As part of last efforts to win the March 28 elections, President Goodluck Jonathan is set to sign an undertaking with leaders of the South-West.
He has also appealed to traditional rulers from the geo-political
zone to support him in his desire to be re-elected.
Investigations by our correspondents showed that the plea was the thrust of Jonathan’s message to the traditional rulers when he met with them behind closed doors on Friday and Saturday.
According to the thinking of the Peoples Democratic Party top echelon and campaign organisation, for President Jonathan to emerge winner in the rescheduled polls, he needs to win the South-West which is the geo-political zone with the second largest number of voters. It has over 13 million voters.
The North-West, where the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Maj.Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), hails from, is the largest geo-political zone with not less than 18 million registered voters.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the recent four-day visit of the President to the South-West where he visited Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states is to ensure that he gets the majority votes in the zone especially in the face of the fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had dropped his support for him.
Jonathan visited monarchs in the Ogun-Central Senatorial District which are of Egba extraction, the same region where Obasanjo hails from on Friday.
President Jonathan also visited the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi II and the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Ajagungbade also in Oyo State on Saturday.
The President, was accompanied on the visit to the Oyo State monarchs by several PDP chieftains including its National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel, Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory, Jomoke Akinjide and Senator Ayo Adeseun.
The traditional rulers who attended the meeting with Jonathan in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital were about 20 and they were led by the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo. Others at the meeting included the Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Michael Sonariwo; and the Olowu of Owu, Oba Dosunmu.
However, the Awujale and the Paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, and Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle were absent.
A source at the Abeokuta meeting told one of our correspondents in confidence on Saturday that the sole agenda of the meeting was the presidential election.
“This is an election period. What else did you expect the President to tell them? He asked for their support in the forthcoming elections,” the source said.
A former Minister of Works, Chief Adeseye Ogunlewe, told one of our correspondents on the telephone on Saturday that the Yoruba elders lamented that the people of the South-West had been marginalised in the Jonathan administration.
He said the Yoruba leaders asked Jonathan to put into writing that if he wins the March 28 elections, Yorubas would be given key positions in his government.
Ogunlewe said, “The President was here for our support in the South-West which he will need in order to weaken the effect of the North-West. He met with our leaders and Obas and discussions and negotiations are on-going.
“Specifically, the Yoruba leaders lamented that there was no Yoruba person in the top 15 positions in this country. The only position that we were to get, which was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was blocked by Bola Tinubu.
“So, the President has been asked to put it into writing that Yoruba will be given top positions during his next term and also implement the resolutions of the National Conference with regards to the Yoruba. I was not part of the meeting which is being held by the most senior Yoruba elders but I am aware that discussions are still on.”
The founder of the Odua Peoples Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, also said Yoruba elders had decided to support Jonathan based on his promise to implement the National Conference report.
Fasehun said, “The promise he gave us is that if he comes back for a second term, he will ensure that the decisions of the Confab are perfected and implemented as soon as he comes in. The Yoruba want self-determination within the federation that will ensure their form of government and politics and want to be able to develop their own region.”
In Oyo the President and the Alaafin had a closed-door meeting at the inner chamber of the Alaafin. A palace source, who preferred anonymity, said, “Baba (Alaafin) is father to all and top profile politicians seek his support and advice. Jonathan was here to discuss the coming election with the Alaafin and how the Yoruba will support him. As a father, Jonathan must have asked his royal blessing and how to go about for his campaign in the South-West.”
It was learnt that although the monarchs agreed that the zone lost the speakership of the House of Representatives to politics in the House, the President should have addressed the marginalisation of the zone through other appointments.
It was gathered that the Obas felt that the marginalisation of the zone was glaring as it was not represented in top eight positions in the country.
Currently the President is from the South-South; Vice-President, North-West; Senate President, North-Central; Deputy Senate President, South-East; Speaker of the House of Representatives, North-West; Deputy Speaker, South-East; Chief Justice of Nigeria, North-East and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, South-East.
An Egba chief, who was privy to the meeting at Olorunshogo on Friday, but pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, told one of our correspondents that the Obas also demanded better representation of the Yoruba in the Jonathan’s government.
He stated, “Lagos-Abeokuta road also came into focus as the Peoples Democratic Party government has not been able to complete the construction of the road in the last 16 years even when Obasanjo (former President Olusegun Obasanjo), an indigene of the state was in government.
“The demand was also made for more relevant and powerful appointments in this government. Besides the minister of agriculture, other positions being held by the South-West are either ministers of state or ministry such as the police that is not powerful.”
S/west can’t be bought —APC
To counter the President and the PDP, the All Progressives Congress has increased the tempo of its consultations with the traditional institution as well as powerful groups to counter moves by the ruling PDP to improve its standing in the South West.
Our correspondents gathered in Abuja, on Saturday that, although party leaders had said they were not losing sleep over moves being made by the PDP, they were also not leaving anything to chance.
A high ranking member of the party who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity said, “If you know the politics of the South West you will understand that the desperation of the PDP is pushing them to make fundamental errors.
“One, they are meeting with the wrong people. Tell me, can Afenifere swing anything in their favour? Our people are now more enlightened than they were before.
“If you recall, we in the South-West are still suffering from the mistake we made by surrendering the structure of the Alliance for Democracy to the PDP. How much money can compensate for our marginalisation by Jonathan and his gang?
“For us, we are meeting the key people, our respected traditional leaders, the market women and our intelligentsia.”
Responding to inquiries on the issue, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said, “To be honest with you, we are not losing sleep over the desperate attempt by the PDP to rewrite history.
“Today, Nigerians know that the APC is a movement which time has come. Tell me, who among those leaders who they are busy dolling out money to can win their wards?
“Tell me, who will vote for a party and a candidate that has so mismanaged the economy that one Dollar is now exchanging for N218? Is it that woman in Balogun market that used to exchange the Naira to the dollar at $1-N160?
“Our only worry is that where is the money the PDP campaign organisation is giving out to people coming from at a time the Naira is on a free fall? Where are these billions of Naira coming from?”
Jonathan’s visit shouldn’t be politicised —PDP
But the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisah Metuh, said that the President’s visit to the South-West should not be politicised.
According to him, Jonathan is on a working visit to the zone, where he has been commissioning projects. These, he said, showed that Nigeria was moving forward.
Metuh stated, “Anything he does as the President of Nigeria should not be politicised. People are impressed with the projects that are being done and commissioned all over the country. The South-West is not an exemption.
“The naval warship and the mega power project that he commissioned in the South-West are very important. Nigeria is moving forward. Nigeria is changing and the people are happy. Transformation is taking place in the whole country, not just the South-West.”