As the build-up to the 2015 election gathers momentum, President Goodluck Jonathan seems to be leaving nothing to chance as he intensifies recruitment of members of his campaign team.
The latest in the recruitment drive is the overture extended to former minister of aviation Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, who was recently spotted in the Presidential Villa where he had meetings with the president and later attended another meeting with the president’s chief of staff.
LEADERSHIP Sunday checks reveal that the president’s think-tank is sparing no effort at winning the support of those perceived to be averse to the president’s return to Aso Rock in 2015.
“Barring all unforeseen circumstances, (Femi) Fani-Kayode is coming back to the PDP and, once this is done, he would head the media team for the presidential campaign of President Jonathan. We know he has what it takes to do the job. He had been a presidential spokesman and his influence in the media including the social media, his articulation, boldness and other factors are the reasons he has been pencilled in for the job,” a Presidency source said.
When contacted to comment on the issue, Chief Fani-Kayode, who was once a special adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on public affairs, denied knowledge of the proposal. He sent a text message to our correspondent which reads, “It is not true. I am not aware of anything like that. Thank you.”
President Jonathan is desperately in need of foot soldiers in the south-west who would help him neutralise the duo of former President Obasanjo and national leader of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Although Jonathan has not declared his intention to run and he even resisted the pressure on him last Friday at the Enugu rally, there is every indication that he has made up his mind to run and the ongoing zonal rallies are said to be part of his plan to test the ground.
Investigations show that the fear of the president over the north-west that has the highest number of votes was laid to rest with the defection of former Kano State governor and former presidential candidate of the defunct ANPP Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and his Sokoto State counterpart, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa.
He is also said to be at peace with the north-central, given the loyalty of people like Senate president David Mark and Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue. But the south-west is said to be giving him a headache with the stiff opposition coming from Obasanjo and Tinubu.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY has it on a good authority that it was part of his attempt to woo the Yoruba that led to the appointment of the Chief of Staff, General Jones Arogbofa, whose elder brother is a chieftain of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba social cultural group, and who represents the group in the confab. Another beneficiary of the new agenda for the zone is the director-general of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Dr Sola Omole.
The zone parted ways with the president after the loss of the speakership zoned to it by the PDP to the north-west. Since then, there has not been any key political office allocated to the Yoruba despite the massive votes given to him in the 2011 presidential poll in all the states except Osun.
According to reports, President Jonathan recently met with the APC governors from the zone, but what transpired between them has not been disclosed. Political pundits suspect the parley might be connected with the 2015 general election.
Although Governor Olusegun Mimiko is of the Labour Party, he is said to be among the foot soldiers of the president in the south-west and has assured him of 100 per cent support in Ondo State. Both Mimiko and Arogbofa played prominent roles in the controversial visit Fani-Kayode to the Presidential Villa.
Fani-Kayode seems to have made up his mind to dump the APC over the speculated Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.
Other people being recruited for the PDP presidential campaign for the south-west, according to investigations, include but not limited to the controversial politician from Ogun State, Chief Kashamu Buruji; former deputy chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George; the governorship candidate of PDP for Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore, his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayo Fayose; the minister of state for defence, Senator Musliu Obanikoro; a chieftain of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu; Dr Olu Alabi of Osun State; Chief Ebenezer Babatope; and Senator Isiaka Adeleke.
Others are former national vice chairman of PDP (south-west), Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun; Brigadier Raji Rasaki; and former military chief of staff, supreme headquarters, General Oladipo Diya; Chief Dosu Ladiipo; Senator Olasunkanmi Akinlabi; and the national secretary of the party, Prof Wale Ladiipo.
Although former President Obasanjo has been keeping mum over the PDP’s preparation for the next year’s election, even as he keeps away from the Presidential Villa, a political associate disclosed to our correspondent at the weekend that Obasanjo would sit on the fence throughout the campaign period if Jonathan goes ahead with his second term. He said: “Baba Obasanjo has spoken his mind on the second-term ambition of President Jonathan, although he was told Jonathan had not declared his intention to run. The position of Baba is very clear: he led the party round the country telling people that Jonathan would spend only one term and if the president and the party said he should go ahead with the second term, Baba said he would neither campaign for nor against him.
“Possibly, the time has come when Baba would begin to play his role as an elder statesman not only in Nigeria but also on the continent. His house is open to all Nigerians irrespective of their political and religious persuasions.”
Also the president’s think-tank is considering the duo of former governor of Kano State Ibrahim Shekarau and minister of foreign affairs Aminu Wali to head the 2015 campaign team of President Jonathan.
Checks by LEADERTSHIP Sunday indicate that before the defection of Shekarau from APC to PDP, Wali was the sole candidate for the leadership of Jonathan’s 2015 campaign team.
However, Shekarau is seen by the president’s men as someone who is influential, having contested the 2011 presidential elections after serving as governor of the most populous state for eight years, and has what it takes to sell the candidature of the president, especially in the north-west.
Report by Leadership Newspapers