This is the first time in the history of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and perhaps, any political party in Nigeria where the contest for the office of the National Chairman has generated so much frenzy, interest and politicking.
This development has further concretized the growing belief that the party still enjoys wide support from Nigerians and that it may as well go ahead to win the Presidential election in 2019.
As a member of the party, I believe strongly that our process of rebirth must come from a practical indication that we have learnt great lessons from the missteps of the past and ready to re-present ourselves to Nigerians as a vehicle capable of surmounting the challenges which our nation has been dragged into by the inefficiency and incompetency of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
But this dream, if it is to come to fruition, will depend largely on how the party manages the forthcoming National Convention slated for December 9 in Abuja, especially in the process of electing the National Chairman.
Already eight party Chieftains have indicated their interest to clinch the apex seat. While the messages across these contenders seem similar, the intention and capacity of these individuals are not the same. From my informed perspective, I will analyze as follows:
Chief Bode George
If experience is the only requirement to clinch the Chairmanship position, all that would be needed in December 9 will be mere ratification. Amongst other candidates, Chief George is the most experienced; he understands the process of the party and its workings. However, this would have only been a plus if the new PDP is not trying to do away with most of the methods that pitched her against the people and ultimately resulted to the loss of the Presidential election and major States in 2015.
For a party looking at repositioning itself as one in-tune with present reality of global political practice, Chief Bode George might not be the perfect candidate for the position. In the age where the youth are becoming Presidents and taking top public positions across the world, it is not ideal for the PDP to go back in time to pick a Chairman who is supposedly required to take it into the future.
Chief George also appears to many party members as more of a sectional leader rather than an individual capable of handling the National Chairmanship position with all its demands, this was exemplified when Chief George declared his ambition to contest for the apex seat in Lagos rather than in Abuja. His campaign structure is literally being handled by his brother, Chief Ebenezer Babatope alone in an election that should portray buy-in from all and every region in the country. Only until recently did Chief George move his campaign office to Abuja after realizing his mistake rather too late.
Professor Tunde Adeniran
Truth be told, Professor Adeniran is a fine gentleman, soft spoken and intellectually sound. His experience as the former Minister of Education will be a plus to the party especially in ideology reorientation. But beyond this, Professor is too weak and gentle a man for a position that requires vigor, agility and strength.
The National Chairman of the party will be resuming the position as the head of an opposition party rather than a party in power, hence, such Chairman will need to portray a battle-ready figure with the capacity to improvise occasionally and lead the party into the challenge in 2019. Professor Adeniran is too meek and more of a bureaucrat rather than a spontaneous individual.
Secondly, Professor’s relationship with Senator Buruji Kashamu and former President Atiku Abubakar may seriously stand against him. Though the former Minister has since denied any relationship with the duo, evidences have proven otherwise.
For instance, Professor’s official declaration in Abuja was graced by Senator Buruji Kashamu who many party faithful perceive as one of the fifth columnists who helped the ruling All Progressive Congress destabilize the party with legal battles that lasted over a year. In an interview during his consultation visit to Professor Adeniran, Chief Dokpesi established the relationship between Atiku and Adeniran when he disclosed that when his Television Station had a problem, it was Adeniran who took him to Atiku for support.
This position is different from the ‘No relationship’ with Atiku which the Professor claims. Atiku support on the other hand is capable of destroying the internal democracy and transparency in party primaries as a candidate being sponsored by a Presidential aspirant may be tied to see to the emergence of such aspirants even at the detriment of other aspirants.
Otunba Gbenga Daniel
Gbenga Daniel is a known figure in the party, especially with his role in the 2011 election of former President Goodluck Jonathan as the Southwest Coordinator of the campaign. He is a veteran and tested figure in election winning machinery with how he turned around the fortunes of the Party defeating a strong incumbent in 2003 in Ogun State, same he repeated when he coordinated the Southwest for Jonathan’s victory.
Daniel has also made superb contributions to the organization and rebranding of PDP in Ogun State and Southwest, leading the reconciliation drive after the Supreme Court ruling. Having survived various politically motivated onslaughts within and outside the party post 2011, PDP will need not worry about a Chairman who would cave in to the intimidation of the ruling party should he win.
As a former Governor, he enjoys the fraternity of other former Governors and many have attested to his capacity to reorganize and build relationship with strong political figures across party lines. However, his decision to dump the party in 2013 to join the Labour Party may pitch him against dogmatic party faithfuls.
Though in an interview recently, he disclosed that his move to dump the party then was based on his suspension from the party by the party’s structure in Ogun State loyal to Senator Buruji Kashamu.
It however remain unclear if the leaders of the party will find this excuse tenable.
Chief Raymond Dokpesi
No doubt, Chief Dokpesi has paid his dues in the Peoples Democratic Party. He is an ardent advocate of the party, supporter of its policies and defender of its integrity. In the midst of the uncertainty around the judgement of the Supreme Court, some party leaders pandered to him to create an alternative platform for the party, however, this was where Dokpesi problem started. Rather than put in place an alternative party whose leadership will be collectively selected, Chief Dokpesi went ahead to put his followers and loyalists in all the top positions of the alternative party. This immediately caused distrust between him and the leadership of the PDP, one which may take a long time to heal if it will ever heal.
Secondly, as at today, the media mogul is registered as a member of the Advance Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), he is also the Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees according to available records at INEC. What this means is that for him to hold any position in PDP, he must first decamp to the party and if he eventually does, he must be granted a waiver by the National Executive Council of the party before he can contest for the National Chairmanship seat.
If not for the postponement of the second Port Harcourt convention, Jimi Agbaje would have emerged as the National Chairman of the party despite the challenge posed by Chief Dokpesi then. He was the candidate of the Governors and they literally made a case for him as the best image the party deserves then. If there is anything Jimi will be bringing to the party, it is in perception building. To a large extent the PDP requires a better brand modification, a feel of difference and freshness from the old order but apart from that feel of newness, nothing more.
If Jimi emerges, this will be his first political office and as such, he may not have the much needed political clout and network to reach out to former members of the party who are presently in the ruling party. Secondly, lots of party members and leaders do not trust the absolute loyalty of Jimi.
At every point after losing election in Lagos State, either as the candidate of the party or that of the defunct Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), Jimi often runs back to the bosom of Bola Tinubu, leaving his supporters and party in limbo. Jimi has also not shown any seriousness to really desire the Chairmanship position and his posture looks more like an individual banking on the eventual adoption of his candidacy by the Governor’s forum again.
One of the candidates that should be looked out to is Uche Secondus. Having previously held the Chairmanship position in acting capacity, Uche enjoys some bit of leverage though there are rumblings of financial mismanagement when he held sway at Wadata Plaza. If he emerges, the workings of the party will not be new to him as he has a network across the divides. However, Uche Secondus is from the South South region just like Chief Dokpesi.
The implication of his emergence is that the South East chance of clinching the Vice-Presidential ticket may become slim as the South West will definitely put in all its resources into ensuring the position comes to the region. Politically, the calculation of an Uche Secondus as National Chairman is that it creates a level of marginalization against the Southwest region and also promote a general believe of what many has whispered as the South-Southernization of the party by the South South having produced the immediate past President.
Chief Rashidi Ladoja
The candidacy of Chief Ladoja is more like a chess game. Having been received with accolades and funfair back into the party from the Accord Party, Chief Ladoja is on the road to test the efficacy of the promise of equality and level playing ground he was promised while been wooed back to the party.
Chief Ladoja knows he is more of a fresh man into the party and may not have the inroad network to galvanize the support of the entire National delegates but if the party does not screen him out in the race and he eventually gets to the Convention as a candidate, his desire for inclusiveness would have been established.
Professor Taoheed Adedoja
Professor Adedoja is a quiet contender who has successfully kept his campaign under the radar but do not mistake this for inefficiency. His campaign network cut across the six geopolitical zones and he is making conscious effort to get supports majorly in the North.
By Musbau Adedeji. Musbau was a delegate of the PDP to the Port Harcourt, 2016 National Convention