New Telegraph

2023: Mimiko, Jegede, Ajayi at crossroads

BABATOPE OKEOWO writes on the three political gladiators that were involved in the last governorship election in Ondo State in different capacities. While two contested as candidates, the other played the role of a supporter. He reports on the likelihood of the gladiators sliding into political oblivion if they remain divided the way they were before the last election

 

 

The October 10, 2020, governorship election in Ondo State has gone for good, but three major actors in the election; the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Chief Agboola Ajayi and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barr. Eyitayo Jegede, are at crossroads over their political future. In the election that produced Oluwarotimi Akeredolu as the winner, had Mimiko and Ajayi in one political camp.

 

Jegede, a former protégé of Mimiko and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during his reign was in another camp. However, with issues relating to the last governorship election settled, the trio have their respective political careers hanging precariously in the balance.

 

Olusegun Mimiko

 

A two-term governor of the state was the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) senatorial candidate for Ondo Central Senatorial district in the 2019 elections. He lost the election to Dr. Patrick Ayo Akinyelure of the PDP.

 

He later became the National leader of the ZLP, the party that gave Hon. Ajayi, the platform to contest the 2020 governorship election, having lost the PDP’s ticket to Jegede. It was the support given to Hon Ajayi that made the rapprochement between Jegede and Ajayi became difficult before the last governorship election.

 

Sources said the winner and runner-up of the PDP would have worked together if Mimiko had consented to it. It was the support given to Ajayi during the election that made Akeredolu to refer to Mimiko as his ‘bogus’ enemy.

 

He promised not to have anything to do with his long-time friend, Mimiko, again. Both Akeredolu and Mimiko were long-time friends as they attended the same university, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Akeredolu was one of the lawyers that represented Mimiko in the court during the battle to reclaim his mandate in 2007.

The question agitating the minds of the people is what does the future hold for the Iroko as Mimiko is fondly called by his admirers, and the only living former governor of the state.

 

Some of his followers are of the opinion that he may remain in ZLP and work for either of the two major political parties in the next general election. Some are, however, of the view that he may abandon his ZLP outright and join either PDP or APC in order to be relevant politically ahead of the 2023 election.

 

If he joins APC, will Akeredolu who has described him as his “bogus” enemy allow him to function in the party?

 

If he joins the PDP, he may still emerge as the leader being the only governor of the party in the state. But his supporters may likely be scattered as they may not have enough room for them in the party.

 

 

He also has the option of contesting the senatorial election in the forthcoming election. But the question many have asked is: Does ZLP have enough structures across the state to survive the two major dominant parties?

 

For now, Mimiko has gone on political hibernation as he has not contributed to the political discourse either in the state or at the national level.

 

Eyitayo Jegede

 

Jegede was the candidate of the PDP in the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State. He was also the candidate of the party in 2016, but lost to the incumbent governor.

 

He has lost the governorship election two consecutive times to the same person.

 

There were issues that surrounded his candidacy both in 2016 and 2020. In 2016, until the courts finally resolved that he was the right candidate of the PDP, barely a two days to the election, he was not sure of his participation.

His supporters said he would have won the 2016 election if he had enough time to prepare for it. Jegede hails from Akure, in the Central senatorial district. The town has not produced a governor in the present political dispensation. He is a likeable personality, quiet, decent and generally warm. He is also considered to be well-mannered and mentally sound.

 

Moreover, Jegede is a household name in the state, having contested the 2016 and 2020 elections. Since he narrowly lost the legal battle at the Supreme Court, he has resumed as the leader of the party in the state, trying to bring all the warring factions together for the betterment of the party.

 

He has been moving from one local government to another, bringing together aggrieved party members, who might have been offended before, during or after the 2020 governorship election in the state.

 

Although he has not shown interest in the forthcoming context for the national chairmanship of the PDP, some members of the party in the state are on the opinion that he has the qualities to occupy the position, which has been zoned to the southern part of the country.

 

A statement on his behalf by Seye Adegboye, his Special Assistant, denied that he has shown interest in the chairmanship race of the PDP. Another close ally of Jegede also told New Telegraph that his boss has never nursed the ambition to contest the national chairmanship position of the PDP in the first place.

 

He, however, gave a caveat that if along the line, Eyitayo’s name popped up, so be it. “I think PDP needs to be re-branded for it to be fully acceptable by Nigerians as a worthy replacement to lackluster and underperformed APC.

 

If PDP could have a national chairman with the aforementioned qualities of Jegede, PDP will be good for it,” the source said.

 

He added that “PDP needs an apostle of free, fair and transparent internal democratic structure, someone who has conquered greed of money, someone with the good qual

ities attributed to Jegede, who will never rob Peter to pay Paul, who will not openly encourage or discourage any prospective contestants who are determined to pursue a political interest, someone who will give all and sundry the same level playing field to test their popularity and acceptability.

 

“So let us give kudos to those who mooted the idea of Jegede for national chairman rather than condemning them or try to abort the foetus before it was conceived. These people equally saw all those qualities you saw in Jegede before their pendulum swung in his direction.

 

They believe it is time PDP had a sincere and trustworthy chairman at the apex. Believe me PDP deserves a clean chairman, who will, in turn, produce a clean president for the nation

 

“Some even said that in the ongoing struggle to get a replacement for Uche Secondus at the forthcoming national convention of the PDP, there is a particular candidate that everyone thinks maybe crowned as a result of his closeness to former President Obasanjo.

He is Olagunsoye Oyinlola. But, Oyinlola or anyone from Ogun and Lagos states may not be made national chairman at the convention if the party truly believes in equity.

 

“The PDP in the South-West is divided into three groups – Ondo/Ekiti, Lagos/Ogun and Osun/Oyo. Oyinlola is from the Osun/ Oyo group which recently produced Taofik Arapaja as the national vice chairman that is one is the three positions of the National Working Committee (NWC).

 

How can the same Oyo/Osun group, where Oyinlola belongs to produce the national chairman of the PDP? No way! “Also, anyone from Ogun or Lagos may not be made national chairman of the PDP because President Obasanjo who belongs to the Ogun/Lagos group was president of the country for eight years.

 

Apart from that, Obasanjo, a member of the Ogun/Lagos zone was also chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party for some years.

This automatically rules out anyone from Lagos or Ogun from becoming the national chairman of the PDP. As it stands, the best and most honourable thing for the PDP to do is to allow the national chairman to come from the Ondo/ Ekiti group.”

 

Aside the national chairmanship position of the PDP, some of Jegede’s supporters are of the view that he should contest for a senatorial seat in the 2023 general election.

 

But a source close to Jegede said has no plan to join the senatorial race as being speculated in some quarters.

 

“Although Jegede is qualified to contest for a seat in the Senate, I think he is not someone, who is greedy and doesn’t know what he wants. All the same, the political permutations of that time will dictate whether he will contest or not,” the source said.

 

Agboola Ajayi

 

The former deputy governor and the gubernatorial candidate of ZLP in the October 10, 2020, election went through scheming before he finally birthed at ZLP.

 

The questions agitating the minds of the people are: Was Ajayi right to have left APC to vie for the PDP ticket less than one month to the party’s governorship primary election?

 

Before leaving APC for PDP, there was a cold war between him and Governor Akeredolu and this became visible shortly after the 2019 general election.

 

Things fell apart between them, and as a result, Ajayi was no longer seen at public functions. The two of them were at loggerheads over alleged betrayal of trust on the part of Agboola. Many prominent citizens including Ekiti State’s Governor Kayode Fayemi tried to intervene without success.

 

The thinking among the stakeholders is that Akeredolu from the Ondo North is serving out its eight years in office; and after the tenure, it should be the turn of Ondo South to produce the governor of the state. Ajayi, being from the Southern senatorial district, may likely find his way to the Alagbaka Government House.

 

A chieftain of the ZLP told New Telegraph that “it is time for Agboola Ajayi to take responsibility, it is time to lead, take the correction that comes with failure and use it to improve yourself. After all, the people of Ondo state still want quality education for their kids.

 

They want the people of the state to live much older through efficient medicare. They want jobs and employment opportunities for our youths. They are tired of lamenting like Jeremiah.

 

Workers are tired of collecting percentage salary. Mistakes would be made and corrected. The fear of failure is far worse than failure itself.”

 

Aside the governorship seat, the senatorial seat of Ondo South is still feasible if he decides to contest. He was the PDP’s senatorial candidate in 2015 before he was prevailed to leave it for those who joined the party from the then Labour Party.

 

The question agitating the minds of his supporters is that if he decides to run for the Senate, on which platform will he do that. Will he return to APC or PDP or remain in ZLP? The same difficulty of Mimiko in APC will also affect him as the people in the ruling party including the governor would not allow.

 

The next political move of Ajayi may likely be determined by the move made by his new political leader, Mimiko, who is the National Leader of ZLP.

 

As the political gladiators prepare for the 2023 elections, the thinking is that opposition in the state may not pose a serious threat to the APC except the three gladiators come together and give the ruling party a run for its money.

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