Agbaje’s puzzle for George in PDP’s chairmanship race
The current aspiration for the national chairmanship of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is putting a wedge between the former National Deputy Chairman, Chief Olabode George and his alleged political beneficiary, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, the governorship candidate of the party in Lagos during the 2015 elections.
Since the PDP postponed its national convention and extended the tenure of the Sen. Ahmed Makarfi’s Caretaker Committee at the aborted convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State last week, the ripples of the decision are still reverberating.
While many reasons have been given for the aborted convention, chief of which is that Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers State) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti State) planned to manipulate the exercise to favour Agbaje, to the chagrin of other contestants, some party members believe the postponement is a blessing in disguise.
There are several questions about the appropriateness of Agbaje to aspire for the chairmanship because of the claim by a faction within the party that he was not qualified to lead the PDP.
One of the questions is whether Agbaje’s ambition actually portrays him as a traitor. The faction of George, who is also eyeing the position, is allegedly behind the notion that Agbaje could be considered a traitor.
Secondly, does the fact that Agabje joined the party in December 2014 actually made him ineligible to contest or does he has any ‘political or moral baggage’ that disqualifies him from holding the post if elected?
It is also being asked whether some people are particularly afraid to go to the field with Agbaje and why must he step down his ambition for George?
These are critical questions many members of the PDP in the South West have not been able to answer. Rather, what they are saying is that “Agbaje, by the mere fact he showed interest in a race Chief George was involved, showed that he has betrayed his political benefactor.”
However, while the contest for the national chairmanship of the PDP in the South West might have been narrowed down to Agbaje and George, the candidature of former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran cannot be written off for now as he could turn out to be the beautiful bride if the two major camps end up dangerously irreconcilable.
The relationship between George and Agbaje and their tussle for the PDP chairmanship has been a bag of mixed grill. George, it would be recalled did everything possible to ensure that Agbaje emerged as the PDP governorship candidate for Lagos state in 2015.
He stood against such tenacious opposition as Senator Musliu Obanikoro, Gbolahan Gbadamasi, Ade Dosunmi, Ade Doherty, Dr. Tokunbo Kamson and others.
Hence some observers were still perplexed and at loss at the fact that Agbaje was in contention for the PDP chairmanship seat with George, querying: “morally is it proper and justified given the father-son figure of the two persons”?
Though it has been argued that Agbaje cuts a mien of a person of character who was not capable of hurting a benefactor. This makes it more difficult to reconcile him with the reality on ground.
Similarly, there is this dark cloud over Agbaje’s relationship with the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. They had been very close in the past and some claimed that the link has not been severed or weakened. Can he then be trusted, won’t he betray PDP, is he a mole in PDP as some in George’s camp were already insinuating?
Can this be responsible for the alleged lack of support for his candidacy from his South West base? Majority of the members were alleged to be supporting George including Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state.
Nonetheless, Agbaje can bank on his followers drawn mainly from party members outside the South West who regarded him as the ideal compromise candidate.
George on the other hand is perceived largely by members outside the South West allegedly “as one without the leadership figure to take the party to the Promised Land at this point in time.”
A prominent member of PDP from the South South claimed that they were for Agbaje because he represented the yearnings of the members.
“Of course, we stand by Agbaje and not Chief Bode George. Age is not on George’s side. We do not want to go back to that era where we had the likes of Bamanga Tukur and Dr. Ahmadu Ali, leaders who come to the office and be dishing out orders; they don’t have energy to be moving around,” the PDP stalwart stated.
Speaking on the development during a media interaction at the party’s secretariat in Lagos, the Political Adviser to George, Prince Uthman Shodipe-Dosunmu said that PDP was currently undergoing a sad period, which required tact and maturity to navigate out successfully.
He said that the PDP has lost its soul stressing, “our party has lost the fundamental defining logic of its existence, stripped of all the higher values of old like justice, fairness and equity.”
He specifically flayed Governors Wike and Fayose for succeeding in forming an unholy alliance against the growth and the development of the PDP, claiming: “These two men have somehow assumed some reckless proprietary claim and dubious hold upon the jugular of our party.”
According to him, “At the height of their present conspiracy is the benighted attempt to impose an outright rookie candidate as the national chairman. This twisted attempt to force Agbaje down our throats is not only bizarre … it is most unheard of. It stretches incredulity, negating the rational, mystifying enlightenment, warping acceptable reality.
He added that Agbaje, who joined the party on December 14, 2014, was barely two years in the party.
Shodipe-Dosunmu noted that Agbaje’s victory during the Lagos PDP governorship primary in 2015 was orchestrated, constructed, achieved, and ultimately won by the superb structures and the political machine put in place by George.
He said Agbaje “had no single delegate in the primary. He had no single party officer. He was alone, save for the grace of Chief George. And how did he pay back his benefactor?”
However, sources maintained that some of those who claimed to be loyal to Chief George were secretly working to have a different person to head the affairs of the party.
A supporter of Agbaje, who countered Shodipe-Dosunmu, wondered what George could be scared of in a man like Agbaje “since the leadership of the PDP had said anybody is free to contest the chairmanship?”
When asked why Agbaje did not react to all the allegations leveled against him by George’s camp, he said, “I want to believe the man must have been advised not to join issues with anybody. If the former national deputy chairman thinks he is popular and has what it takes to lead the party, he should go to the field and campaign like others.”
Another source from the party told The Guardian that there was no need to take anything personal about the contest “since everybody is free to contest. Although, some contestants have been pointing accusing fingers at Wike and Fayose, none of them has been able to explain how the governors actually wanted to shift the goal post to favour Agabje. Or are they saying he (Agabje) cannot or should not contest?”
When contacted by The Guardian, Agbaje declined comments but a close associate of his said Agbaje’s pre-occupation presently was how to move the party forward and how to get the helpless masses of the country out of their terrible living conditions.
According to the associate, “This is not the time to start exchanging words; we need to put the PDP first, Nigerians and Nigeria first. None of us could say he or she is happy with the way the PDP is; neither can we say we are happy about the situation of our nation, everything we are doing must be seen from the passion for repositioning our country and nothing else.”
The associate expressed gratitude to all those who have been working tirelessly to rebuild the party and appealed to PDP members not to lose hope on how to rebrand the party for a brighter future.