The Zenith Labour Party has finally opened up on the adoption of Ondo State’s deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, as its governorship candidate for the October 10, 2020 governorship election.
The party on Sunday confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that it had resolved that Mr Ajayi will run on its platform despite denials by the Peoples Democratic Party that the embattled deputy governor was still its member.
Mr Ajayi had in June fled the APC to run for the governorship ticket of the PDP, but was defeated by Eyitayo Jegede, who had also been the party’s candidate in 2016.
Following his defeat in the PDP primary election, Mr Ajayi had promised to stay in the party and help it defeat the incumbent APC Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
But his move to the ZLP had been in the rumour mill following his meeting last week with leaders of the party, especially a former Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko.
The Publicity Secretary of the ZLP, Olatunde Felix, confirmed that barring last minute changes, Mr Ajayi would run as the party’s candidate on October 20.
He said the party was fine tuning the details of Mr Ajayi’s adoption and the substitution of the earlier candidate, Rotimi Benjamin, who was picked at the party primaries and whose name has been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The PDP on Saturday had denied that Mr Ajayi was heading to the ZLP, saying that the deputy governor remained a member of the party.
A statement by the party’s spokesperson, Zadock Akintoye, denied that Mr Ajayi planned to move on to the ZLP.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Agboola Ajayi remains a member of the PDP and has not informed the party of his intention to leave and remains a well valued and respected member of the party,” the statement said.
“Please note that clarification on the allegation has been sought from the Deputy Governor and assurances given to the leadership of the party of his intention to stay in the PDP.
“We, therefore, implore all members of the party and the general public to disregard the information as H.E. has assured the party leaders and elders (on his honor) of not leaving.”
He added that the party’s efforts at winning the next election were ongoing.
However, Mr Felix, in a telephone chat with PREMIUM TIMES reporter, said the party’s machinery had secured the assurances of Mr Benjamin’s wiliness to surrender his ticket, as he would be substituted within the prescribed time frame provided by the electoral law.
“The deal is almost concluded. He (Mr Ahjayi) will be coming into the party as our gubernatorial candidate for the October 10, 2020 governorship election,” said Mr Felix.
“As soon as the process is concluded we will come out with a communique, as we are still dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s.”
He added that the ZLP remained a disciplined party and would have no problems getting Mr Benjamin, who currently holds the ticket to relinquish it for the good of the party.
“The party’s decision is supreme, and we are disciplined party and we are sure that the development will come to fruition.”
Mr Felix noted that the party was carefully fine tuning the process given the nature of the politics in an environment where the process could be truncated by litigation.
Mr Ajayi’s media aide, Tope Okeowo, however, said the process of his movement had not been concluded.
“It is most likely,” he said. “But the process has not been concluded.”