Nigeria Decides 2023: South West: PDP, APC draw battleline
From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) has never hidden its desire to control the politics of the South West geo-political zone. Since the inception of the current democratic dispensation, in 1999, the PDP has been in opposition in the South West, except in the 2003 general elections, where it won the governorship seats in five out of the six states in the zone, including Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun.
Again, in the run-up to 2023 polls, the PDP is approaching the electoral contest with renewed vigour. Few months back, the party had won the governorship contest in Osun State. The Osun victory, which increased the number of PDP governors in the zone to two, has apparently increased the confidence of the opposition party ahead of next year’s general elections.
This is because unlike the 2019 general elections, where the opposition party contested without any governor, the PDP would be going into the 2023 contest with two governors.
Last week, the PDP flagged off its presidential campaign rally in the South West, in Akure, the Ondo State capital, with funfare. The rally, which attracted a large turnout of PDP supporters in the state is believed to be one of the best so far staged by the opposition party in its ongoing 2023 campaign, in terms of organization.
Different speakers at the rally charged the people of Ondo State and the South West to reject the All Progressives Congress ( APC ) in next year’s polls, noting that the ruling party had nothing positive to show for the last seven and half years it had been in power.
Pundits say what the PDP did with the Akure rally was akin to drawing a battle line with the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, who hails from the South West.
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, while addressing the mammoth crowd at the rally, had noted that the party’s decision to start its 2023 campaigns in the South West from Ondo State was deliberate. Atiku said it was largely to thank the people for their massive support in the 2019 polls, where they voted overwhelmingly for the PDP.
According to him, “we are starting our campaign rally from the South West in Ondo State; it is deliberate because we want to show you that we appreciate what you have done to us in the last election. By giving us the highest votes in the Southwest, we will never forget you, that is why if you repeat the support again, we promise we will definitely deal with insecurity. We will eliminate it.”
After the Ondo rally, the PDP campaign trail berthed in Lagos, where Atiku urged the people to take their destiny in their hands in 2023.
PDP national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, told Daily Sun that the rally was a bold statement on the preparation of the opposition party to dislodge the APC from the South West in 2023. According to him, the attendance at the Ondo campaign is an indication of the readiness of the people of the state, and the South West to pitch their tent with the major opposition party in next year’s general elections.
Ologunagba said: “The rally in Ondo State is significant in so many ways particularly for the South West. One, it represents the gateway to the South West. Ondo State represents the gateway to the South West.
“In 2019, in the whole of the South West, the Ondo people decided that they have had enough of the APC and the pain and the misery that they have brought to the Ondo people. And they decided that for the presidential election and other elections, they voted for the PDP. And it must be noted that the Ondo people delivered the highest vote in the whole of the South West for Atiku Abubakar, then presidential candidate( in 2019)..
“Added to this is that the PDP in Ondo State is unified under the leadership of Eyitayo Jegede (SAN). Again, the personality of this individual with his leadership style, he led us in the state in 2019 to achieve the feat, without a governor, or senator.
“For the 2023 polls, the Ondo people have decided that they will be going with the PDP, because the failure of the APC at both the state and federal level is so manifest. Ondo State is largely a civil service state, an agrarian community where the people depended largely on agriculture, education. All these sub-sectors have been destroyed by the APC government in Ondo State.”
Ologunagba,believes that with two governorship seats, already in its kitty, the PDP will sweep the polls in the South West.
He noted that the party working together with Governors Seyi Makinde and Ademola Adeleke of Oyo and Osun states respectively, is poised to build on its successes in the Osun gubernatorial poll to win the South West in the next polls. He explained that the victory that the opposition party secured in the last Osun governorship contest, is a sign of things to come.
Former PDP National Vice Chairman, South West, Eddy Olafeso, concures. Olafeso told Daily Sun that “the symbolism of the victory in Osun is the fact that it is the home base of the APC candidate. And if he has been uprooted from Osun, then what is left for him?”
The PDP leader noted that “everybody was thinking that ( Osun) was their (APC) strongest base in the South West; but it has been taken out. It just shows that the APC has nothing to offer the Nigerian people anymore. And I am very confident that across the South West, the PDP will do far better.
“Don’t look further to see the reason why people prefer the PDP. In 2015, you know the pump price of petrol. In 2015, you know how much a bag of rice is bought. In 2015, you know the exchange of the dollar. In 2015, you know the state of security and insecurity. Look at what has happened today. Senseless, needless killings. Violence all over the land. Kidnapping and banditry.
“I think the Nigerian people are just firing the warning signal to the APC that enough is enough. And we are going to win the South West too.”
Recently, the PDP chairman, Iyorchia Ayu had boasted that the party will win the governorship poll in Lagos State in 2023 polls. Lagos is the only state the opposition party has not produced a governor in the South West since 1999.
Ayu, who spoke while receiving the report of the Eyitayo Jegede-led peace panel for Lagos, said “ Lagos is again looking very promising. PDP will have a governor in Lagos and several positions, the Senate, House of Assembly and so many other positions and of course crown it with the massive victory of our presidential candidate. We defeated the Lion of Bourdillon in Osun and we want to finish the good job in his residence in Bourdillon.”
Ologunagba shares the same sentiment. According to the opposition spokesman, “if there is anywhere the strangulating and the suffocating effect of the APC can be felt more, it is in Lagos State. It is always like a fiefdom of an individual. Where for every amount you pay as tax, an individual takes some percentage that is completely so obscene for doing nothing. So, the Lagos people are willing to rescue themselves.”
The optimism of the PDP leaders, notwithstanding, analysts say internal wrangling may be the undoing of the party in the South West zone. The opposition party has been contending with infighting among some of its leaders in some state chapters.
However, the PDP spokesman, who stated that conflict cannot be completely ruled out in any human organisation, said the party is working round the clock to resolve all the issues amongst the various stakeholders before the 2023 polls. Ologunagba explained that recently, the Jegede-led Reconciliation Committee was able to broker peace between warring factions in the Osun and Lagos chapters of the party.
He said no stone will be left unturned in the party’s quest to unite its members ahead of the 2023 polls. According to him: “We are making so much progress. Our different stakeholders are working together, and the election will reflect that.”