By Ibidapo Balogun
That Labour Party is poised to make a major incursion into the All Progressives Party strongholds of South-west should be manifest enough to keen watchers of political developments in the country. The arrowhead of the bid to wrestle the zone from APC stranglehold is no other than LP Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, who has been working strenuously to win more converts for the party. From Ogun to Ekiti and now Oyo and Osun, the governor’s come-and-join-LP campaigns are in full swing. Mimiko, who early this year won re-election in Ondo during which he trounced both PDP and ACN (now APC), has since been joined in LP’s battle to challenge APC by former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
And LP’s rank in the zone is swelling by the day. With the recent defect
ion of Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele from Ekiti State, former Secretary to Osun State Government, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, and his ex-Oyo State counterpart, Alhaji Sharafadeen Alli, among others into LP, it seems there is no stopping Labour. These men are formidable in their own right and their defection has upped the ante for the party in the South-west.
But how far can the Mimiko-powered challenge go in the zone? Big question. Many analysts, however, contend that winning the zone for LP seems to be the on-the-surface ambition of Mimiko and his cohorts in LP, but that the real unstated objective is using the party as a lunching pad for winning the zone for President Jonathan in the 2015 election. Mimiko who is LP’s National Leader is a major ally of President Jonathan and he would do the president’s bidding any day. Recall his continued support for and association with Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang who was defeated in June by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi by 19 votes to 16 during the Nigerian Governors’ Forum election in Abuja. Jang was the President’s candidate in that NGF election. In fact, Mimiko was initially standing during the election as Jang’s deputy and Man Friday. But truth is the president has never really been without support in the South-west.
He had always enjoyed the goodwill of the people of the zone as it were. During the 2011 election, Jonathan made appreciable impact in the zone, even defeating the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria presidential candidate in the election, former EFCC Chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, in all the states in the zone except in Osun, where, however, the president still got his required 25 per cent. Many attribute the president’s performance largely to the last-minute deal President Jonathan allegedly cut with then ACN National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Support for the president appears to be on the downward trend at present in the zone. The ACN, now APC, appears to have drawn a battle line with the PDP over the zone and over the president re-election in 2015. It seems the duo of Tinubu and former Head of State, Major-General Muhamadu Buhari, have never been more determined to win the presidency in Abuja and put paid to Jonathan’s re-election bid. Can Mimiko and LP redraw the South-west’s political map? The South-west is one geopolitical bloc with one of the largest votes in the country and here the APC has one of its strongest strongholds. It would seem that it’s easier to get the required spread for the president in the zone, than for the PDP or LP to capture the zone outright. Capturing the zone would be a tough one indeed, but nothing, as they say, is impossible in politics.