Controversy trails Ondo PDP presidential campaign, alleged defections to APC
THE defection of notable members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has set up a chain of reactions ahead of next month’s general elections.
The defectors, drawn from various political backgrounds, included three former Speakers of the State House of Assembly and three serving and six former members of the House of Representatives.
Others were: seven former members of the state executive council that served both the present Dr. Olusegun Mimiko administration and that of his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu; and several Council Chairmen, Special Advisers and Assistants that served both administrations.
There were prominent players in the private sector and the labour movement among the defectors.
And the party leaders came along with thousands of their supporters “in an unprecedented manner that could have major effects on the outcome of next month’s general elections,” as a respondent categorised the event in Akure.
The defection, which was such that it assumed the label of “a massive shift of political allegiance” in Ondo State, came when a scheduled campaign rally for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan was to hold in Akure.
Incidentally, Governor Mimiko, following his recent defection to the PDP after riding on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) in two consecutive elections, was made the Southwest Coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Organisation for the 2015 elections.
The PDP had hoped to use its “new government” under Governor Mimiko to the advantage of the presidential rally, and a boost for the PDP in the Southwest.
But the rally was not to be, thus opening up insinuations that its abortion/postponement was as a result of the defections of some PDP heavyweights in Ondo to the APC.
However, Governor Mimiko has debunked such insinuations, clarifying that the postponement of the gathering was due to the president’s parallel engagement elsewhere on the same day.
The governor, who spoke through the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, said the president rescheduled his campaign in Ondo State not for political reasons, but to attend to other important national issues.
According to him, President Jonathan had a crucial meeting with some world leaders in Abuja, including former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Kofi Anna; hence, the postponement of the campaign in the state.
Governor Mimiko hinted that a new date would be announced for the president’s campaign in the state.
He ruled out politics from the postponement and urged admirers of Jonathan and members of the PDP in the state to remain steadfast.
He also gave the assurance that the people of the state would support President Jonathan’s second term ambition, just as they were solidly behind the president’s administration.
Coming back to the defection of PDP big wigs to the APC, Mr. Femi Agagu, the former Chief of Staff (COS) to and younger brother of the late Governor Agagu, who led the team of defectors, said they were casting their lot for APC and its candidates at the elections.
“We have resolved to embrace change, which the APC represents and drum support for the victory of General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) and Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as well as all the candidates of the party,” Agagu said.
He told a gathering of APC faithful that included Chief Pius Akinyelure, the Southwest Zonal Vice-Chairman of the party, its State Chairman, Isaacs Kekemeke and scores of stalwarts of the party, that their movement to the APC was “to save our state from the drift to perdition under the current leadership.”
“We took this decision after lengthy sessions of consultation with friends, political associates, as well as supporters in all the 203 wards of the state,” he said.
“We have also received the confidence of distinguished elder statesmen, non-political young and elderly citizens, who are concerned about the future of our dear state and country.
Harping on the APC dictum of ‘Change’, Mr. Agagu listed several reasons for their decision to defect, “but most important is the obvious fact that Nigeria needs change and Ondo State, a new direction.”
“We need change, which is the burden of good, honest, diligent, prepared, tested and competent leadership,” he said.
“Change is a mission to a destination of greatness where our state and nation ought to be.
“Change from broken promises, broken infrastructures, broken confidence, broken trust, broken leadership and broken future, all from which our people daily and consistently suffer.
“We also need change to ensure Ondo State people are not left behind in the current movement for a new direction and path for the greatness of Nigeria.”
He said it was their conviction that Ondo State people are progressive in nature and would fare better in a party that has progressive ideologies and focused leadership.
“As from today, we make available our sprawling structures, our minds and capabilities, our assets and experiences, as well as our prayers and goodwill, for our new party, APC, towards the actualisation of the God-ordained, beneficial and messianic election of General Muhammadu Buhari and Professor Yemi Osinbajo as President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria respectively come February 14th 2015,” he added.
••• Ruling party denies defection story, holds unity rally
SOME of the chieftains of the PDP in Ondo State have refuted the claim that they had defected to the APC.
Speaking with newsmen in Akure, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Hon. Banji Okunomo, displayed a letter written to the party by one of the supposed decampees, Mr. Segun Adagunodo.
While reading the letter of denial, Okunomo quoted Adagunodo as stating that he had never contemplated leaving the party, thus urging the general public to disregard the alleged move report.
The letter reads in part: “My attention has been drawn to the list of some people mentioned to have defected from our great party, the PDP, to the APC where my name was listed as one of the defectors.
“I want to state that I have never thought of leaving the party and I will take appropriate steps to know how and why my name was smuggled into the purported list, and hereby promise my unflinching loyalty and support for the leadership of the PDP in Ondo State.”
The PDP publicity secretary also said that some members of the party whose, names were mentioned in the list, had visited the party secretariat to refute the claim.
However, the PDP, earlier reacting to the claim, said those who claimed to have defected from the PDP had since ceased to be members of the ruling party.
The party said that the game plan of “the members of the opposition, who only waited till now to make their membership of the party public,” was to act as spoilers within but failed to achieve their aim.
“The PDP in Ondo State today is free of disloyal elements, who hitherto worked with the opposition from within,” it said.
“They have eventually decided to go to where their hearts are and God has given us victory over the enemy.”
The party declared its readiness to go into the coming elections sure of victory.
“With our mega status now, there is no doubt that we shall have a free day and we shall win the elections at all levels, including the local government election, which shall hold soon after the general elections,” it said.
Meanwhile, the joy of the people of Idanre, in Idanre Local Government Area of Ondo State knew no limits when members of the old Labour Party and the old PDP came together to organise a unification rally, which put an end to the division in the party in the area.
Members at the ceremony, which took place at Isalu, Idanre, agreed to work together for the betterment of the party and to enable the area in particular and Ondo State in general deliver maximum votes for President Jonathan, as well as win the National and State Assembly seats for the party.
The crowd of over 5,000 danced and rejoiced over the newfound peace and unity among members of the PDP in Idanre.
Addressing the gathering, the Chief of Staff to Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Dr. Kola Ademujimi, thanked God for making the unification possible, adding that this would put an end to internal wrangling and power tussle in the area.
He said coming together of the two former archrival parties to form one big family would symbolically shame the opposition, stressing that the unification indicates a win-win situation for the PDP in Idanre under one umbrella.
Ademujimi charged members of the party to go into their wards and canvass support for the candidacy of President Jonathan and ensure that votes are delivered maximally for him at the polls.
A former Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Akin Akinbobola, who is a Commissioner at the National Population Commission, said the unification would bring an end to the plans of the opposition to reap where they did not sow.
The state former Chairman of the PDP, Chief Tayo Dairo, at the event said it was a thing of joy for him to see leaders and followers of the former rival parties coming under the PDP umbrella to work together.
He praised Governor Mimiko for his sacrifices and efforts in ensuring that the party soars.
He promised that Idanre and the state would deliver at the general elections for the PDP.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, said the opposition had finally been buried, “and has no place, not only in Idanre, but the state as a whole.
Pledging that President Jonathan would be returned to office at the elections, Akinmade said a vote for APC was “a vote for oppression, tyranny, and human rights abuse.”
Among party chieftains at the meeting were Chief Akinnadeju, Sen. Ayo Akinbobola, Hon. Tunji Akintimehin, Mr. Dele Oshakuwade and Chief Akinkunowo.
Others included Hon. Taiye Akinyele, Chief A. Akinsuyi, Chief Blessing Kayode and Prince Ibunkun Aroloye.