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Presidential Poll: South-west as a Battleground

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President Jonathan knew he had serious work to do to record a good showing or completely win the South-west. His spin doctors had argued that he needed to win the zone to counter the big votes Buhari will likely record in the North-west. So, the moment the February 14 election was postponed by six weeks, President Jonathan was gifted more time (or he gave himself more time, through the security chiefs, appointed by him, who sought for the shift on security grounds) to move into the South-west, among other areas. The president virtually relocated to Dodan Barracks, the old seat of government in Lagos, from where he was holding court, meeting traditional rulers and top politicians in the zone. He later moved over to the various palaces of major traditional rulers in the South-west canvassing their support, receiving prayers and pledges from them and allegedly greasing their palms. A few weeks after February 14 and one week to the much-expected presidential poll, what has changed? WESTERN POST’s team across the South-west comprising OLAOLU BILAU, SAMUEL OGUNDIPE, ADEOLA OLADELE, TEMITOPE ADEDEJI, ADEMOLA ATOBABA and OLUYINKA KOLAWOLE present their verdict…

OYO

The six weeks postponement of the elections had enlivened President Jonathan’s campaign in the state. The Peoples Democratic Party gladiators in the state led by the president’s Campaign Coordinator in Oyo and Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, quickly increased their pace, criss-crossing the nooks and crannies of the state. Olajumoke had brought the erstwhile governorship aspirants in the state into the campaign with each of them heading each of the eight directorates of the campaign. The result: all of them were energised to campaign for the president. The minister claimed herself, the former governorship aspirants and the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Senator Teslim Folarin, were on the same page with respect to the presidential and governorship elections, but not much of that could be seen in the separate ways the presidential and gubernatorial campaigns are being mounted in the state. One issue being used by Jonathan’s men in the campaign is the demand for the creation of Ibadan State, which is said to be one of the new states recommended by the recent Abuja confab. The people of Ibadan and Ibarapa are being wooed with that demand, which the president’s men say will be implemented if Jonathan returns. How well that resonates with the people is yet unclear. The other issue is the outcome of the confab on granting regional autonomy, which they claimed Jonathan would faithfully implement. So the president’s men led by the Minister of State for FCT are all out campaigning; the likes of Chief Yekini Adeojo, Chief Lekan Balogun and former presidential aspirants like Dr. Taoheed Adedoja, Mr. Femi Babalola aka Jogor, Alhaji Kehinde Olaosebikan. Apart from the PDP gladiators, other governorship aspirants like former governor Rashidi Ladoja (Accord), former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala (Labour) and Engineer Seyi Makinde (Social Democratic Party) are all rooting for the president. Ladoja and Alao-Akala, whose Labour Party has even adopted Jonathan as its presidential candidate, had both been reportedly mobilised to support Jonathan. All these seem to have raised the support base and are expected to pull more votes for Jonathan.

But the APC presidential candidate Buhari has a cult-like following in the state and buoyed by some remarkable performance of Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Buhari is expected to do very well in the state. In the end, the race may be tight in Oyo, but Buhari may have an edge.

VERDICT

*Jonathan and Buhari have a 50-50 chance of winning the state, but Buhari has a slim edge.  

EKITI

Ekiti had always been a sure bet for President Jonathan before and even after the six-week postponement of the election, and this scenario is not likely to change much. With a rampaging Governor Ayo Fayose who remains a thorn in the flesh of General Buhari and APC, the Ekiti story may hardly change. But some segments of the state are beginning to see that there is not much to Fayose, their governor. Though a grassroots politician, some in the state are yet to point to what he has done since October that he mounted the saddle, except to incessantly mount unprintable diatribes against Buhari and APC. “Again, this election is not about Fayose, it’s about who will be president of Nigeria,” one politician who pleaded not to be named said. The APC is yet to fully prove the Ekiti rigging saga purportedly unearthed by a video, which has gone viral, so that may not affect the result of the poll. However, APC stalwarts like former governor Kayode Fayemi, former governor and the party’s Deputy National Chairman Segun Oni, and the party’s chairman in the state, Chief Olajide Awe, among others are pulling all stops to pull the votes for Buhari and this can be gleaned from the mammoth crowd that greeted Buhari’s rally in Ado-Ekiti the other day.

VERDICT

*Barring any unforeseen circumstance, Ekiti remains a sure haven for Jonathan, but Buhari would record a good showing.

ONDO

Governor Olusegun Mimiko is there in Ondo as the main foot-soldier of President Jonathan in the state. Popularly called Iroko, the king of tree in the forest, Mimiko remains an influential politician in the state, and perhaps beyond, no wonder the president made him his Campaign Coordinator in the South-west barely a few weeks after he again returned to PDP. Apart from his influence in PDP circles, Mimiko has also been using his protégés in his old party, Labour Party, to drum support for President Jonathan. The Ondo governor’s main weapon is to use the instrumentality of the post-Abuja National Conference forums, which he has convened in virtually all the states in the zone, drawing the presence of old politicians in the zone like Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Prof. Dupe Olatubosun and Oodua Peoples Congress leaders like Dr. Fredrick Fasehun and Chief Gani Adams, to draw support for Jonathan. Most of the people attending the forums were delegates to the confab and the message is that the president is ready to implement the confab recommendations particularly as they affect the South-west. How much of that would pull the votes for Jonathan across the zone is yet to be seen. But Ondo remains a sure bet for the president any day. The internal wrangling in PDP in Ondo, though yet to be fully settled, may not affect Jonathan’s showing because all the warring factions are united in respect of the president’s election.

As for the APC, however, there is not much to show that the party has moved beyond where it was when it came third behind Labour Party and PDP in the 2012 governorship election in the state, though when it comes to Buhari, the general is a crowd puller in the state. Will this big crowd at his rallies in the state result in big votes? Big question!

VERDICT

*Ondo is a sure haven for President Jonathan, but Buhari will make a good showing.

Osun

In recent times since the postponement, President Goodluck Jonathan had consolidated on his campaign in the State of Osun with a visit to the Oni of Ife, His Royal Highness, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse and Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran. About 50 other traditional rulers from the state and environs had received the president, giving him their backing.

Whether the presidential visit and alleged endorsement by the Obas will spring the votes for Jonathan is yet to be seen. Beyond this, Jonathan’s foot soldiers in the state including, Senators Iyiola Omisore and Engr. (Dr.) Jide Adeniyi, the FERMA boss and PDP Presidential Campaign Coordinator for the state are living no stone unturned in the quest for the president’s re-election.

The PDP candidate had also given further assurances he would correct the low representation of the South-west in his government, promising to also implement the report of the confab.

However, nothing has really changed with the Buhari campaign in the state, which remained largely in the hands of the State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who had been promoting the presidential campaign alongside other candidates of the APC in the state. Aregbesola is Buhari’s campaign coordinator in the South-west.

Observers believe General Buhari stand a good chance of clinching the state due to the influence of Governor Aregbesola whose second term victory is already seen as a boost for the APC in the presidential election. Beside, a mammoth crowd which received Buhari when his presidential campaign train landed in Osogbo even late in the night is a sign of the massive following that Buhari enjoys in the state.

Apart from Aregbesola, other foot soldiers for Buhari include former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor Isiaka Adeleke, Chief Bisi Akande and the three APC senators in the state among others.

VERDICT

•Osun seems a sure bet for Buhari but Jonathan may also do well in the state.

LAGOS and OGUN

President Goodluck Jonathan and his major challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), have targeted Lagos and Ogun States with incessant campaigning, churning out a slew of television ads and nonstop political horse trading in these states believed to be swing states.

This observers believed was due to realization of the importance of both Lagos and Ogun States in the election: The two don’t just make the most contiguous in the country but also the most interspersed with a combined total of 4.6million votes between them, with Ogun having about 904,000 of those, according to updated INEC PVC collection list.

Demographics of the Center of Excellence and Gateway State, in many respects, WESTERN POST gathered closely reflect that of the country at large. Criteria known to influence voting, such as age, race, or gender happen to be representative of the national statistics in these two states. The large number of electorate and a consistently high-information voter have forced the two candidates to sink a large chunk of their campaign war chest there.

President Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo have visited Lagos a combined 7 times since the election was postponed 5 weeks ago. General Buhari’s two-week working visit to the United Kingdom has made it impossible for him to visit Lagos more than 2 times since then, but his running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, lives in Lagos and he’d been meeting with people in the grassroots.

President Jonathan has visited Ogun State 3 times since the postponement to carry out, amongst other things, a warming hands-on approach to complement the efforts of his political foot soldiers in the state. General Buhari has not returned to Ogun State since he first stopped at Abeokuta and Ijebu-Ode at the height of his campaign in January, but his running mate, who’s from the state, has visited a considerable amount of times to stump for his principal.

The two camps maintain a significant presence in either of the states. While President Jonathan has only his political associates to deploy; General Buhari can draw confidence from the states’ popular governors who’re members of his party.

Amongst those strategising for Jonathan in Lagos State are: Chief Olabode George, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State Foreign Affairs II, Chief Adeseye Ogunlewe and Captain Tunji Shelle. On Buhari’s side are: Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor ‘Tunde Fashola, Senator Ganiu Solomon and Mr. Henry Ajomale.

Jonathan’s major associates in Ogun State include; Prince Buruji Kashamu, former Governor Gbenga Daniel, Chief ‘Segun Osoba and Engr. Bayo Dayo. Buhari has Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Chief Bisi Adegbuyi, Mr. Dapo Abiodun and Mr. Fola Adeola as his most prominent associates in Ogun State.

President Jonathan is expected to consolidate the efforts of whatever is left of his PDP structure in Ogun State with that of Chief Osoba’s SDP, but a largely united and coherent APC electioneering, analysts say, could neuter this alliance.

The absence of top political heavyweights like Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye and Rt. Hon. ‘Dimeji Bankole is as a result of the fallout that vitiated the PDP’s primaries in Ogun State. It is believed that the political wards of these two are currently working for the reelection of Governor Amosun, which could end up affecting Jonathan’s chances in the state, adversely.

The palpable improvement in the war against Boko Haram as recorded by Jonathan’s administration has continued to reverberate even louder in these two states, but their political sophistication, analysts say, may explain why they’ve maintained ample indifference to the progress. This is why General Buhari is still believed to be the favourite in the two states.

The Igbos are still expected to pick President Jonathan over Buhari by a large margin, but the president’s gesture towards the Yoruba electorate will prove extremely pivotal. The electoral fortune this gesture will give the PDP can be deciphered from the APC’s relentless cocooning over Jonathan’s visit to the Southwest.

VERDICT

•Buhari and Jonathan to slug it out in the two states.

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