By CLIFORD NDUIJIHE
THE national secretaryship slot is the highest executive party position allotted to the South-West geo-political zone by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) apart from the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT), which is in the firm grips of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Being the only seat on offer, leading politicians on the banner of the PDP in the zone are in a rat-race to grab the position. Aside political pedigree and experience, the aspirants are deploying whatever edge and advantage they have into the race, including state of origin.

At the last count, the number of aspirants has risen to 13. They include former Transport Minister, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, current National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke; former Education Minister, Professor Tunde Adeniran; former Integration in Africa Minister, Chief Dapo Sarumi; former House of Representatives member, Hon. Moshood Adegoke Salvador; veteran Lagos State governorship aspirant, Barrister Owolabi Salis; former Lagos State Deputy Governor, Otunba Femi Pedro.

Mascots on parade at the PDP Presidential campaign in Abuja.

Others are Chief Oladimeji Fabiyi;  former Sports Minister, 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.

The contest is being dominated by Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti states, which has at least three contenders.

Some forces in PDP are pushing Lagos to produce the chief scribe because Lagos has no minister of origin and the problems of PDP in the South-West seem to have root Lagos hence the need empower the state to create value for PDP in the South-West.

However, there are also those, who want the party hierarchy to reward performance and allow Oyo State to produce the secretary. 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. The only state it made appreciable impact, winning some legislative seats, was in Oyo State.

Aspirants talk tough

Meanwhile, ahead of the March 24 exercise, a host of the aspirants have been talking tough regarding their chances, pedigree and what they would do to oil the engine room of the party and thereby reposition the PDP, if elected. They 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.

I ‘ll make PDP a force to be reckoned with in Africa – Babatope

Babatope, who is also a member of the BOT, said he has the contacts and experience to reposition the PDP and promised to do if chosen.

Dismissing as false impressions that party leaders in the zone had anointed Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo as the consensus candidate for the position, the Second Republic politician hoped to sail with the support of PDP leaders across the country especially from his home state of Osun. He also hoped that the party would reclaim South-West in coming elections.

“I am confident that with the endorsement the Osun State leaders of my party gave to me, It is obvious that we are more determined now than ever before. When we take the state back, we will work hard to retain power. We will never underrate the opposition parties especially the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).”

“We are striving very hard to ensure that we have collective leadership and focus, not only for the convention, but for the future elections. We are determined to recapture states taken over in the zone by the opposition party in the last election. I can assure Nigerians that by the year 2014 when we will have governorship election in my state (Osun), we will definitely going to win. We have realized that we made some mistakes in the last election and we will not allow it to happen again. What are we members fighting and quarreling for? What is important is the enhancement of the greatness of the party.

PDP will still take over Southwest zone again. We are sufficiently strong in the zone. In Oyo State, former governor Otunba Alao Akala and his former boss, Rashidi Ladoja who were PDP members faced each other in the last election and when the results were announced, the votes of Akala and Ladoja were more than 200,000 above that of the Governor Abiola Ajimobi. It means that if we have united all our forces in the state, we would have won the opposition.

PDP needs men with proven records – Sarumi

Indeed, Sarumi, one of the founders of the PDP and former national vice chairman, said he has the political experience and clout to scribble effectively for the party.

His words: “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.

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.”

 

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,  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 that he would make the PDP Secretariat IT-compliant.

 

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