BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
WITH the national convention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) slated for February, leading politicians from the South-West geo-political zone have thrown their hats into the arena in the battle for the national secretary slot zoned to the area.
At the last count, about 10 politicians have joined the race. They include former Transport Minister, Chief Ebenezer Babatope; incumbent National Legal Adviser of the party, Chief Olusola Oke; former Minister of Integration in Africa, Chief Dapo Sarumi; former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran; veteran Lagos State governorship aspirant, Barrister Owolabi Salis.
Others include the immediate past Minister of Sports, Professor Taoheed Adedoja; former Ekiti State PDP Chairman, Chief Bola Olu-Ojo; former Secretary to the Ekiti State Government, Ambassador Dare Bejide; Dr. Saka Balogun; and Dr. Nureni Adeniran. Balogun and Adeniran both served in the administration of former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State as Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Education, respectively.
Foot soldiers for aspirants
Currently, foot soldiers of some of the aspirants have fanned out to different parts of the country, canvassing support for their principals. Some of the aspirants on their part have been talking tough, marshaling how they would do improve the lot of the PDP in the South-West, if elected.
At the last general elections, the PDP fared miserably in the South-West losing all the governorship slots on offer to the opposition. It had earlier lost Ondo, Ekiti and Osun governorship slots through the law courts. It also lost command of the federal and state legislative seats, which it had held since 2003.
Leading contenders for the PDP national scribe are mindful of the declining electoral fortunes of the party in the region and claim to have the magic wand and experience to turn things around for the PDP.
PDP needs men with proven records – Sarumi
Indeed, Sarumi, one of the founders of the PDP, who subsequently defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but returned to the Umbrella recently, said he has the political experience and clout to scribble effectively for the party.
His words: “After much reflection on the state of our party and the upcoming national convention, I have decided to once again offer myself to serve our great party and indeed our dear country Nigeria through the position of the office of national secretary of the party.
“My decision to join the race is informed by my strong conviction that our great party at this juncture of its life is in dire need of men with proven track record and a dogged and committed administrator, who will provide exemplary leadership for our party _ by far the largest political party in Africa and give it needed tonic to galvanise it for the task of sustaining our democracy.
“I have decided to put my wealth of experience as one of its founding fathers, at the disposal of the party in its effort to strengthen its internal democracy and provide quality leadership to enable it face the ever increasing challenge of coherent and far sighted leadership for the nation at this period of its existence.
“As a former national vice chairman of the PDP from the south west and somebody who has served our dear country and by extension our party, it is my considered view that I possess the required qualities to lift our party and give it the required leadership for the onerous task ahead.”
We must sustain PDP’s winning streak – Salis
Owolabi Salis, an attorney and renowned chartered accountant, said his declaration to vie for the seat was borne out of desire to join hands with fellow compatriots “in the avowed drive to position the party for a resounding victory in the 2015 election and steer it to greater frontiers in the political leadership of the nation.”
He described the PDP as the biggest political party in Africa and a symbol of national pride, which also epitomized the unity in diversity, which is the cardinal vision of the founding fathers of the nation.
Asserting that the hope for a united Nigeria “lies in the PDP, by virtue of its all_ encompassing nature and the frame work it provides for an ideal project of national integration,” Salis said party was not built around any individual like most of the opposition political parties.
“It is against this background therefore, that I emphasize the need to hold aloft the winning streak of the party, and its dominance in the Nigerian political firmament because the failure of PDP will surely spell the failure of Nigeria just as the failure of Nigeria holds the ominous implication of the failure of PDP,” he said in a statement.
If elected, the two -time Lagos governorship contender, said he would inject “a greater vigour, drive, impetus, momentum ,dexterity and creative ingenuity towards enhancing the collective vision of steering our great and progressive party to greater pre_ eminence in the Nigerian political firmament.”
He continued: “We can also see how the opposition are so restless, as they contrive the most vicious propaganda stunt through the media, in the bid to run down our party , the PDP and the progressively forward looking administration of our beloved president , Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan.
“What the fore_going therefore calls for, is to be proactive and ensure that we match them word for word, and grit for grit, by counteracting them, promptly, and swiftly too on all fronts. We cannot therefore afford to rest and lie in supine stupor, while the adversary are at their vicious best, hurling their shrapnel with their mischievous vision of anihilating the party, and all the noble values its stands for.
It is in view of this scenario, that a vibrant party machinery, peopled with experienced, talented and competent hands, becomes utmostly apposite. I express without being immodest that I fit the bill.”
To realise his quest, Salis recently sent consent request letter to key members of the party, detailing his contributions to the party, impressive educational attainment, experience and how he would improve the electoral lot of the party among others.
I’ll run the secretariat like an engine room – Adedoja
On his part, Adedoja, who joined the race on September 15, said he would run an ICT-driven secretariat, if elected.
The former Oyo State Education Commissioner, said that he would make the PDP Secretariat IT-compliant because the position of National Secretary of any party is its “engine room”, especially in view of the Federal Government’s transformation agenda.
He said: “I believe that I am eminently well-positioned and qualified with the energy to drive PDP to the next millennium. This is because PDP requires members who will not only see it as an avenue of ascending to elective position but also as a party that is supposed to have conscious efforts for the welfare of its members.
“Usually, activities of political parties are known only when election is coming up; that is the kind of thinking and orientation that my assuming the secretary of the party would change.”
On his chances given the array of experienced politicians on the prowl, the aspirant, who described PDP as a party which its uniqueness “lies in the fact that the party has put in place, sustainable programmes that will make life meaningful to the people in the areas of education, said, “I think the more the people that come out for a position shows how important the position is and I am very happy about the calibre of people, who are coming out to contest the position of National Secretary of PDP that is zoned to the South-West.
The South-West must produce its best and I strongly believe that I am one of the best and that is why I am coming up. And with my position as a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, working with the current government in the last dispensation, I feel highly experienced and I believe I will use this experience to better the cause of PDP as a party.”
To garner support for his aspiration, Adedoja, who urged that the seat be specifically zoned to Oyo State because the state “contributed beyond any other state in the South_West towards the electoral fortune of PDP during the last 2011 general elections, said he had been making consultations across the 36 states of the country.
As the national convention billed for January draws nearer, more politicians are expected to join the race. It is to be seen how far the contenders would go in their quest to man the engine room of Wadata Plaza.