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PDP, Atiku suffer setback as party leaders defect to APC in Ondo

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo state has suffered a major setback ahead of the 2023 general elections following the defection of a party chieftain, Gbenga Akinmoyo, and about 300 other party leaders.

Mr Akinmoyo, a spokesman to the party’s governorship candidate in the 2020 election, Eyitayo Jegede dumped the PDP for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), at the weekend.

The defection was held at Idanre Local Council Area of Ondo and comes less than four months to the nation’s presidential election and amid the internal wrangling in the PDP over leadership structure. 

Atiku Abubakar, a northerner from Adamawa is the presidential candidate of the opposition PDP for the 2023 poll and has been battling with opposition within the party over the call for the removal of fellow northerner Iyiorcha Ayu, as the party’s National Chairman. 

Mr Abubakar supported Mr Jegede, in the last Ondo 2020 governorship election and lost to Rotimi Akeredolu, the incumbent governor. 

Party supporters see Mr Jegede as Mr Abubakar’s pointsman in Ondo politics. 

Speaking at the defection event, Mr Akinmoyo, who coordinated the media strategy for Mr Jegede’s campaign, said despite his hard work for the party he was not recognised for his effort. 

He condemned the PDP for zoning its presidential ticket to the South, noting that it was wrong for Mr Abubakar, a northerner to be seeking to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, a fellow northerner, who will complete an eight-year tenure in May 2023.

“For me that is unacceptable,” he said.

“Though we persevered, Atiku has been unable to unify the party. Some governors are threatening to leave the party. Is that a party that is ready to take over the rein of the country?” Mr Akinmoyo, who is also a legal practitioner said. 

According to him, it would be difficult for Mr Atiku to win in Ondo as the people no longer reckon with the opposition PDP in the state. 

He said, “Let us not be sentimental, let’s talk about other candidates, somebody who can get us back on track.

“I, therefore, at the end of the day made a calculated and deliberate decision to move to a party (APC) that will not only be good to me but move my community forward and the nation at large.” 

Mr Akinmoyo added, “I strongly believe that Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu has the potential to transform Nigeria. Let us rally around him.” 

Other defectors who spoke identified injustice and crisis presently rocking the PDP as the major reasons for joining the APC ahead of the general election exercise. 

Receiving the defectors, the Ondo Chairman of APC, Ade Adetimehin, assured them that none of them will be treated as a new member of the party, stressing that they would be treated equally.

“These people (defectors) are all present here. They are tested politicians of note and among them are former ward chairmen, supervisory councillors, executives of a local government and the spokesperson of a former governorship candidate in the state. 

“If 300 people left a political party, it means a lot, and at the grassroots for that matter. Idanre is full of progressive people. I can assure you now that any time, any day, APC will win Idanre Local Government in the 2023 general elections,” he said. 

Mr Adetimehin urged the new members to use their political experience and influence to work for the success of APC in the general elections.

He also declared that the presidential candidate of APC, Bola Tinubu has an enviable track record as a good human resource manager, assuring that he would turn the country around positively if elected in the next year’s election. 

“So, I am charging everybody to go back to his or her unit and ward to mobilise for APC because all the candidates of APC must win this coming election.

“Our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a man full of ideas, a man who has the capacity and intellect.”

But reacting to the defection of the PDP members, a spokesman for the opposition party in Ondo, Kennedy Peretei, said the detectors are at liberty to leave and join the political party of their choice. 

“Well, you know this is a political period but individuals are at liberty to make decisions. We can only wish him and others well in this new journey.”

Asked further if the defection of the grassroots leaders won’t deplete the chances of the party ahead of the 2023 poll, Mr Peretei said, “If you are saying a major setback, I can tell you that here in Ondo, the PDP is well prepared for the election and we are going to have a resounding victory as usual come next year,” he told The Gazette in a phone interview. 

Messrs Atiku and Tinubu would join Peter Obi of the Labour Party and over 10 presidential candidates on the ballot to slug out the presidential seat in the 2023 general election. 

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed February 25, 2023, for the presidential election as candidates move to the campaign field to woo over 95 million electorates for support and votes.

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