The declaration of the immediate past Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, on Thursday, rejoining the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has since been raising a lot of dust within the party.
Chairman, PDP Governor’s Forum and Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, had led three other governors to Mimiko’s residence in Ondo West Local Council, on a mission that has laid to rest doubts about Iroko’s imminent return to the fold. Other governors in the train were Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde and their Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, who had all come to ensure Mimiko attended the National Convention of the party yesterday.
For over two months, the major opposition party, PDP, has experienced series of internal wrangling across the 203 wards and 18 local councils because of the impending return of Mimiko. This development, according to keen followers of politics in the state, may not be unconnected with the leadership status of two-time governorship candidate of the party, Eyitayo Jegede, who has assumed the position since the former governor and his political benefactor, Mimiko, ditched the party for Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) in 2019.
For the record, the former governor had left the PDP for the second time to emerge the National Leader of ZLP, a party which many political observers had believed would be a third force in the country but failed to win any National Assembly slot, save a state Assembly seat in Ondo State.
Before the October 10, 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, Jegede had fought to control the soul of the party, a bid that led to the controversial congress, which produced him as the PDP candidate for the second time. Automatically, this made the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Jegede, the defacto leader of the party in the state. However, analysts said the development further polarised and weakened the party, especially after the outcome of its South West Congress.
The fallout of the state congress snowballed into the regional congress where the former PDP National Vice Chairman and governorship aspirant in the 2020 election, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, lost election to Taofeeq Arapaja in April 2021. It was believed that Jegede pitched his tent with Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, to ensure Olafeso lost the election to Arapaja six months ago.
Pundits in the state believe that the emergence of Jegede as party leader only further jeopardised the PDP in the state as most of the big politicians felt that he is inexperienced and out-of-touch with contemporary politics to lead.
To a large extent, most PDP leaders in the state today were appointees at the same time with Jegede in the two-term tenure of Mimiko, where he served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice from 2009 to 2016. As noticeable in his cold rapport with the two current PDP senators, Nicholas Tofowomo and Ayo Akinyelure, representing South and Central districts respectively, the party has not been able to provide viable opposition.
Tofowomo, who was Commissioner for Transport in Mimiko’s cabinet, had sometime ago taken Jegede to the cleaners politically, revealing the gross political inconvenience he had with PDP leaders from the South Senatorial District, and why he lost the last election there massively.
The PDP governorship candidate, Jegede was said to have fallen out with his political benefactor, Mimiko, shortly after the 2016 governorship election, accusing the latter of betraying him in the election to favour the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mimiko, who broke the second term jinx in the state and hails from Central Senatorial District, had insisted on Jegede, another politician from the same district as his successor in 2016 to the angst and disdain of both south and north senatorial districts.
Contrary to the political calculations in the state, he had picked Jegede as the party’s governorship candidate to succeed him in 2016 despite an array of potential candidates from the South District that could win victory for the party.
Portraying the fact that all was not well with his political benefactor, Jegede shunned the moves by the four governors to woo Mimiko in his Ondo hometown three days ago, though many notable PDP leaders were seen hobnobbing with the former governor to welcome him and his team back home. To the Akure people, the belief is that that the former governor betrayed their kinsman, Jegede, to pave way for his old time friend and APC governorship candidate, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
It would be recalled that when the incumbent Governor, Akeredolu, was declared winner of the APC primary election on September 3, 2016, Mimiko and his cabinet members had called for celebration, thinking he was a political work-over at the poll.
Against the backdrop of Mimiko’s return to PDP, a chieftain of the party in the state, Bode Obanla, has threatened to challenge the return of the former governor in court, lamenting that he was poised to endanger his interest.
Mimiko, in his usual style, has returned with retinue of political gladiators, including the immediate past Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who was ZLP’s governorship candidate in the last election; his running mate and former Commissioner for Works, Engr. Gboye Adegbenro. Others are the first female Speaker of the state, Jumoke Akindele and an army of the Iroko family across the 18 local councils of the state, pledging their unalloyed loyalty to their leader, Mimiko.
Obanla, expressing his angst, said: “In 2017, I led the members of PDP Support Group (PSG) to the then state chairman and Iroko political ally, Chief Clement Faboyede. You would recall that I passed a message that this man must come and account for some things before living for ZLP. How time flies. He is now preparing to return to the PDP. I am happy there are provisions in our constitution that gives me the opportunity to take him to court this time. I have already instructed my lawyer to get prepared. The law is there to check our activities in the party. No one is above the law.”
The aggrieved PDP member noted that he was not against anyone joining the PDP, as there is free entry and exit from any political party. But he stressed that he needed to approach the court to protect his personal interest as a party member.
But the state PDP Publicity Secretary, Mr Kennedy Peretei, declared that Mimiko and the immediate past Deputy Governor, Ajayi and others were welcome to the PDP, saying it was a good development.
Meanwhile, many PDP leaders discarded Obanla’s threat and labelled him an attention seeker. A youth leader, Timileyin Ayenuro, said it was a move to save the state and nation at large.
Ayenuro, a former national student leader (NANS), said that Mimiko’s decision would salvage the country from the “directionless and clueless government of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC-led administration.
“I strongly believe that our leader’s decision is the best way to go as this will further strengthen the PDP. We all know the heavy political weight of Iroko; that he is a master political strategist that PDP needs now in bouncing back to power both in the state and in the country. Our leader has returned home and we stand with him in this rescue mission to build the party and rescue our beloved country. I urge our youths to join this rescue mission and build a better future for ourselves.”
Aside from the anticipated leadership swing in Ondo PDP, which may toss Jegede to the background politically, it was gathered that the festering crisis isn’t unconnected with the manifold interests that lie ahead of 2023 general elections.
Though, it was a closed door meeting with the governors on Thursday, some details of the meeting that has filtered through revealed that there was an “unwritten understanding” with the four PDP governors that Mimiko may be considered as the party’s senatorial candidate for the 2023 election for Ondo Central.
At the secret meeting were former Deputy Governor, Ajayi, three members of the state Assembly, Rasheed Elegbeleye, Tomide Akinribido, Festus Akingbaso; the former speaker, Akindele, former Chief Judge, Olaseinde Kumuyi and the ZLP Deputy Governorship Candidate, Adegbenro among others.
Not leaving his lieutenants out of the political calculation, the former Deputy Governor and ZLP governorship candidate, Ajayi, was said to have got endorsement of the PDP governors as senatorial candidate of the party for the Southern District in 2023.
This may pitch Olafeso and the former Deputy Governor against each other again as the failure of all the six governorship candidates from the South District gave Jegede an easy ride to pick the guber ticket as sole candidate from Central District.
A member of the State Executive Committee of the PDP told a team of reporters on the condition of anonymity that the entire party leadership was neither notified of the Ondo meeting nor consulted on the modalities for Mimiko’s return and subsequent involvement.
According to him, the new deal with both Mimiko and Ajayi had further polarised the party because the governorship candidate, Jegede, had been agreed upon as possible senatorial candidate for 2023 before the latest development.