Exactly a week to the PDP national convention, there is intrigue, palpable tension and even division among the rank and file as to who takes charge as next national chairman of the party.
The atmosphere is charged with power brokers and delegates scheming on who to field as next PDP chief. This, analysts say is significant, considering that the next PDP boss would have the herculean task of leading the party to the much touted 2019 general elections.
Before now, eight aspirants sprang up for the coveted office. They were a former Minister of Sports and Special Duties, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja; a former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel; a former governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja; a former Lagos State PDP governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje.
Others were broadcast mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; a former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; a former acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and a former deputy national chairman, Chief Bode George.
However, a 44-year-old man who announced his takeover of PDP’s affairs at the peak of the crisis in the party in 2016, Mr. Aderemi Olusegun also threw himself into the ring Thursday, bringing the number to 9.
But indications have emerged that it’s a straight battle between Prof. Tunde Adeniran (south-west) and Prince Uche Secondus (south-south).
Credible sources told Daily Trust on Sunday that while the seven other aspirants were not in the equation, there was a sharp division among party stakeholders as to who becomes the next helmsman between the two chieftains.
Prof. Tunde Adeniran
Adeniran is ex-Minister of Education who also served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany. He is currently a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT).
He was Deputy Director General, Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign (2015); Chairman, PDP Presidential Inauguration Committee (1999); and Chairman, Electoral Panel, PDP National Convention (1999).
He was one of those who strongly kicked against the emergence of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as PDP national chairman and sustained the courage until Sheriff was ousted by the Supreme Court on July 12, 2017.
Party leaders like former President Goodluck Jonathan, a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, a former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu have said he has in-depth knowledge of the workings and operational philosophy, vision and mission of the PDP founding fathers.
According to Daily Trust, the ex-minister was in the good books of the BoT members who see him as man of integrity, considering that he had remained in the party from the formation stage to date without jumping ship at any point.
While Adeniran, a Professor of Political Science has the backings of the BoT and some governors in the party, inside sources say he also enjoyed the support of some former ministers and other stakeholders.
But pundits say even though he enjoys good will, he is being rumoured to have been sponsored by Senator Buruji Kashamu, who was an ardent supporter of Senator Sheriff at the peak of the leadership crisis in the party.
But his Campaign Director General, Alhaji Shehu Gabam, refuted the claim when contacted for comments on the issue, saying the allegation was baseless, without substance and meant to blackmail his principal.
Gabam argued that Gana, Mantu and Adeniran were the strongest forces against Sheriff’s emergence as chairman, insisting that if Buruji who was in Sheriff’s camp was financing Adeniran’s campaign, the two top politicians wouldn’t have backed him on that grounds.
Most PDP leaders who started with the party since its emergence in 1998 have said the key to opening the party’s fortunes and ending impunity lies with Adeniran.
However, his state governor, Ayo Fayose seems to be having an agenda of supporting an aspirant from another zone.
Pundits say only a transparent and credible convention would guarantee the survival of the party and its return to power in 2019.
Prince Uche Secondus
Secondus, a south-south politician from Rivers State, is the deputy national chairman of the party during the reign of the former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu.
He became acting national chairman in May, 2015, when Mu’azu threw in the towel, following the party’s defeat at the 2015 general elections.
Secondus’s reign as acting chairman was characterised by a legal suit instituted by an aide to former President Jonathan, Barr. Ahmed Gulak, who challenged his sit-tight posture.
He was later removed from office by a High Court judgement which ruled that his acting role had elapsed.
Pundits say his entrance into the race has altered the equation and the general belief that the next national chairman would come from the south-west.
The south-west, party stalwarts argue, is the only zone that has not produced a chairman since the party’s inception. Therefore, the PDP chieftains from the zone are agitating to be given the mandate this time.
However, there are also feelers among the chairmanship contestants and party members that Secondus might emerge as the next PDP boss because of the role some governors are currently playing in the party.
Insiders, however, say Secondus’ emergence would spark-off crisis except if the south-west is appeased with the party’s 2019 vice presidential ticket.
The alleged move by some governors of the party to force other chairmanship contenders out of the race in favour of Secondus suffered a setback in recently at a meeting of party stakeholders held in Enugu.
PDP governors and other critical stakeholders of the party, including Board of Trustees (BoT) members, former governors and ex-ministers, had met in Enugu to prepare grounds for next Saturday’s convention.
Sources at the meeting which lasted for several hours, told our correspondent in telephone interviews that Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), and Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), insisted that other aspirants should step down for Secondus.
One of the stakeholders from the south-west specifically told Daily Trust that the move by Fayose and Wike to make Secondus a sole candidate for the office of chairman hit the rock, following resistance by other stakeholders.
According to him, some party bigwigs at the meeting threatened to pull out of the PDP if other contenders were forced to shelve their ambitions.
He said it was after a stormy closed-door session that the governors called all the eight aspirants to speak on their plans for the PDP if given the mandate.
Similarly, the Director General of Adeniran Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Gabam recently at a press conference, accused the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of giving an undue advantage to Secondus in the composition of the adhoc committees constituted to conduct the congresses that would produce delegates.
“A particular state has members in that list and some of them are the leading campaigners for Secondus.
We, as campaign organization, are not consulted to bring one or two persons and I am sure other aspirants were not consulted too.
“So, we find it very funny and realized that the spirit behind the signing of the MOU was not respected by the party itself, not the aspirants. This is not a very good spirit. This is not a good leadership.
“Now, you have just one chairmanship aspirants having his men deeply entrenched in a system that would determine how the delegates will emerge.
“This is an indirect way of short-changing other aspirants and this is not good for the party,” Gabam said.
But while the aspirants have intensified campaigns nationwide, one of the contestants, Chief Bode George, through his Campaign Director General, Ibrahim Aliyu recently called for the resignation of the Senator Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
This, perhaps, was when he saw the signs that he was being schemed out of the equation. According to him, the caretaker committee was no longer transparent in the build up to the convention and could not be trusted.
The PDP 77th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of last Thursday, however, cautioned against any form of attack on the Makarfi-led caretaker committee and hate speech among the contestants.
It also approved the composition of the convention planning committee. The NEC, however, failed to agree on who chairs the committee.
When asked to comment on the issue, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye said, “until we publish it, don’t jump the gun.”
However, with the battle now limited to two strong contenders, it is left to be seen who gets the crown Saturday.(Daily Trust).