No fewer than nine chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State are lobbying to replace Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi, who is facing impeachment charges before the House of Assembly. The gladiators, who are core members of Team Aketi, the political structure of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), are from the Ondo Senatorial District.
Those eyeing the number two position are: chairman of the Universal Basic Education Board and former Education Commissioner Mrs Oladunni Odu; Chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) Gbenga Edema; former member of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board and senatorial aspirant Lucky Ayedatiwa; Commissioner for Education and younger brother of former Governor Segun Agagu, Femi Agagu.
Others are: Deputy Chief of Staff Jimi Kuforiji; Mrs Olamide Falana and Commissioner for Water Resources, Yetunde Adeyanju.
A source said Ayedatiwa, Agagu and Odu are the strong contenders although some party chieftains are also rooting for the Finance Commissioner, Wale Akinterinwa
According to the source, the jostling may have altered the permutations for the selection of running mate for Akeredolu, who is seeking a second term.
Initially, some party leaders have suggested Dr. Paul Akinterinwa, his 2012 running mate for the job.
Party insiders also confided that some governorship aspirants from the South are also eyeing the deputy governor/running mate slot, following the adoption of the indirect mode of primary, which the governor is most likely to win.
They are said to be mounting pressures on credible party leaders who have the ears of Akeredolu to consider them for the slot.
The lobby for the deputy governor has intensified, following the commencement of impeachment proceedings against Ajayi by the House of Assembly. A party chieftain from the North District, who craved for anonymity, said: “all the lobbyists are from the Southern district and they have enlisted the services of trusted allies of Governor Akeredolu.”
The source added: “This is politics; you dont wait for the bullet to meet you, if you can identify it,and that is why we won’t rest until the deputy governor is impeached because we have credible evidence against him. “There are more qualified personalities in the South who are ready to take up the battle once Agboola is impeached. We cannot be dragged back by one man who has finished the party in the South because he was having his own agenda. “So, just like Abena(forme Secretary to Government Ifedayo Abegunde) who was replaced within 24 hours, once the man goes, the next deputy will be sworn in almost immediately,.
“The only unfortunate issue around the scenario is that, apart from lobbying, the gladiators are already locked in rivalry.”
The ruling party, which is silent on the jostling for Ajayi’s position, is maintaining a keen interest in the impeachment proceedings.
Ayedatiwa, the choice of the party leadership for the Senate for the 2019 elections, was dropped by the former National Working Commitee (NWC) of the APC. He is a close ally of the governor who is yet to be compensated. He is a committed member of the ‘Akeredolu for second term project.’
Agagu was Chief of Staff under his late brother. He is held in esteem by members of the State Executive Council.
Kuforiji, deputy chief of staff, is an associate of Ajayi. But, he refused to defect along with him to the PDP.
A chartered Accountant, the retired Assistant Commissioner of Police holds doctorate degree. A native of Abeokuta, Ogun State, his mother is from Igbotu, the birthplace of Akeredolu’s mother.
Princess Odu from Ikale is a two-time Commissioner. Her influence among the women folk is enormous and she has enough war chest. She is popular in the party and the state.