South West , South-South titans of PDP in race for party’s chairmanship
George, Adeniran, Daniel, Agbaje, Dokpesi, Secondus show interest
Barring any legal restraints that may come up between now and August 17, 2016, it may well be assumed that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s National Convention will hold as scheduled, on that date.
Since losing to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general election, when President Muhammadu Buhari defeated its candidate, his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the party has not known peace and stability.
Even as it limps towards what may eventually be a comprehensive reconciliation among its fractious membership, the party, particularly in the south, to which the chairmanship has been zoned, has begun agonizing over who to pick to fill the very crucial position, second only to the presidential slot which has gone to the north.
The question they are grappling with is who among the interested contenders will, along with other principal officers, adroitly steer the affairs of the party between now and the next general elections scheduled for 2019 when they hope to unseat the ruling APC.
The national chairmanship position has been dogged by crises and the party’s membership is hoping that with its current decision to forge ahead with its national convention, the worst may soon be over.All eyes for the chairmanship position have turned to the South, to which it has been zoned and from where interested aspirants for the position, have commenced mobilisation and campaigns to garner support.
So far, prominent personalities in the party across the South-South and the South West like former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George, who kicked off his campaign in Lagos on Monday have shown interest.
Also on the list is a former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, governorship candidate of the Lagos State PDP in the 2015 election, Mr. Jimi Agabje, former governor of Ogun State Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun, all from the South West zone.
From South-South are Chairman Daar Communication, Chief Raymond Dokpesi and Prince Uche Secondus, a former acting national chairman.While it has been assumed that the South West stands a better chance of grabbing the position, if it can put its house in order before the convention, there is also belief that the South-South, which has five governors, and would also host the convention, cannot be a pushover.
A reliable source however posited that: “Since the party is strong in the South-South, where it controls five governors and in the South East, it is imperative to concede the national chairmanship to the South West as it had conceded the presidency to the North.“By doing this, the party would have a strong foothold on which it can stand and fight the APC to a standstill in 2019.That is imperative if the party is to make an inroad into the South West.”
Expressing views along similar lines, the Coordinator, Democratic Youth Vanguard, Mr. Kola Salau, called on the national leadership of the party to specifically narrow the chairmanship position to the South West.
He said: “Out of the three zones that constitute the South, the East has severally produced the chairman and so has the South-South in acting capacity until recently, leaving only the South West without ever having a stint at the seat despite how strategic it was to the history and success of the party.“Key players in the South West should also consider the experience, age and position of Chief George, above any other thing, in choosing its candidate.
“George has what it takes in terms of experience, integrity, maturity, boldness and knowledge to steer the ship of the party.His vast knowledge of the party’s constitution and his wide acceptability are key attributes that must be considered in the selection chairmanship position. We strongly believe that he adequately possesses these enumerated qualities.
“We believe that only a man with experience and candour like him can take the party to the height it aspires. He has credibility, temperament, the gravitas, the discipline, national network and vast pool of connections across the ethnic divide of the nation.”
But all that may run counter to the alleged preference of top party chieftains in the region who are said to have a soft spot for either Agbaje or Daniel.A source said the governors decision might be hinged on the alleged highhandedness with which Chief George has been handling the Lagos chapter of the party over the years.“He is most likely to be unapproachable, arrogant and the fact is that he has constituted himself like an institution in the South West PDP, ” one source said.
Adeniran, a founding member of the PDP, has remained loyal and committed in fair or foul weather and has served in various frontline capacities. His wealth of experience in serving the party and the country meritoriously over the years might serve as huge advantage to him as he bids for the chairmanship position leading. Adeniran has also served as chairman of the electoral panel during the 2011 national convention and as a Deputy Director-General of the Presidential Campaign Organisation in 2015.
In an interview with The Guardian, the former Minister appealed that delegates should view the forthcoming convention as a golden opportunity to reinvigorate and reposition the PDP by installing a vibrant executive team that would reclaim its integrity and frontline position in Nigerian politics.
Meanwhile, a group of political leaders, under the aegis of Ekiti Integrity Forum (EIF), has endorsed him, saying he is most qualified. According to its spokesperson, Otunba Dayo Olanrewaju, Adeniran stands out as a man of integrity and the most appropriate to reposition the party for greatness.
But Adeniran’s chances would, however, largely depend on his relationship with Governor Ayo Fayose, who some believe, may not likely to be favourably disposed to having a senior PDP official from his state. Whichever way, his chances depend on Fayose’s disposition.
Although it was recently remoured that the former governor of Ogun State has stepped down for Dokpesi, he has not refuted the statement. However, a group, under the aegis of the PDP New Era, said Daniel has what it takes to move the party forward to regain its lost glory in the coming election.
Agbaje remains a green horn in the party and his chances may depend on the likes of George and other party chieftains.Up till now, many members of the South West PDP believe he is a usurper, who wanted to reap where he did not sow. Although, Agbaje denied nursing such ambition when The Guardian contacted him, feelers show that Governor Segun Mimiko and Fayose with Senator, Buruji Kashamu, may be interested in him becoming the PDP national chairman.
Simply put, Agbaje’s candidacy is going to be a difficult sell, if not impossible going by when he joined the party. For Dokpesi, who is having a case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), his campaign and mobilisation has been second to none across the South even up to Lagos.
As a matter of fact, he boasted recently in a statement that the corruption charges filed against him by the EFCC would not affect his ambition to become the chairman of the PDP, stating that he is innocent until proven guilty by a competent court As he is expected to get the blessing of the South-South governors, and with their huge financial support to mobilize delegates, Dokpesi stands a better chance to beat any other candidate.Secondus, a one-time acting national chairman might, also put up a big surprise if he also succeeds in mobilizing the delegates from the South East.