Eyitayo Jegede, a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, was the last man anybody would place his bet on as the candidate to emerge from the primary of the Peoples Democratic Party.
It was the general belief that any of the aspirants from Ondo South Senatorial District would pick the PDP’s ticket. When the votes were counted, Jegede polled 888 votes to defeat his closest rival, Ajayi, who got 657 votes. The votes garnered by Ajayi surprised many because he defected to the PDP just last month and used only 30 days to meet critical stakeholders and was able to become first runner up.
A total of eight aspirants, including Jegede, participated in the primary. They were Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, Ayorinde Bode, Ebiseni Sola, Eyitayo Jegede, Senator Kunlere Boluwaji, Okunomo Banji Ben, Olafeso Eddy and Godday Erewa
Jegede hails from Ondo Central, Ayorinde hails from Ondo North while others hail from Ondo South, the stronghold of the PDP in the State.
Aspirants from Ondo South had insisted that it was their turn to produce the governor as the immediate past governor, Olusegun Mimiko, hails from the Central where Jegede hails from.
What, however, gave Jegede victory at the poll was due to several factors including the call on loyal party members to reward loyalty to the party. Some party chieftains said Jegede never abandoned the party and was always responsive to most demands just to keep the party afloat.
Another factor was the six aspirants in the race from Ondo South. Before the coming of Ajayi to the PDP, attempts by aspirants from Ondo South to present a common front failed. The defection of Ajayi to the PDP caused further division among the six aspirants from the district.
Attention shifted from Ondo South aspirants to Ajayi when he joined the party. Before last month’s defection of Ajayi to the PDP, the party had completed its ward and local government congresses. The State Congress was delayed due to outbreak of COVID-19. This was said to have placed Jegede at an advantage unknown to many of the aspirants.
Ajayi, however, started pulling strings immediately he joined the PDP. During the election of three man ad hoc delegates to participate in the primary, the PDP opted to use the delegates it used for its congresses in March, three months before Ajayi joined the party. Ajayi navigated his way through and ensured delegate election was held in some wards. This prompted protest by some party members that Ajayi had bribed the party officials to smuggle in strange names into the delegates’ list.
Besides the protest against the list, several suits were filed in court, demanding disqualification of Ajayi from the race. A legal practitioner and chieftain of the PDP, Dr. Benson Enikuomehin, at a press briefing urged the national leadership of the party to disqualify Ajayi from participating in the party’s primary following fears that the law court would do the needful for the party if the party failed to act owing to the Bayelsa State experience.
From all calculations, Jegede got block votes from Ondo Central and some votes from Ondo North while Ajayi got votes from Ondo South and Ondo North.
Meanwhile, the two major political parties in the state have set up pockets of campaign teams across the 18 local government areas for the purpose of wooing voters.
Spokesman for the Ondo APC, Alex Kalejaiye, said a committee of five persons has been set up in each of the local government areas with a view to reaching out to party members and the populace.
Kalejaiye said the party was yet to commence campaigns but the major hurdle was to interface with aspirants and bring all party members together.
He said the party needs to put its house in order before the campaigns in order to forge a common front.
Spokesman for the PDP, Zadok Akintoye, could not be reached for comments.