By Bolaji Buhari
The South-West Zone of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has endorsed Mr. Peter Obi’s VP candidacy and urged the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to give more key positions to the zone if he emerges as president.
While congratulating Abubakar on his emergence as presidential candidate, the zone was it was pleased with the choice of Obi, a former governor of Anambra State, as his running mate.
He said the country was faced with serious economic challenges, and Obi had the pedigree that could realise the party’s economic vision for Nigeria.
The South-West Vice-Chairman of the party, Dr Eddy Olefeso, made the zone’s position known in Lagos on Friday night, at a meeting of key members across the six states in the zone.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the meeting, which lasted hours, had in attendance a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George; the current Deputy National Chairman (South),Chief Yemi Akinwonmi; and a former National Vice Chairman of the party, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo.
Also present were former Minister of State for Defence, Mrs Sola Obada; a former Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Alhaja Makanjuola Badru; and a member of the National Assembly, Sen. Abiodun Olujimi.
The party’s governorship candidate in Oyo State, Mr Seyi Makinde; the governorship candidate in Ogun, Mr Ladi Adebutu; and a former governorship aspirant in Osun State, Chief Akin Ogunbiyi, were also at the meeting, among others.
Olafeso said though the promise of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) slot by Atiku was a good development, the zone deserved more key political and government positions.
The Vice-Chairman said that the zone had been schemed out in the power arrangement of the party for the past few years.
Olafeso said for Atiku to give the zone a sense of belonging and compensate “for the years of abandonment”, he should zone key positions of the Chief of Staff to the President and Àttorney-General of the Federation to the South-West in addition to the SGF.
He said the South-West had the second highest voting population in the country and would demand its fair share of political positions if PDP wins in 2019.
“We have been denied for too long. In 2011, the country under the control of our party zoned the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the zone and it was taken away.
“And from 2011 to 2015, we were left just like that and the reverberating effect of that abandonment is the reason why we are still having the hangover of neglect till today.
“Now we are here again, the party is working with a zone with 14million votes, the second largest in the country. We refuse and we will not accept where we finish the job in the next election and for one reason or the other, we will not be considered.
“We don’t have to wait till after the election before we say what we want. We want to let the party and our candidate know that certain positions are strategic to governance and we want them.
“Yes, the SGF is great, but there is nothing wrong with having the Chief of Staff and Attorney-General on top of it to compensate us for the denials of the past, so that all of us can work as a united front.
“We will continue to fight for it, we will speak with a loud voice. We give so much, so the zone deserves a lot,” he said.
Olafeso said the zone was concerned about the travails of former governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over a case.
He urged members of the party to stand with Fayose at his trying moment, saying the former governor was paying for being truthful and standing against injustice.
“I was in the court the last time and I am glad to tell you that he has been granted bail.
“We will do our best to ensure that he perfects his bail conditions and he is released soon,” he said.
Olafeso also said he was confident that the verdicts of the Osun and Ekiti governorship elections, where the All Progressives Congress was declared winner in both polls, would be upturned at the tribunal.
Olafeso urged members to be leave behind post-primaries disagreements and work together to ensure the party’s victory in 2019.
He said the party had come out of its recent factional crisis to emerge strong, expressing the confidence that it would dislodge APC in 2019.
Akinwonmi, on his part, said the party was working assiduously hard to wrestle power from the APC in 2019.