There is every indication that serving Deputy Governor to Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Agboola-Ajayi is battle ready to challenge his boss at the primary come 2020.
According to sources, the move underscored the climax of the frosty relationship between the governor and Ajayi, a former House of Representatives member, who has started building structures ahead of the shadow poll billed for the second quarter of next year.
No fewer than eight APC aspirants are warning up for the primary.
Apart from the governor and his deputy, other contenders include, former university don Senator Ajayi Boroffice; former Information Commissioner Banji Ajiloge; former House of Representstives member and Alliance for Democracy (AD) governorship candidate in 2016 Olusola Oke; former party chairman Isaacs Kekemeke and a businessman Dr. Segun Abraham.
Party sources also confided that a close ally of the deputy governor, Prince Jimi Odumayo, “has been thrown up to test the waters.”
A close associate of the deputy governor, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, said he has begun “deep and wide consultations.”
Ajayi, it was learnt, has enlisted the support of a prominent ex-militant leader and businessman from the riverine area to prepare the ground for his declaration.
Odimayo, a native of Irele, in the South Senatorial District, was brought into the APC by the deputy governor in the run-up to the 2016 primary that produced Akeredolu as flagbearer.
Sources said Ajayi’s ambition appears to be in line with undenied media report that he was not dispose to pairing with Akeredolu again as running mate for the 2020 race.
Odimayo was said to have confirmed his aspiration to reporters in Lagos. Indeed, his posters are already out in the social media, ostensibly powered by allies of the deputy governor.
It was learnt that after Odimayo met with associates, most of whom are also Ajayi’s associates, the deputy governor was said to have informed them to stay away from “Aketi 4+4” agenda.
One of those at the meeting said: “We don’t know what is happening now because the deputy called us and directed that we should not be part of Aketi 4+4 project.
“As at now, we are still awaiting further directives because he told us to wait for further directives any moment from now, which we have not seen till now. But we know he is into deep consultations.”
According to investigate, the ex-militant leader who is a major financier of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the riverine areas called a meeting of few leaders of the APC from the Ijaw speaking area of Ese-Odo local government and informed them of his readiness to join their party. Ajayi is from Ese-Odo.
A source said spoke of the likelihood of the PDP stalwart joining APC, he was emphatic that he would not work for Akeredolu.
He added: “Although we later discovered it wasn’t true that he worked for APC in Bayelsa in the last governorship election, the guy (ex-militant leader) told us that he was part of the process and even showed us pictures he snapped with our national chairman.
“The only area that is curious is where he said one of our own who is a governorship aspirant cannot fly and that even the incumbent governor will not come back because the national leadership will determine the governorship primary through indirect primary.
“We were surprised when he told us to go and scout for a leader. It was very senseless because we have a governorship aspirant, the deputy state chairman of the party is from our area. The commissioner for Information is also from here and even the House of Assembly member.
“So, for him to ask us to look for a leader he would fund is the height of insults to those of us who attended the meeting which was facilitated by an appointee of Governor Akeredolu.
“Someone who worked against us spending millions just a few months back trying to come and impose himself as leader or what we don’t understand.”
Genesis Of The Rancour
From all indications, things are said to have further degenerated since the governor proceeded on his annual vacation, while his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, was presumed to have taken over in acting capacity.
Though a circular with reference No: CD217Vol IV/50 and dated September 24, 2019, was received by the Chief of Staff to the governor from the Cabinet and Special Services Department of the Governor’s Office, announcing the annual vacation of Mr. Governor, allegations had been rife that a cabal took over the reins of government instead, shutting out the deputy governor from governance.
The circular had read to all MDAs that, “Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, would be on a 9-working day vacation with effect from Monday, September 23rd, 2019 to Friday 4th October 2019, as the second installment of his year 2019 annual leave. Mr. Governor has directed that the Deputy Governor perform the functions of his office while on vacation.”
Party men have, however, alleged that all through the period, the deputy governor was shut out while subordinates had field day. This is besides another allegation that since the so-called vacation period lapsed, Governor Akeredolu had neither resumed his duties nor seen anywhere in public.
The situation, it is claimed, almost led to a near-crisis situation among party members in the state when a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, on Monday, October 7, announced the sack of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Political Matters, Engr. Augustine Pelemo (attached to the Deputy Governor) over birthday greetings.
Pelemo, it was said, had greeted the wife of the Deputy Governor on his Facebook wall, describing her as the “Acting First Lady” to the chagrin of the Governor, who ordered his sack in absentia.