Henry Tyohemba in this report writes on issues that will determine who becomes the next national chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ahead of the forthcoming national convention of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there are indications that both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may also be closely watching the race, especially in view of on-going investigations into some of the aspirants, and also because ofthe amount of funds that is being spent traversing the country to canvass for the support of PDP chieftains, especially governors.
Apart from the high cost of air travel for their entourage, some of the aspirants are believed to give generous cash gifts while visiting the states, thereby reinforcing the widely held public view that the PDP is a party where money is king. It is thus in the light of key parameters such as experience, corruption investigation and public image, that we undertake a brief review of the standing of some of the frontline aspirant to the PDP national chairman position, which is to be contested at the party national convention scheduled to hold in Abuja on 09-December.
At age 72, Chief Bode George (BG to his friends), considers himself to be the most experienced of the aspirants, perhaps partly because he retired from the military with the rank of Commodore and was one time Military Governor of Ondo State (1998–90). But a nother Lagos State titan and BG’s long-time rival, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, nevertheless denounce such experience as not being enough to make a person a good political leader.In addition, Chief Bode George, a former Deputy National Chairman, was in 2009 convicted of fraudulent activity that was perpetrated during his tenure as chairman at the Nigerian Ports Authority. Although the conviction was later upturned on appeal, and the Lagos-born politician pardoned by ex-President Jonathan, Chief Bode George’s public image may never fully recover from the incident. More so as the incident is believed to have alienated him from his former boss, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s two time president, who remains very influential in PDP affairs, albeit reluctantly.
Another aspirant, Chief Akintayo Akin- Deko, is also making waves with his pitch for reconciliation of factions, party supremacy and returning the party to the feet of the founding elders. He is the son of late High Chief Akin-Deko, and having been active in the National Party Nigeria (1978-83), and a member the National Republican Convention (1989-91) and now the PDP, the Idanre chief sees himself as an experienced nationalist and is relying heavily on his network of friends nationwide to help car ry his campaign message to partyleade rs in their respective states. The trade and investments consultant, has also avoided being the candidate of any faction, be it the powerful PDP Governors’ Forum, the Caucus of PDP ex-Ministers, or the Support Groups behind the presidential ambitions of notable PDP leaders including returning el ders. Although he contested for the position of PDP National Sectary in 2012 and in the past helped to coordinate presidential campaigns of importantpoliticians such as Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Dr Alex Ekwueme, Chief Akin-Deko appears to have little experience in actual party management. But he does score highly on public image as he has not known to have any issues with the EFCC or similar agencies, he is believed to well regarded by party elders and is reputed to be strong on discipline.
The issue of EFCC and corruption charges nevertheless seem to be dogging OtunbaGbenga Daniel’s campaign. So much that the two term Ogun State govern or had to issue a statement that his repeated court appearances to defend himself against fraud charges, was more like EFCC persecution than prosecution. Still, as he believes that he has no case to answer, and in so far as an accused person remains innocent until found guilty, the Ijebuprince emphasised that his ambition to become PDP national Chairman was not in any way affected. His claim has since corroborated by the incumbent acting National Chairman, Senator Makarfi. But Otunba Gb enga Daniel has been unable to shake off the belief that he is being supported by ex-President Jonathan and iron lady, Dame Patience, which might spell doom for OGD’s ambition because we can expect delegates at the 09-Decemberconvention to b lame Otunba Daniel as one of those leaders that was in part for the PDP’s2015 electoral loss and therefore vote against him in the chairmanship contest.
The campaign of Professor Taoheed Adedoja is one of softly softly, as the one time Minister for Sports has been seen in various PDP state secretariats and at the home of notable PDP party leaders nationwide, quietly selling his candidacy and his clean record. From General Babangida’s palatial Minna home to the PDP governors’ meeting in Enugu, the Ibadan professor, is factoring both on his marital links to the family of PDP former National Chairman, Alhaji Bama nga Tukur, and on his Muslim religion background to woo northern leaders to his cause. But the PDP zoning of the presidency to the North assumes a Moslem will emerge as president, and Christians in the party may lobby for the Chairman’s position to be reserved for a Christian. In addition, party leaders from the SE and SS zones, who are currently very strong in the PDP, appear determined to use every means at their disposal to put their own nominee in charge of the party as chairman. The erudite professor may thus need to intensify his pitch to that particular region
Another professor, this time Chief Tunde Adeniran from Ekit i State, who is also a former minister, has overcome challenges in his personal affairs that were once widely reported in the media, to campaign vigorously for the PDP plum post. With the relentless support of PDP chieftain, Alhaji Buruji Kasha mu, Professor Adeniran had near totally surmounted the vigorous opposition of the governor of his home state, Dr Ayodele Fayose, and is believed to have successfully positioned himself for outright endorsement by PDP party leaders at a recent meeting in Abuja. Unfortunately for Professor Adeniran, Governor W ike, possibly with the backing of Governor Ayodele Fayose, is believed to have lobbied vigorously in favour of his state’s candidate, Chief Uche Secondus. For Governor Fayose the PDP Chairmanship coming to the SW Zone would not augur well for his ambition to be president or vice-president. It is also fair to speculate that ex-President Obasnajo will also now oppose Chief Adeniran’s ambition given the support the Ekiti professor is getting from Senator Kashamu.
Meanwhile, after what appears to be the most aggressive campaign of all, media mogul Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the founder and chairman of African Independent Television (AIT)has established a powerful claim to the PDP national chairmanship. He has criss-crossed the nation several times, meeting the high and mighty of the party to promote his candidacy, and in the process he has almost singlehandedly ensured that the race is kept open for the entire southern region rather than being micro zoned to the SW. But the Abonema chief’s involvement in the creation of APDA, a party that has drawn great interest across the country, has resulted in widespread allegations of Chief Dokpesi’s disloyalty to the PDP. Equally problematic are allegations of his company, AIT’s deep involvement in the fraud scandal labelled Dasukigate, which has beamed EFCC searchlight intensely on Chief Dokpesi and many of those around him.
Other personalities in the race include Chief Ladoja, the Ibadan high chief who governed Oyo State from 2003–06 as a member of the PDP, who then left to form the Accord Party and only recently crossed back to the PDP. There is also Chief Jimi Agbaje the PDP 2015 Lagos State gubernatorial candidate, who is seen as an arch-rival to Chief Bode George,and may have been persuaded to join the race to stop BG from clinching the position he so passionately wants. Meanwhile, although Chief Uche Secondus initially made strong showing while he was Governor Wike’s nominee, his connection with the 2015 defeat of the PDP while he was Deputy National Chairman may have played against him as Governor Wike is believed to now be looking for a different candidate to support. There is also widespread rumor that Liyel Im oke, former two term governor of Cross Rivers State is amongst those who may still join the race.
For now, the rumour mill is running overtime including with reports that Alhaji AtikuAbubakar with his renowned huge war chest and powerful structure is once more interested in joining the PDP, a party that he helped found. Similarly, a Lagos political warlord wants the Vice-presidential position zoned to the SW as a condition of his also swinging support from APC to PDP. The race for the PDP National Chairmanship can therefore onl y get hotter as unfolding events in the nation shows that the party is still a formidable force that must be reckoned with. If properly handled, the contest could produce a National Chairman for the PDP that come 2019, the party will give its incumbent APC rival stiff competition to produce the next president. But if the 2019 ambition of the different interest groups is allowed to reign unfettered during the build up to the 09-Dec Convention, the contest to elect a new National Chairman could deal the PDP a blow from which it might never again recover.
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