2015: Jonathan launches new offensive •Takes charge of PDP battle plans •Meets Omisore, Fayose over Osun, Ekiti polls
Anenih to coordinate Ekiti, Osun guber strategy •Group in secret meeting in Ibadan
AS 2013 ends on a sour note for the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), President Goodluck Jonathan has taken full charge of the party's battle plans for 2014 both for governorship polls and the primaries holding in the New Year.
Already, Jonathan has met Senator Iyiola Omisore and former governor Ayodele Fayose over Osun and Ekiti governorship elections holding in the third quarter of 2014.
This is against the backdrop of a new command structure already created to allow the president take charge of preparation for the primaries for the 2015 polls, which the electoral commission has announced will take place either in January or February of 2015.
INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, recently announced that the 2015 general elections would hold between January and February, indicating that party primaries would hold in 2014.
Although INEC has not announced a definite date for the Osun and Ekiti governorship polls, it was reliably gathered that the two polls would hold between June and August 2014.
The elections in both states, according to analysts, are being seen by the Presidency as a test case for the PDP to cut the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to size.
“The Ekiti and Osun governorship elections are a litmus test for both sides in the battle for the soul of Nigeria. You know the APC's major foothold is the South-West. So, whatever happens in these elections will either weaken or strengthen either side. That is why the president is not leaving anything to chance. The die is cast. You just wait and see how events unfold,” PDP leader told Saturday Tribune on Friday.
Saturday Tribune findings showed that the presidency regards 2014 as a critical year, especially as the party is expected to pick all its standard-bearers for the next general elections in the new year. Primaries to be held in the new year include state and national assemblies as well as governorship and presidential.
According to findings, the resolution of the wrangling between the governors and the party leadership was the first step to a new offensive the party is planning for 2014. Under presidential watch, it was gathered that the PDP is to launch an expanded offensive to gain lost grounds and put the party in good stead ahead of the 2015 polls.
A party chief contacted on this development confirmed the direct involvement of the president in the new offensive, explaining that “2014 is a pre- election year that is unique for many reasons. The president, even when he has not announced he is contesting, is rightly taking charge.
“All presidents during election years must take charge. So, there is nothing unusual. We in the party welcome this new tone. It will energise the party and rally our support base,” the official, a member of the working committee, noted.
As part of the offensive, it was learnt that the party, which has been cash-strapped for some time now, is to be properly funded while each sector of the party is expected to organise mass mobilisation events in the new year. Already, the party has scheduled a national summit of its youth and women leaders at all levels for the new year.
Further checks showed that the president had increased the tempo of his direct consultation and interaction with critical stakeholders, both for the 2015 general elections and the governorship elections holding in Osun and Ekiti states. Insider sources revealed that the outcome of the ongoing consultations would determine the final decision of the president on his candidature for the 2015 presidency.
Saturday Tribune further gathered that the president had asked the Chairman of PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, to help coordinate the party's strategy to win the coming governorship polls in the two South West states.
In what many see as a response to criticism of his not being supportive of the party, the president is said to have assessed the electoral situations in both Osun and Ekiti states and has given tacit support to both Omisore and Fayose. This has led to controversies in both states over report of presidential adoption.
It was, however, learnt that the president indeed has preferred aspirants due to what a source called “the concept of undiluted loyalty to the presidency.”
Saturday Tribune reliably gathered that Senator Omisore, indeed, had a closed door meeting with the president recently in Abuja. Both men again met during the visit of the Afenifere to the president recently in Abuja.
It was after the meeting with the president that Senator Omisore announced February 8 for the declaration of his governorship ambition, an event to be witnessed by Vice President Namadi Sambo and the Chairman of the PDP Governor's Forum, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State.
A similar meeting was said to have been held between the president and Fayose in Abuja a week ago. Those privy to the meeting disclosed that Jonathan reviewed the state of the party in Ekiti with the former governor and charged him to continue his mobilisation to ensure victory for the PDP in the governorship polls.
A check in Abuja, however, affirmed that both the party leadership and the presidency are not foreclosing holding of primaries to select the party's governorship standard-bearers. A party source noted that the primaries would hold either in March or April in both Ekiti and Osun states.
“We will hold primaries in Osun and Ekiti, but you know, getting the president to back you means a lot because it grants you what I call state support,” the source said.
Group in secret meeting in Ibadan
Meanwhile, Some leaders of the PDP on Thursday evening converged on Ibadan, Oyo State, for a meeting held behind closed doors, with a source declaring that the move was to launch a group to salvage the party in the zone.
The leaders, comprising former Minister of Defence, Adetokunbo Kayode; former Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro; Deputy Senate Whip, Senator Hosea Agboola; PDP governorship candidate in Ondo State and former National Legal Adviser of the party, Olusola Oke and a governorship aspirant of the party in Osun State, Hon. Oluwole Oke, among others, were at the A 3 Hotels, Ibadan, for the meeting which lasted for hours.
Though Senator Agboola declined to comment on the issues discussed at the meeting, another party leader at the parley, who pleaded not to be named when contacted, simply sent a text message to Saturday Tribune that the meeting had to do with a new move to save the party in the South West.
The senator also declined to react when asked if the meeting had anything to do with the fortune of the party in the zone.