16th March, 2012
As the hands of the clock ticks towards the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, national convention slated for March 24 , the battle for the party’s National Secretary zoned to the South-West is becoming more intense by the day.
The race has been a hot political battle between the political gladiators in the six states Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti that make up the South-West.
Political Platform reliably gathered that only a few of the aspirants are said to have actually reached out to party members beyond their immediate constituencies, ostensibly for logistic reasons.
Some of the candidates for the position include Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, Chief Tunde Daramola, Chief Dapo Sarumi, Chief Olu Ojo, Owolabi Salis, Femi Pedro and Chief Olusole Oke among others.
It was further gathered that various methods have been employed by the contestants to reach members of the party across the country. While some have engaged in marathon campaigns across all the states of the federation, others have limited their activities to within the zone.
Ebenezer Babatope, a prolific writer and former Minister of Transport learnt the rudiment of politics at the feet of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was the Director of Organisation of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
The former student leader has the ability to aggregate shades of opinions and make out of them, a solid position that may be difficult to puncture.
One major factor that will work against him is the ambition of the incumbent National Vice-Chairman (South-West) of the PDP, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo, who is bidding to return to the office. Babatope and Oladipo are both from Osun State. The state cannot produce two important national offices zoned to the South-West.
Prof. Tunde Adeniran is a former Minister of Education. A former boss of the defunct Mass Mobilisation for Social and Economic Justice and Self-Reliance, MAMSER, he led the team that organised the PDP national convention to elect its standard-bearer last year.
The professor of Political Science is always a rallying point in the PDP in Ekiti State. Though he is said to have been the brain behind some major policy papers of the party and a bridge builder, his academic approach to issues may not appeal to some of the party bigwigs.
He is highly favoured for the position and there are reports that former President Obasanjo is rooting for him. He hails from Ekiti and the state has not produced a national officer of the PDP since the return of democracy in 1999.
Olusola Oke is currently the National Legal Adviser of the party, a position he has held in the last four years. Oke is the only candidate from Ondo State. He has good rapport with party members that cut across all the states where the party is controlling, but Oke is said to be far away from grassroots politicking.
Taoheed Adedoja, a former Minister of Education and Sports is a grassroots mobiliser. He has gone round the country, campaigning for the plum job and his relying heavily on most of his party associates outside his zone to vote for him, though some believe that he is not well versed in the nitty gritty of party politics, especially at the national level.
Chief Dapo Sarumi is foundation member of the party and one-time Minister of Information. There is less attraction to his ambition by the party stakeholders. His exit from the party to the Progressive Alliance Congress, PAC, and his earlier romance with the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, is a minus to his ambition.
Olu Ojo is the chairman of the party in Ekiti State and a member of the 2011 National Presidential Convention Planning Committee and currently Secretary, Conference of PDP State Chairmen.
Though Ojo is seen as a grassroots mobiliser, rugged and energetic in campaign strategy, his limited exposure on internal workings of party at the national level may jeopardise his chances. He has Prof. Adeniran to contend with in Ekiti for the position.
Tunde Daramola was a chieftain of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP, and later the Alliance for Democracy, AD. He has served as member, Planning and Strategic Committee of the South-West PDP; delegate to the PDP national convention in 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2009.
He has also served as the Secretary of the party in Lagos and has the ability to organise political activities, but not really known outside Lagos State politics.
Femi Pedro came into political limelight in 2003 after former Governor Bola Tinubu, then of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, picked him as his deputy to replace Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor who was impeached by the state House of Assembly.
He left the party in the wake of his gubernatorial ambition in 2006 to join the Labour Party, LP, under which he contested the governorship of the state and lost.
However, his late entrance into the race and poor political structure may be his undoing. Pedro is not also popular within the party. Even when he contested for the party’s governorship primaries in 2011, he performed below expectation.
Rashidi Ladoja’s return to the party may eventually change the political calculation in Oyo State. After a series of meeting with elders of the party, especially the one that was held in his residence in Ibadan with the National Vice Chairman (South-West) of the party, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo, he is also being tipped for the party’s national secretary.
He is said to have the right contacts and financial muscle for the position.
As events unfold, the days ahead will prove who is the anointed candidate for the party’s National Secretary.