Barely months to the much awaited governorship election in Ondo State, all seems not to be well with the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the state as they are yet to resolve the crisis that led to the emergence of two candidates for the forthcoming poll. TOPE FAYEHUN writes.
In the next three months, voters in Ondo State will turn out enmasse to decide who will administer the affairs of the state for the next four years, after the expiration of the two term tenure of the incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
As the governor rounds off his tenure, harping on the sustenance of his caring heart programmes on a successor that must emerge from his party, the battle to replace him rages as two candidates have emerged to fly the flag of PDP at the November governorship poll.
The leadership crisis rocking the party at the national level where senator Alimodu Sheriff and Senator Ahamed Makarfi have continued to hold claim to the chairmanship of the party had further polarised the state chapter of the party, culminating in two state secretariats and two candidates.
While the former Attorney General in the state, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN emerged candidate of the party in the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led faction in Akure, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim emerged the flag bearer of the party under the Sheriff-led faction which held its primaries in Ibadan, Oyo State.
At the primary election held at the International Events Centre (Dome), Akure, Jegede polled 760 votes to defeat the former Special Adviser to Governor Olusegun Mimiko on Special Duties, Mr. Salka Lawal who polled 22 votes.
Bayelsa State Governor Seirake Dickson, who was the chief returning officer, announced at the end of the election supervised by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that, “Jegede, having polled the highest votes in the election is, hereby, declared the governorship candidate of the PDP in the November 26governorship election in Ondo State.”
Dickson, who was also the chairman of the party’s governorship primary election screening committee, noted that the election was devoid of any manipulation, stressing that the election was conducted peacefully.
While reacting to the emergence of Jegede, the state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko said Jegede would emerge the next governor of the state with the support of the people, adding: “This is the beginning of our victory. It is the beginning of our way to victory again in the PDP. The event of today has shown that the PDP is in control of the state. We will beat the APC and prove to Nigerians that the PDP is in charge of Ondo State.”
Jegede, who is a prominent indigene of Akure, is one of the technocrats in Governor Mimiko’s administration and he had been in Mimiko’s cabinet since 2009.
Consequently, Jegede aspiration is presently creating disquiet within the party, as he is seen as Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s anointed candidate.
Some aspirants under the Mimiko led administration in the state protested the seeming imposition with defection to the relative unknown Sheriff’s faction in the state.
The duo of Chief Sola Ebiseni who is a former Commissioner for Environment under Mimiko led administration and Pharm. Bamiduro Dada, who is also a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state, accused the governor of being “selfish” in chosing his successor.
Speaking at the factional secretariat of Sheriff’s led faction in Akure, Ebiseni said he was the most suitable candidate the PDP could present for the governorship poll, having served in different capacities politically both at the state and national for over three decades.
The Ilaje born politician said he understands the needs of Ondo state and possess the skills to speedily deliver dividends of democracy. He boasted that it would be an easy task for him to defeat candidates of other political parties.
According to him, “At 27, I was chairman of the then complex Ilaje/Ese-Odo local government and I delivered. I have served in different capacities since 1999, I served as commissioner twice, chairman of Law Review Commission and also represented South West at the last CONFAB. As far as Ondo state is concerned, I am the most experienced aspirants as far as governance is concerned in Ondo state.”
As this was going on, the Mimiko’s faction in the state hurriedly approached Ondo State High Court, Akure, to seek an injunction to bar Sheriff’s faction led by Jimoh Ibrahim in the state from conducting its planned primary election in Ibadan, Oyo State. In his ruling, Justice Omolara Adejumo issued an order restraining Sheriff’s group, which had moved its primary election to Ibadan for fear of being attacked, from undertaking any other exercise outside the one already conducted by the Clement Faboyede-led state congress which produced Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) as candidate.
She also ordered the aspirants, Jimoh Ibrahim, Chief Sola Ebiseni, Bamiduro Dada, Niran Sule-Akinsuyi and Mrs. Abiye Ademuyegun from presenting themselves for any such parallel primary election.
However, at the primary election of Sheriff’s faction conducted in Ibadan, Jimoh Ibrahim emerged the governorship candidate of the group with 502 votes, against his sole contender, Mr. Olusola Ebiseni who polled 41 votes, while 17 votes were declared invalid.
The chairman of the primary election committee and former Political Adviser to erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Ahmed Gulak who announced Ibrahim as the winner said that the party had displayed that democracy is about the people. Three candidates including Badmiduro Dada, Niran Sule-Akinsuyi and one other withdrew from the primaries to support Ibrahim to emerge as the winner.
In his acceptance speech , Ibrahim said: “We must all come together to rescue our state from total destruction. Governor Olusegun Mimiko has collected over N1trillion and has destroyed the state “I have managed over 8,000 workers, 16 companies and have earned two national honours . I promise job creation, peace and economic emancipation.”
In attendance LEADERSHIP learnt were the National Vice Chairman of the Sheriff-led faction, Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe and other factional South West Chairman, Otemolu Adepegba, among others.
It was further gathered due to the superior court order, INEC was unable to monitor the primary election held at Ibadan.
Confirming the development to LEADERSHIP, the development in Ondo State, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that the electoral body did not monitor the primaries of the Sheriff’s faction.
According to him, the INEC monitored the primaries by the Makarfi’s faction because there was a superior court order recognising the Makarfi’s faction at the time.
But there are other concerns over the emergence of Jegede. Some party members believe that his emergence out-rightly violates the principle of zoning, because Mimiko is from Ondo Central Senatorial District and Jegede, who is also from the same district, cannot be his successor. Others believe that he is the only strong person in the party that can confront the opposition in the state.
A party member who spoke in confidence said, “ the governor must make sure that power shifts either to the North or South senatorial districts of the state as the case maybe. Most of our leaders once they get to power get disconnected away from grassroots making them take decisions that produce total failure at the polls.”
According to the source, “Most of our leaders once they get to power get disconnected away from grassroots making them take decisions that produce total failure at the polls.
Still, some other party members allege that both Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar are interested in the candidacy of Jegede in order to help them have an inroad into the state ahead of 2019 presidential election in the country.
On why the governor preferred Jegede, it was learnt that many of the aspirants are relying on the governor for financial support, a mission impossible for Mimiko who is battling with economic crunch at the moment.
Investigations revealed that Jegede has lots of friends in the legal profession and corporate world who have already signified interest in supporting his ambition.
Also, what some people believe to be working in his favour is the area he comes from, Akure, which is the state capital. The voting strength of people of the local government couple with other areas where PDP have its base is enough to give him the necessary vote come November 26.
A party chieftain said, “The number one factor why the governor endorsed Jegede has to do with funding. Many of the aspirants have no financial means to confront whoever the APC presents as flag bearer. They are relying on the governor for financial support but the governor is incapacitated at the moment”.
“Since the beginning of this year, Governor Mimiko has been unable to pay salaries of civil servants. So, funding of the PDP candidate will be a major factor.
“The PDP is no longer in power at the federal level. Most of the big players in PDP who promised to assist Governor Mimiko have also fled the country because of President Buhari”.
“Also, another major factor is that though the Attorney-General is a technocrat and not a politician, he has no enemy in the PDP. He has been firm and sincere in carrying out his responsibilities and in the party. He also has a lot of friends in the legal profession, especially Senior Advocates of Nigeria who have given him strong assurance that they will fund his election once he gets the ticket”.
Meanwhile, the former Special Adviser to erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Mr. Kinsley Kuku, who some political observers believed to have be the major backer of the Sheriff-led faction in the state has denied supporting them, saying he is neither here nor there.
Kuku denied being part of the crisis tearing the party apart both at the state and national levels, especially the internal crises rocking the PDP in the state ahead of the November 26 governorship election.
He, however, said he would support any genuine moves by the party leadership to resolve all the crisis rocking the party.
His words “may I state for the records that many a political leader and friends from the PDP and All Progressive Congress (APC) had paid me visit as I recuperate and religiously undergo physical therapy and I thank and appreciate all from my heart.
“In my entire political life, I have never seen, viewed and or associated with anybody as a political follower, surrogate or puppet. Rather, I relate with all as colleagues and equal stakeholders.
“I disavow and condemn any crisis internal in the Ondo PDP, enjoin all to remain guided by the implications of losing the privilege of service at the national landscape by the party and appreciate the gravest implications of same and possibly worse if we lose Ondo State to another party.
“I Kingsley Kuku do not believe, belong nor endorse either Sheriff or Makarfi’s intrigues. Either of them represent a demoralizing true part of our party. I believe, belong and endorse a truly united and process respecting whole and all-embracing PDP no matter the cost. I have spent my entire political life working for the unity of PDP and this I remain irrevocable, no matter the price I pay today and in the future.”
However, political pundits in the state believe that it was circumstances and preparedness that has been the major factors producing governors in the state not rotation. They wondered that, If it is rotation, then the South should not even show interest at all.
They recall that in 2012, there were three major parties in the state, while ACN picked candidate from North; PDP picked from South and LP picked from Central and queried whether that was done on zoning?
According to pundits, a lot of factors contributed to how the candidates of each of the parties, disputing suggestions that it was zoning that led to the emergence of PDP governorship candidates from the south since 1999. When Olusegun Agagu won in 2003, both South and Central had not produced governor.
They queried further that, if it was zoned to South in 2003, was it zoned to Okitipupa alone? Recall that same Okitipupa had a sitting deputy gov (Iyantan) when Agagu became candidate and won governorship. If it was zoning, the PDP ticket should have gone to Ilaje and not Ikale in 2003.
They however believed that it was circumstances that brought up Chief Adebayo Adefarati while preparedness brought up Dr. Olusegun Agagu and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
Whether the party will be able to weather the storm now and come out as a united family to confront the forthcoming governorship election or not, the answer lies in the womb of time.