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Political schemes in PDP that hurt Jegede’s campaign flag-off

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Last Saturday’s governorship campaign flag-off of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is creating ripples in Ondo State. Mixed reactions have started trailing the exercise, especially from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Though the event got off to a fine start, as the venue of the campaign, Democracy Park in Akure, was filled to capacity, there were some noticeable shortcomings.

First was the conspicuous absence of 14 PDP governors at the party’s first rally to officially present its flagbearer, Eyitayo Jegede, and his running mate, Ikengboju Gboluga, to the electorate. It was only the Chairman of the Campaign Council for the state and Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal that attended the event out of 16 PDP governors.

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Other dignitaries present were former governors of Osun and Ekiti states, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Segun Oni as well as, former deputy governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Muktar Shagari, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo, and Senator Abiodun Olujimi, amongst others. Former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, was conspicuously absent, although Fayose was at the formal defection of Ondo Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, to PDP in June.

These notable absentees in the camp of the opposition further lend credence to why the flag-off was postponed penultimate Saturday, reportedly due to infighting among PDP governors. However, accusing fingers were pointed at the ruling APC for using federal might and the power of incumbency at its disposal to oppress the opposition party.

A former member of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) had earlier disclosed that the change of date was due to the refusal of some PDP governors to give full commitment to the Ondo project.

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According to him, “The decision of the national campaign committee to postpone the rally has no link with the decision of APC to hold its own rally on the same day, but the inability of the party’s national leadership to reconcile Jegede and some PDP governors.

“Some PDP governors have vowed to shun invitations for the Jegede campaign flag-off in Akure following his alleged refusal to pick one the party’s governorship aspirants, who participated in the party’s July 22 gubernatorial primary as his running mate.”

Other reliable sources within the party attributed the cold war among the governors over political schemes for 2023 presidential election, with many in favour of Tambuwal against the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is reportedly Jegede’s staunch sponsor. Besides, it was learned that most PDP governors favoured the Deputy Governor, Ajayi, to clinch the party’s ticket. When he didn’t, they thought he would rank well in Jegede’s consideration for a running mate. But when he also failed to get that, he decamped to contest in Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

The former PDP NEC chieftain added, “From all indications, Jegede’s insistence on Ikengboju Gboluga as his running mate has caused a serious crack in the party and if this is not properly managed, it may affect the party on October 10.

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“Most of our party’s governors and even a large chunk of the NWC are unhappy that Jegede turned down their offer despite pleas that he should pick one of the governorship aspirants as running mate,” he said. “I am not sure if our governors will show serious commitment in this Ondo project. You can see how they are confronting their colleagues in APC in Edo State. They are battle-ready to retain the state for Edo State PDP.”

He noted that if the flag-off had come up on September 5, 2020, “only Governor Makinde would have attended the major event based on past experience in Abuja. Didn’t you observe that on the day of the campaign council inauguration in Abuja, Governor Makinde was the only PDP governor at the event?

It was gathered from a reliable source that the presence of Governor Tambuwal too was for his own political interest. He is believed to be gathering support for his 2023 presidential ambition, which is against Jegede’s political godfather, Abubakar.

But a public analyst and commentator, Dr. Wumi Akintide, dispelled the arguments made so far and defended the choice made by the party’s governorship candidate in a comment he posted on Newspot.ng. Akintide faulted the idea of 14 PDP governors allegedly refusing to rally round Jegede because “he refused to pick a running mate that did not share his values and yearnings. Do not forget that it is Eyitayo’s judgment call, not theirs, to impose a running mate on him.

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“Agboola Ajayi, who they wanted to impose on Eyitayo, is so ambitious to believe he could just cross over from APC without paying his dues to start asking Eyitayo, who is far more superior and qualified than him, to step down for him as the PDP nominee.

“Eyitayo refused to step down for rolling stone Agboola and he bravely took him on in the highly contested PDP primary and he beat the son of a gun who immediately started asking Eyitayo to make him his running mate.

“Who in his right senses can do that? Eyitayo was right to refuse to pick Agboola Ajayi as running mate. Come on, give Eyitayo a break. He did the right thing. Why would Eyitayo not learn some useful lessons from the way Ajayi has treated Akeredolu? Why pick a running mate who would start digging your grave from the get-go?”

While urging the party to rally support for Jegede, Akintide, pointed out that “The 14 PDP governors who refused to show up at Akure for Eyitayo are not going to be the people to vote for Eyitayo. Ondo State voters are the ones to vote for him.

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“It is not too late for them to have a rethink of their position and to all join hands with Eyitayo to defeat Akeredolu and Ajayi on October 10. Time is of the essence.”

A former state PDP Chairman, Dr. Jacob Gbakinro, who is also from the South Senatorial District, had to assure the crowd at the flag-off that the people, who had hitherto agitated that the party’s candidate must come from the zone, were no longer angry.

PDP stalwarts at the rally premised their campaign against the ruling party on the leadership crisis within the party, the futility of federal might, and increase in tariffs of utilities in the midst of trying times, which COVID-19 presented. They accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of colluding with APC to rig the October poll by setting smart card readers on fire in the state and urged them to reject APC by voting against Governor Akeredolu’s second term bid.

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