President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party have begun a fresh plot to win the South-West states in the 2015 elections.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that developing an acceptable modality to check the All Progressives Congress and eventually win the zone topped the agenda of a meeting between the President and the South-West PDP leaders at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday.
A former Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Segun Oni, Mr. Segun Ilori, was said to have served as the secretary at the meeting.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Jonathan was disturbed by various crises rocking the ruling party in the zone.
It was gathered that as part of efforts to dislodge the APC in the 2015 elections, participants at the meeting resolved to settle the crises facing the party.
The crises, it was gathered at the meeting, were identified as obstacles to the electoral success of the President and the PDP in the South-West.
Party leaders from the South-West were said to have complained again about the marginalisation of the zone by the Jonathan administration.
The PDP held political power in the South-West between 1999 and 2003; an era when the party produced all the governors in the region, except Lagos.
A PDP chieftain, who attended the meeting, said that the President promised to redress the marginalisation of the zone.
The party chieftain, who pleaded anonymity stated, “The President acknowledged the need to ensure more representation of the people in the South-West zone but he was reminded that he had once promised to redress the marginalisation.
“He was told that without addressing the marginalisation of the South-West, it would be difficult for the President and the PDP to win the zone.”
Another issue that featured at the meeting, according to the source, was who should be recognised as the leader of the party in the zone.
It was learnt that the party leaders, who were present at the meeting, expressed displeasure that a financier of the PDP in Ogun State, Chief Buruji Kasamu, seemed to be the leader of the party in the South-West.
The PDP chieftain, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said, “From all indications, the President is taking Kasamu as the PDP South-West leader. If we are to win the zone, we must resolve who should be the face of the party in Yorubaland.”
It was gathered that some stakeholders at the meeting were pushing for an ex-convict and a former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George, to lead the party in the zone.
It was learnt that others at the meeting opposed the candidacy of George.
The PDP chieftain said, “Some stakeholders opposed Bode George on the grounds that he was old and because of the need to allow younger people to take charge.’’
But our correspondents learnt that Jonathan appealed to the party leaders to cooperate with the reconciliation committee headed by the Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson.
It was gathered that the party’s decision to suspend the South West congress was part of efforts aimed at resolving the crisis in the zone.
The party NEC at its meeting suspended the South West Zonal Congress of the party scheduled for August 24, 2013.
The Acting National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Tony Okoke, announced the suspension of the congress scheduled for Saturday after the party’s National Executive Committee.
He cited a court injunction restraining the PDP from conducting the congresses as the reason for the decision.
He said that the PDP was committed to the rule of law and upholding the sanctity of the courts.
Confirming the plot, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said that the ruling party would do everything to ensure victory for Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election.
Babatope, who spoke with one of our correspondents in a telephone interview, also said that the PDP would bounce back to political reckoning in the South-West from next year.
He said, “Everything will be done to ensure victory for President Goodluck Jonathan. The PDP is poised to take over the South-West.”
Babatope, who was at Jonathan’s meeting with South West leaders, described Bode George, as a “spokesleader” in the South-West, adding that “Chief Bode George’s views carry great respect.”
When contacted, a former Governor of Ekiti State and an ex-national chairman, Mr. Segun Oni, refused to comment on whether the President could win in the South West or not.
Asked to comment on the growing influence of Kasamu in the South West PDP and the strategy that could win the zone for Jonathan, the former governor, who spoke through his media aide, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said he would not comment on the issue.
Olayinka , in his response to enquiries sent to him via email said, “ Oga’s position on all the issues raised is silence.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, on the telephone did not yield positive result at press time on Thursday.
Attempts made to get Kasamu’s reaction were unsuccessful as he did not answer calls to his mobile phone. He also failed to reply the text messages sent to him.
His aide, Austin Oniyokor, said he could not speak on behalf of his boss.
But a former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, said Kasamu could not be a leader of the PDP in the South West, alleging that he was only in politics for personal gains.
When contacted, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said, “The PDP has been unable to sleep soundly since the registration of the APC three weeks ago.”
He said that the ruling party was day dreaming.
According to him, the PDP has been gripped with panic and has become uncoordinated.
Mohammed said, “How will the PDP convince the enlightened and politically- sophisticated people of the South-West to re-elect a President, who has betrayed their trust in all respects? A president under whose watch they have seen the quality of their lives ebbing away with unprecedented economic decline, youth unemployment; dilapidation of infrastructure, insecurity, decline in the educational quality, untold hardship and despair. The PDP must be day dreaming.”