PDP National Chairmanship: Between Northern Caucus’ Verdict And South-west Aspirants

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In this report, HOSEA YUSUF writes on the permutations for the National Chairmanship of the PDP among South West contestants as the party holds its national convention this weekend.

A major development unfolded within the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last week ahead of its national convention holding this Saturday in Abuja.

The development was about zoning or micro zoning the office of its National Chairman, which is about the most competitive of all the offices being scrambled after during this assembly of the partymen.

The office of the national chairman has been zoned to the South in anticipation of its Presidential candidate coming from the North, in line with its tradition of North/South zoning arrangement.

There have however been clamour for micro zoning of the ticket to a particular section of the country, the South-west. The protagonists of this agenda based their analysis on the fact that that is the only geo-political zone that has never produced the party’s national chairman.

They also said that whereas the party does not allow for outright micro zoning, it does not forbid it either. They are of the opinion that certain interests within the party who are perceived to be interested in flying its flag for the 2019 general elections and might not be favoured with micro zoning are the ones against the arrangement.

The idea of leaving the stage for the entire South has however put the race between South-west and South-south.

Hence, in the last few months the likes of former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George; former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, all from the South-west, have been traversing the length and breadth of the country canvassing for delegates to elect them for the position come this Saturday.

Other aspirants from the South-west include former Aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; its former governorship candidate for Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; former Education minister, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, among others, but not much of their activities have been noticed; making pundits to worry if they are actually in the race.

In the South-south, former Acting National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, and Media magnate, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, are also leaving no stone unturned to emerge winners at the contest.

There has all the while been a search for a political solution to this quagmire, especially since all the aspirants are opposed to a consensus arrangement.

But last week, what appeared to be a plausible solution to trim down the number of aspirants was thrown at the party by a group operating under the aegis of PDP Northern Elders and Leaders Forum after a meeting it held in Abuja Thursday.

The group, after its meeting held at Ajuji Hotel, averred that while all the aspirants that have indicated interest in the position have the right to contest, it stressed that in the spirit of equity and fairness, the next party chairman should emerge from the south west.

The communique signed by former Kano State governor and one time Education minister, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and former Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Margaret Icheen, stated that: “As we head to the national convention, the forum showed keen interest on the position of National Chairman.

“After extensive deliberations, it was resolved that, in the spirit of fairness, equity, carrying along, giving every geo-political zone a sense of inclusion in the affairs of the PDP, we strongly support the quest of the South-west geo-political zone to produce the next National Chairman of the party.

“In line with our resolve to rebuild and reposition the PDP, we urge delegates from all the Northern states to abide by this decision and vote only aspirants from Southwest geo-political zone in the forthcoming convention, in the best interest of the party.”

Among all the aspirants, George has consistently described himself as man best for the job.

In various fora where he has the opportunity to campaign, he has maintained that he is on a rescue mission for the party, that what the PDP needs at this critical moment is a committed, energetic, experienced party man to redeem and reposition it.

According to him, the party’s loss of the presidency was as a result of the deviation from the goals and standards erected by of the PDP’s founding fathers, which he has promissed to correct if elected on Saturday.

“Our party needs a rescue. Our party needs redemption. Our party deserves a balanced, experienced, tested, trusted and a faithful hand. Our party needs a team player and a unifying leadership. Our party needs stability.”

He adduced to this during the flag off of his campaign in Lagos, when he declared: “Here and now, I am humbly making a stand and a declaration as a candidate for the position of the office of National Chairman of our great party with a vision to serve as a bridge builder, as a peacemaker and healer of broken pieces”.

While admitting that he did not have the answers to all the problems of the party, he said he was prepared to work with others to ensure the restoration of its vision. Giving more reasons why he was the best man to lead the party, he said he had been a loyal party man who had stayed with the PDP through thick and thin.

He said he fully understood the precepts, the mechanisms and constitution of the party and that he knew the ethos, the tradition and culture built by founding fathers He said it was not a time to experiment, appealing to all party members to support his aspiration to lead the party.

The verdict of forum, although not binding on the party, has reawakened the consciousness of political stakeholders.

Already, the Lagos State Chapter of the PDP has endorsed George as its preferred candidate for the National Chairmanship position

The state chairman, Dr. Moshood Salvador, gave the certification at a feedback meeting between George and members of the party, held weekend at the party’s secretariat in GRA, Ikeja.

His words: “On behalf of Lagos PDP, we must vote for Chief Bode George come Dec. 9; the Southwest is the rightful region to have the chairman of our great party.

“In the last dispensation, Ekiti produced the vice- chairman while Osun and Oyo states took the highest office. It is only Lagos that is left and what we want is the chairman.

“The south-east and the south-south have produced a chairman before that is why it is our turn to have the chairman of PDP.”

Recall that former Transport Minister, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, has also thrown his weight behind George’s aspiration.

Babatope, while giving reason for his decision described George as the “best man to pilot the affairs of the party to a new and glorious beginning”, adding that the aspirant is a loyal, tested and a responsible party man.

Recall also that encomium was showered on George at Wadata House, the National headquarters of the party last week when George went to sumit his normination form.

Some National Working Committee (NWC) members present on the occasion applauded George’s  contributions to the growth, development and stability of the party over the years.

For instance,  the party’s national organizing secretary, Senator Abdul Ningi said that George had paid his dues as a founding father, as a consistent loyalist and as a moral and financial supporter of the party.

He said that if not for the dictates of democracy, George ought not to have any opponent in the chairmanship contest considering his contributions to the party.

“For any follower of democracy in Nigeria, and especially in PDP, there is no single person that will ever contest the unblemished services  that this gentleman has rendered to our great nation, then to our great party. I think he stands at the watershed of history and I keep on asking myself what is it about this party that is so special  that the Chief still wants to run it. Is it about the party, or is it about the Chief himself looking at the party as his own baby that he must nourish and he wants to take it to a place that his heart desires.

In the same vein, the national woman leader, Aisha Aliyu said Chief George “is seeking the post not for anything but for the change he wants to bring to the party, for the development of the party, for progress of the party and, most of all, to deepen democracy.

The party’s deputy national secretary, Barrister Kabir Usman also commended George for staying solidly behind the party during the crisis.

“If you go to my office, you will see the pictures of Chief George at all the trials of the Supreme Court. He would be there earlier than any other stakeholder”, he said.

With the credential of George and his support base which spreads across the length and breadth of the country, the former deputy national chairman of the party may indeed have proved he is actually on a rescue mission for the party.