LAGOS / AKURE – Ahead of the governorship election in Ondo State, there are pressures on Olusegun Mimiko, a former governor of the state, to support the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win the election with a reward of being a possible running mate to the party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 presidential election, Daily Independent has gathered.
However, the former governor is yet to make up his mind concerning whom to pitch tent with, especially between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential election, and the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who are the two prominent presidential materials of the PDP at the moment.
Atiku, through his son and current Commissioner for Works and Energy in Adamawa State, Adamu, disclosed that his father, who was the 2019 PDP presidential candidate, would contest the 2023 presidency.
In the same vein, some Northerners, ostensibly inspired by a former military ruler, are rooting for Tambuwal as presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2023 contest.
Curiously, Mimiko, who is the National Leader of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), has come under intense pressure from both camps for support and the planned springboard is the Ondo State governorship election scheduled for October 10, 2020.
The sudden resurrection of political activities of ZLP in Ondo State ahead of the governorship election is highly connected with Mimiko’s 2023 vice presidential ambition.
A chieftain of ZLP, who spoke in confidence, said Mimiko’s acceptance of the Ondo State deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, as the candidate of the party “is to prove to Nigerians that he (Mimiko) is still a big factor in the politics of the South West”.
He added: “Mimiko is keen in winning the governorship election for ZLP. It’s not just all about the party candidate but his ambition to be vice president in 2023.
“You will remember that the Labour Party that ousted late Olusegun Agagu from power was launched three months to the election in 2007, the great Iroko (Mimiko) still has the magic. He still enjoys street credibility and that is why he is craving for Ajayi to win.
“If Mimiko supports Jegede, the PDP’s candidate, and he defeats Akeredolu, the incumbent governor, it will be assumed that his influence played a huge role in it and his ratings will soar, especially with the 2023 election around the corner.
“If Ajayi wins the governorship ticket under ZLP, both of them will return to the PDP and Mimiko might use that to bargain for the PDP vice presidential ticket which is believed will be zoned to the South-West with a northern presidential candidate.
“But the problem now is who does he support as presidential candidate? Tambuwal or Atiku?
“That is a major problem and it has really polarised the entire party. I mean the PDP, because both camps of Atiku and Tambuwal want him as running mate in 2023.
“He wants to prove that he is still a factor in Nigerian politics and winning the election for his party will boost his chances of clinching the PDP running mate ticket.”
But another source close to the embattled deputy governor, Ajayi, confided in our correspondent that the major problem facing his principal was the pressure coming from Atiku and the Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde.
Atiku, it was gathered, had sent an emissary in the Oyo governor to plead with Mimiko to support the PDP’s governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, for a smooth sail at the contest.
According to the source, not only did Makinde assure Mimiko of Jegede’s respect, he indeed delivered Atiku’s message to the former governor that the former vice president was poised to pick him as running mate if he worked for Jegede’s success at the poll.
It was unclear what the ZLP leader told the Oyo State governor. However, it was gathered that Mimiko’s allies in the ZLP have given some impossible tasks to the deputy governor, Ajayi, to fulfil ahead of his unveiling by the NEC of the party as governorship candidate.
When contacted, Mimiko’s media aide, Eni Akinsola, said there was no truth in the report.
“No truth in such a permutation. We are in ZLP to win, full stop,” he said.
Also on Monday, the Ondo State deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, resigned his membership of the PDP 50 days after he defected from the APC.
Ajayi, who announced this in a statement by his media aide, Allen Sowore Ajayi, thanked members of the party for welcoming him during his short stay.
He said: “Today, 10th August, 2020, I resign my membership from the Peoples Democratic Party to join the Zenith Labour Party to further my aspirations.
“I appreciate the national leadership and members of the party for their warm reception and acceptance in the short period I rejoined the party,” the deputy governor wrote on Twitter.
However, Ajayi is now set to contest the governorship race on the platform of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), having been cleared by the National Executive Committee of the ZLP to contest the October 10 governorship election.
Ajayi was cleared by ZLP after he was endorsed by Mimiko, who gave him some conditions to be met.
Mimiko was reported to have told Ajayi that he must be willing to complete some of his abandoned policies and also pick his deputy governorship candidate from his camp.
An associate of Ajayi said he would formally join the ZLP on Thursday.