Jimi Agbaje, a chairmanship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has cautioned the party against undermining the electoral value of the South-West.
Agbaje said the PDP might shoot itself in the foot in the run-up to the 2019 elections if it ignored the agitation of the zone to produce the national chairman of the party.
In an interview with newsmen, on Tuesday, the former Lagos State governorship candidate of the party said only the South-West zone had yet to produce a national chairman for the party.
He said: “For me, I will argue that in our present situation, for the PDP as an opposition party, the South-West should produce the chairman and there are reasons for this.
“In the first place, the foundation of the PDP is based on all-inclusiveness.
“That was why the founding fathers of the party came up with the issue of zoning so that everybody will be part of the party.
“So, if you follow that and you have a situation where the South-East has had chairmanship for some number of times, the South-South has had it temporarily for a while but the South-West has never had it.
“So, that means if we follow that principle, of course the South-West can say in that spirit, it should produce the chairman.
“Again, we have a situation where there is a reality and if you look at the election of 2015, the PDP had a lot of difficulty in convincing the South-West that the administration had done well for the zone.
“The complaint in the South-West was that the region was short-changed in the 2015 election.
“So, you have a situation today where, if you look at the South-West in the present ruling party (APC), the region has the vice president and key ministries such as power, works and housing, finance and so on.
“So, if the PDP as an opposition party wants to win the next election, it needs the vote of the South-West.
“The question will now be as a party, what will the PDP be selling to the people of the region to vote for it in 2019?
“Based on what the South-West is presently enjoying under the APC government, if we want to call it enjoyment, then we will need to match or even beat what they presently give to the South-West.
“But in a situation where you don’t give South-West presidency, you don’t give them vice presidency and you don’t give them national chairman, then it makes it difficult.
“The truth is the votes of the South-West are not negligible. Even at the last election, the winner of the presidential election, that is President Muhammadu Buhari, got 2.5 million votes.
“But even with the complaints by the South-West, the PDP still managed to get 2.1 million votes.
“For me, it is putting the case forward and saying that it is better and in the interest of the PDP to get the South-West.”
Shedding more light on why the South-West is crucial to the victory of the PDP in 2019, Agbaje said, “The South-South and the South-East are predominantly PDP already and are likely to remain so.
“The South-West today is not really crazy about the ruling party at the centre as it was prior to the 2015 election, so it means that they may be open to looking at the other side.
“So, if you don’t have anything to offer them, then you are not going to get them to vote for you.
“So, they have two options: either to vote for the present arrangement or to sit down at home on election day.
“These are the realities why I believe the South-West should produce the national chairman.”
Agbaje said he was confident of emerging the chairman on Saturday because he enjoyed the support of major stakeholders in the party.
He disclosed that he had not been going around the country campaigning like other aspirants because the election involved leaders of the party who are delegates to the convention and not the generality of party members.
He argued that what normally played out at such convention was that the person who emerges the winner is necessarily not the person who had travelled the most campaigning, but the person who appealed to the leaders of the party.
“The election of chairman of the party is a delegate convention. It is not an open primary.
“Open primary is when everybody is involved in the process. Even delegates to the convention were only selected last week or so across the country.
“So, it is a strategic thing; it is a leadership thing. It is not a general election and that is the reality”.
“Going around campaigning is going to people who are not going to be directly involved in voting for you.
“Of course, it is good for the party to make noise but that is not what determines the leadership of the party.
“As you will probably find out, the person who emerges will not necessarily be he who has travelled the most.
“The election is a strategic thing and not a general election. It is not an open primary.
“The new constitution of the party that we are working on will now bring about open primary, then an aspirant can be running around because everybody is involved in that process.
“But in this particular one, it is the leadership that determines the chairman of the party,” he said.