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Ondo Deputy Governor takes political gambling to new heights

There are indications that Agboola Ajayi, Ondo Deputy Governor may soon dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party he joined barely 45 days ago for the Zenith Labour Party.

The Deputy Governor is desperately in search of a political party that’ll stamp his desire to become the next governor of the state.

When Ajayi dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) in June, he said everybody knew why he left the party.

In a statement released by his Press Secretary, Tope Okeowo, following his defection, Ajayi said the APC became a ‘poisoned space’ and he needed to move away.

He also alleged that the APC in Ondo State was having breathing difficulty because the State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu had his knee on the neck of the state.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi have been at each others' throat recently (The Sun)
Considering the drama that played out between him and the state’s commissioner of Police on Sunday, June 21, 2020, before his eventual defection to the PDP same day, Ajayi issued a statement in which he gave an impression that he was pushed out of his party.

Since his defection, the embattled deputy has been hugging news headlines and dropping sound bites for the press to cut the figure of a man who chose to leave the ruling party because he could not tolerate the way the state is being run.

In a country where politicians are more interested in the party that’s in charge of the cookie jar than governance, Ajayi is expected to selfishly stay with Akeredolu in the APC to run things together.

Instead, he decided to dump the APC to join a party he believes would consider the people of Ondo first and bring good governance to the state.

However, days after his defection, Ajayi contested in the PDP primary and lost to Eyitayo Jegede, who was the party’s governorship candidate in 2016.

Not satisfied with the outcome of the election, the deputy governor, who had promised the leadership and elders of the PDP that he would stay in the party and help them defeat Akeredolu in the October 10 gubernatorial election, became desperate to become a governorship candidate and possibly win the election.

Contrary to the reasons he gave for dumping the APC, it became clear that Ajayi’s defection to the party was predicated on the same selfish desire that governs political prostitution in Nigeria.

Barely three weeks after joining the PDP, it was rumoured that the embattled deputy governor was ready to join Zenith Labour Party, a political party founded by the former governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko.

On Sunday, August 2, 2020, the Publicity Secretary of the ZLP, Olatunde Felix, confirmed that Ajayi would run as the party’s candidate in the upcoming election, despite denials by the PDP that the deputy governor is still a member of the party.

While the ZLP has started making moves to replace Rotimi Benjamin, whose name had been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as its governorship candidate, with Ajayi, the PDP said Ajayi has “assured the party leaders and elders (on his honor) of not leaving.”

“For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Agboola Ajayi remains a member of the PDP and has not informed the party of his intention to leave and remains a well valued and respected member of the party,” the PDP said in a statement on Saturday, August 1, 2020.

However, does the deputy governor stand a chance, considering the fact that the template for electoral victories in Nigeria is built on the candidate’s popularity, party structure and deep pockets?

While many have argued that the 51-year-old lawyer does not have the required grassroots structure to garner enough votes to topple the incumbent governor, the Deputy Governor sees himself as a political giant whose influence cuts across the three political zones in the state.

Counting on his political strength, the Deputy Governor has reiterated many times that Akeredolu wouldn’t have become the governor of the state if not for his political influence in Ondo state.

“It was the experience, weight and political capital Ajayi brought into the 2016 gubernatorial election that produced the current APC led government in the state,” a statement by his spokesperson in July read in part.

But as it is, Ajayi is neither in the PDP nor in the ZLP. The deputy governor has decided to keep mum over his second defection within a month.

He has also not said a word to confirm his adoption by the ZLP because there’s still a chance of becoming a running mate to Eyitayo Jegede, the PDP’s governorship candidate.

But according to reports, Jegede has refused to accept Ajayi as his running mate for a reason best known to him.

In the end, Ajayi will have to disappoint either the PDP or the ZLP.

If the deputy governor considers his chances of becoming the next governor of Ondo State, he would certainly say goodbye to the PDP and run to the ZLP.

Also, if he looks at the structure and the huge resources available to the PDP, he would most likely choose to run as Deputy Governor again, provided the party leaders prevail on Jegede.

Ajayi is the master gambler here, and he’s still holding his cards very tight to his chest.

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