Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi, is currently leading the supposed third force in the state. The Zenith Labour Party. It is the platform on which Ajayi succeeded in fulfilling his first part of his his quest to govern Ondo State, which is to be on the ballot in the October 10 governorship election. Ajayi swaggered through a three months tortuous journey sojourning three different political parties before he finally rested on the ZLP.
Ajayi was said to have started nursing governorship ambition in 2017, one year after the All Progressives Congress took power in Ondo State. His boss, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, reportedly gave him political power to enable him to focus on governance. Ajayi was therefor described as the most powerful Deputy Governor in the history of Ondo State.
He was consulted on all political decisions of Governor Akeredolu because he was seen as a core politician while Akeredolu was seen as a technocrat. With the political power, Ajayi was able to woo many converts including lawmakers in the Ondo State House of Assembly. Besides, he was influential in the nomination of several commissioners especially from Ondo South senatorial district, where he hails from.
Sources said the enormous powers bestowed on Ajayi created enmity for him as some politicians from Ondo South nursing 2024 ambition saw him becoming too powerful and they made a move to stop him. Besides the plot to stop him by his adversaries in the APC, Ajayi also started nursing the ambition to immediately succeed Akeredolu after their first term. The plot to unseat his boss backfired as Akeredolu got wind of it and gradually stripped Ajayi of all the powers.
It got to a point that Ajayi stopped attending government functions. Interventions by several forces including Governor Fayemi failed to reconcile both men and in June, Ajayi resigned from the APC after getting assurances from the top echelon in the PDP that he would be given the party’s ticket.
But, the Ondo chapter of the PDP was not in support as the majority of the party chieftains were hostile to Ajayi. It was reflected at the primary which was won by Eyitayo Jegede. Ajayi said the PDP lost the opportunity to win the October 10 governorship election by not fielding him as its candidate.
According to him, “The national leadership of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) assured me of a free, fair, and credible primary election, but the members of State Executive Committee were hostile, biased, and unbelievably compromised. In the interest of peace and harmony, we allowed things to go their way. But, that shouldn’t deter us from expressing our democratic freedom of association. We have to move on. If the result had gone our own way, there would have been serious violence and crisis. I can tell you confidently that PDP has missed it. PDP missed the opportunity to produce the next governor of Ondo State and it’s good for us. Now, with the unfolding events, we have been vindicated. Have you seen any serious political activities in the party since I left? Have you heard anything on the role of opposition being played by the party? I wouldn’t call it betrayal but sabotage. The chances of the party to win the next governorship election was obviously sabotaged and compromised. I wish the national leadership of the party can investigate the romance between the State Executive Committee and the Chief Executive of the state.
“Ondo PDP seems more interested in raising candidates at every election than winning. I have a dream to lead Ondo State out of its present predicament and that is very pertinent. It’s in the overriding interest of the people that I left. I listened to the voice of the people. That’s what is paramout.”
Under the ZLP, can Ajayi pull surprises as he did at the PDP primaries when he emerged the first runner up despite joining the party 30 days earlier? Already, the Director-General of Chief Olusola Oke campaign organization, Barr. Kazeem Olarenwaju, has defected to the ZLP to join forces with Ajayi. His joining the ZLP is expected to garner the support of Ondo North senatorial district where Governor Akeredolu hails from.
Some analysts said Ajayi hoped to win by securing block votes from Ondo South while his running mate, Gboye Adegbenro, and former Governor Mimiko would deliver votes in Ondo central. Ondo North is presently regarded as the main base of the APC. Agbo is a politician. He proved his mettle at the PDP primaries when he almost clinched the ticket but for the resolve of the Ondo PDP chapter. He has served as ward chairman, party chairman, local government chairman, and elected to the House of Representatives before becoming Deputy Governor.
Governor Akeredolu would have been having sleepless nights ahead of the polls if Agbo had not been forced out of the PDP.
But, winning all the votes from Ondo South would be a tough turf for Agbo because all the opposing voices in the APC from the zone have pledged support for Akeredolu, unlike in 2019 when some APC members supported the Action Alliance. All the major political gladiators in the APC from Ondo South are potential governors in 2024. There are talks that there is an unwritten understanding that Akeredolu should be allowed a second tenure for power to shift to the south.
However, for the first time in 8 years, Chief Olusola Oke will be campaigning for a candidate without him being the candidate.
Ilaje and Okitipupa in Ondo South are his bastion. He won there both in 2012 and 2016. They are catchment areas for Oke to deliver for Aketi.
Ifeoluwa Oyedele and Senator Yele Omogunwa are Ikale leaders while Prof Dayo Duyile is the son of the Paramount ruler of Ikaleland, the Abodi. They are working for Akeredolu. In Ese-Odo, it is expected that the combined forces of Chief Bibopre Ajube and Donald Ojogo in the Ijaw axis would check him. Akeredolu’s mother is from that Apoi area.
Besides APC leaders, Ajayi has leaders in the PDP to also battle within the South. Such leaders are Eddy Olafeso, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo, Banji Okunomo, Kingsley Kuku amongst others.
At the flag-off of his campaign at Ore, Odigbo local government, Ajayi promised to reduce tuition fees paid in the state-owned tertiary institutions to N50,000, stop the use of consultants in doing government business, which he said, had made the Ondo civil service redundant, return the shuttle bus services, and provide for the vulnerable in the society.
Ajayi promised a vibrant civil service by retraining them and ensuring they get a revolving loan. He urged voters to use their PVC to sack Akeredolu and bring in the ZLP because he is the most qualified to be governor.
Former Governor Olusegun Mimiko is playing a major role in leading the Agboola campaign. Mimiko had told the electorates that Agboola would continue with all his legacy projects such as free medical care for pregnant women, mega schools, amongst others.
There are, however, talks that Mimiko is being pressured to dump Ajayi and support the candidate of the PDP, Eyitayo Jegede, his estrange godson in the 2016 governorship race. Mimiko has repeatedly denied the allegations insisting that he would not abandon the ZLP.
Last week, an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice A. R Mohammed ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to publish credentials presented by Ajayi. The Order of Mandamus was filed by a lawyer, Femi Emodamori.
Emodamori in the suit said he has strong evidence that Ajayi presented fundamental false information, attestations and certificates in the INEC form EC9, the affidavit verifying his personal date and eligibility.
He said he would institute an action seeking the disqualification of Ajayi in line with Section 31 (5) and (6) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
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