Chief Ebenezer Babatope and Chief Dapo Sarumi
August 20, 2011 News By Henry Umoru
With the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP having set Febru- ary 25, 2012 for the national convention to elect a new national executive, eyes are gradually turning towards some politicians from the South West who are being penciled down for the top job.
The focus on the South West comes with the internal disharmony in the PDP that followed the disruption of the party’s zoning policy leading to the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha from the North East and South East respectively as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The South West had originally been allocated the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives but the eruption of the Tambuwal phenomenon on June 6, 2011 when the House ditched the zoning pattern of the ruling party, forcing the party to redraw the zoning formula of the party.
The North East, which equally lost its original position of Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South East, was compensated with the position of National Chairman of the party while the South West was compensated with the position of National Secretary.
The position of national secretary is significant being that the occupant of that office by virtue of Article 13.4 of the PDP constitution is the chief administrative and accounting officer of the party who is also in charge of the day to day running of the national secretariat.
With the National Convention fixed for Saturday, February 25, 2012, the race for the position of National Secretary PDP has begun in earnest with political gladiators getting set to slug it out with one another for the coveted seat, leaving the South West as the locale for the battle. Aspirants from the zone will, however, not only rely on support from within but will look largely to the party’s power brokers from outside the zone.
The prospect and chances of the three candidates to have emerged namely, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Dapo Sarumi, Chief Bola Olu-Ojo are examined in this piece.
Babatope, who hails from Osun State, confirmed to Saturday Vanguard last week that he is contesting for the position of secretary general of the PDP and ready to make himself available to galvanize the party on the path of critical reforms.
A former student activist, Babatope fondly known as Ebino Topsy came to national renown as the vibrant National Director of Organisation of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN led by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was a member of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, the United Nigeria Congress of Nigeria, UNCP and joined the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP September 1999.
He is presently a member of the Board of Trustees, BoT and that of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC. What he has that will work for him is the fact he is coming to the job with his wealth of experience as the Secretary, he has been around as a loyal party member even in crisis, he never left the PDP as a founding member. As a member of BoT and NEC, he will easily sell and market himself to his colleagues who will then reach out to others. He has friends in the party across the six geo-political zones and he is loved by both young and old.
Babatope is not new to the workings, intrigues and problems of the party and he is always there for the party; he had at various times served on the Party’s Committees especially that of reconciliation where aggrieved members were reconciled and recently as the Chairman of the Inter Party Relations Committee, a sub Committee of the PDP Presidential Committee Council.
Another personality from the South West that has indicated interest for the position of National Secretary of the PDP is Chief Dapo Sarumi.
Sarumi was a member of the Shehu Yar’Adua political group, Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM which former Vice President Atiku Abubakar later inherited as the leader. He was a founding member and financier of PDP in Lagos state and lost the contest for the governor of the state to former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 1999 before former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him the Minister of Information.
He, at a point, left the PDP for the Action Congress as it was then, but quickly retraced his steps, saying in an interview with Vanguard that, ‘’I have always been a very strong and unrelenting reformist, in terms of the voice of the people and internal democracy because I believe the voice and choice belong to the people.
“The people should be made to determine their destiny. It was because we found out that people were being deliberately deregistered that facilitated our exit from the PDP and we thought Nigeria should not be a one party state and that a strong opposition platform should checkmate this excesses of power and I believed at that time that AC had majority of those who, particularly in Lagos State, were beneficiaries of our long standing struggle to make sure that the voice of the people materialized, was heard and, therefore, wherever they find themselves, they would uphold the ethos of internal democracy.”
Sarumi is a strong politician and has been around. But a disadvantage for him is the fact that he has not been operating from the national platform of the party since his exit from the Olusegun Obasanjo cabinet. He may need to work very hard to reach out to other members of the party across the country especially against the backdrop that he returned recently having left the party for AC.
Chief Bola Olu-Ojo
Another candidate for the position of National Secretary is the current Chairman of PDP, Ekiti State chapter, Chief Bola Olu-Ojo. The 57 year old indigene of Ikoro-Ekiti in Ijero local government of the state is currently the Secretary, Conference of PDP State Chairmen. He is also a member of the 2011 National Convention Planning Committee and a former Senatorial Chairman, Ekiti state. Though he is a member of NEC as the Chairman of the party in the state and is seen as young, Olu-Ojo, however, does not have the kind of rich political pedigree shared by Babatope and Saurmi.
What may work against him is the comatose state of the party in Ekiti state. The party is yet to recover from the crisis which polarized the PDP in the wake of the submission of ministerial nominees when Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade, rtd beat the opposition to his emergence.
The crisis had brewed following the dismal performance of the party in the last elections when some leaders of the party challenged the national secretariat of the party to dissolve the state executive led by Olu-Ojo.Vanguard