Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko
By Chuks Okocha
The Peoples Democratic Party is said to have heightened efforts to bring Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi and former Oyo State governor, Chief Rasheed Ladoja, into the party.
The latest move, sources say, is informed by the party's intention to create a bulwark to stop a possible victory of the newly emerged All Progressives Congress in Ondo State after Mimiko's exit, and, also, to strengthen the PDP's control in the South-east.
A source told THISDAY that barring any last minute change, Mimiko and Obi, members of the Labour Party and All Progressives Grand Alliance, respectively, will join the ruling PDP any time soon.
Mimiko, though a former member of the PDP, defected to the Labour party in 2007 when the party denied him its governorship ticket in favour of former governor Olusegun Agagu. Agagu would later lose the governorship election to Mimiko after a protracted court case.
THISDAY was told by a PDP source that Mimiko would make a public declaration for the PDP after his second term inauguration holding this Sunday and would, in doing so, become the party's South-west leader. The party is confident that Mimiko's re-entry will offer it a launch-pad back into the South-west, THISDAY learnt.
The source cited as a prelude to Mimiko's return, the surprise sacking of Bode Mustapha as the national auditor and the dissolution of the Olusegun Oni-led South-west zone committee by the National Working Committee led by Bamanga Tukur.
But Ondo State commissioner for information, Mr Kayode Akinmade, has denied the story. "The governor is busy preparing for his second term inauguration," he told THISDAY, adding that the insinuation possibly arose because some PDP governors had indicated they would be attending Mimiko's inauguration on Sunday.
However, the source insists that Senator Bode Olajumoke, Ebenezer Babatope and the Presidency had lobbied Mimiko to return to the PDP. The Ondo State governor is expected to join the party with members of the Labour Party in the national and state assembly.
Former governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Lodoja, is also reputedly considering returning to the PDP. According to a source within the PDP, “their return to the PDP will help the PDP strategize and re-focus for the 2015 general election and make the party reclaim some of its lost grounds in the zone.
“With their expected move to the PDP, we expect that the South-west zonal congress will be delayed in order for all interests to be accommodated in the process expected to be part of the reconciliation. What we are doing is to give the opposition parties a good fight. The entire process has received the blessing of the President who is the national leader of the PDP,” the source said.
Even though Obi is said to have concluded talks to join the PDP, sources say he would do so only at the end of the merger talks involving the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, the Congress for Progressive Change and a faction of APGA.
The source explained that the PDP expects the Anambra State governor to play a formidable role in the 2014 governorship election by helping it reclaim the state. It was gathered that the plan to bring Obi and his supporters to the PDP is another way of weakening the merger talks and frustrate its plan to have a foothold in the South-east.
“With the PDP winning Anambra State in 2014, only Imo State will be under APGA, hence four states of the South-east will be controlled by the PDP,” the source said.
But Obi's spokesman, Valentine Obienyem, said there has been no such talks. "It must have been a story originating from those who wants to create the impression that Governor Obi wants to destroy APGA. Governor Obi has said repeatedly that he would retire to private life once he serves out his term as governor."
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, neither confirmed nor denied the party had concluded plans to bring the two governors into the PDP. He simply said, “We are in talks with some governors like any other political parties. We are not going for merger talks, but we are discussing with some governors to join the PDP.
“PDP is the largest political party and we will encourage political parties to join us,” he stated.
Metu said there was nothing wrong if governors and members of other parties joined the PDP, adding, “after all, other parties are merging to form the All Progressive Congress (APC). Do you expect us to fold our hands and do nothing?"