The governorship candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the October governorship election in Ondo State will emerge today, after the primary scheduled to hold in Akure, the state capital. The party has adopted indirect mode.

In 2016, the party was embroiled in legal intra-party conflict over governorship candidate, as two factions laid claims to the ticket. The Ahmed Makarfi group in the state led by the then Governor Olusegun Mimiko produced Eyitayo Jegede as its candidate, while the Ali Modu-Sheriff camp, chaired Biyi Poroye, elected businessman Ibrahim Jimoh as its own candidate.

This time around, there is no sign of division that could lead to the emergence of two candidates. Its Chairman, Chief Clement Faboyede, said the party has worked hard to put its house in order across the 18 local government areas and promised that the party will conduct a transparent and hitch-free primary.

The aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket with Jegede are the Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi, Eddy Olafeso, Banji Okunomo, Goddey Erewa, Olusola Ebiseni, Dr Bode Ayorinde and Senator Boluwaji Kunlere. Most of the aspirants are from the Ondo South Senatorial District. Bamidele Akingboye was disqualified.

Jegede

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

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.

Olafeso

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.

Kunlere

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.”

Ayorinde

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.”

Ebiseni

He was former Chairman of Ilaje, Ese-Odo Local Government Area and former Commissioner of Environment. Ebiseni said he decided to join the governorship race to bail out the state out of its current civil service status. He said he has the requisite experience in governance to rule the Sunshine State.

He said: “I was an inner cabinet member of the late Adebayo Adefarati administration and the Olusegun Mimiko’s government. In all these, I have garnered more than enough experience and knowledge of governance, understanding the nitty-gritty of Ondo State from its territorial configuration and its sub-ethnic relationship.

On his mission, the lawyer said: “If elected, I will move the state economically from a civil service state, in terms of economic status. I will enlarge the economy and diversify opportunities for the people.” He said his profile and credentials what makes his aspiration different from others saying: “I have been commissioner thrice in the state; I represented the state in the national confab; I have headed different boards of parastatals. All this gives me some requisite and vantage over others who don’t have such opportunities.”

Okunomo

Okunomo is a young politician. He started his political career from the grassroots. He was a foundation member of the PDP. The Ilaje born politician became a member of the PDP Leaders’ Caucus, Ilaje Local Government in 2001. He was appointed Secretary of the Screening Committee set up to screen the chairmanship aspirants of the party.

He was appointed Special Adviser on Orientation and Public Enlightenment to the executive chairman of Ilaje Local Government. In 2010, he joined the Labour Party and served as Chairman of the Local Government between 2011 and 2013. In 2014 he returned to the PDP. He was elected State Publicity Secretary of the party in 2016 and Chairman, Publicity Committee of PDP Presidential Campaign Committee in Ondo State. In 2018, he doubled as Director General of the campaign council for PDP Ondo South Senatorial District.

Erewa

Erewa is confident of winning today’s primary. He said: “I know we are an opposition party, but I have what it takes to defeat the APC candidate and give our people better lives. The people of Ondo know my profile and they know the stuff I’m made of. I am a technocrat.

“I believe this time around PDP is going to win the election. We will put everything in place and put all hands on deck. We will move to every nook and crannies of the state to sell our manifesto to the electorate. I believe they will vote for us and the PDP will win the forthcoming election in Ondo State.

“We are going to transform and industrialise the state, protect the state and its people. The least person on the street will feel the impact of our government.” Erewa promised to focus on aviation, agriculture and tourism if elected, stressing that there would be less emphasis on white-collar jobs.”