Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State appear to be running short of time in reconciling the party’s governorship candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, with his former political leader, ex-governor Olusegun Mimiko.
By ‘Dare Odufowokan
There is palpable tension in the party already ahead of the October governorship election as talks between the camps of the two erstwhile political allies remain inconclusive, party sources said last night.
The Nation gathered that many PDP leaders within and outside the state, had been optimistic about the possibility of Jegede reconciling with Mimiko ahead of the general election.
Sources close to the two camps said the failure of the reconciliation moves may not be unconnected with some developments within the party.
While Mimiko had allegedly made it clear he was not prepared to rejoin the PDP just yet, it was believed that he was willing to help Jegede defeat Akeredolu, who has also met the former governor to ask for his support.
One source said:”Mimiko was ready to support Jegede once again, even if it is from outside the PDP.
“He appreciated efforts by the PDP candidates and other party leaders to woo him. But as a politician, he needed to be sure he would not regret his action.
“But as we speak, the talks have failed and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) now has a candidate. I can tell you some governorship aspirants from both the PDP and the APC are still begging to be made ZLP candidate.”
Mimiko belongs to the ZLP.
Another source claimed that the failure of the talks may not be unconnected with the issue of who will become Jegede’s running mate. The Nation gathered that the insistence of some party leaders that one of those who contested the ticket with Jegede must be chosen as running mate may run contrary to some positions held during the talks between the two camps.
“Mimiko is not a member of the PDP but he has a lot of allies and associates within the party. As a former leader of the party in the state, he understands how it works. Like Jegede, he believes the governorship candidate should be allowed to choose who he will work with. So, I can tell you that the current situation may not be pleasing to him.”
It appears the choice made by Jegede is being rejected by some prominent party chieftains.
An aide of the former governor, while refusing to comment as he wasn’t authorized to, said Mimiko would not like to be part of a house that appears divided right from the onset.
However to douse tension within the party, its Director of Media and Publicity Zadok Akintoye in a two paragraph statement said: “Please, be informed that a deputy governorship candidate for the forthcoming governorship election in October is yet to be picked for the party. Consultation is currently ongoing to determine who would be nominated by the party for that position. While some names have been suggested, nobody has been nominated nor favoured by the candidate for that position.”
Reliable sources claimed that the ability to win Mimiko’s support for the party remains one of the factors that swung victory in Jegede’s favour during the primary election.
Not a few of the party’s chieftains are of the opinion that the PDP will benefit immensely should the former governor throw his weight behind the party’s candidate come October.
In 2016, Mimiko backed Jegede to succeed him as governor on the platform of the PDP and worked hard at the governorship election which the party lost to APC. Mimiko deserted PDP activities both at the state and the national level immediately after the party lost the 2016governorship election and eventually dumped the party to rejoin the Labour Party in 2018. He later left the Labour Party and founded the Zenith Labour Party afterwards.
But Jegede, his then running mate, Prince John Ola-Mafo, former Commissioners, Kayode Akinmade, Dayo Awude and Jide Adejuyigbe, and many other allies of the ex-governor refused to decamp with Mimiko to Labour Party. The development caused a crack in the relationship between the duo. During the 2019 general elections, while Mimiko contested on the platform of the ZLP for a senate seat and supported the party’s other candidates, Jegede and his people worked hard for the PDP. Mimiko lost to Ayo Akinyelure, the PDP candidate in Ondo Central Senatorial District where Jegede also hails from.
However, our correspondent was informed that Jegede initiated reconciliation moves between himself and Mimiko from the very moment he signified interest in seeking the PDP governorship ticket again. According to close aides of the former Justice Commissioner, Jegede is convinced that he needs the support of Mimiko and the former governor’s political family in his quest to sack Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from Government House this year.
Last month, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State also met with Mimiko ahead of the October governorship election in the state, as part of what reliable sources claimed were efforts by Jegede to convince his former boss to support him in the political battle against Akeredolu and the APC.
The meeting took place at Dr. Mimiko Ondo country home and lasted for over three hours.
Makinde was accompanied to the close door meeting by Senator Ayoola Hosea Agboola. Sources claimed Jegede and Mimiko had met earlier to discuss possible collaboration ahead of the 2020 governorship poll. “Mimiko is a huge asset political for any party, especially in a governorship election. So, we have been working hard at getting his support. Jegede recognizes the weight of the former governor. And most leaders of the PDP in the state also do. That is where talks have been on to have him on our side as we hope to sack the current APC administration in the state,” a source claimed.
The Nation gathered that it was on the strength of the ongoing talks that supporters of the former governor within the PDP backed the candidacy of Jegede during the PDP primary election in the state. Party sources claimed some prominent leaders of the party worked for the emergence of Agboola Ajayi as the flag bearer. “The intervention of Mimiko and his supporters within and outside PDP helped win the ticket for Jegede. It is also due to the reconciliation efforts then ongoing that ZLP refused overtures from the deputy governor to be its flag bearer. The plan was for ZLP to work for Jegede at the general election. But it appears things have changed as the ZLP now have a candidate,” an official of Mimiko’s party said yesterday.