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Ogun Set To Lose S/West Ministerial Slot; Seeks Neutral Candidate

To say that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is going through a rough and bumpy ride amounts to saying the obvious.

Self-proclaimed as the biggest and largest party in Africa, PDP, like other political parties in the country, has been threatened with myriad of problems right from its formation in 1998.

But unlike other political parties, PDP has weathered nearly all its problems, treating each as it comes as a family affair.

This has been the situation for the ruling party in the past 14 years. Things, however took a thorny dimension early this year.
What started as a usual in-fighting within the family fold soon festered and snowballed until it got out of hand.

At the end of the day, the party became factionalised along interest lines with the President, Goodluck Jonathan, the National Party Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and their henchmen forming one bloc and the pack of aggrieved governors and their collaborators led by Abubakar Baraje, who later formed the New PDP, on the other bloc.

Shortly after this escalated rift came a cabinet shake-up in which nine ministers were relieved of their portfolio, a decision reportedly taken by President Jonathan to get even with the ‘rebel’ nPDP.

Two of the sacked ministers came from the south west – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, Ogun State; and Minister of State, Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, Osun State.

As the Presidency and its foot soldiers shop for replacement from the loyal groups within the party, politicians have been repositioning themselves to either clinch the positions or make sure their own gets the available plumb federal jobs.

In the south west, two portfolios are up for grab, so to speak, among five states.

By the current rule, Osun State will retain its slot while the remaining slot deemed to belong to the whole south west may not necessarily return to Ogun State since it already has a statutory slot in the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina.

In essence, this political flexibility now throws open the slot, which means that any of the other states in this geo-political zone can lobby for it.

Going by this realisation, intense lobbying and high octane politicking have thus begun in other states in the south west.

Hence, it is becoming increasingly likely that Ogun State may lose the ministerial slot formerly occupied by Olugbenga Ashiru.

Expectedly, some states like Lagos and Oyo have gone ahead to hold mini screening and selection process and arrived at names of some suitable candidates, which were reportedly sent to Wadata Plaza, the national headquarters of the PDP for onward transmission to the Presidency.

For instance, the screening committees in Lagos State was said to have produced two different lists: one, all male comprising names like Lanre Towry-Coker, Tunji Shelle, Ade Dosunmu and another list which is all female, having names such as Tawa Olufisi, Nike Jones and Aduke Maina as suitable candidates from Lagos State for the south west slot.

A reliable presidential source, who confirmed this political development, averred that a loss of the slot in the case of Ogun State is quite visible and possible, which obviously may be the direct corollary of the crisis rocking the Gateway State chapter of the PDP.

Like at the national level, there are two factions of PDP in the state – one said to be in control of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the other in the grip of a camp enjoying the support of the former Governor of the state, Gbenga Daniel and businessman Buruji Kashamu.

The source maintained that unless a neutral group, with totally overtly demonstrable loyalty to the Presidency, could be found, retaining the slot in Ogun State could further polarise the party and this portends unsavoury consequences for PDP in the forthcoming 2015 elections.

Consequently, a middle of the road approach was said to have been arrived at by some Presidency’s foot soldiers.

Hence in possible search of a third force agenda, certain names have come up like a recurring decimal.

One such name with the highest frequency, said to be making the rounds at the Presidency is that of Barrister Fatai Erewunmi, a multi-jurisdictional lawyer.

Erewunmi was the Ogun State Coordinator of the Neighbour2Neighbour Network, an arm of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation in 2011 which activities and actions were coordinated, controlled and supervised by current Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah who is now embroilled in a N225 million car scandal.

Checks reveal that an Erewunmi candidacy is being viewed as independent of the warring factions, a move, if pulled through, which might not ruffle feathers or further stoke ember of division.

It is on good authority that the Presidency would only toe this middle-of-road line or throw the slot open to other states in the South West.

If eventually the middle-of-the- road approach is adopted and the candidacy of Barrister Erewunmi is approved, what this will translates to is the fact that Neighbour2Neighbour Network could end up boasting of three ministers in President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet – Ogun slot in addition to the Minister of Niger Delta and that of Aviation.

Where the pendulum will swing is just a matter for time to decide.

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