The atmosphere in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is now charged, with party chieftains jostling and scheming ahead of the December National Convention where the national chairman and other leaders would emerge. But who are those party bigwigs who are pulling the strings?
All eyes are on the PDP contenders, delegates , party members, including other interest groups, who have been entangled in serious politicking ahead of the convention. Specifically, contenders for the position of PDP national chairman from the South have gained prominence because of their vigorous campaigns, considering the fact that the seat has been zoned to the region.
What is left hidden, is which of the zones, including the South West, South South and South East should produce the national chairman. This remains the most intriguing aspect of the scheming. Campaigns have gone far as all aspirants leading their teams to key stakeholders to seek recognition. Power brokers like former President Goodluck Jonathan and former military head of state Ibrahim Babangida are the frontline stakeholders being approached by all the contenders.
Some aspirants have also contacted former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who served on the party’s platform for eight years, but surreptitiously tore his PDP membership card in dramatic fashion prior to the 2015 general elections.
Jonathan has admitted that this is the toughest chairmanship contest since the PDP was instituted in 1998, but said it is a healthy development for Nigeria’s democracy and the party. The convention is expected to produce new National Working Committee (NWC) members who will take over from the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee.
Daily Trust reliably gathered that consultations were still ongoing among party leaders on whose shoulders the hefty job will rest on.
Agitation is raging in the South West concerning the political calculations within the party, which allegedly does not favour the region. Party leaders and stakeholders are insisting that the region should be allowed the opportunity to produce the next national chairman on grounds that it has never been given such mandate since 1998 when the party was created. Some northern leaders have also lent their voices in support of the agitation, arguing that if the pendulum does not swing in favour of the South West this time around, it would be a disservice.
At the PDP Northern Leaders meeting in Abuja, recently, a former national chairman of the party, Chief Ahmadu Ali said, “Its either the party gives it to the South West or forget it.”
Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, also reechoed the call at the official declaration of a former governor of Ogun State, Otumba Gbenga Daniel that the South West has “massive voting power” and should be recognized this time around, if the party really wants to do away with impunity.
But insider sources said despite their desire to fill the position of chairman, the South West zone is also eyeing the vice presidential slot of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections.
A line-up of the contenders goes:
Prof. Tunde Adeniran
Adeniran is a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) and former Nigerian Ambassador to Germany. He is former Minister of Education and ex-Deputy Director General, Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign in 2015. As a foundation member of the party, Adeniran was Chairman, PDP Presidential Inauguration Committee (1999); and Chairman, Electoral Panel, PDP National Convention (1999).
Daily Trust reports that the South West-born Professor of Political Science has the backing of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ex-Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana and former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu. He also has the nod of a former minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri; former minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina; former governorship aspirant in Adamawa State, Dr. Umar Ardo; former minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Inna Maryam Ciroma; Senator Ugochukwu Ubah; ex-Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, Senator Saidu Kumo; Ambassador Esther Audu; Obi Nwosu; Hon. Dennis Emmanuel; Senator Umar Gada; Hon. Austine Nwachukwu; Ambassador Gregory Okon, among many others.
It was also gathered that some serving and former governors of the party, as well as some delegates are backing the ex-minister.
Credible sources within the party said Adeniran is a frontline contestant and that if the current equation did not change, he is likely to clinch the seat, also because of his endorsement by Jonathan.
Jonathan said Thursday, when Adeniran took his campaign team to his office in Abuja, that “As an opposition party, we must have a bridge-builder, someone who has a listening ear and can build the party. We don’t need the kind of chairman that will only be taking wine or champagne.”
Declaring public his intention to contest the office recently at Yar’adua Centre, Abuja, Prof. Adeniran said a transparent and credible convention would guarantee the survival of the party for years to come.
Adeniran said that it would be “uncharitable and a despicable fallacy” for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to rubbish the achievements of the PDP administration in 16 years, especially when one considered the massive challenges the PDP inherited from long years of military rule. “We are all witnesses to the near-death experience brought about by the leadership crisis spanning about 23 months which, fortunately, the party survived through divine providence. Now is the time for a new beginning for our great party. We must reconcile, we must unite, we must rebuild and we must reposition to face the challenges that lie ahead. These are indeed the imperatives before us as a party. As such, it is essential and I have confidence in the present leadership of the party, ably led by the highly experienced Senator Ahmed Makarfi to conduct a credible and transparent national convention,” he said.
Senator Mantu who had been working with Adeniran during the intense leadership crisis that nearly consumed the party, also threw his weight behind the Professor, but was quick to point out that the last time the PDP had a fair convention was in 2013, apparently expressing fear of what power brokers would do at the convention.
Otunba Gbenga Daniel
Daniel is former governor of Ogun State from the South West, and he has an array of supporters and party bigwigs backing him. Some of the party stakeholders whose good books he has found himself in, include a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
Chief Fani-Kayode had during Daniel’s formal declaration at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, said the former governor remained the best man for the job. “I know OGD very well and I have absolute confidence in him to unite the PDP and give us a good candidate capable of winning the 2019 presidency. He is profoundly a good man. This is a quest to save our nation and ensure that we place Nigeria on the right footing,” he said.
Fani-Kayode admitted that there were other aspirants from the South West, but argued that Daniel stood out because of his benign disposition and sagacity to steer the murky waters of the nation’s polity.
Also backing Daniel is former presidential aspirant on the PDP platform, Dr. Abduljalil Tafawa Balewa, who said Daniel is a force to be reckoned with.
Senator Adeleke, from Ekiti State, has also expressed his feeling that Daniel is the right person for the job.
The former governor declared his intention to run for the party’s coveted seat last Wednesday, in Abuja, and promised to change the tide in the party’s leadership. Former Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri; ex-Minister of Environment, John Odeh; Senator Paulinus Igwe, Senator Solomon Ewuga, were all in attendance.
Waziri confessed that he had attended Adeniran’s campaign flag-off as well, but explained that he was at Daniel’s in order to do a comparison of different aspirants for him to make the right choice. He also advised other party members to be attending the different declarations.
Daniel, on his part, explained that the PDP lost power not because it didn’t perform, but because the party miscalculated on certain aspects of its politics and got entangled in indiscipline, impunity, lack of internal democracy, imposition and “dangerous introduction of ticket racketeering to unpopular candidates.” He argued that the alteration of the time-tested zoning formula and convention also contributed in no small measure to the undoing of the PDP and promised to uphold the vision and mission of the party’s founding fathers and internal democracy in order for the party to return to power in 2019, if given the mandate.
His Campaign Co-ordinators for the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), were also inaugurated at the event.
Prof. Taoheed Adedoja
Adedoja brings experience as a former Minister of Sports and Special Duties, one-time governorship candidate in Oyo State, two-time governorship aspirant, former commissioner for education, and ex-Dean of Faculty of Education, Bayero University, Kano. He was also Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Federal University of Dutse and Member of the Governing Council, Federal University of Technology, Minna among many others.
The ex-minister told Daily Trust that he had traversed the six geo-political zones in the country to consult and seek recognition as PDP helmsman. It was gathered from credible sources that some members of the PDP Ex-Ministers Forum were behind him. It was also learnt that some Northern elements were rooting for him because of his long-standing relationship with the North. Some former governors were also said to be throwing their weight behind him.
Findings by our correspondent also revealed that Adedoja is making direct contact with some delegates in order to gain their votes at the convention but he has consistently said that God is his “Chief Backer.”
Adedoja holds the view that the party’s new chairman should be him on ground that he has “understanding of the political thinking of Nigerians.”
Chief Bode George
George is a former National Vice Chairman of the PDP, South West and presently a member of the party’s BoT.
George, an octogenarian, has remained dogged in ensuring that he garnered massive support from party stakeholders. His campaign has been vigorous, especially in his home state of Lagos. He is said to be garnering support because of his political ruggedness.
A former Minister of Transport and chieftain of the party, Ebenezer Babatope, recently threw his weight behind George, insisting that he was the best man for the job. The leadership of the party in the state is not only fully behind George, it was gathered that party leaders graced the venue of his declaration recently.
The immediate-past Chairman, Hon. Adegoke Salvador and the factional chairman, Hon. Segun Adewale, who belonged to the defunct 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 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 South West have decided to queue behind George because of his experience in party administration.
Chief Raymond Dokpesi
Dokpesi is a chieftain of the party from the South South. The media mogul has been contributing to publicity aspect of the party by providing live transmission of the party’s key events considering that he owns the African Independent Television and Raypower FM.
Former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, had reportedly endorsed the Edo State-born politician when he took his campaign team to visit the ex-military leader. According to reports, IBB said: “I have blessed High Chief Dokpesi to pursue the noble objective of contesting for the post of national chairman of the PDP.”
IBB also described Dokpesi as a strong pillar in the nation’s democratic project, who he said has played his part courageously and patriotically. Our correspondent was reliably informed that some key leaders of the party, such as Senator Aniete Okon, Senator Paul Wampana, Yisa Braimoh, former governorship aspirant in Adamawa State, Auwal Bamanga Tukur and many others are supporting Dokpesi’s project.
Similarly, Senator Tunde Ogbeha recently threw his weight behind Dokpesi when the latter paid him a visit in his Abuja residence to inform him of his chairmanship ambition. He stated that the PDP needed a quality leader like Dokpesi to enable the party reclaim power in 2019.
“Today, I am supporting you (Dokpesi). I will use whatever I have to mobilize for you in ensuring you emerge the national chairman of our great party, so that the party members and Nigerians can benefit from the dividends of democracy,” he said.
Pundits say if the party makes a wrong choice at the convention, it would affect its chances of winning the 2019 presidential election and other states. However, it is left to be seen how party stakeholders and delegates would slug it out, considering how the South in general would work to checkmate or even upstage the ruling APC.