Less than 10 months to the all-important 2015 general elections, there are strong indications that a fresh battle for supremacy has re-surfaced between President Goodluck Jonathan and former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
The relationship between the two leaders has been replete with mutual suspicion and indifference on the part of the former leader in the affairs of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Obasanjo's open letter to the president had been seen as the peak of the cold war.
But, this time round, the brewing scenario does appear a proxy political war and the battlefront is Obasanjo's south-west where most of the former president's political associates and beneficiaries have reportedly undertaken a covert campaign for the dominant party in the zone, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Regardless of this development and not ready to take chances, President Jonathan and the PDP leadership have also launched a counter-move. In the new move spear-headed by the president's strategists, especially some senior members of the party's elite caucus, the Board of Trustees (BoT), Ondo State governor Dr Olusegun Mimiko and former Oyo State governor Rasheed Ladoja have come under intense pressure to return to their former party, PDP.
"This will checkmate the former president and his men who have launched a very dangerous anti-party project in the south-west," a senior party official told LEADERSHIP over the weekend.
But the Labour Party (LP), to which both Mimiko and Ladoja belong, has said that the Ondo State governor will not join the ruling PDP.
The Ondo State chairman of the LP, Chief Dele Akinyele, told LEADERSHIP that even though the party was supportive of the re-election bid of President Jonathan in 2015, Governor Mimiko would not dump the LP.
"You should know that Governor Mimiko cannot dump the LP; he is the symbol of the party. But the truth is that while we in LP are for Jonathan 100 per cent, we equally cherish our identity 100 per cent; but the president should rest assured that, come 2015, Governor Mimiko will deliver Ondo State for him as he did in 2011," Akinyele said.
Nonetheless, the PDP source confided in our correspondent that both the national leadership of the PDP and the presidency are aware of the moves being made by the former president's men in the states of the south-west especially ahead of the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun in June and August respectively.
He said the refusal of the PDP leadership and the presidency to explore a "political solution to the Oyinlola question" has its root in this development. "People just wake up and accuse the PDP and even the presidency of not absorbing Oyinlola or by not taking the path of political solution to the Oyinlola question. No man or party in its right senses will explore such means when there are intelligence reports all around about the activities of these men who think their loyalty should be to a former president to the extent of subverting a sitting president.
"Initially, some of us were of the same opinion to forget the past and forge ahead as a party but when we were confronted with strong pieces of evidence that these men have been holding nocturnal meetings with APC leaders, especially governors in the south-west, with a view to voting against the PDP, we had to return to the drawing board.
"We are ready to confront anyone with facts and figures that Obasanjo's men are on the field campaigning for the governors of Ekiti and Osun; we can confidently say that, in Ogun, the former president prefers to have an Amosun than a PDP governor; and his men are on the field doing this covertly," the source said.
While it is yet to be seen whether former Osun State governor and erstwhile national secretary of the PDP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, is pitching tent with his successor, Rauf Aregbesola, former Ekiti State governor Engineer Segun Oni has been linked with reports that he has been in the forefront of the campaign for the re-election of Governor Kayode Fayemi in the June 21 governorship election.
Both men, associates of Obasanjo, were sacked in controversial circumstances via judicial pronouncements as national secretary and zonal chairman of the PDP respectively within two weeks. The Appeal Court's ruling re-instating Oyinlola to his former position is locked in controversy.
A source close to the former president however said they (supporters of Obasanjo) cannot be idle. "If we are rejected by the party we suffered to build because certain elements have found themselves in positions, we will make ourselves relevant by not folding our hands; we cannot be idle and the next elections in Ekiti and Osun will be an example for the PDP in the south-west," he confided in LEADERSHIP.
When contacted, former Ekiti State governor Oni said he could only respond at an appropriate time. "Don't worry, I will only respond at the appropriate time; politics is such that we see things from all perspectives. No doubt, there are so many interesting issues but I will respond next week," he said.
Even though he was circumspect in his support for Governor Fayemi, Oni denied media reports that he had reconciled with the PDP governorship candidate and former governor of Ekiti, Ayodele Fayose.
"I have no deal whatsoever with Fayose; the newspaper report was misleading, mischievous and misinforming; we were all at a party and nothing of such was mentioned till we all left the place. I want it placed on record that I have no deal with former governor Fayose who is the PDP governorship candidate for the election," Oni said on the telephone.