PDP in ceaseless drive to reclaim Ondo State.

Following the sack of the APC by the PDP in the South South, through its victory in the Edo state governorship election, MYKE UZENDU examines the possibility of the party making further incursion into the South West, by clinching Ondo state government house.

The outcome of the September 19 governorship election in Edo state has in no small measure boosted the confidence of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as 2023 political landscape evolves. The much cherished victory reverberated in almost all the states in the country. The result became a reassurance that the fortunes of the party is brighter and that more states like Ondo and Anambra may be on its way into the umbrella if all odds are timely nipped on the bud.

During the build up to the Edo governorship election, the campaign period was stained with violence. Political gladiators freely unleashed their thugs on each other leading to an uncontrollable shooting spree, cannibalization of vehicles and billboards but for the intervention of the paramount ruler of Benin ancient kingdom, The Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare N’Ogidgan 11 who threatened to unleash traditional curse on any one treading on the inglorious path.

Edo election has come and gone with the All Progressive Congress (APC) in agreement that their loss was self-inflicted. With this assessment, the confidence level of the PDP has been recharged as they are strategically plotting a repeat of Edo in Ondo state.

However, the task of getting Ondo state into the umbrella seems to be more complicated than the situation in Edo state. The emotional realignment that played up when Governor Godwin Obaseki was unceremoniously disqualified by the APC screening committee; the unprintable words spewed by ex-National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in 2016 who four years after made a u-turn and imposed him on the party as the most electable candidate; the earlier move by the comrade to end godfatherism in Edo politics only to turn around to become the new sheriff turned right thinking political decision makers against him, his party and his candidate.

Meanwhile, the APC despite their grouse with Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) the incumbent governor of Ondo state are conscious of possible pushback that may trigger another round of crises and political misfortunes for the party. As it stands, all hands seem to be on deck in the ruling party to ensure that Akeredolu is re elected.

The APC in Ondo state is not leaving anything to spontaneity and chance. The national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who opposed the candidature of Akeredolu in 2016, has been seen publicly campaigning for his re election. He went further to meet traditional rulers in the state to extract their commitment to work for the APC candidate.

Eyitayo Jegedo (SAN), who is the candidate of PDP seems to understand the enormity of the task before him. As the PDP candidate in 2016, he lost to Akeredolu after a protracted legal battle within the PDP that held the party aground till three days to the election.

He said, “In 2016, we ran for an election, we lost. We didn’t lose to APC as it were, we lost to the PDP. We lost because of internal wrangling. Those who opposed us fiercely are those who are in the family of the PDP. There was nothing they didn’t try.

“They almost succeeded from taking us away from the ballot but we were about to secure our position three days to the election and before we came, a good number of them had already shifted and I won’t mention names. Some are supposed to support but did not support at the last minute”.

Unlike in 2016, the coast seems to be clearer now as Jimoh Ibrahim who frustrated Jegede in 2016 has moved to the APC.

However, the emergence of the deputy governor of Ondo state, Agboola Ajayi, as the candidate of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) will constitute not small obstacle to the PDP. Jegede had earlier enjoyed the support of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, a favour that will naturally be transferred to Ajayi, who is now the candidate of his party.

It is believed in some quarters that zoning caused the PDP its victory in the last election. Former PDP governorship aspirant, Banji Okunomo, who recently decamped to ZLP said that PDP breached its zoning arrangement in the state and that voters would punish it for the error.

He said, “PDP and APC are dead in Ondo South. We can postpone a burial ceremony, but you cannot wake up the dead political parties.

“The PDP made the mistake in 2016 by presenting a candidate from the wrong zone. The PDP lost in 2016 and will lose in this election because it failed to look at the local content of zoning.

“It is not that PDP is not a good party but the handlers have mismanaged the fortune of the party.”

Two PDP cheiftains from Ajayi’s Ondo South senatorial district, Solomon Bitire and Daisi Mafimisebi, in January wrote to the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, alerting that it was the turn of their zone to produce the next governor or else the party stood no chance in the election.

They argued that Akeredolu is from Ondo North; his predecessor, Olusegun Mimiko was from Ondo Central, same zone where Jegede comes from and that it’s automatically the turn of the South.

The permutation from political pundits show that if Jegede is elected, then the south will have to wait much longer to get a shot at the government house. If the south delivers a block vote for its candidate, then the consequent vote splitting will give APC candidate more opportunity to retain his seat. Hence the candidature of Ajayi in ZLP seems to create more chasms for the PDP.

Another factor that PDP is watching closely is the reconfiguration of the 5,141 card readers and other materials guttered by fire at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ondo. The party had alleged that the ruling party was behind the outbreak so as to compromise the electoral process. The party asked INEC chairman to monitor the reconfiguration of the card readers as well as the appointment of ad-hoc staff and polling officers for the election.

As the October 10 governorship election draws nearer, the result of the election will confirm either the replication PDP winning ways and its further incursion into the South West, the complete disintegration of the Iroko political machinery in Ondo or the strengthening of the Aketi political family led by Governor Akerdolu.

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