There are eight contestants for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket for the October governorship election in Ondo State.
They are Agboola Ajayi, Eyitayo Jegede, Boluwaji Kunlere, Eddy Olafeso, Ben Okunomo, Bode Ayorinde, Godday Erewa and Sola Ebiseeni.
The primary which is expected to come up on today (Wednesday), at Dome Centre, Akure, is chaired by the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
On Monday, the leadership of PDP led by Uche Secondus, held a meeting with all the aspirants who signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support any candidate who emerges at the gubernatorial primary election.
Whoever emerges as the PDP candidate is expected to be the main challenger to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is the candidate of the ruling party, APC.
He was Attorney–General and Commissioner of Justice under the Segun Mimiko administration. Jegede emerged the winner of the 2016 governorship primary by polling 760 votes to beat his only rival Saka Lawal, a former PDP deputy governorship candidate in the 2012 election, who scored only 22 votes.
Confident that it had followed all due process in compliance with the Electoral Act, the Markafi Group submitted Jegede’s name to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the authentic candidate. Later, a High Court ruled that Ibrahim was the party’s candidate. However, the Appeal Court declared later that Jegede was the party’s authentic flag bearer.
Jegede’s chances of winning the 2016 election was marred by the legal tussle, as he could not campaign. He is determined to clinch the ticket this time and give the APC a run for their money. As a result, he has ruled out stepping down for anyone or accepting to run as deputy governor. He said: “I have no problem with defectors who are now returning to the PDP, but those who stayed behind must be rewarded for their loyalty.” He urged the leadership of the party to let the wish of the people prevail.
Ajayi defected from All Progressives Congress (APC), the platform on which he was elected deputy governor to the PDP, to enable him contest for the party’s governorship ticket. Like Jegede, Ajayi is also hails from Ondo South.
Ajayi’s entrance into the race on PDP has raised eyebrows, especially among other aspirants who alleged that the party leadership was making move to adopt Ajayi as consensus candidate. The deputy governor believes the party is better off with him as its flag bearer, because of his pedigree in Ondo State politics.
Ajayi started his political journey when he served as supervisory councillor in Ese-Odo Local Government Area between 1999 and 2003; being a pioneer member of the PDP in the state. He won the council’s chairmanship election in 2004. In 2007, he was elected to serve as a member House of Representatives. But, prior to the last election, he dumped the party and joined the APC, where he later emerged the running mate of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
Explaining why he left the ruling party, Ajayi said his political sojourn in the APC ended because the party has become a poisoned space. He said he chose the PDP because it is a larger house, which he had helped to build and a place which is not under the control of one man or a clique.
Dr Olafeso was the immediate past National Vice Chairman of the PDP in the Southwest. Prior to this, he served as Commissioner for Orientation and Mobilisation in Ondo State from 2007 to 2009. He held various positions in the party in Ondo State, including Secretary and Chairman of its Contact Committee.
Olafeso was born in Okitipupa, in Ondo South Senatorial District. He obtained a master’s degree in International Relations from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in 1985 before he travelled to Hawaii, United States of America to acquire a Ph.D in the same field.
Initially, he emerged as sole governorship aspirant from Okitipupa Local Government. At a meeting of all aspirants from the local government, held in Aye town, Olafeso was unanimously adopted by four other aspirants to represent them at the primary. But, the arrangement has collapsed, as two of the aspirants that endorsed him went ahead to collect nomination forms.
Olafeso said he was very optimistic that he would emerge as Ondo PDP governorship candidate, irrespective of the number of aspirants from Okitipupa.
Dr Ayorinde is the founder of Achievers University. He was a member of the House of Representatives. He was a governorship aspirant on the platform of the APC in the 2016 primary. He said he left the ruling party with his supporters because there is no internal democracy in the fold.
He hails from Owo, the hometown of Governor Akeredolu. Ayorinde said he was not out to succeed Akeredolu but to complete the term due to Ondo North Senatorial District.
The decision to join the race, he said, was reached after a wide consultation, coupled with strong conviction that “I can make a positive difference”. He said: “After 44 years, Ondo must stop crawling. It must stand right and be counted amongst sufficient states in Nigeria.”
On how he will make a difference if elected governor, Ayorinde said: “My mission is to industrialise Ondo State, create wealth and provide gainful employment for our teeming citizens.”
Senator Kunlere was born in 1960 in Igbotako, Okitipupa Local Government. He once served as Secretary of Ondo PDP. He ran for Senate in 2007 on the platform of the Labour Party to represent Ondo South in the chamber, but was defeated by Hosea Ehinlanwo.
In 2019, he was appointed Special Adviser on Political and Legal Matters by former Governor Mimiko. In 2011, he contested the senatorial election again, and defeated the late former Governor Olusegun Agagu of the PDP with 8,000 votes.
Kunlere had served as council chairman, member of the State House of Assembly before he was elected senator. He said his previous positions had a remarkable impact on his constituents. However, he promised to build on his track record if the people could once again entrust their votes to him in the governorship primary.
He said: “During my stay in office, I can confidently point at so many projects I embarked on for the benefit of my people. It is now time to put myself up for the governorship race, and I am confident, God willing, it will be a worthwhile opportunity.”