There are indications that the Zenith Labour Party, had on Sunday, confirmed the adoption of Ondo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, as its governorship candidate.
Information gathered from the party’s Publicity Secretary, Olatunde Felix, indicated that Ajayi’s position as the party’s governorship candidate is a done deal.
Olatunde said, “Barring last-minute changes, Mr. Ajayi would run as the party’s candidate on October 20.
“The party was fine-tuning the details of Mr. Ajayi’s adoption and the substitution of the earlier candidate, Rotimi Benjamin, who was picked at the party primaries and whose name has been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The deal is almost concluded. He (Mr. Ajayi) will be coming into the party as our governorship candidate for the October 10, 2020 governorship election.
“As soon as the process is concluded we will come out with a communiqué, as we are still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
“The party’s decision is supreme, and we are a disciplined party and we are sure that the development will come to fruition.”
Meanwhile, Ajayi is yet to resign his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where he defected o and contested the primary election for the party’s ticket, following irreconcilable differences between him and his principal, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
Chief Press Secretary to Ajayi, Tope Okeowo, was quoted to have said that his principal “is consulting and will make his stand known in due course.”
He said that Ajayi is yet to resign his membership of the PDP. This is just as the party has reacted to the planned defection of the deputy governor.
PDP’s Director of Media and Publicity, Zadok Akintoye said, “Ajayi remains valuable and respected PDP member. We take note of the information being promoted and spread across social media platforms that Mr. Agboola Ajayi has concluded plans to join the Zenith Labour Party.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Ajayi remains a valuable and respected member of the PDP and has not informed the party of his intention to leave and remains a committed member of the party.
“Please note that clarification on the allegation has been sought from the Deputy Governor and assurances given to the leadership of the party of his intention to stay in the PDP.
“Our effort at winning the next election remains ongoing and we are committed to removing the incumbent governor through a free and fair election.”
While there are pressures from within the PDP both in and outside the state on the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, to pick Ajayi as his running mate, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has unveiled the identity of Jegede’s running mate.
It was learnt that Jegede had preferred his friend, Ikengboju Gboluga, a member of the House of Representatives, but PDP leaders have insisted that he picked his running mate from among his co-contestants.
However, there are indications that Jegede may have made up his mind on who his running mate would be, as the name of Ikengboju Gboluga was conspicuously missing in the provisional names of candidates and their deputies released by INEC.
Instead, Gboluja’s Senior Legislative Aide, Olumide Ogunje’s name appeared on the provisional list as Jegede’s running mate.
A PDP leader in the state said, “Jegede is playing tricks. He decided to put the Senior Legislative Aide. The game is that when he decides to substitute the name, Ogunje would not prove difficult, because he would just be replaced by his boss.”
But Ajayi’s planned defection from the PDP is causing disquiet in the party; as it becomes clearer by the day that Ajayi will defect to the ZLP to realise his governorship ambition.
A PDP leader said, “We are seriously appealing to the deputy governor not to dump the party at this crucial time and at the same time; the party’s candidate is battling with leaders over the choice of his running mate.”
It was also gathered that the PDP National Working Committee, NWC, may impose Ajayi on Jegede; just as PDP leaders and governors continued to mount pressure on Ajayi not to dump the party. A PDP leader in Ondo State revealed that “Jegede may not have the choice than to accept Ajayi as his running mate. We can’t afford to go into the poll with a divided house.
“APC members in the state are daily uniting. Governor Akeredolu was in Lagos recently to introduce his running mate, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, to one of his erstwhile political antagonists, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. If Akeredolu could unite with Tinubu, I don’t see why Jegede should reject Ajayi.
“Jegede must understand that Ajayi, despite defeating him during the primary, is still a big fish in the politics of Ondo State.
“We must commend some of our party leaders, particularly some PDP governors and NWC members, for their frantic efforts to stop Ajayi from dumping the PDP before the October election. They love the party, unlike those who are pushing Ajayi to go to another party contest.”
Meanwhile, close aides to the deputy governor revealed that Ajayi was not happy with the manner he was treated before and after the PDP governorship primary. One of his aides, who pleaded anonymity, said, “The deputy governor was treated like an outcast by the party in the state before and during the primary.
“Also, the conspiracy against him by the other governorships aspirants before and after the primary was too much that he can’t remain in that party.
“The deputy governor’s body and soul are already in ZLP, he is just perfecting the plan.”
In preparation for the planned defection, it was learnt that several meetings have been held between Ajayi and ZLP leaders in the state and at Abuja, In the last one week, perfecting the defection plan.