The Zenith Labour Party, on Sunday, confirmed the adoption of Ondo State Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, as its governorship candidate.
The party’s Publicity Secretary, Olatunde Felix, said: “Barring last-minute changes, Ajayi would run as the party’s candidate on October 20.
“The party was fine-tuning the details of Ajayi’s adoption and the substitution of the earlier candidate, Rotimi Benjamin, who was picked at the party primaries and whose name has been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The deal is almost concluded. He (Ajayi) will be coming into the party as our governorship candidate for the October 10, 2020 governorship election.
“As soon as the process is concluded we will come out with a communiqué, as we are still dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s.
“The party’s decision is supreme, and we are a disciplined party and we are sure that the development will come to fruition.”
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to Ajayi, Tope Okeowo said that his principal “is consulting and will make his stand known in due course.”
Okeowo added that he was yet to resign his membership of the party.
Meanwhile, the PDP in Ondo State in a statement by its Director of Media and Publicity, Zadok Akintoye, said: “Ajayi remains valuable and respected PDP member.”
Akintoye said: “We take note of the information being promoted and spread across social media platforms that Agboola Ajayi has concluded plans to join the Zenith Labour Party.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Ajayi remains a valuable and respected member of the PDP and has not informed the party of his intention to leave and remains a committed member of the party.
“Please note that clarification on the allegation has been sought from the Deputy Governor and assurances given to the leadership of the party of his intention to stay in the PDP.”
“Our effort at winning the next election remains ongoing and we are committed to removing the incumbent governor through a free and fair election”, he said.
Meanwhile, INEC has unveiled the identity of the running mate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Eyitayo Jegede.
Jegede had preferred his friend, Ikengboju Gboluga, a member of the House of Representatives, but the PDP leaders have insisted that he picked his running mate from his co-contestants.
However, the name of Ikengboju Gboluga was missing in the provisional names of candidates and their deputies released by INEC yesterday.
Rather, the name of Gboluja’s Senior Legislative Aide, Olumide Ogunje, appeared on the provisional list as Jegede’s running mate.
This development further confirmed the fear in the party that its governorship candidate had made up his mind on the choice of his running mate despite disquiet in the party.
A leader of the party said: “Jegede is playing tricks. He decided to put the Senior Legislative Aide. The game is that when he decides to substitute the name, Ogunje would not prove difficult because he would just be replaced by his boss.”
Meanwhile, the planned defection of the deputy governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi, to the Zenith Labour Party this week is generating heat within the PDP.
Barring any changes, Ajayi will defect to the ZLP to realise his governorship ambition.
But a PDP leader said: “We are seriously appealing to the deputy governor not to dump the party at this crucial time and at the same time; the party’s candidate is battling with leaders over the choice of his running mate.”
Also, it was gathered that PDP leaders have been mounting pressure on Ajayi not to dump the party.
A reliable source hinted that the party’s NWC may likely impose Ajayi as the running mate to Jegede as part of the moves to halt his defection ZLP.
It was gathered that Ajayi may get the ZLP ticket if defects.
A PDP leader in Ondo State told Vanguard that “Jegede may not have the choice than to accept Ajayi as his running mate. We can’t afford to go into the poll with a divided house.
“APC members in the state are daily uniting. Governor Akeredolu was in Lagos recently to introduce his running mate, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, to one of his erstwhile political antagonists, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. If Akeredolu could unite with Tinubu, I don’t see why Jegede should reject Ajayi.
“Jegede must understand that Ajayi, despite he defeated him during the primary, is still a big fish in the politics of Ondo State.
“We must commend some of our party leaders, particularly some PDP governors and NWC members, for their frantic efforts to stop Ajayi from dumping the PDP before the October election. They love the party, unlike those who are pushing Ajayi to go to another party contest.”
But close aides to Ajayi told newsmen that the deputy governor was not happy with the manner he was treated before and after the PDP governorship primary.
One of his aides said: “The deputy governor was treated like an outcast by the party in the state before and during the primary.
“Also, the conspiracy against him by the other governorships aspirants before and after the primary was too much that he can’t remain in that party.
“The deputy governor’s body and soul are already in ZLP, he is just perfecting the plan.”
Vanguard gathered that Ajayi had held several meetings with the national leaders of the ZLP in the state and in Abuja in the last one week on his defection plan.
The choice of his running mate in the new party, according to sources, would be decided this week before his public declaration.
The Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, on Sunday, disclosed that 17 governorship candidates in Ondo State will contest the election scheduled for October 10.
Vanguard gathered from the commission’s office in Akure that 17 political parties have submitted the names of the candidate and their deputies for the poll.
The list and credentials of the 17 candidates were uploaded on the commission’s website and published in its state office in Akure.
INEC’s National Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said: “17 out of the 18 registered political parties gave the commission the requisite statutory notice of their intention to conduct primaries and they conducted primaries for the purpose of nominating candidates for the governorship election.
”The decision is in compliance with section 31(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
”If the Court determines that the information is false, the Court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.”