FEAR GRIPS PDP…AS JONATHAN, S'WEST LEADERS MEET
Stunned by Friday's unexpected loss of Osun State to the rival Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in South West on Saturday converged on Lagos for what seemed an emergency meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
A source at the meeting held at a location in Marina said the declaration of Rauf Aregbesola as the Osun governor threw leaders of PDP in the geo-political zone into panic with many frustrated over the dwindling fortunes of the ruling party.
Highly placed sources said President Jonathan, who had been in Lagos since Thursday to meet stakeholders in the PDP and the business community, in continuation of his presidential campaign, hurriedly called a meeting of party elders for noon yesterday.
It was gathered that worried by the implication of the fate of the PDP in the South West to his 2011 ambition, the President was compelled to call for the meeting to deliberate on how to save the deteriorating situation. Among those at the meeting were the remaining two PDP governors in the zone, Otunba Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, senators, zonal officers and some former national officers of the party from the zone.
Jonathan had arrived Lagos to meet with some warring members of the party in Oyo State but was confronted with the shocking judgment that removed Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as governor of Osun and replaced him with Aregbesola. Sources claimed that the President saw the development as a big blow to his aspiration to have a bloc vote from Yorubaland and a sudden change in the power equation of the region.
According to the source, 'immediately it dawned on PDP leaders across the South West that they had lost yet another state, many of them started exchanging phone calls and text messages and blamed the development on lack of capable leadership.
'If we have competent leadership at the federal and zonal levels, this would not happen to us,' a zonal official of the party said last night. He added: 'If Bode George is the zonal leader, this would not happen.'
He was echoing the concern of leaders in the zone over what one of them described as a 'calamity.'
With the exit of the party from the Osun Government House, PDP's influence in the zone has been reduced to Ogun and Oyo states.
When the present dispensation commenced on May 29, 2007, the PDP controlled five states – Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti – leaving only Lagos for the Action Congress. But the gains from the election have now been reversed with Labour Party claiming Ondo and AC taking over Osun and Ekiti. According to another distraught leader of the party from Ekiti, 'at the commencement of this game, we were leading 5-1.Today the opposition has turned the table to 4-2 against us. If we have a leader, this would not have happened.'
Sources said the anger against the leadership of the party is a veiled reference to the President, whom party adherents in the South West are blaming for their plight. The sources said his supporters in the South West led by the Ogun governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and former Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Agagu, counseled the President that the anger over the loss of Ekiti and Osun states might cost the President significant support in the zone.
Before the Osun judgment, supporters of the President had reportedly warned about widespread resistance to their campaign in Ekiti, blaming it on the anger of party members over the inability of Jonathan to protect them from losing the state. The anger across the leaders of the party after the Osun judgment is said to have alarmed Jonathan's supporters so much that they advised that he summoned a meeting to appeal to party elders to intervene and keep his ambition on track in the zone.
A party leader from Lagos lamented: 'The South West controls the largest number of delegates in the PDP primaries after the North West. Now see what is happening. This zone is critical to the President because it is about the only zone he can rely upon to counter votes that we fear might be recorded against him in the North West, which is championing the cause of the North returning to the presidency in 2011. It is a big dilemma and we will tackle it.