Yusuf Alli, Abuja
THERE were indications on Monday that cracks had developed in the Ondo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This followed reluctance of the party’s governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, to accept embattled Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi as his running mate. Also, the division in the state’s chapter of the party has been linked to the Cold War over PDP’s 2023 presidential slot. Jegede is a close ally of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; he won the primaries, despite the support Ajayi got from five PDP governors. The five governors had attempted to use the primaries to stop Jegede from becoming the party’s candidate. Following the failure of the deputy governor at the primaries, the five PDP governors were said to be pushing Ajayi to run on the platform of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). It was gathered that their plot is to split PDP’s votes and stop Atiku from producing a governor in the Southwest to use as a springboard for 2023 presidential race. But the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which was aware of the development in PDP, has been banking on the cracks in the opposition to consolidate its strength across the state. The support of President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu added more bite to the campaign of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. Worried by the new political mileage of APC in the state, it was learnt that some forces in the PDP have begun to prevail on Jegede to retain Ajayi as his running mate, instead of allowing him to defect to ZLP, which can affect the electoral fortunes of the state’s opposition party. Jegede’s camp was said to be wary of Ajayi, who controls nine members of the Ondo State House of Assembly. According to sources, Jegede’s strategists fear that Ajayi could become rebellious and impeach the governor, if the PDP wins in Ondo State.
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A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Dissatisfied with the outcome of the PDP primary, five PDP governors allegedly instructed the deputy governor to open talks with the leadership of ZLP in the state. “They have made commitments to bankroll Ajayi’s governorship bid, if he secures ZLP’s ticket. “Penultimate Friday, Ajayi met with ZLP’s national leader and former governor of Ondo state, Olusegun Mimiko, where discussions held on the deal to concede the governorship ticket to Ajayi. “Precisely, last Tuesday, Ajayi was said to have dispatched a chartered aircraft to convey the former governor to Abuja, ostensibly to firm up arrangements with both the NWC of ZLP as well as the five PDP governors backing Ajayi.” Another source added: “We are good to go and bounce back as a political family. It is true that our boss met some powerful forces who asked if there was enough war chest to prosecute this battle and our oga (boss) told them he could raise N10 billion for the October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state. “It was at the meeting in Abuja with the five PDP governors that it was revealed that the current political drama in Ondo State PDP was all about the 2023 presidential ticket. “These governors, led by their colleagues from the Northwest and Southsouth, also vowed to stop Atiku from clinching the PDP ticket and one of their grand plans was to stop Jegede from becoming the governor of Ondo State.” As at last night, Jegede had not shown conviction about choosing Ajayi as his running mate. But the PDP State Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Zadok Akintoye, in a statement on Sunday, denied that Ajayi was joining the ZLP.
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