The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to be in a dilemma on how to design the appropriate campaign message to woo voters in the Southwest geopolitical zone for its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Starting from tomorrow, the various political parties will commence their presidential campaigns in line with the campaign timeline released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The highest position held by the Southwest in the party’s hierarchy is that of Deputy National Chairman (Southwest) which is being occupied by Elder Yemi Akinwonmi from Ogun State.
Investigation conducted by our correspondent at the weekend revealed that it was one of the key issues that dominated discussions in a meeting held by the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, with key party stakeholders in Abuja Wednesday night.
Those that attended the Wednesday meeting included the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki; governors elected on the platform of the party, among others.
Our correspondent gathered that some stakeholders have pointed out that the All Progressives Congress (APC) having Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari may constitute an uphill task for the PDP campaign in the Southwest.
On the other hand, the PDP has picked Atiku’s running mate, Mr. Peter Obi, from Anambra State in the Southeast geopolitical zone while the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus is from Rivers State in the South-South geopolitical zone.
This, according to some of strategists, has stripped the Southwest of any representation in key positions within the PDP.
In their submission, this makes the situation more difficult for the opposition party, considering the fact that the entire six states in the Southwest are being controlled by the APC.
Moreover, the fact that the Buhari administration also parades a number of South Westerners in key positions in his cabinet and other key federal agencies may also give the ruling party an edge in the zone.
They cited the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing manned by one of the prominent sons of the Southwest, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
There is also the case of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) which is being headed by another South Westerner, Mr. Babatunde Fowler from Lagos State.
Similarly, some analysts have argued that restructuring the country, which the PDP has projected as one of its key campaign points, is an elitist concept that does not strike any chord with the voting masses in the zone.
“For instance, what is the Yoruba word for restructuring and how do you pass the message across to the market women, artisans and the masses that form the bulk of the voting population?” a PDP chieftain who spoke on condition of anonymity asked.
The source also described the positions of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SFG) and that of the Speaker of House of Representatives which the PDP promised the Southwest as uncertain, stressing that it is only if the PDP wins the Presidency that that can be fulfilled.
In a swift reaction, however, the spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, disagreed with the postulations, saying that prevailing circumstances have changed voting dynamics in the country
Speaking with our correspondent on the telephone yesterday, Ologbondiyan said: “Nigerians are not talking about who occupies certain positions. They are interested in who can give them power and make ease of doing business available.
“Nigerians are interested in who can save them from hunger, starvation, killings, bloodletting and all the pain that the Buhari government has imposed on them.
“The issue is not about who occupies what positions; it is about that candidate that understands the nuances of our nation. That candidate that can turn our economy around and make life better for Nigerians.
“Having said that, it’s important to state that the PDP is interested in the value of life. The PDP is interested in the equitable distribution of wealth in the nation. The PDP is interested in making life better for the average Nigerian.
“As such, every group and every geopolitical zone will be well captured and well represented when we form government.
“This is the type of division that the Buhari administration has continued to set Nigerians against one another with all manner of ethnic crises. But Nigerians have come to resent this approach.
“It is unfortunate that even the President is so insensitive to the plight of Nigerians that he does not realise that this is not the time Nigerians will be thinking about who comes from where.
For now, Nigerian are only keen on good governance.”