George, Daniel, others jostle for PDP National Chairmanship

The battle for the national chairmanship of the main opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has begun in earnest.

Those interested in the coveted position have started lobbying of party chieftains across the nook and crannies of the country.

This follows the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, which put to rest the 14-month power tussle between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and the former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.

The Supreme Court last month declared Makarfi who is the National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party as the authentic chairman and dismissed the earlier claim to the position by Sheriff.

At the August 12, 2017 non-elective convention of the party in Abuja the party through a voice vote unanimously extended the tenure of the national caretaker committee of the party by four months and expectedly the new executive of the party will emerge at an elective convention in November this year.

The party has resolved that its presidential candidate in 2019 will come from the Northern part of the country while the national chairmanship position of the party has been zoned to the South.

However the South West are laying claim to the position of National Chairmanship of the party because prior to the aborted convention of the party in Port Harcourt last year, the position had been zoned by the Southern PDP leaders to the South West. To the South West leaders of the party, this decision is still binding.

Supporting this position recently during a press conference in Lagos, a member of the party’s Board of Trustee, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said given the chairmanship position of PDP to the South West region is the righteous path.

“Our party, the Peoples Democratic Party was in power for 16 years of unbroken democratic governance. In this particularization, every zone in this pluralistic nation had enjoyed the significant helmsmanship of our party’s apex leadership except the South West.

“This is troubling. This is not fair. This is unacceptable. This much we will fight against with all our strength, with all our energy and with all our purposeful dedication.

“There is no doubt about it: it is our turn. Now it is our right as the people of the South West to mount the apex leadership of our party.

“Now, this much is our position. Now this much is our pursuit. Now, this much is our absolute declaration: We need the best of us. We are resigned and resolved to bring out the great personality that will seize the moment and steer our party back to national leadership and purposeful renewal.”

In the South West region, about five aspirants are said to have begun consultation and lobbying of the party leaders across the country to seek their support for the coveted position. They include former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel who has recently been appointed to head the reconciliation effort in the region; former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran; former Minister of Youth Development, Professor Taoheed Adedoja (PTA) and former Lagos State PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

Of these lot, George seems to have taken a bold step to achieve his chairmanship ambition as he had already put in place a campaign team led by Chief Ebenezer Babatope. The campaign team has also begun extensive lobby to achieve victory for its candidate.

Canvassing support for George’s ambition in Lagos, Babatope said the PDP at this trying time needed the experience of George to steer its ship to success.

“In this firm resolve and contemplative clarity, we hereby proclaim and assert that Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George is the best candidate for the job,” Babatope said.

He said PDP can be enhanced and renewed towards the winning ways only “when we bring out the tested, the proven, the matured and the responsible person to lead us to electoral victory in 2019.

“This is not the time for trial and error. This is not the time for some crude illogic experimentation.

“We dare not fail. We dare not falter. We dare not temporize nor make the wrong move. Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George is now the man of destiny. He is the right choice for our party now in this challenging time,” Babatope further said.

“Our resolve is not frivolous. We are very serious. We want the best for our party. We want the best for our nation.

“We have weighed Chief Bode George on all complementary criteria for our party’s leadership. He is proven and tested. He is serious and dedicated. He is honest, fair, smart, sharp, intelligent, humble, sincere, patriotic, accommodating, selfless, candid, totally resolved on justice and fair play.

“This is the man that can now help our party to resuscitate and renew itself along the line of a triumphant new beginning. Our challenges are many. The road ahead is still very rough and unclear. Nothing yet is certain,” Babatope said.

Listing the achievements of George in the past, Babatope said in 2003 he coordinated and brilliantly marshalled the PDP’s victory in the South West where the party won five out of the six states.

He said, “George is an instinctive peace maker whose historic effort brought together the Ife people and the Modakeke people to a permanent peace table, thereby banishing forever the internecine war that had disrupted and destroyed the peace of both communities for decades.”

He said the Yoruba people have clearly and boldly made their choice “at the Akure declaration where the genuine and legitimate leaders of our people gave a resounding consensus to the candidacy of Chief Olabode George as our choice for the chairmanship job.”

While those clamouring for George are showcasing his experience in the party having been the National Vice Chairman South West, Deputy National Chairman ( South) and later National Deputy Chairman of the party, those backing Adedoja and Agbaje are of the opinion that their youthfulness will provide them enough energy to run the affairs of the party.

Adedoja is also banking on his good and long term relationship with Northerners as he speaks Hausa fluently and recently married from Borno State.

Professor Adeniran who is also a member of the party’s BOT is maintaining a low profile campaign and those routing for him are also of the opinion that his experience will be an asset for the party. He had earlier contested for the National Secretary position of the party.

Speaking on the issue on whether the party need a youth to steer its ship as being canvassed by some party members, the National Vice Chairman of the PDP South-West, Dr. Eddy Olafeso dismissed the argument of old and fresh blood, saying the party has not agreed on any criteria to be used in deciding who leads the party, saying such position is alien to the party’s constitution.

“Nobody votes by age but by experience, competence and capacity to deliver,” he said

He said that the race is open to the entire South since the presidency had been zoned to the North but that the South West is currently negotiating across the South with the motive to convince other regions to support its ambition.”

The Lagos State PDP governorship candidate for the 2015 election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje is also maintaining a low profile campaign and according to him individual ambition is not the utmost for now, but rather a collective effort to ensure that the South West got the position for itself by interacting positively with other zones in the South saying “this is what should be paramount and what I hold in high esteem for now.”

Patrick Okohue

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