Sunday, 8 October 2017

Full Profile Of All Those Josttling To Become PDP National Chairman

Barring any last minute change, the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will on December 9 hold its elective national convention after a rancorous season of blames and counter that lasted over two years. While there are many aspirants for the coveted office, the politics behind the convention transcends party leadership alone. It has a lot to do with 2019.

From the onset, credible sources within PDP told Daily Trust on Sunday that there is a sharp division among power brokers as to who takes over the throne of the party chairman after the National Caretaker Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna States steps aside.

One of the PDP’s strategies to reclaim power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is the serious commitment of its current handlers to the zoning arrangement, a gentleman agreement the party used between 1999 and 2011 to remain afloat. Jettisoning this arrangement in 2011 became an albatross and contributed to its failures in the 2015 elections.

As part of efforts to reinvent itself, the PDP had during its May 21st, 2016 National Convention held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State zoned the party’s 2019 presidential ticket to the North and the office of national chairman to the South.

But there are three geo-political zones in the North and the same number in the South; a serious bone of contention that is now haunting the PDP is which of the three zones in the south will produce the chairman.

This, no doubt, has sparked off serious struggle by many contenders from the southern region who are in the race to fill the office.

But one thing is clear, if the South West produces the chairman, it means it has relinquished the chance of producing a vice presidential candidate which must now go to any of the other two zones.

Be it as it may, politicians, especially from the South-south and South-west have thrown themselves into the ring for the contest and sources said while some of them actually want to be PDP chairman, others, especially from the South West, are only in the race to test their popularity, and at the same time, use the outing to start angling for the post of number two citizen.

This, according to pundits, is hinged on the PDP’s strategy to counter APC’s popularity in the South West by choosing its vice presidential candidate from there, just as the ruling party’s Yemi Osinbajo. This is amidst serious scheming at various levels, especially at the PDP Governors Forum.

For instance, it was gathered that PDP governors and some chieftains from the South-south zone would be supportive of the move to have someone from their area as national chairman, thereby conceding the vice presidential slot to the South-west zone, considering that former president Goodluck Jonathan is from the zone.

According to this school of thought, it would be disingenuous for the South-south to insist on getting the vice presidential ticket for now, but considering the fact that the zone, just like the South-east, is seen as “a comfort zone” for the PDP and therefore, they can easily trade their popularity for other positions.

Beside the national chairman, the December convention is also expected to elect and usher in a new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) members. It is also expected to ratify and adopt the amendment to the party’s constitution among other key decisions.

Party bigwigs have emphasised that the convention would be a defining moment and a test run for the PDP. Others say it would be a laboratory to once again test the party’s democratic credentials and determine its fate in future elections. Whoever wins the chairmanship will have a huge role to play going forward. Here are the contenders from the South-west zone.

The Contenders

Prof. Tunde Adeniran
Adeniran is ex-Minister of Education who also served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany. He is currently a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) from the South West.

He was Deputy Director General, Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign (2015); Chairman, PDP Presidential Inauguration Committee (1999); and Chairman, Electoral Panel, PDP National Convention (1999) among others.

He was one of those who strongly kicked against the emergence of Senator Ali Sheriff as PDP national chairman and sustained the courage until Sheriff was ousted by the Supreme Court on July 12, 2017.

Sources say he has in-depth knowledge of the workings and operational philosophy, vision and mission of the PDP founding fathers considering that he is a foundation member of the party.

Declaring his intention to take the party’s throne at Yar’adua centre, Abuja, where there was a large gathering of party members and leaders from the North and South, the ex-minister said his leadership would be hinged on three cardinal principles.

Adeniran, who said only a transparent and credible convention would guarantee the survival of the party for years to come, pledged to re-affirm and entrench the founding principles of the party and rejuvenate it to its original state of strength, devoid of impunity, imposition and subversion of the will of the people.

He said his second goal is to reconcile, rebuild and reposition the party as a virile opposition for national development by restoring the sanctity of internal democracy, rule of law, fairness and equal opportunities for all members.

Lastly, he pledged to return the PDP to the people in tandem with the spirit and intent of its slogan ‘Power to the People’ and work assiduously with all other party leaders, members and Nigerians across the country to install a PDP administration at the centre in 2019.

Adeniran is said to have won the hearts of many party faithful and some power brokers, but others see him as “being too calm” to provide the firmness needed to handle tough situations. His “lack of financial muscle” might also count against him.

That is not the only problem as there is also the Fayose factor to contend with.

Most party chieftains in Ekiti, where Prof. Adeniran comes from, have declined to speak on the subject.

One of them said on Sunday that the governor, Ayodele Fayose would descend on them if they throw their weight behind any chairmanship aspirant, especially in the South West.

But other sources said this might not be unconnected with Fayose’s craving of becoming vice presidential candidate of the party at the end of the day.

“You should know that once someone from Ekiti or even the South West emerges as PDP chairman, Fayose’s dream would be shattered and therefore, for now, he would stop at nothing to defeat any apparent obstruction,” another source said.

Prof. Taoheed Adedoja

Adedoja brings experience as a former Minister of Sports and Special Duties, a two-time governorship candidate in Oyo State and ex-Dean of Faculty of Education, Bayero University, Kano.

A chieftain also from the South West, Adedoja recently told newsmen at Ibro Hotel, Abuja, that he had traversed the six geo-political zones in the country to consult and seek recognition as PDP helmsman.

He argued that the party’s new chairman should be someone like him, who he said understands the political thinking of Nigerians.

Prof. Adedoja has rolled out the “15-point focus,” which he promised to implement if elected.

He plans to reposition and rebrand the PDP, lead the party to present a winning presidential and other candidates for 2019, strengthen the PDP Institute for maximum functionality, promote party sustainability at all tiers, entrench internal democracy and party discipline, implement standard financial regulations and welfare of PDP staff.

Adedoja is said to be enjoying the support of some party leaders but observers say he is not too close to the corridors of power in the party, and may have to contend with that challenge.

Otumba Gbenga Daniel

Gbenga is former governor of Ogun State in the South West, who Daily Trust on Sunday learnt has consulted widely and is ready to stir the political waters. He recently met with ex-speakers of state houses of assembly who served under PDP as part of his campaign.
His popularity is without doubt. Few days ago, he was purportedly endorsed by former President Ibrahim Babangida, a claim that was later refuted by sources close to the ex-military president.

Earlier, an unsigned press statement suggested that IBB had thrown his weight behind Daniel in his bid to become the national chairman of the party.

The statement said Babangida made the declaration at his Hilltop residence in Minna, Niger state on Wednesday, October 4 when Daniel led a delegation to seek his blessing.

“I was elated when I first heard that you were interested in volunteering yourself for this great service to our country, you represent the breadth of fresh air that the party deserves at this stage.

“I know OGD (Daniel) very well and I know his unparalleled capacity for work. I have a strong conviction that with OGD as chairman, the party can be turned around again,” Babangida allegedly said.

But sources close to IBB said the claim is not true.

“He hasn’t thrown his support behind anyone,” the aide, who declined to be named, said.

“Other aspirants will also visit IBB and he will have something to say about them too. IBB is home to all and as a founding father of the PDP, he’s at home with all persons.

“No doubt IBB is close to Daniel, he is also close to Tunde Adeniran, Bode George and Raymond Dokpesi, who will all run for Chairman,” he said.
Chief Bode George

George is a former National Vice Chairman of the PDP for South West and presently a member of the party’s BoT.

A former Minister of Transport and chieftain of the party, Ebenezer Babatope, from the South West, recently beat the drum for George at a press conference, saying he is the best man for the job.

George, an octogenarian, is said to be garnering support because of his ruggedness. He has been campaigning vigorously in his home state of Lagos and other avenues and had made attempts to become PDP chairman in the past.

Former governorship candidate of the party, Mr. Jimi Agbaje contested against Chief Olabode George in the botched National Convention held in Port Harcourt, last year, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. The leadership of the party in the state is not only fully behind George, it graced the venue of his declaration on Friday.

The immediate past Chairman, Hon. Adegoke Salvador and the factional chairman, Hon. Segun Adewale who belonged to the faction of the ousted National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff both attended the declaration ceremony.

Adewale said he attended the ceremony to declare his support for the candidature of Bode George whom he said “is the leader of the party in the state”. Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, a former Minister for Works said members of the party in the state and the southwest have decided to queue behind Bode George because of his experience in party administration, saying the position of the PDP chairmanship is not for the greenhorn.

But some say he is too old and the party needs someone who is committed and has enough strength to prepare it for the task ahead.
Prince Uche Secondus

Secondus, a South-south politician from Rivers State was Deputy National Chairman of the party during the reign of the former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu. He became acting national chairman in May, 2015, when Mu’azu threw in the towel following the party’s defeat at the 2015 general elections.

Secondus’s reign as acting chairman was characterised by a legal suit instituted by an aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Barr. Ahmed Gulak, who challenged his sit-tight posture.

He was later removed from office by a High Court judgement which ruled that his acting role had elapsed.

So far, Secondus has maintained sealed lips and a low profile concerning the race; but credible sources within the party told our correspondent that an influential governor from the South South is insisting that he should emerge as the next PDP helmsman.

A source familiar with the situation in the South South said a few other governors from the South are also in agreement that Secondus should emerge so that the party’s presidential candidate would come from the South West.

But there are discordant tones among some party leaders at the national level.

“They are rooting for Secondus; they are drawing a slate. They want to confuse people by throwing up many aspirants for each position to later harmonise and get the candidates of their own choice.

”Secondus is their choice for the office of chairman but they just want to open the space for others to contest in order that there would be a sense of inclusive participation,” he said.

Liyel Imoke
He is former governor of Cross River State also from the South-South.

Sources say if the ‘powerful forces’ planning to install Secondus eventually fail to achieve their bid, Imoke would be the next option even though he is yet to publicly declare his intention to run.

The ex-governor has, however, maintained a low profile concerning the contest but inside sources say he is in the good books of some party stakeholders.

Jimi Agbaje

He is former governorship candidate of PDP in Lagos State and was the preferred candidate for the office of national chairman at the botched convention of the party in Port Harcourt, in May, last year.

Those close to him confirmed that he is still consulting and considering the possibility of contesting; but is being meticulous because of change of political calculations this time around.

Confused agitations & Fayose’s gambit

While there is agitation for the party to produce its next national chairman from the South West region; Governor Ayo Fayose has already declared his intention to contest for the presidency, a move seen by the party as “a glaring rebellion.”

But sources said he is only campaigning for the presidency so that he would ultimately be given the vice presidential slot in the event that slot is reserved for the South-west zone.

And as the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, he is allegedly working hard to convince other PDP governors from the region, who are mostly in their first tenure, and those from the North, to support his ambition.

But Senator Makarfi has already ruled out Fayose, saying his scheming will not work.

“He (Fayose) is on his own. What he is doing is not in compliance with the position of the party. The party’s position has not changed,” he said.

Also, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, a PDP BoT member, said Fayose cannot contest in the party’s primary poll.

“Fayose cannot run and I will tell you my reason. When we formed PDP, the first battle we fought and won as a party was to zone the presidency to the South.

“Those of us from the south made a case because in the first republic, prime minister was from the North; in the second republic, the president was from the North, and in the third republic, a southerner won and the election was annulled.

“There was no way we could go back to the south and say let’s elect a northerner again without giving the south a slot. A decision was taken that the presidency should come from the south and the chairman of the party to come from the north.

“That was how Solomon Lar became the chairman of PDP and secretary was zoned to the south; that was how I became the first secretary of the party,’’ he said.

Nwodo, a former National Chairman of PDP, said that the party would take a decision to ensure that its Constitution and ordinances were respected. He explained that those who tried it in the past failed to achieve their aim.

“For example, late Abubakar Rimi, former Governor of Kano State paid for a form and wanted to run. Then I was the national secretary, I returned his cheque and informed him that the party had taken a decision that the presidential candidate could only come from southern Nigeria.

“When we went to the Convention in Jos, he went to the venue and started to campaign without having a form because we didn’t give him.

“We had to get some party leaders around to go and counsel him; we didn’t want security agencies to manhandle or embarrass him and good counsel prevailed and he stepped down,” he said.

Also, those who are serious about South West producing the national chairman premised their argument that the zone had never produced a national chairman since the formation of the PDP in 1998.

Leaders of the party, who converged from the six states of the South West on Thursday, said though the party chairmanship had been zoned to the southern states, it would be reasonable to give the slot to zone.

The zonal Chairman of the party, Eddy Olafeso, who read a communiqué at the end of the forum’s meeting in Ibadan, said the region had not held the position of the chairmanship since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

According to him, “At the end of the meeting, the PDP South West Leaders Forum urged the party, on the basis of the above premises, to uphold the Port Harcourt decision zoning the national chairmanship position of our great party to the South West.”

He said the South West Leaders Forum was composed of members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), former National Working Committee members, serving and former governors still in the party, serving National Assembly members, serving speakers of state assemblies and other key leaders from the six states of the zone.

It is only time that will tell how the intrigues would play out.

Source:Daily Trust

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