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Monday, 12 January 2015

President Jonathan Claws Into SW States!

With political campaigns already in full swing, the two powerful presidential contenders would obviously save the best of their outings and the killer punch for the swing states in the South-West legs, where the February election would be won and lost. While Jonathan can boast of a formidable support base in the South-South region, where he hails from, and the parts of the South-East, Buhari enjoys a huge followership in the North. Getting majority votes in their respective comfort zones may not be a tough row to hoe for the two candidates though, but to win the race would require them winning majority of the votes in the South-West, which is generally seen as the main battleground for the 2015 presidential election.

Sunday Trust looks at the constituents to determine how the votes would be cast in these swing states.

Osun: The political atmosphere for the 2015 general elections has gathered momentum in Osun State, especially as the February 14 presidential election dominates discussions at virtually every gathering.

While the Osun State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is vigorously campaigning for the presidential candidate of the party, General Muhammedu Buhari, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDPD), is not lagging behind in campaigning for President Goodluck Jonathan.

The APC remains very strong and the party has really gained grounds in the state in the last four years. The defection of many PDP chieftains to the APC has also added to its strength. The first civilian governor of the state, Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke, and former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former national secretary of the PDP were among the PDP leaders who defected to the APC last year.

The defection of Adeleke significantly assisted Governor Rauf Aregbesola to garner sufficient votes in Osun West Senatorial District during the last August 9 governorship election in the state, as the areas were the strongholds of the PDP.

From indications, General Buhari clearly has an edge over President Jonathan in Osun, owing to the popularity of Governor Aregbesola and the widespread structure of the APC in the state, as well as the fact that majority of the people in the state seemed to prefer Buhari to Jonathan.

A trader at Ayetoro Market, Mrs Awoniyi Oluwadamilola told Sunday Trust that she does not not belong to any political party, but would vote for Buhari in the forthcoming presidential election.

She said: “All these politicians are the same, but if I must choose between General Buhari and President Jonathan, of course, a blind man knows that Buhari is better. That does not mean that Jonathan is not okay. But he has tried and we should allow another person to also try. So, I will vote for Buhari. And may be that would stop Boko Haram.”

But Jonathan may be able to get appreciable votes in the Ife axis, owing to the popularity of the PDP candidate in the last governorship election in the state, Senator Iyiola Omisore, who hails from Ife.

A student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife who spoke with the Sunday Trust on condition of anonymity said nobody dare speak against Jonathan in the midst of Ife indigenes.

“Anytime we are discussing with indigenes of Ife, we dare not talk against Jonathan. Whoever does that would be dealt with by the Ife indigenes who are supporters of Senator Omisore”.

For the civil servants in the state, even though they are aggrieved over non-payment of their salary by the state government, those who spoke with our correspondent said that would not prevent them from voting for Buhari.

Ekiti: In the coming elections, the PDP is likely to carry the day in national and state assembly elections, but the table would likely be turned against it in the presidential election.

Since Governor Ayodele Fayose came on board, a lot of allegations of misdeeds had been unearthed against former Governor Fayemi which may work against the APC in the general election.

For instance, the huge debt profile left by the former governor, which the present administration put at N84b, construction of some legacy projects which the present government described as gigantic and wasteful, non-payment of workers’ August and September salaries, non-remittance of cooperatives deduction from workers’ salaries and other unresolved grievances, may be used against the APC in Ekiti. With the exit of Fayemi from office, APC is gradually being silenced, except for press statements the party issues occasionally.

Lagos: The forthcoming general elections in Lagos State are gradually turning into a two-course race between the ruling APC and its main challenger, the PDP.

The two rival parties have since returned to the drawing board after their primaries that generated controversies that leaders of the party on both sides succeeded in addressing. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the APC strongman succeeded in persuading aggrieved aspirants and their followers after the state governorship primaries won by his alleged ‘anointed’ candidate, Akinwunmi Ambode.

The aftermath of the PDP primaries in the state was almost similar to that of the APC. Before the PDP governorship primaries, two names were ringing a bell: Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

Obanikoro, who was being touted as the favourable candidate to win the primary election, did not emerge as the winner. Agbaje’s victory at PDP governorship primaries in Lagos generated furore.

It took the intervention of the PDP national headquarters and the presidency to douse the tension and appeal to Senator Obanikoro to withdraw the case he instituted against the party in court.

Since General Muhammadu Buhari has kicked off his campaign in Port Harcourt and President Goodluck Jonathan kicked-off his campaign in Lagos, residents of the state have been responding to their campaign. Many among the residents in Lagos frowned at President Jonathan’s mode of campaign, which they said was more of an attack on the opposition candidate than about telling the people of his achievement in office and how he intends to improve on the achievements.

The general elections in Lagos would be different from that of 2007 between the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the PDP. Residents of the state are of the opinion that the opposition will give the ruling party a tough competition. The last Thursday flag-off of Jonathan’s campaign in Lagos coupled with a statement credited to Agbaje that the South-South would cripple Nigeria’s economy if President Jonathan did not win the February 14 presidential election, has been viewed by many as one way to blackmail people to vote for Jonathan.

In contrast, the APC image has continued to soar by the day. Our correspondent was around when the party’s governorship candidate visited the State Secretariat last Monday and workers trooped out to celebrate him when he is yet to contest for the position.

Oladele Shodimu, a civil servant in the state, said, “Our president has failed to convince me that I should vote for him. After spending six years at the presidency, he still put blames on his predecessors in office. He ought to have gone beyond that. We want a president that will discuss issues. What has he in store for Nigerians to arrest the sorry situation we found our economy and our naira in?”

As it stands, Buhari and Ambode are more favoured than President Jonathan and Agbaje in Lagos state.

Ogun: A member of the national campaign committee of the President Goodluck Jonathan 2015 campaign organization, Elder Joju Fadairo, told our correspondent that the party has a good chance to get the votes for the party.

Fadairo, a former state chairman of the party said that with the impact of the Jonathan transformation agenda in the state, “I am confident that Mr. President will get the required 25 per cent votes. We have done a lot and with the transformation agenda being felt in the state, I am sure of these votes.”

This assertion notwithstanding, the ruling APC in Ogun State, contended that meeting the 25 per cent would be a Herculean task for Jonathan. A former national auditor of the PDP, Chief Bode Mustapha, said it was only in the imagination of the Jonathan supporters that such a feat could be achieved.

“Where are they going to get that? Well, let us wait and see. The Buhari-change syndrome is spreading to every nook and cranny of the state. The achievements of the incumbent governor here shall complement the votes for Buhari here. It is going to be maximum votes here,” Mustapha assured.

The former PDP top notch, who is now heading the campaign team for Sen. Ibikunle Amosun second term race, added that, “with the responsibility at my shoulder now, I am going to contest for every vote in Ogun State. I will personally go to all those that matter, particularly those still in the cloud, to convince them why APC should get the power at the centre and retain same in Ogun.

“Let them come and campaign and tell us why we should have them back in Abuja. The president had visited this state to commission industries more than ever before. So where do you think the votes will go to?

“Our people are wise now. Buhari is the candidate to beat in Ogun State and February 14 is just days away, we shall see,” Mustapha said.

However, observers are of the opinion that with myriads of challenges facing the two major parties, the other parties may perhaps capitalize on the situation to direct their followers to go for either Jonathan or Buhari. Such parties include the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Labour Party (LP) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), among others.

Feelers hinted that the SDP, with former Governor Chief Olusegun Osoba in control, may go for Jonathan. This is because of the issues he had with the leadership of his former APC and Amosun, which led to his defection and that of his followers to SDP last month.

Also, with the apparent romance between the leader of the UPN, Dr. Fredrick Faseun, and the presidency, sympathy votes could swing in the direction of Jonathan. More so, the two parties have no presidential candidates.

In the contrary, the recent fallout of the primaries in the PDP may be a major albatross, which could nail the party in the state. Findings revealed that aggrieved members, which include the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Dimeji Bankole, former Minister of Finance Jubril Martins Kuye and former Deputy governor Alh Rafiu Ogunleye are spoiling for a fight with the Buruji Kashamu group, whose faction produced almost 90 per cent of the candidates for the general elections.

As at Thursday, it was gathered that Amosun had reached out to the JMK group to seek his support for his second term run. A fallout of the meeting indicated that JMK followers are well disposed to going with APC. Also, father of the former speaker, Chief Alani Bankole, not satisfied with the manner the national body handled his son’s governorship ambition, which produced Gboyega Isiaka, may have sent a signal to Buhari to assure him of his tacit support.

These developments notwithstanding, the electorate strongly hold that it is time for change, after what they described as over 10 years of waiting on promises, in which Jonathan himself had spent six years. “We are ready to show that we cannot continue to wait for promises that never come. See, we are ready for the change,” Elder Olaniyan a community leader in Odeda local government said.

Olaniyan, a retired public servant, stressed that: “I have been monitoring the campaign and it is getting interesting. With the person seeking return dwelling much on sentiments rather than issues. We shall mobilize to vote out PDP come February 14 and we shall equally stand by our votes to ensure that they count,” he said.

Oyo: The political atmosphere in Oyo State is gradually becoming tense as preparations for the February 14, 2015 presidential election gather momentum.

One thing to note, however, is that the battle for the soul of the state in the forthcoming general elections lies with major governorship contenders. These are the incumbent governor, Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi of the APC; the former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, who is the flagbearer of the PDP; former governor of the state, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, who doubles as both the leader and gubernatorial candidate of Accord Party; Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, the immediate past governor of the state, who is currently the candidate of Labour Party and Engr. Seyi Makinde, who is flying the flag of the SDP in the state.

Of all the five, Alao-Akala used to be a frontline member of the PDP until he lost the gubernatorial ticket to Teslim Folarin. It was at that moment that Alao-Akala made a U-turn from the PDP and proceeded to the Labour Party which instantly offered him its flag. In the same vein, Seyi Makinde, who had similarly lost his bid for the governorship ticket under the PDP decamped into the SDP which offered him same and has been campaigning all about in that capacity.

It is noteworthy also that the ruling APC in Oyo State had few months ago, under unclear circumstances, lost its two senators to other political parties. Senator Ayo Adeseun representing Oyo Central Senatorial District decamped from the APC to the PDP in the heat of the campaigns for the 2015 polls. Adeseun has since been given the ticket by the PDP to contest the seat in the next dispensation. In the same vein, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin hitherto an APC senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District decamped from the APC and pitched his political tent with the Accord Party which has also given him the ticket to re-contest the seat. The third senatorial seat in the state, Oyo North Senatorial District, has been held by Senator Hosea Ayoola Agboola, the Senate Deputy Whip who has got the ticket from the PDP to re-contest the seat.

Even though the votes from the electorate in Oyo State would be shared among the APC, PDP, Accord Party, LP and SDP, none of the parties can boast of having the voters in the state in its pocket, not even the ruling party which is battling tooth and nail to mend its leaking house.

Political observers in Oyo State are insisting that for Governor Ajimobi to turn the table against his co-contenders, he has a lot of work to do to demystify the senators and other members of the national and state assemblies from the party from Oyo State, who had decamped to the opposition parties.

The decampees, whose grievances may not have been addressed by the APC, may resort to taking their pound of flesh from the ruling party in the state at the polls. However, with about one month to the elections, and given the fact that series of horse-trading are still ongoing amongst the various political parties, it is hard to predict whether or not the aching nerves would be healed and electoral alliances formed amongst the political leaders in Oyo State on what direction their followers should take before the D-Day.

Ondo: In Ondo State, the drama started in 2014 when politicians began decamping from one party to the other.

At the beginning of 2014, the ruling Labour Party led by the state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, was very much in control and had a strong grip on the state at all levels with the PDP coming second, while the APC was occupying the third position in the state.

But soon after, especially with the general election coming closer, some members of political parties started decamping. Some who followed the governor from the PDP to LP in 2008 started retracing their steps. They claimed they did not need “Iroko”, as Governor Mimiko is popularly called, to win most seats at all levels of government in subsequent elections and even in the 2015 re-election bid of President Ebele Jonathan.

First, it was Senator Boluwaji Kunlere representing Ondo South Senatorial District who first decamped from the LP to the PDP, followed by Hon. Gani Daodu representing Akoko North West and East Federal Constituency at the National Assembly who decamped from the PDP to the APC.

Two members of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Gbenga Edema representing Ilaje Constituency II and Hon. Folasade Olasehinde representing Ose Constituency also decamped from the LP to the APC.

Other political office holders both at the local government and ward levels also decamped from one party to the other.

Finally, it was the turn of the state governor, Dr. Mimiko who led all the members of the ruling LP, moving all the structure to the PDP.

With this development, the PDP became stronger, dominating more than 80 per cent at the state.

Soon after the defection of the governor, the old members of the PDP went on protest, saying they did not want the governor to take over the structure on ground.

The trouble within the PDP continued especially going by the primary elections that followed.

Two parallel elections were held both by the Mimiko-led faction and the old PDP, while a legal action was also taken to stop Mimiko by the Ebenezer Alabi led exco.

Efforts were made to resolve the issue and Alabi later tendered his resignation as chairman of the party.

But other PDP members also did not agree. Led by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, a businessman, the battle continued.

Now that the campaign has finally started and with the internal wrangling in the PDP, the APC is waxing stronger.

The presidential running mate of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who visited Akure, the state capital on Friday, witnessed a massive turnout. Observers alleged that most of those who participated in the walk were imported from the neighbouring state of Osun, a claim that was denied by the APC. According to Chief James Oluwole Kolawole, Ondo State co-ordinator of the Muhammadu Buhari Legacy Foundation (MBLF), the people came out because they want change.

“The South-West is mobilizing for Buhari, he will lead with a wide margin in the presidential election,” he boasted

Kolawole told Sunday Trust that the BMLF which is set-up for the propagation of the good legacy of the retired general has members in all the 302 units of the state and is well-grounded in the units.

According to Mr. Victor Olabimtan, one of the coordinators and a Federal Commissioner for Ondo, Ekiti and Edo states at the federal Civil Service Commission, the PDP is very much in charge. He said the crisis is over and they are set to deliver the state to President Jonathan.

President Jonathan is also expected to visit the state on Wednesday for the PDP campaign. For now the battle continues for the soul of the state on both sides.

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