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PDP eyes APC’s slips for Ondo State 2020

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Mimiko

• As internal crisis threatens Akeredolu’s membership
Would unintended actions from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Southwest geopolitical zone collude to pave the way for the resurgence of main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that once held sway in the region?

That question has continued to agitate the minds of APC chieftains in the zone, particularly in Ondo State where the simmering internal crisis seems to be threatening Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s continued membership of the ruling party.

In readiness for the 2020 gubernatorial election in the state, various political parties have started strengthening their systems and structures. This is just as the main opposition PDP has been strategically positioning its forces so as to be able to reap from the looming crisis in APC.

Perhaps against the backdrop of what happened in Adamawa and Bauchi States, some chieftains of the party have predicted that the internal crises rocking APC could not only make it extremely impossible for Governor Akeredolu to get reelected, but also capable of rocking the boat.

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Already, a large number of gladiators across the 203 wards and three senatorial districts of the state have indicated interest in the governorship seat. Apart from the fact that a handful of former aspirants are positioning themselves to take over from the governor, some are actually debutantes.

For instance, in the Ondo South Senatorial District that has been the strongest base of PDP since the return to democracy in 1999, the aspirants include the South West Chairman of the party, Chief Dr. Eddy Olafeso; Chief Sola Ebiseni, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Otunba Bamidele Akingboye (OBA).

Also from the district are, the former state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Banji Okunomo, a former Commissioner for Information and Deputy governorship candidate in last election, Olu Mafo, among others.

From the Central, the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Eyitayo Jegede, the party’s candidate in 2016, is also getting ready for another go and in the North: the former Special Adviser on Labour Matters, Mr. Dayo Fadahunsi and former Commissioner for Culture, Tourism and Special Duties, Mr. Femi Adekambi are also interested.

As a sign of the growing optimism within PDP, the state chairman, Mr. Clement Faboyede, boasted that the main opposition party would send Governor Akeredolu out of the Alagbaka Government House in 2020.

Faboyede disclosed that PDP is making frantic efforts to put its house in order across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state, assuring that the party will conduct a transparent and rancor-free primary election that will produce a popular standard-bearer.

It would be recalled that despite its past electoral triumphs, PDP put up an impressive performance in the recent General elections by defeating the ruling party with its incumbency in the state to give the party’s Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a resounding victory.

Similarly, PDP won two out of the three Senatorial seats, including South and Central districts. Its candidates also won two House of Representatives seats in the South, one in the Central, even as it left the other two federal constituency seats to other opposition parties.

Governor Akeredolu’s faction of APC could only win one National Assembly seat in the House of Representatives, while the rival faction won the only senatorial seat and three House of Representative tickets.

Most watchers of Ondo politics saw the outcome of the last election as evidence of the infighting within the ruling party, as well as remote fallout of the controversial September 3, 2016 APC governorship primary that threw up Akeredolu and the Aketi team.

PDP’s optimism
Faboyede based his optimism that PDP would reclaim the state from the APC on the state of affairs in the ruling party, explaining that APC defeated the former governor, Dr. Olusegun MImiko and the party’s flag bearer in the November 26, 2016 governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede, due to such multi-dimensional crises rocking the ruling party.

Jegede

The chairman, who is a former commissioner in the state, stressed that the process of picking the party’s candidate would be done without rancour and to celebrate the culture of internal democracy peculiar to the opposition party.

He hinted that the same tactics deployed during the primaries that preceded the general elections would be used to elect the party’s governorship candidate. Such painstaking process, he added, makes reconciliation and cohesion for victory possible, since according to him, no one could fault the process because of fairness and justice.

The Ondo PDP boss pointed to what he described as the lack-lustre performance of the present administration as huge advantage of the party to defeat the APC regardless of the paraphernalia of office and powers of incumbency at its behest in the election.

He pointed at the low acceptability of Governor Akeredolu and the APC government at all levels as further boost to PDP’s chances, stressing that the lack of good Social Protection Programmes, gross disconnect from the grassroots and deterioration of people-centred and welfarist programmes inherited from past administration would be APC’s undoing.

His words: “At this time of government of pressure and tyranny, we have decided to leave no stone unturned. By God’s grace, Ondo State will rise again with the PDP government. The incoming PDP government would be one that respects social norms. It will govern based on empathy and the rule of law.”

Speaking when Olafeso and his supporters came to notify the party of his governorship ambition at the party secretariat recently, the Ondo State PDP chairman reaffirmed that the party would defeat Akeredolu and APC in next years election.

Earlier the National Vice Chairman (South West), Olafeso, who was a Commissioner for Information in late Dr. Olusegun Agagu’s regime, recounted that his ambition is a rescue mission to salvage the state from the present doldrums in all sectors of the state.

“There is no government in Ondo State. This is the state of Ajasin, it is the state of Adefarati, it is the state of Agagu and Mimiko. We are now witnessing a situation, where students are paying for tuition from primary school level to secondary school.

“The tertiary institutions are far beyond the ordinary man. I’m a product of the Awolowo era. I won’t have been educated if there is no social welfare program for the ordinary man on the street. They have abdicated their responsibility and they have stepped on the head of history,” he ecounted.

Olafeso disclosed that at the appropriate time, many PDP members who had migrated to other parties would come back home to work together for the party and reclaim its lost glory and provide quality governance and dividends of democracy to the people.

APC hybrids
There are indications that PDP’s confidence might not be unconnected to the resolve by some APC faithful to work against the party if Akeredolu gets a second term ticket.

Sources within the party accused the faction in government of marginalizing others not belonging to the Aketi faction since it took over the reins of governance on February 24, 2017.

One of the APC stalwarts confided in The Guardian that across the 3009 units of the state, those APC members that are not part of Aketi Team are treated as the most miserable of creatures.

He lamented that there is no difference between most APC members and members of the opposition parties that are not in power, lamenting that the governor is not funding the party adequately.

Apart the neglect of the political ‘footsoldiers,’ the source noted that even political appointees too could not afford to take care of any party structure in their wards.

Another APC chieftain in Okitipupa LGA also bemoaned the fate of party faithful belonging to the other faction, saying: “We have never seen this kind of government in this state. In many of our meetings across the state, people are lamenting terribly. In fact, there is no difference between now and when we were in opposition.

“Governance and politics now have become purely family affair in the state. We all worked assiduously for Aketi during the primary election. We abandoned our own son, Olusola Oke, to vote this man, Aketi, but he has abandoned all of us.

“Even when forming his cabinet, he appointed those who never worked for him at the primary and abandoned us. We are waiting for him next year; if he eventually gets the party ticket, we will work against him and the party.”

The distraught APC chieftain revealed that one of their leaders, Mr. Igbekele Akinrinwa, despite the fact of the marginalization has been pleading with members to continue to support the Akeredolu administration.

It would be recalled that thousands of PDP chieftains joined APC out of anger in the build-up to the 2016 election due to the strategic political blunder by Dr. Olusegun. Despite breaking the two-terms jinx in the state, Mimiko’s decision to select a successor from the same Central District he hails from cost the party the election.

Original PDP members that are currently in APC include, the then Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi; former Assembly Speakers: Victor Olabimtan and Abdulsalam Taofeek, the Chairman of SUBEB, Princess Oladunni Odu; the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo; the Commissioner for Education, Mr. Femi Agagu, the brother and Chief of Staff to former governor, late Dr. Agagu among others.

The thinking among political actors in the state is that Olafeso possesses the charisma and touch to unite the party. They argue that his eloquence and academic brilliance would stand him in good stead during the PDP primaries.

Some party faithful point to Olafeso’s robust relationship with the wave-making Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, as points that could count to his advantage.

Regarding Governor Akeredolu, sources within the state cabinet, said most of his appointees have a list of grudges against the governor, especially his style of governance, which they say makes it extremely difficult to maintain the party and their supporters.

And owing to political arithmetic, the fact that Olafeso hails from Okitipupa LGA, seen as PDP’s formidable base in the South District since 1999 as well as the success recorded by the party in the last election across the state, is traced to his inclusive style of leadership.

Although many PDP leaders agree that Olafeso’s astute leadership style in the South West region led to the party’s victory also in Lagos, Osun and Ekiti States, they regret the massive rigging by the ruling party, which deployed the infamous power of incumbency.

Not long ago, it was speculated that the Deputy Governor, Ajayi, was planning to resign in December so as to contest the governorship on PDP platform. It was also alleged that the Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, was sponsoring him.

He was also said to be penciling the member representing Akure North and Akure South Federal Consistency in the House of Representatives, Adedayo Omolafe, as his running mate.

However, although the two politicians denied the allegations, while Ajayi restated his loyalty and unflinching support for Akeredolu, some APC insiders insisted on a looming political crisis over his 2020 reelection bid.

Sources also alluded to a top reshuffling game to replace Ajayi with another politician from Okitipupa, which they said would inevitably trigger an implosion within the ruling party.

On his part, Jegede, who is a close ally of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, told the party leadership in Akure South and Idanre councils, of his intention to seek another support to contest the governorship, saying it is divine.

He stated: “I am here to thank you for the support you gave me during the 2016 governorship election. I see myself as somebody who is ready to serve. I contested the last gubernatorial election and we knew the result, the following day we went to church to thank God for how far He had helped us.

“Now, I consulted God Almighty again, I asked if I should go forward on this project, He answered me that I should go ahead. I am asking you whether to go ahead or not? This is not the time for the campaign.

“We will surely come back when the time comes. I seek your support for our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and appreciate you for all your efforts both during the 2016 governorship election and the last general elections.”

Another aspirant, Fadahunsi, who hails from the same council in the North District as the incumbent governor, is also said to be weighing options to slug it out with APC and square up with a deputy from the South.

It was gathered that although popular considerations within Mimiko’s camp favoured him in 2016, the former governor chose to do otherwise, which led to PDP’s woeful defeat.

There are indications that PDP could bank on its strongest base in the South District to pick its candidate in the next election, despite the fact re many aspirants are springing from there. Sources within the party however revealed that they are working closely with Jegede to become his running mate.

Moreover, the prolonged absence of the governor from the state since he applied for a two weeks vacation in September and reports filtering in that he is critically ill, if not well managed, may whittle down the chances of the APC if he eventually gets a second term ticket.

The state PDP spokesperson, Mr. Zadock Akintoye, doubted several arguments put up by the governor’s aides claiming that Akeredolu remains hale and hearty and has been attending to official duties in Abuja.

Speaking on the chances of the ruling party with Akeredolu, the former Deputy Governor and Member of APC Board of Trustee (BoT), Alhaji Ali Olanusi, said the party is too weak to win next year’s election.

His words: “For the first time in my political life, I am seeing what I have never seen. It was when Akeredolu became governor that the political party, which brought him into power went comatose.

“Till now, the party is not holding any ward meeting in all the 203 wards of Ondo State. If you don’t meet at the ward level, the local government level and at the state level, where else does the party meet to talk about issues?”

Olanusi, who is a leader of the APC Elders Forum and Ondo APC Unity Forum, an assemblage of party chieftains and members opposing Akeredolu government, disclosed that the governor stifled the peace parley on the behest of the National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

“He has killed APC in the state. There is no party. When we were asked to conduct election to pick officers to run the affairs of the party, he and his cabinet at the Government House sat in their offices and wrote names by themselves without any party input or election. That is where the problem started from.”

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Consequent upon these, Olanusi alongside several other chieftains of the party, has been clamouring for the expulsion of the governor by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party; and often times knocks him for alleged lackluster performance in the state.

“The situation is terrible. I told the leaders that came that if election is conducted today in Ondo State, I don’t know which party will win but not the APC. If things do not change, I can assure you that the APC cannot win election.

“I just told you that there is no meeting going on; no caucus meeting. I was the state chairman of the PDP for six years. Every month, we hold caucus meeting where we have the cabinet, including the governor, deputy governor and leaders of the party. But there is no caucus now in Ondo APC, even wards are not meeting.”

Speaking on the possibility of the governor ditching APC to seek reelection in another party, Olanusi disclosed, “I am a man of peace. We in the Ondo APC Unity Forum are just trying to patch things for him to finish his term since he was elected.

“But surprisingly, we now discovered he is now erecting bill boards in some areas. The boards initially carried no logo but later when people started murmuring, he put small symbol of broom on the erected bill boards.”

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