By Dirisu Yakubu
THE Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is gradually picking itself up from the ashes of the 2015 electioneering defeat in the hands of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. After surviving a protracted 13 month-legal tussle that culminated in the massive defection of some of its political heavyweights, the party is gradually re-grouping ahead of the 2019 general elections.
In the past few two months, the party hasn’t hidden its plan to oust the APC-led administration in 2019; a development that led to its extension of the olive branch to all aggrieved members who left the party at one time or the other. As a result, big players such as Rashidi Ladoja and Alao Akala, two former governors of Oyo State have reportedly returned to the party,the platform on which they were respectively elected.
The leadership of the party in consultation with stakeholders has also resolved to do away with the factors which combined with providence to sweep the PDP out of power, insisting that henceforth, equity, fairness and justice will not be sacrificed on the altar of imposition and impunity.
Thus, for the first time in recent memory, the party resolved to go back to its Constitution in the determination of those to occupy two principal offices at the December 9 elective convention: The Presidency and the national chairman. Consequently, the Presidency goes to the North while the South is expected to produce the national chairman.
Although the party insists it would not micro-zone the two offices; there is a general belief in keeping faith with the virtue of equity, it will ensure the South-West produce the chairman at the December convention. Only yesterday (Tuesday) at the gathering of the Northern PDP leaders and elders in Abuja, a former Chairman of the party, Dr. Ahmadu Ali let the cat out of the bag when he said: ”We must be ready to ensure that at the convention, the main issue, which is the national chairmanship of the party, is well handled. If we don’t vote the South-West, we can as well forget the PDP.”
Not surprisingly, the zone has thrown up four key contenders in Chief Bode George, Professors Tunde Adeniran, Taoheed Adedoja and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, each boasting impeccable credentials to boot. So, what do these men have going for them in a race expected to be keenly contested?
Chief Bode George
The former chairman, board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is a tested politician, brimming with huge experience. A former national chairman of the party in the South-West, George, a retired Navy Commodore later became deputy national chairman (South) and subsequently, deputy national chairman.
Insinuations in some quarters have it that the South-West is likely to offer George as a consensus candidate for the office; a move that is sure to face resistance from other contenders. Thus far, former Transport Minister, Ebenezer Babatope has been promoting the George’s candidacy, reminding anyone who cares to listen that the ex-NPA boss is the right man for the job. “I am picking George,” Babatope had said recently, “because of his experience as a party faithful who will ensure reconciliation of all aggrieved members of the party.”
Apart from this grassroots solidarity, George’s chances are further boosted by what an insider described as his “clout” and “independent state of mind.” In the past few years, governors elected on the platform of the party literarily dictated the goings-on in the party affairs, owing largely to their deep financial war chest and readiness to dole out same in furtherance of their interests. In no distant time, they became uncontrollable and often had their way on such important issues as determining who flew the Presidential flag of the party as well as members of the National Working Committee of the party.
A former national officer of the party confided in this medium recently that George has what it takes to tame the excesses of the governors, not by confronting them but by making them see reasons to pledge their loyalty to the party on which platform they rode to power. “George is the only one who can stare the governors in the eyes without blinking,” he had said, stressing that “the national leadership of the party should do everything possible to ensure a hitch-free convention that will produce the best crop of people to confront what the ruling party will offer in 2019.”
Professor Tunde Adeniran
A Professor of Political Science, Adeniran is a tested, loyal party man, famed for staying put with the PDP since its formation in 1998. A one-time Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, Adeniran boasts of well-oiled campaign machinery with support from the Concerned PDP Mid-Rangers, a group of young politicians within the party whose membership is drawn from across the six geo-political zones.
According to the Director General, Professor Tunde Adeniran Campaign Organization, Alhaji Shehu Gabam, Adeniran’s track records of loyalty, competence and integrity places him above others in the race for the job ahead of others. Gabam, a PDP chieftain has consistently argued that if the party is desirous of returning to power in 2019, it should look in the direction of Adeniran to pilot the affairs of the party for the next few years. A former Minister of Information from the North as well as erstwhile Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu has reportedly thrown their weight behind the aspiration of Professor Adeniran.
Professor Taoheed Adedoja
Adedoja has travelled the length and breadth of the country to sell his candidacy to the party faithful ahead of the December convention. A former Minister of Sports, he’s a dedicated party man and arguably the only candidate with campaign coordinators in the respective six geo-political zones. He recently unveiled his ‘agenda’ promising to put an end to impunity and imposition of candidates. But in the words of his South-East campaign coordinator, High Chief Patrick Onyejiuwa, Adedoja is the only exception in the pack of contenders not in any way and manner, linked to graft or negative vice(s) at any point in time.
He told Vanguard: “Adedoja is totally free from corruption allegations and all that. He is a true nationalist who has lived and worked in almost all the States in Nigeria. His humility and transparency speak volumes.” Earlier in the week, he met privately with a founding member of the PDP and former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida at his Minna hilltop mansion as part of his nationwide consultations. Asked by this reporter what transpired at the meeting, Professor Adedoja said: “It is not everything you discuss privately with such an important former President that is for public consumption. I can only say I’m pleased and satisfied.”
Otunba Gbenga Daniel
The former governor of Ogun State recently got the backing of General Ibrahim Babangida who was said to have described him as a “breath of fresh air” while on a courtesy call at the retired General’s residence in Minna, Niger State. Although not much is known of Babangida’s influence in the PDP affairs these days, Daniel is not a candidate to be dismissed by a wave of the hand, analysts say.
Difficult as it is to suggest who holds the ace today, it’s clear all contenders are leaving nothing to chance in a bid to get an inch advantage over the others.