, who scored 22,390.

Irele/Okitipupa Federal Constituency had also for years been the stronghold of the PDP, but the pendulum swung at the February 24 polls, with Gboluga Ikengboju of the PDP losing to the APC’s Jimi Odimayo. Ikengnoju got 21,066 while Odimayo got 44,638.

In the Owo/Ose Federal Constituency, the APC held on to the seat after the incumbent lawmaker, Timehin Adelegbe, scored 34,550 to defeat the PDP’s Ayo Arowele, who had 20,865.

Other seats cleared by APC include Akoko North East/North West (Bunmi Tunji-Ojo), Odigbo/Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo (Festus Adefiranye), while Abiola Makinde returned as a House of Representatives member representing Ondo West/East Federal Constituency, Akure North/Akure South (Derin Adesida), as well as Akoko South East/South West Federal Constituency.

The only seat won by the PDP is in Idanre/Ifedore Federal Constituency, where Festus Akingbaso scored 24,263 to defeat the incumbent lawmaker, Tajudeen Adefisoye, who had 20,064 votes.

THE State Assembly polls held on March 18 did not also favour the major opposition PDP. Following the outstanding performance recorded in the National Assembly polls, APC also defated the PDP after securing the majority of the seats in the state’s legislature.

In the results declared, APC secured 22 of the 26 constituencies, while the opposition PDP got four. The four constituencies where the ruling APC lost were Akoko South-West Constituency 1, Akoko South-West Constituency 2, one seat in Akoko North-West, and Akure South Constituency 1.

With the development, only four lawmakers who were part of the 9th Ondo State House Assembly will be returning to the state legislature. Also, the four lawmakers will be ranking members of the Assembly, while the remaining 22 lawmakers will be the “greenhorns.”

The four lawmakers who lost the bid to return to the Assembly include Favour Tomomewo (Ilaje 2, ADC); Toluwani Borokini (Akure South 1, APC); Tomide Akinribido (Ondo West 1, PDP); and Taofeeq Muhammed (Akoko Northwest 2, APC).

The four others who sought reelection and made it back to the Assembly were: Oluwole Emmanuel Ogunmolasuyi (Owo 1, APC/Majority Leader); Oladiji Olamide (Ondo East, APC); Ololade Gbegudu (Okitipupa 11, APC); and Abayomi Akinruntan (Ilaje 1, APC), who is returning for the third term.

Factors that worked against PDP
PRIOR to the 2023 polls, the defeat of the PDP was imminent due largely to internal crisis rocking the party. Some members loyal to the former Commissioner for Justice and two-time governorship candidate in the state, Eyitayo Jegede, while a sizable number were with the former Governor Olusegun Mimiko.

With enormous cracks within its fold, PDP went into the election with a divided house, many alleged that Jegede did not have the capacity to lead Ondo chapter of PDP, particularly, given that Mimiko is still in the party.

According to them, the highest political status Jegede had attained was that of a commissioner under Mimiko’s administration, stressing that his boss had been a two-term governor and a minister, hence, the leadership of the party in the state ought to automatically be on Mimiko after moving back to the PDP from the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

The infraction seemed to have contributed to the near abysmal performance of the party at the polls. Beyond the leadership challenge that faced the party, members were equally leaving in droves for the ruling APC.

Among those that defected were a former lawmaker, Adeyinka Banso; a two-time council chairman of Akure North, Hon. Dele Fagoriola; a former secretary to Odigbo Local Government, Femi Akinwehinmi; and a former chairman of Ondo East Local Council, Charles Adeduro, and others.

Banso, a former member of the state’s Seventh Assembly, said they left the PDP owing to what he described as lack of focus and vision of the party’s leadership.

Also, the former Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Banji Okunomo, along with his supporters, resigned his membership. Okunomo said his resignation from the party was hinged on the internal crisis, tyranny and leadership failure in the PDP.

“There is no spirit of inclusiveness, no sense of belonging. In Ondo State, the PDP leadership under Fatai Adams and Eyitayo Jegede cannot lead but wreck the party.

“It’s a bunch of irresponsible, incompetent, inexperienced, and focus-less leadership that led to the failure of the party, undermining the leadership of former governor Mimiko.

“We warned against this imminent failure, but the party failed to listen, and because they failed to heed our advice, they failed. In order not to be part of this charade, we announced our departure from the PDP to align with the verdict of the people in the last presidential election, and we would announce our destination.”

Meanwhile, the party, in reaction to the defections, disclosed that it would not lose sleep over the development. The party’s publicity secretary, Kennedy Peretei, said, “In the last 18 months, these same characters have moved in and out of the PDP twice, which is a confirmation of their nomadic nature as politicians.

“Most of them who got promotions beyond their capacities by the PDP have consistently lost their polling units to other political parties during elections.

“They have always been trailed by failure in their opportunistic and self-serving inordinate ambitions that drive their insatiable desire for crumbs from the master’s table.

“To put the record straight, Banji Okunomo, Solomon Bitire, and their gang of court jesters declared that the PDP was dead in Ondo South, shortly after the PDP governorship primary election in 2020. They defected to the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), but returned to the PDP after their tragic outing, which was a measure of their political irrelevance.

“In all honesty, why should the PDP lose sleep over the exit of such colourless, inconsequential, and serial decampees?

“It won’t be any surprise if they are treated as political prostitutes wherever they may go. Our party can only wish them the best of luck on their sojourn. In any case, any time they wish to come back, our doors are open. Now that they have established that, they are political herdsmen.”