Plans by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to reinvent itself are increasingly being challenged as the leading contenders in the national chairmanship contest are confronted with what stakeholders allude to as pragmatic political permutations.
For a party desperate to recover from the impunity that stakeholders claim drove it from power in 2015, it was a shock on Monday when the claim of the return of impunity echoed at a press conference organised by one of the national chairmanship candidates.
Adeniran accuses Makarfi
Addressing newsmen at a press conference in Abuja last Monday, the director-general of the Prof. Tunde Adeniran Campaign Organisation, Shehu Gabam alluded to allegations that the National Caretaker Committee, NCC headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi was bent on railroading a former acting national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus as the new national chairman of the party at the December convention.
Yesterday, the issue of Makarfi’s neutrality deepened after associates of Chief Bode George demanded his resignation on the allegation that he was backing a South-South chairmanship candidate.
George chides Makarfi
The director-general of the Bode George Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliu 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 Prince Secondus by a large section of the party’s mainstream.
Before Secondus entry into the contest, Adeniran was the establishment candidate in the contest for national chairman. His candidature was canvassed in party circles as the candidate of the North. It was not surprising, especially given the enthusiastic support some of the party’s grandees like Prof. Jerry Gana and Senator Ibrahim Mantu 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.
However, in his native Southwest, Adeniran’s aspiration was and is still to gather momentum. Even more worrisome is the fact that Adeniran has not won over the support of the Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
Fayose not aware of Adeniran’s aspiration
The governor’s spokesman, Mr. Olayinka Lere told Vanguard yesterday that the Ekiti State governor and the state chapter of the party are not officially aware of Adeniran’s intentions.
“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 yesterday.
It is a sort of irony. Adeniran and Secondus are the only aspirants among the eight declared aspirants who have sitting PDP governors.
The other aspirants Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chief Bode George, Senator Rashidi Lodoja and Mr. Jimi Agbaje, come from All Progressives Congress, APC controlled states.
Unlike Adeninran, Secondus is believed to have the backing of his home governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike. In fact, it is to the point of embarrassment that Secondus has lately been alleged of being a lackey of the governors.
Wike backs Secondus
It was an issue Secondus vividly defrayed in an interview last Monday, as he affirmed that the aspiration to be national chairman was his personal aspiration.
Popularly known as Total Chairman in his days as state chairman of the PDP during the Governor Peter Odili days of the PDP, Secondus without betraying the backing or support of Wike affirmed that he was ably qualified for the position. He noted his previous experiences as National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Chairman and until May 2016, the Acting National Chairman.
His aspiration has inevitably shifted focus from High Chief Raymond Dokpesi who the Yoruba first saw as an interloper for entering a contest that the Southwest had assumed was theirs for the taking.
Dokpesi, the media mogul, had opened his campaign on the claim that he was best positioned to restore the glory of the party. He has been dismissive of the contention by some in the Southwest that the office should be or had been micro-zoned to the Southwest as Adeniran and some other contestants from the region have alleged.
As Adeniran’s campaign manager, Gabam said last Monday: “For the PDP to stand a chance of defeating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019, the chairman of the party must go to the South-West. Anyone who underscores the importance of the South West producing the next leader of the opposition would be doing so at his own peril.”
Indeed the matter of zoning the office to the Southwest Vanguard learnt was a gentleman agreement reached on the sidelines of the aborted convention of last year.
S-West yet to produce chairman
The basis of the agreement was that it was felt that the Southwest was the only zone that was yet to produce a national chairman in acting or substantive position. It was also felt that giving the position to the Southwest would help to revive the party in that region.
Secondus, however, alluded to new thinking in the party hierarchy during an interview last Monday as he spoke of the urgency of hitting the ground running ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
According to him time between the election of the national chairman and the 2019 election is short and hence the urgency of getting a tested party man like him who has learnt the ropes to lead the party ahead of the election.
That thinking has apparently influenced several key stakeholders including Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State who is the party’s main man in the Southwest.
S-South yet to produce charman — Dokpesi
Even more, Chief Dokpesi debunked the allusion that the South-South had produced the national chairman in an interview with Vanguard.
According to him Prince Secondus’ time as Acting National Chairman was not the same thing as being substantive national chairman.
“There is no chairman that can call himself chairman except he was elected at the convention. Amodu Sheriff was approved up to NEC level and was recommended to the convention. The convention is the highest organ of the party that will determine whether or not it is possible for anybody to become chairman.
“If the convention does not approve you, you are not a chairman. Ahmed Gulak went to court, and the court of law nullified the period and decisions that the deputy national chairman who acted as chairman in the absence of the substantive chairman.
“The South-South has never produced a chairman otherwise, they should tell me the convention where Secondus was presented, and he was approved as chairman. Chief Olabode George, our revered leader, and friend was a deputy national chairman just like Secondus. So there cannot be any claim in that area.”
However, one issue which many of the stakeholders seem to be running away from is the positioning of the stakeholders ahead of the 2019 presidential election. Indeed, the press statement by the George campaign yesterday was the first open allusion to a link between the national chairmanship contest and 2019 among party chieftains.
Whereas Secondus claimed that the overwhelming support he is receiving is on account of the determination of party stakeholders to hit the ground running from December, there are also increasing speculations about the intentions of Senator Makarfi, the outgoing chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, NCC.
Makarfi, who served as governor of Kaduna State for two terms between 1999 and 2007 and as a senator between 2007 and 2015 has generally been regarded as a man for tomorrow. After making some national consultations, he buried his plans to contest the 2007 presidential election when he deciphered President Olusegun Obasanjo’s intentions and quickly moved in to become an avid supporter of Umaru Musa Yar Adua’s aspiration. His move at that time was not just out of respect for Obasanjo, but also in brotherhood with Yar’adua who he saw at that time as a brother governor.
However, the thinking among some in the mainstream of the party is that Markafi with his successful management of the crisis that confronted the party between 2016 and 2017 has been positioned as one of the party’s leading presidential aspirants.
“Makarfi is the candidate to beat as at today,” a party stakeholder from Plateau State confided in Vanguard.
Governor Wike who many party insiders also say has helped in funding more than half of the party’s finances and some serving governors are said to be quietly building consensus towards that direction. It is thus not surprising that the once flamboyant campaign of former party grandee, Chief Olabode George has in recent days condensed as reality dawned. It is perhaps that kind of reality that the supporters of Adeniran are refusing to take in quietly.
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