Members of the Peoples Democratic Party gather in Abuja on Saturday, December 9, at its national convention to elect officials that will lead the party to the 2019 general elections, but the most sought after job in the party for now, is the person who will serve as its national chairman
- By Olu Ojewale
IN about a week’s time, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is going to hold its much awaited national convention in Abuja on Saturday, December 9, and elect key officials to pilot the affairs of the party. Perhaps, one of the most important things for the PDP at the convention is to find a suitable candidate as the national chairman of the party.
Already, the media have been inundated with campaigns and talks about those who are interested in leading the party to the 2019 general elections. With the convention quickly approaching, eight party chieftains have so far indicated their interest for the post of the national chairman; six from South West and two from South-South.
The number of aspirants is low from the South-South because the party hierarchy was said to have, based on a gentleman agreement, decided that the position of the national chairman of the party be zoned to the South West.
But because the South West has only one governor from the South West, some persons from the South-South, where the party enjoys huge support, are said to be kicking against the zoning decision. Hence, the decision of the likes of Uche Secondus, a former acting national chairman of the party, and Raymond Dokpesi, a business mogul and retired chairman of Daar Communications, owners of Ray Power and African Independent Television, to appear on the ballot.
In any case, aspirants from the South West are Tunde Adeniran, a professor of political science and former minister of Education; Taoheed Adedoja, a former minister of Youth and Sports, a former commissioner for Sports and a former provost of the College of Education (Special) Oyo State as well as Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of Ogun State.
The rest are Bode George, a retired Navy commodore and former deputy national chairman of the party; Rashidi Lodoja, a former governor of Oyo State and Jimi Agbaje, a former governorship aspirant of Lagos State in the 2015 elections.
Apart from Adeniran, who comes from Ekiti State, all other aspirants come from the All Progressives Congress, APC, controlled states.
That notwithstanding, the race for the plum job of leading the party is going to be decided by party faithful who would gather at the convention slated to hold in Abuja, on Saturday, December 9, to elect national officials of the party.
Aspirants to various offices have been busy canvassing for votes, but as expected the most plum of the offices is that of the chairman of the party. Hence, the PDP would have to decide from the array of the eight aspirants, who among them is capable of leading the party to electoral victory in 2019, which, for now, remains the main focus of the party.
If the media reports are anything to go by, the three forerunners in the race include Adeniran, Daniel and George.
Adeniran is from Ekiti State where Governor Ayodele Fayose, a PDP chieftain holds sway. Apart from that advantage, the former Nigerian Ambassador to Germany and former chairman of the board of Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, is also a founding member of the PDP.
Adeniran chaired the presidential inauguration committee of Olusegun Obasanjo’s in 1999, and unlike many top PDP members, he has never left the party. He has also remained visible in all the happenings within the PDP.
Although he is generally seen as having enough intelligence and charisma to lead the party, some analysts believe that he is too gentle for the kind of dirty fights required by party leaders to forge ahead.
Besides, it is believed that Adeniran would not be able to give the kind opposition that could wrestle powers from the current APC government.
“For Adeniran to convince delegates he has what it takes to lead the party, he needs to convince them of his ability to bite and not just bark whenever the need arises,” an analyst said.
Adeniran is not sitting pretty on his oars. Addressing newsmen at a press conference in Abuja, on Monday, November 20, Shehu Gabam, the director-general of the Professor Tunde Adeniran Campaign Organisation, accused the National Caretaker Committee, NCC, headed by Makarfi of trying to railroad Secondus as the new national chairman of the party at the December 9, convention.
As if that was not bad enough, associates of Bode George also demanded Makarfi’s resignation on the allegation that he was backing a South-South chairmanship candidate.
Ibrahim Aliu, director-general of the Bode George Campaign Organisation, said Makarfi’s intention was to put the favoured South-South candidate as chairman so as to back his (Makarfi’s) alleged presidential aspiration in 2019.
The claims by Gabam and Aliu followed the late entry and popular acceptance of Secondus by a large section of the party’s mainstream.
Before Secondus entry into the contest, Adeniran was largely seen as the establishment candidate in the contest. He was said to have received the endorsement of the North. It was not surprising, especially given the enthusiastic support some of the party’s grandees like Jerry Gana, a former minister of Information, and Ibrahim Mantu, a former deputy Senate president, were giving to his aspiration. “He is being backed by the party establishment, those I refer to as people with old money,” a stakeholder said in reference to figures like Gana and Mantu who controlled the party in the past but have little influence in the grassroots today.
He does not enjoy such support the South West. More worrisome is fact that the professor is yet to get the backing of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, his home state.
Lere Olayinka, spokesman of the governor, said in an interview that Adeniran was yet to inform the state governor and the state chapter of the party about his aspiration to lead the party. “The governor has heard of Prof. Adeniran’s aspiration to be national chairman of the PDP just as every other person is hearing it, he has not informed us here in Ekiti, and I can officially tell you that we do not know of his aspiration beyond what is reported in the news media,” Olayinka said.