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Ondo primary: Fear, anxiety grip PDP aspirants

The Ondo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been thrown into governorship primary fever.

The only cure to to the apprehension is credible shadow poll. There appears to be a proper diagnosis. But, will the appropriate medication come? Who will administer it? Will the PDP Governorship Primary Committee conduct a free and fair intra-party poll? Will the panel be above board? Will the outcome be acceptable to the antagonistic aspirants? Or will the exercise herald post-primary crisis  in the opposition party?

The APC is maintaining a keen interest in the PDP’s affair for obvious reasons. The PDP candidate will face Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) at the poll in October.

No fewer than eight contenders are competing for the governorship ticket of the tension-soaked Ondo PDP chapter. The primary will not be a walk over for any oc them.

The aspirants are Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi, Bode Ayorinde, Sola Ebiseni, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Banji Okunomo, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, and Gooday Erewa.

Ajayi defected to the PDP, with the aim of getting the ticket to wrest power from his estranged boss, Akeredolu, reminiscent of how Chief Akin Omoboriowo struggled to displace Governor Adekunle Ajasin in the Second Republic. He is however, not a stranger in the PDP. He was in the party before he defected to the APC. Ajayi, a former House of Representatives member, is said to have a financial muscle. The contest, for him, is an ego battle. Some of his associates have defected from the APC to the PDP. Some are still reassessing the situation, hoping to defect, if he picks the ticket.

Jegede is like a long distance runner. Four years ago, he failed woefully. He was not cleared to participate at the poll until two days to the exercise. He accepted his fate and joined forces with party leaders to achieve victory during last year’s National Assembly elections.

The legal luminary also deployed his legal expertise in aid of PDP flag bearers who were in court against APC candidates. It is a pay back period as some of them are supporting his ambition.

Ebiseeni is an experienced grassroots politician from the South; a former council boss and  former commissioner. In those days when seniority was a factor, he would have dwarfed his competitors.

Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, former Labour Party (LP) secretary represented the South in the Senate. He is also a veteran aspirant.

Olafeso is a national officer and former commissioner. The agitation for power shift to the South should have been to his advantage. But, aspirants from the South are many and they are working at cross purpose.

Zoning is not an important issue during this electioneering. That is why the plight of Akure as the only sub-zone that has not produced a civilian governor before is ignored.

At the primary, money will play a key role as aspirants focus on delegate targeting. There are hues and cries about how an aspirant, as alleged by some PDP youths, is doling out dollars to delegates. Will the highest bidder get the ticket?

Predictably, the PDP primary may not be smooth like that of the Edo PDP that threw up Governor Godwin Obaseki, after the strategic decision was made in Abuja by national party officers, who Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike described as venerable tax collectors. It was relatively easier to force it down the throat of the Edo chapter, which was perceived as an orphan before Obaseki’s defection.

It appears that the tax collectors, who are never weary of the peculiar wheeling and dealings, cannot reach a consensus on the endorsement of a particular aspirant in Ondo. Therefore, there may be no anointed candidate imposed by the PDP national secretariat.

But, does that doubtful neutrality guarantee a level playing field for contenders? There are complaints about the manipulation of delegates’ list. Seven aspirants are pointing accusing fingers at one common rival.

The complaint meant that the seven aspirants were jittery. As a corollary, the interpretation is that when seven aspirants collectively perceive a single aspirant as a threat, that lonely aspirant may be the candidate to beat. At worst, he has a bright chance.

But, it may not be the end of the matter. The ticket may become useless, if it is obtained in a fraudulent manner, especially when internal democracy is subverted.

Consequently, post-primary reconciliation may be an uphill task. There may be no defection from PDP to APC, but aggrieved chieftains may become moles and work against their party from inside.

PDD can only achieve a breakthrough at the poll, if it puts its house in order.

There is no peace in Ondo PDP, which is torn apart by the scramble for the ticket. But,  the ruling APC is worse hit by protracted crisis. The grievances of the past have not been settled in the absence of conflict resolution mechanism.

Unlike the APC where aspirants, including Ife Oyedele, Segun Abraham , Jimi Odimayo and Nat Adojutelegan stepped down for Akeredolu, no aspirant is stepping down in the PDP. Others aspirants-Chief Olusola Oke(SAN), Ambassador Olusola Iji, Barrister Isaacs Kekemeke, Bukola Adetula, Barrister Jumoke Anifowose, and Olayide Adelami  struggled to the end. But, it was futile.

Akeredolu relied on the strength of his structure, Aketi  Group, which would have ordinarily crash, if other aspirants had  pull their strengths and resources together against him.

The Akeredolu’s rivals pretended to be building a common front. But, personal ambition, which could not be jettisoned for a collective agenda, resulted in the eclipse of the so-called Unity Forum, led by Chief Ali Olanusi. In fact, the Unity Forum aspirants could not agree on a consensus candidate, making things to fall apart. There was an allegation that not all the aspirants are serious. They were only in the race to get attention and be in reckoning when party  chieftains are considered for future appointments.

While PDP aspirants have embraced indirect primary, 11 APC aspirants were initially  rooting for direct primary, which may have watered down the bloc votes of statutory delegates, majority of who are loyal to the governor. But, the party overruled them.

Indisputably, APC governors were also behind Akeredolu for a second term. It is doubtful if the PDP governors collectively have an anointed candidate.

Eyes are on Ajayi today. For him, it is a battle of ego. Having challenged his boss to a duel, he can only be saved from political disgrace, only if he wins the ticket.

Although respite seemed to have come his way as Chief Judge Akeredolu said the impeachment proceedings against him should follow constitutional guidelines, the forces against him have not relented in their efforts to draw the curtains on his tenure as deputy governor.

Winning the ticket is crucial to the deputy governor’s political survival. It also has implications for calculations ahead of the governorship poll for both APC and PDP.

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