SPECIAL REPORT ON THE PDP PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will be looking at other zones outside the South West for deciding votes for his victory at today's Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) presidential primary, as the bulk of votes from that region is already safely tucked in his arch-rival, President Goodluck Jonathan's pouch.
Courtesy of the influence and backing of his godfather and former president, Olusegun Obasanjo; serving and former PDP governors and the party chieftains in the zone, more than 70 per cent of delegates from the five states in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti are expected to deliver their votes to the president.
The South-West zonal caucus of the party was one of the first in the country to endorse Jonathan as its consensus candidate for the PDP ticket last year. Although three of the governors have since been booted out of office, it is believed, they still exercise enormous control over party structures and elective office holders in their states.
However, while former Ondo State Governor Dr. Olusegun Agagu, a die-hard ally of Obasanjo and Olusegun Oni of Ekiti are certain to corral their loyalists into supporting Jonathan, the position of Osun State , where Olagunsoye Oyinlola held sway is not so sure. This, pundits say, is because the former governor may be compelled to work for Atiku if prodded by General Ibrahim Babangida, who he was backing before the latter's withdrawal from the race, following the northern elders picking of Atiku as the North's candidate.
But, the greatest support for Jonathan would be coming from Ogun and Oyo, where there are still two sitting PDP governors. As it were, pockets of Atiku's supporters, who are active in these states, may not be formidable enough to upturn the apple cart against Jonathan at the primary elections, given the awesome control and influence the state governors exert on the party structures in their respective state. What more, they are mostly outside elective offices and the party hierarchy to qualify as delegates.
The President's bid enjoys a rock solid backing of Oyo State Governor Alao-Akala. The governor was the convener of the Ibadan August 28, 2010 parley, where Jonathan's choice as the South West's candidate was ratified by an enlarged party caucus of the zone, ahead of the PDP primaries. He has also put the entire PDP structure in the state in the service of Jonathan, having constituted a campaign team for the president.
In what seems a reward of his labour and pains in shouldering the Jonathan campaign, Governor Alao-Akala got a respite last week, when the NWC of the party ratified the results of the controversial state congress of the party, which was initially suspended following the killing of the former NURTW factional leader Lateef Salako (a.k.a Eleweomo). The Senate Leader, an opposition figure to Akala and an Atiku man is in Agodi Prisons over the murder.
Akala's Ogun State counterpart, Otunba Gbenga Daniel is also the South West Coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation. Despite this, Atiku will still make appreciable inroad, owing to internal strife which has polarized the party in the zone. Daily Sun investigations revealed that the President's camp still walks a tight rope as regard delegates' votes in the primaries especially in view of the serious internal crises rocking the party in the zone.
The crises have constituted a big burden to the duo of Governor Daniel and former Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Agagu, in effectively mobilizing delegates for the president. The two personalities were appointed South-West coordinators for the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organization.
Daily Sun investigations revealed that the President's camp still walks a tight rope as regard delegates' votes in the primaries especially in view of the serious internal crises. A signal to the shocker awaiting President Jonathan came to the fore at a recent meeting held with stakeholders of the party in Ibadan , where those invited to the meeting could not speak with one voice as regard the adoption of the President as candidate of the party in the 2011 presidential election.
Reliable sources at the December 10 meeting confided in Daily Sun that the request by the party elders on whether or not the President had been adopted as consensus candidate for the zone was met with 'yes and no' answer.
The delegates, who were drawn from the six states of the South-West, were also said to have left the venue of the meeting annoyed as the organizers failed to 'reach out' to them as promised on the excuse that the atmosphere at the Mapo Hall was not secured enough.
In Oyo, Jonathan will have to reckon with having lost the votes of the G8 lawmakers in the 32-man state House of Assembly opposed to Governor Alao-Akala. The legislators have pitched their tents with the Senator Lekan Balogun/Teslim Folarin faction of the party, who incensed by perceived partisanship of the President and the PDP national leadership in the protracted crisis rocking the state chapter of the party may have resolved to back Atiku.
More significantly, however, is the fact that the size of votes the governor could also have mobilized for his man has shrunken, with the state's 33 elected local government chairmen, who ordinarily would have been statutory delegates relieved of their posts, following the expiration of their tenure on December 15, last year. The caretaker chairmen appointed in their places cannot vote at the convention.
The state PDP chairman, Chief Dejo Afolabi and Governor Alao-Akala's Special Adviser on Public Communication, Dotun Oyelade could not give the exact figure of delegates from the state to participate in the national convention, when Daily Sun sought the facts. But, it was gathered that about 170 did in the last exercise.
That implies that less than 140 would be in Abuja including the governor, his deputy, members of the National Assembly from the state, the 32 state legislators, four members of the state party executive (Chairman, Secretary, women leader and youth leader), local government party chairmen and yet unspecified number of elected delegates.
Alao-Akala had boasted that he would deliver 153 delegates from the state for the President at the party primaries.
The Chairman of Atiku Campaign Organization in Oyo State , Otunba Olusola Okunola, admitted that the group was not expecting majority votes from delegates from Oyo, alleging intimidation and manipulation of the just concluded congress in the state, which shut off Atiku's supporters. 'If it had been violence-free, free and fair, we were sure of picking up more delegates and at least having more representation in the party executives at the various levels. So, we're looking at it nationally- that is making it up from other state', he said.
Even so, Okunlola claimed that at least seven of the15 members of the Federal House of Representatives from the state were supporting Atiku. Two of the three senators representing the state will go with the governor, but the Senate Leader, Folarin is an Atiku man. Indeed, it is being suggested that the decision to incarcerate the Senator and delay the hearing of his application for bail over the murder of Eleweomo till Tuesday were designed to keep him away from the contention.
Apart from the crises rocking state chapters of the party, the recent loss of Ekiti and Osun States to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has also pitched members of the party from the affected states against the president as they believed he has the power to turn the hand of justice in their favour, but failed to do so. Investigations conducted by Daily Sun's AKEEB ALARAPE revealed that in Osun State , the delegates list would be swept by Atiku in view of his long standing relationship with the people of the state. His wife, Titi, a native of Ilesa, is also an asset to Atiku in sweeping delegates to his side from the state.
Although, his core loyalists led by the former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, has been co-opted into the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organization, the recent loss of the state in the governorship election legal tussle at the Appeal Court may, however, work against the President. Unconfirmed report had it that one of the reasons why Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was booted out of office through the court verdict was his apparent close affiliation with the former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Oyinlola and others affected in the change of baton in the state of the Living Spring may embark on protest vote at the primary. However, the success of Oyinlola in picking the senatorial ticket of the party, may serve as a palliative measure to placate him and his loyalists, who may be on the delegates list.
In Ekiti, the allegation that President Jonathan traded off PDP members in the state for his secret deal with the opposition, was still making waves in the air. Daily Sun gathered that a respected pro-democracy activist and writer as well as an CAN leader had allegedly prevailed on Jonathan to hands off South-West politics if he wants the votes of the region in the general elections. The alleged hot romance was also said to have led to the victory of ACN in the governorship election pet ition, which eventually gave victory to Dr. Kayode Fayemi as governor.
Bolu Olu-Esho reports ,the state Chairman of PDP, Chief Bola Olu-Ojo as describing the chance of President Jonathan as brighter, although he admits Atiku equally has some chance among the 81 delegates representing the state at the primary. A strong chieftain of the party in the state, Chief Femi Akinyemi says the state will deliver 95 per cent of the 81 delegates to Jonathan. Hon. Bode Ajewole, is optimistic that the former leader will emerge the winner of the primary today.
Findings by Daily Sun revealed that the crisis rocking the Ogun State House of Assembly, where majority were against the governor may undermine the mobilization efforts of both Obasanjo and Daniel. 'Majority of the lawmakers may want to frustrate Daniel by voting against Jonathan due to the way and manner the crisis was handled', a party chieftain told Daily Sun on condition of anonymity. The recent dissolution of the 20 local government executives of the party in the state was also described as a negative development on the Jonathan aspiration as the party constitution does not recognize caretaker chairmen as party delegates.
The confusion that trailed the Assembly and House of Representatives primaries was enough signals on what to expect from the state at the presidential primaries. Despite these, MOSHOOD ADEBAYO reports from Abeokuta that the president will pick 76 per cent majority of the votes from an estimated 90 delegates from Ogun State.
However, there is stiff opposition from some of the delegates who are believed to be ?surreptitiously working for the former Vice President.
Although former Presidential aide, Chief (Mrs.) Titilayo Ajanaku and former House of Representatives member, Chief Bode Mustapha are said to be striving to poach delegates, from Governor Daniel's camp, but with little result, as the influence of the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole is expected to also positively rub off on Jonathan's chances
The unpalatable situation in Lagos State portrayed a dangerous scenario for the Jonathan ticket in the Centre of Excellence. Daily Sun sources disclosed that the Lagos PDP has not benefited much in the Jonathan/Sambo administration to encourage them to vote for their re-emergence in the January 15 party primaries. The appointment of the Minister of Finance, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, was said to have incurred the wrath of the chieftains of the party in Lagos as most of them were alleged to have been sidetracked in the appointment.
Nonetheless, the President may not have a bloc vote from Lagos delegates, he stands a good chance of having the majority of the votes. The Ondo chapter of the PDP is also said to be kicking against the leadership status accorded the former governor, Olusegun Agagu. The uneasy calm in the state, it was gathered led to the recent visit of the Minister of Defence, Prince. Adetokunbo Kayode, to appease frail nerves and muster support for the president's aspiration.
However,TUNDE RAHEEM reports that President Jonathan will have the chunk of the votes of the 80 delegates that will participate in the presidential primaries from Ondo State . 62 of the delegates are statutory while the remaining 18 are elected. The President will have edge over Atiku because of the backing of prominent members of the party whoinclude former Governor Olusegun Agagu, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, Prince Kayode, Senator Gbenga Ogunniya and a host of others.