By Wándé Àjàyí
I had wanted to wait till after the tribunal has given its judgement before penning this but that could be termed a cowardly display. I come, bearing facts, and with a pledge not to sugar-coat the solemn truth. My loyalty and respect for the Party will not let me join them in spreading lies, however lucrative.
Later today, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu and Lucky Aiyedatiwa will be sworn in as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ondo State for a new four-year term. Yes, we are in court challenging the candidacy of the APC candidates and certainly not the outcome of the election. So, we lost, however, gallantly.
Blames have been traded about the actual or remote causes of our defeat at the poll. While some pointed accusing fingers at some leaders of the Party for sabotage, some others are saying the candidate of the Party at the Poll, Barr. Eyitayo Jegede and the Chairman of the National Campaign Council, Engr. Seyi Makinde as the real reasons we lost.
While some angrily left the Party some weeks to the election, some are accused of staying in and doing the damage. Those who left accused Jegede, Makinde and the State Executives Council of greed, egocentrism and utter distrust. They too have been accused of being disloyal to the Party and engaging in antiparty activities. It is however clear to all that the issues that culminated in our defeat are a summation of issues that arose before, during and after the July 22, 2020 primary of the Party.
All was well with the Party and then aspirants conducted themselves well until the entrance of the outgoing Deputy Governor, Alfred Agboola Ajayi into the Party. It heightened tensions. Agboola Ajayi was accused of trying to buy his way to the ticket. All other aspirants unitedly fought the alleged imposition of Ajayi by Wadata.
The South, which felt they were the rightful heirs to the ticket, couldn’t put its house in order and lost the election as a result of that. There is no denying that majority of delegates aligned with the Southern Agenda when a summation of all votes by the Southern aspirants was done. However, the only odd aspirant won. The failure of the Party’s candidate and its structure to seamlessly integrate the South into the campaign remains a bitter pill to swallow. Just over a year earlier, the South had massively delivered for the Party in the General Elections.
Events at The Dome, the venue of the Party’s Primary on July 22 is better spoken of in a hushed tone. There was massive intimidation of delegates and supporters of aspirants. Some were even beaten and stripped naked for possessing specimen ballot! At long last, Jegede took the ticket.
There are some set of people who claimed Jegede may have taken the ticket just for its sake and did little or nothing to unite the Party for a winning challenge afterwards. While he moved around to visit aspirants a day after the Primary, events afterwards suggested it was a scenario of “winner takes all”. The delayed state congress was speedily facilitated and ALL positions were taken by persons loyal to Jegede. I am of the view that refusal of the Jegede camp to arrive at a compromise and share available positions posited that it was going to be a long ride for discerning voices against the candidacy of Eyitayo Jegede. If before elections, positions available were shared amongst only people loyal to Jegede, what would happen after the election? It was a pointer to the fact that a clannish agenda was being foisted on the Party.
After the appointment of Seyi Makinde as Chairman of the National Campaign Council for Ondo State Gubernatorial election by Wadata, it was touted that respite could be in sight. The activities of Makinde in the build-up to the Primary was suspect. However, the desire and will to win was lacking in decisions taken by him afterwards. Aside from allegedly sidelining some Party chieftains in the constitution of the campaign council, both local and national, the pressures of 2023 played an awful part. Unlike Gov. Nyesom Wike who made sure all was carried along in Edo after gifting Obaseki the ticket of the Party, Makinde believed so much in money and was reported to have reimbursed aspirants’ form fees. Money wasn’t all that it takes to win. A sense of belonging was lacking and chieftains of the Party was left out in key decision making. They were treated as strangers in their own home. This, it was reported, irked some and necessitated their moving out of the Party to seek relevance elsewhere.
Lack of proper planning for the d-day also played a major part in our colossal loss at the poll. Akeredolu won his first term election by buying votes and it was obvious that with his abysmal performance in office, a repeat was more likely. No plan was put in place to check the massive spending. While we were told the Party will match APC as it did in Edo, what was obtainable on the election date was a far cry. Why the Party couldn’t get enough to prosecute the election has been adduced to Seyi Makinde’s handling of the Council and the game towards 2023.
The winner takes all attitude of the Party’s candidate was also responsible for the choice of Deputy Governorship candidate. While it was sane to look up South for deputy governorship candidate, the refusal of Jegede to listen to leaders from the South was damning. Hon. Gboluga Ikengboju had fought against the Southern Agenda to support Jegede at the Primary. Irking as it was, foisting Ikengboju Gboluga on the Party’s Southern leaders was a good excuse for most of them to move out or just ‘siddon look’. The choice of Jegede not only lost his local government but also his and all the wards in his state constituency, a first in the history of the PDP in the South. The fears of the southern leaders against his choice manifested.
The egocentrism and greed of Seyi Makinde and Eyitayo Jegede caused us to lose the election and we can only hope that the court will effectively remove Akeredolu who was never supposed to be on the ballot, for Ondo to get the fresh breath we need.
The question on who truly betrayed PDP in the October 10, 2020 guber poll will never be fully answered. Those who call others saboteurs also lost their units, wards, and LGs. No one is a saint. However, the Party must close ranks as 2023 beckons. No Party strives while in a chaotic situation like ours.