The Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are strategising on how to win votes from the South-West, Saturday PUNCH has learnt. This followed the emergence of a former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Sources close to the party and its presidential candidate said the emergence of Tinubu, being an influential politician from the South-West, had changed the dynamics of the party’s preparation as regards how to win votes from the zone.
The North-West, the only geopolitical zone with seven states, has the highest number of registered voters in the country, followed by the South-West, which has Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Oyo states.
Meanwhile, some party chieftains in the South-West are demanding fair consideration from the party and Atiku as an incentive for the region. They said this was important for the PDP to be able to compete favourably with Tinubu in the region. They said if the party wins the February 25, 2023 presidential election, certain positions should be zoned to the region.
For example, the PDP in Oyo State said the senate presidency should be zoned to the South-West if the party won the presidential election.
The publicity secretary of the party in the state, Akeem Olatunji, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday said aside the Senate presidency, the PDP in the region wanted the development and adequate security of the South-West.
Olatunji said, “We expect the Senate Presidency to come to the South-West. But what we want mainly in the PDP here is good governance. We want the roads to be fixed, let there be provision of infrastructure and creation of state police to assist in tackling insecurity.
“Also, we want the economy to be fixed because it has been terribly damaged by the APC government. We want the Ibadan Airport to be upgraded to international standard and an inland dry port in order to decongest the sea port. The Ibadan – Oyo – Ogbomoso Expressway is a very strategic road and should be completed quickly. I believe Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will do all these and more if he wins the presidency. The agitations for secession by various groups will end with good governance and justice. This is what the PDP will do.”
In Ogun State, the party said it would negotiate for juicy slots once the party wins.
The publicity secretary of the party in the state, Bankole Akinloye, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abeokuta on Friday, said the state chapter would work for the success of the party at the poll before demanding its slots.
He said “For Ogun State PDP, what is paramount to us is the success of the party in the election. It is when a hunter kills an animal while hunting that he can start thinking of sharing the meat. What we will request for as a party will be after election. Definitely, we have ministerial appointments that will come to the state. We have ambassadorial appointments that would also be demanded for and several other juicy appointments.”
In Ondo State, the publicity secretary, Mr Kennedy Peretei, in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH said, “The PDP has a tradition of balancing government and party positions among the six geopolitical zones. That is, National Chairman of the party, President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Each zone will certainly pick one of the positions. So, the South-West is already factored into the equation. No zone will be shortchanged.”
On the specific position that might be zoned to the South-West, Peretei said the region might get the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the SGF or the party’s national chairman. “Any of the three can be achieved based on personalities and other factors determined by leaders of the party,” he added.
In Osun State, efforts to reach the acting chairman, Dr Akintunde Adekunle, for comment proved futile as he was said to be engaged in the governorship campaign of the party’s candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Also, two members of the party’s Board of Trustees that were contacted declined comment.
But the immediate past Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the party should zone the position of the national chairman to the South-West.
Odeyemi said the party might not be able to woo voters in the South-West because the ruling APC has a Yoruba man as its candidate unless a major party post was given to the region.
He added, “We have been saying it. Let the PDP give the South-West the post of National Chairman. We are already being boxed to a corner because APC has a Yoruba man as its presidential candidate.”
In Ekiti State, the acting Chairman, Mr Lanre Omolase, gave an assurance that none of the six geo-political zones would lose out of key political positions if the party won the 2023 presidential election.
He said even though this was purely a task for the National Working Committee, he was sure no region would be left out.
He added, “We are targeting the national chairman of the party when the party wins because definitely the chairman will rotate to the South. Since the South-South has taken the vice-president’s slot, then it automatically becomes the responsibility of the party to give the national chairman to the South-West.
Omolase said there were other political positions, including the Secretary to Government of the Federation, the Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker, adding that what the South-West would ask for would depend on them.
The state publicity secretary, Raphael Adeyanju, said the party knew how to handle the situation without any zone being left out.
Adeyanju said, “Our leaders know how to go about it. There are other positions that can be given to the South-West which is okay. We are not unaware that people are looking up to us to pacify the South-West, especially now that the presidential candidate of our major opponent is from the South-West.
“Before the 2023 campaign commences, the party will let the South-West people know what will be given to them to pacify them. Our party leaders know what they will ask for; there are executive and legislative positions they will ask for. I can assure you, there will be shifting of grounds and the South-West will be very good for it.”
Also, a BoT member from the state, Micheal Oke, stressed that the South-West would not be left out if the party won the presidential election in 2023.
He stated, “Today, the PDP in the South-West is united, we are fully together, even when we went to the national convention, we went there as a team. There is nothing we will request from the federal that they will not do for us in the South-West.
“Constitutionally, the vice-president is next to the president, but if you look at how government is working nowadays, the Chief of Staff has prominent role in government even more than the VP. I hope by God’s grace, PDP will win the presidency in 2023 and the CoS to the President or the SGF will come from the South-West.
“Also in the legislature, we are going to have top positions in the Senate or the House of Representatives.”
A media aide to former Governor Ayodele Fayose, Lere Olayinka, also said stakeholders in the South-West would sit together to arrive at the needs of the geo-political zone.
In Lagos State, the PDP chairman, Phillip Aivoji, said the NWC and regional leadership of the party were working to engage the electorate to vote for the PDP in the forthcoming elections.
He added, “We are still on the drawing board and I can assure you that the states under South-West, we are working assiduously (to win the hearts and minds of the South-West electorate for the PDP). We are planning our strategies. We want our work to manifest, not to make noise.”
Meanwhile, a Lagos PDP chieftain, Chief Ade Dosunmu, said, “The party is meeting and discussing it. There are many positions in government and all will be discussed holistically so that every zone will have representation. I don’t know whether they have got to that stage now.”
The Publicity Secretary, South West PDP, Chief Sanya Atofarati, said people of the region were not aggrieved and there would be no difficulty getting along with the party.
Atofarati said, “To pacify members in the South-West will not be an issue because we are not aggrieved in any way. Party stakeholders across the South-West would come together at the appropriate time and take decision on political positions of interest.
“In the South-West, we have deep understanding of the terrain politically and we are not unaware that we (South-West) have been there before, the South-West has spent eight years as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
He said the task of rescuing the country was more paramount at the moment.
Already, members of the Atiku campaign groups and the PDP were said to have met to map out strategies on how to win elections in the South-West.
Investigations by one of our correspondents showed that the Atiku group was banking on their principal’s closeness to Tinubu, believing that having worked together with the former governor in the past, it might not be difficult to understand the strategies being planned by the APC presidential candidate.
The Director, Support Groups and Events Technical Committee Atiku Abubakar for President 2023, Oladimeji Fabiyi, told Saturday PUNCH, “You will recall that Atiku and Tinubu have been political associates for over two decades, and if put on a scale Atiku has done more in the advancement of Tinubu’s political career than Tinubu has done to Atiku. This however means that both of them know each other’s capabilities and political pedigree.
“The emergence of Tinubu cannot in any way stop Atiku from winning votes from the South-West. Apart from the fact that Atiku is a brand name in Nigeria’s political landscape, his friends and associates cut across every region, tribe and gender bias. We should also not forget that he is married to Titi, he is an in-law to the South-West people.
“Beyond these, Atiku has identified with the Yoruba people when he stepped down for MKO Abiola in 1993. So, if a northerner supported the interest of the Yoruba, it is the payback time. The South-West people are very enlightened and sophisticated; they will vote Atiku massively because they know he has the interest of their people at heart and have the political capital to drive it through.”
Fabiyi also revealed that Atiku and his team were already working on strategies to meet with relevant stakeholders.
He added, “Soon, Atiku and his team are currently working on the strategies for the campaign, sooner than later he will meet various stakeholders across the country including the South-West. He understands the need to reach out to opinion and political leaders so as to secure the needed votes and carry them along.”
Meanwhile, in order to appease the South-West, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the PDP was considering zoning the office of the Speaker to the South-West if it won the election.
He added, “We need the votes of the South-West. They have a presidential candidate of the APC. Naturally, that is good for them but we will woo them. They may also provide a replacement for the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, if we win. It is a deal.”
Also, a BoT member, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, expressed confidence that the party would be fair to the region and indeed all regions.