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PDP MUST WIN S' WEST -JONATHAN

By NBF News
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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday in Ibadan, Oyo State capital launched a major campaign, yesterday to recapture and consolidate its hold on the South-west. During the rally, the party handed out flags to it candidates contesting the presidential, governorship, National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly elections in April.

President Goodluck Jonathan who was at the rally on the second leg of his nationwide presidential campaign tour which kicked off in Lafia, Nasarawa State on Monday roared the PDP battle cry to capture the elusive Lagos State, retain Oyo and Ogun and sweep the polls in Ekiti, Ondo and Osun States, which it lost to opposition parties namely the Action Congress (AC) and the Labour Party (LP) in a gale of judicial pronouncements which upturned its 2007 electoral 'victories' in the last two years.

But, undercurrents at the event and the absence of the co-ordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo 2011 Campaign Organization in the zone, Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel, who is supposedly the arrowhead of the charge, indicate that all may not be well within the fold for the dream to be realized.

Daniel, Speaker House of Representatives Dimeji Bankole and a host of other aspirants nominated by the Ogun state governor's faction of the PDP in Ogun State which has been pitted in battle with another group led by the Chairman of the party's Board of Trustees (BoT), former President Olusegun Obasanjo, were recentlydropped from the list of candidates released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The governor, who is aspiring for the Ogun East Senatorial seat in the Senate, is in court to get INEC to recognize his nomination and those of Gboyega Nasir Isiaka and Lola Abiola Edewor who emerged candidates for the governorship and Ogun Central Senatorial District in the parallel party primary held by his group.

The rival camp, whose names eventually made the list namely: Adetunji Olurin and Senator Iyabo Obasanjo Bello, the former president's daughter, triumphantly shared the limelight with Obasanjo at yesterday's meeting in Ibadan .

Daniel was believed to have stayed away to protect perceived treachery of the PDP hierarchy in favouring Obasanjo who was alleged to have deployed his closeness to President Jonathan and influence as BoT chairman to force the party to do the former leader's bidding.

However, Bankole, Daniel's ally, who equally lost the ticket was present on the occasion. Party sources said the Speaker's surprise presence at the event, may have followed some horse trading in which he might have been promised a better deal to compensate him for the withdrawal of his ticket.

A party stalwart told Daily Sun yesterday that the president had regretted his inability to help Daniel in the conflicts explaining that Obasanjo is the father of all- whose wish must be respected while Daniel is a friend who he would make up with and compensate for his industry and service to the party and his campaign.

Yesterday's rally also witnessed a drama, with a founding father and former presidential aspirant of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Harry Akande, publicly declaring for the PDP.

The ANPP chieftain described his sojourn in his former party as 12 years of being in the wilderness, saying he decided to quit and join the PDP because the former could not get its acts together. He canvassed support for Jonathan, whom he described as a man of brilliance, honesty and integrity.

There were conflicting accounts on the reasons for the absence of the Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel. Reports from his state yesterday said he was prevented from making the trip by his fans who stormed his Asoludero Residence in Sagamu angered by his exclusion from the INEC list, saying he had no business attending the rally.

A top government official told Daily Sun: 'Oga had actually prepared to go, when the crowd of party supporters, who saw the news in the papers, besieged the house and insisted he must not go that he had no business there. They practically held him hostage. Although he tried to pacify them, asking them to exercise patience and allow the action in court to go on, but they would not budge.'

Other sources, however hinted that the governor may have been persuaded to back out from the trip to prevent a clash between his loyalists and Obasanjo's. Daniel's aggrieved supporters were said to have threatened to storm the venue to protect the perceived injustice on the Ogun cases and humiliate Obasanjo at the venue.

As a result of intelligence reports to this effect, security was beefed up at the venue of the rally, Mapo and environs. Besides stern-looking mobile policemen, combat-ready soldiers were deployed.

An aide to Governor Adebayo Alao Akala and the Deputy Director of the Akala/Arapaja 2011 campaign, Diran Odeyemi, told Daily Su, 'yes, we heard intelligence reports that aggrieved forces from some states planned to cause trouble and since we didn't want a repeat of what happened in Ondo State in 2007, when delegates from Oyo State engaged in shootings and violence, we felt we shouldn't take chances and so have to tighten security. Besides, you know the President as commander-in-chief is here, that explains the soldiers' presence too.'

Daniel's absence was, however, the subject of discussions among the party supporters, who thronged the rally, with some condemning it as a deliberate ploy to humiliate the Ogun State governor. Some expressed fears of a possible backlash on the electoral fortunes of the party in the state.

But in an ironic twist that nevertheless suggested the PDP leadership realized that acrimonious primaries in the zone may have serious consequences for the party's chances in the polls, Obasanjo, while addressing the rally, asked that machinery be set in motion to reconcile all aggrieved parties.

He noted: 'Now that the primaries are over, there will be some people who will feel pleased and some who will feel displeased… Our party at the national level should set reconciliation machinery in motion at all levels so that those who feel aggrieved may be brought back into the fold for us to work together for the party's victory. Afterall, democracy is a game of number. We need everybody-the good, the bad and the ugly.'

President Jonathan admitted that the PDP had its challenges in the South West but said; 'we will solve our differences amicably so that the PDP will remain one.'

He urged party members in the zone to close ranks and work to win Lagos and other states in the zone, saying 'the South West is too important and too educated to be left in the hands of rascals.

The president remarked that the region is not only important but cosmopolitan in the country with a sizeable population of Nigerians who are non natives.

A party chief confirmed to Daily Sun last night that Bankole's ticket to the House has been restored following intervention by his father, a respected chieftain of the party in Ogun State who reconciled the Speaker with the Chief Obasanjo and other party elders opposed to Daniel.

Consequently, the Speaker was presented with the flag of the party on behalf of candidates ffrom the zone for the Hous e of Represntatives at the ceremony in Ibadab yesterday, a development which suprised many who had read in the dailies of his disqualification.

An elated Bankole in an address saluted the president, his deputy and beaming with smile turned to Obasanjo, addressing the old politician as 'Ebora Owu' an appellation which drew cheers from the crowd.

At the rally were the Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President, David Mark, Governor Akala, his Bayelsa State counterpart Timipre Sylvia, PDP National Chairman Haliru Muhammad, former National Chairman of the party, Chief Amadu Alli other national officers, members of the National Assembly from the South West, Ministers and government officials.

Others are former governors, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Segun Oni, Segun Agagu and Senator Isiaka Adeleke.