Agboola Ajayi, the deputy governor of Ondo State, is expected to officially announce his move to the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and will be adopted as the candidate of the party for the October 10 governorship election, multiple sources close to Mr Ajayi and the ZLP have told this newspaper.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mr Ajayi who lost the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to Eyitayo Jegede, has completed plans to join ZLP having met with state and national leaders of the party.
One of those who is said to have endorsed Mr Ajayi is a former governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko.
Mr Mimiko is the leader of the ZLP in Ondo. He was adopted as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections but suspended his presidential candidacy to run for senator in Ondo West. He lost the senatorial election.
Three associates of Mr Ajayi and two of Mr Mimiko confirmed that both parties held a series of meetings, mainly in Abuja, which ended on Wednesday with a resolution that Mr Ajayi will be announced next week as the ZLP candidate.
The officials asked not to be named because they were not authorised to talk to the media and a formal announcement was yet tot be made.
“The deputy governor returned from Abuja yesterday (Wednesday), he has made all consultation with leaders of the party and he will unveil his new party before Monday,” an aide who spoke under anonymity disclosed.
Another close associate of Mr Ajayi told PREMIUM TIMES that “it is true that he’s moving to ZLP because the party has existing structure in the state. We want to play on Mimiko’s template and populate it. There’s still room for substitution of names with INEC. The party will just withdraw the name of the person put there as a decoration. We expect the deputy governor to officially announce before next Monday.”
Mr Ajayi’s name would be used to replace that of the governorship candidate of ZLP, Rotimi Benjamin, this newspaper learnt.
Such substitution is still allowed now based on the timetable released by the electoral commission, INEC.
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the deputy governor, Tope Okeowo, did not deny nor confirm the development.
The State Chairman of ZLP, Joseph Akinlaja, is yet to respond to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries as of the time of filing this report.
A three-horse race?
Mr Ajayi’s ZLP candidacy is expected to increase to three, the major candidates for the October 10 election.
Although INEC has cleared 17 parties for the election, it was expected to be a two-horse race between Mr Jegede of the PDP and incumbent governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Ajayi, who recently decamped from the APC to the PDP and now to the ZLP, will now be expected to challenge his former allies for the governorship position.