The candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Rotimi Benjamin, has explained his reasons for submitting his governorship ticket, which he secured in the party’s primaries, to the deputy governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi.
Mr Ajayi formally joined the ZLP on Friday and is expected to fly the party’s flag at the October 10 polls.
Mr Benjamin’s name is currently adorning the provisional list of candidates for the election at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview on Saturday that he was not forced to relinquish the ticket and that he voluntarily submitted to the will of the party.
“It is a good development for my party and I am a party man to the core. I always imbibe the party culture,” said Mr Benjamin.
“This is not the Ondo State that Iroko pioneered for eight years. The current governor met the development and he was supposed to raise the standard, but he abandoned it.”
He also expressed the hope that Mr Ajayi had come into the party with a manifesto that is people-oriented.
“He cannot come in and change the people’s manifesto,” he added.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the ZLP NEC would meet this week to take decisions on the final process of substitution on candidates.
The Electoral Act provides in Section 35 that “A candidate may withdraw his candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered by himself to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission not later than 45 days to the election.”
The law also requires the commission to, “at least 30 days before the day of the election publish by displaying or causing to be displayed at the relevant office or offices of the Commission and on the Commission’s website, a statement of the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated.”
According to Mr Benjamin, the process of substitution was ongoing, and the party’s hierarchy were working out the details.
Asked whether he was compensated financially for his action, he said he was not paid any money and that he had not met the deputy governor face to face.
He said he was only concerned about the party winning the election and hoping that the deputy governor, if elected, would continue the good developmental work of the former governor, Olusegun Mimiko, which is featured in the manifesto.
“Before God and man, I have not collected any money from anybody. I have not seen Agboola one-on-one. My party had been discussing the issues and we are looking at our chances of winning the election,” he said.
“The tactics is that we allow him to come in, and he would come in with some party leaders as well as well-known people, thereby brightening our chances of winning at the polls.”
He said the ZLP had a good chance of winning the election, because the state had tried the APC and has found it not performing.
Mr Ajayi would mainly be contending with his boss, Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC and Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP.
His movement from the APC to the PDP and now to the ZLP has been criticized by his opponents describing him as a desperate politician.
Meanwhile, the senator representing Ondo Central Senatorial Distric, Ayo Akinyelure, has urged Mr Ajayi and Mr Mimiko to return to the PDP in the quest to defeat the APC government in the coming polls.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr Akinyelure, who also had a brief stay at the APC after his first time in the Senate, said the return of Mr Mimiko, the deputy governor and their supporters was the sure way of winning the election.
He also urged Mr Ajayi to return as a show of respect for the late Olusegun Agagu, whom he claimed to love and follow.