By Chuks Ekpeneru
Four days before the just concluded Ondo State Governorship election, the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Deputy-Governor, Agboola Ajayi, boasted that he would defeat all other candidates, including his boss and All Progressives Congress (APC), candidate, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and to emerge the next governor of the state.
However, at the end of the election, he came a distant third scoring 69,127 votes, while his estranged boss polled 292,830 votes. The PDP candidate scored 195,791 votes.
Ajayi even lost his Ese Odo LGA to Akeredolu as he garnered 4,760 votes to come second behind Akeredolu, who polled 13,383 votes in the LGA.
The political structure of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko could not save him.
Some political observers believe that if Ajayi had been picked as the running mate to the PDP candidate, that the APC would have been flatly defeated.
However, Eyitayo Jegede said before the election that he wanted a neutral person as running mate.
Jegede said Ajayi could not have been his running mate because the deputy governor’s ambition was to become a governor.
He explained further that Ajayi was part of the “failure” of the Akeredolu’s administration that PDP is campaigning against.
Ajayi initially moved from the APC to the PDP and later to ZLP within the space of two months.
He blamed Akeredolu for personalising his administration. While the governor blamed him for being over ambitious
Both men fell apart when rumours emerged that Ajayi was eyeing the seat of his boss.
When the centre could not hold, he left the APC in June 2020, leading the governor to bar him from leaving his official residence in the Government House for over four hours in June.
The governor then fired his top aides, an attempt to impeach him however failed.
He joined the PDP and contested in the primaries but lost the ticket to Mr Jegede.
While the spat between him and Akeredolu lasted, he accused the governor of causing the underdevelopment of the coastal areas by alleged mismanagement of 13 per cent derivation earmarked for the region while the governor accused him of being a major contractor of the Ondo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Commission (OSOPADEC).
At the end, Akeredolu who boasted that he win be re-elected is back to seat. The political fate of Ajayi may not be known for now.
But what is known is that the battle between the governor and his deputy has shifted to 2024 as Akeredolu will want to determine who will take over from him.