Dr. Alex Ekwueme
As the race for the Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees chairmanship revs up, the Second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who had never been mentioned among those seeking the position, has surprisingly thrown his hat into the ring, just before the December 7 deadline for the indication of interest in the contest.
THISDAY gathered that at the close of Friday, Ekwueme was among four BoT members that had picked their notification forms ahead of the BoT election scheduled for January 8 next year. The others were former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former BoT chairman, Chief Anthony Anenih, and newspaper publisher, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu.
Friday last week was the deadline for the picking of the notification forms. At the last meeting of the BoT presided over the national chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, all interested members of the BoT were directed to pick the notification forms on or before December 7.
THISDAY could, however, not confirm if the former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, had picked up the notification form.
All the notification forms were picked from the secretary of the board, Senator Walid Jibrin. As at press time, former national chairman of PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, was yet to pick a form for the contest. Also said to have indicated his intention to contest was the former BoT chairman of All Nigeria Party, Chief Harry Akande.
All the contestants are earnestly in need of President Goodluck Jonathan’s backing. And at the weekend, most of them were said to have taken their battle for the support of the president to Otuoke, his home town in Bayelsa State, where he was burying his younger brother.
Anenih was in Otuoke, instead of at the Yar’Adua Memorial Lecture where he was supposed to be chairing the steering committee. Also said to be in Bayelsa State was Nnamani.
Ekwueme, 80, was the founding national chairman of PDP and was the first chairman of the party’s BoT. He might have been reluctant to run for the BoT chairmanship. But his entrance into the race may be the game changer that would moderate the contest that has proved to be a major field of play for the war of nerves between Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo has not been favourably disposed to Jonathan’s second term ambition and the former president has been trying to build a nationwide alliance in support of his position on 2015 presidency. The powerful PDP BoT, currently the highest decision-making organ of the party, will be instrumental in determining who would fly the PDP presidential flag in 2015.
Recently, Obasanjo organised a fund-raiser for a mosque project at his presidential library in Abeokuta that proved to be part of his strategic mobilisation for 2015. He, reportedly, embarked on a tour of the South-east soon after the Abeokuta event on the invitation of Iwuanyanwu, who was also in Abeokuta for the fundraising ceremony.
There are strong indications that Jonathan may be inclined towards the South-east in the choice of the BoT chairman to address a sense of marginalisation in the headship of PDP being felt by politicians from the zone. The office of the national chairman of PDP is held by a North-easterner, the president is from the South-south, and the vice president is from the North-west.
The office of the national secretary of PDP is occupied by some from the South-west, while the South-east feels left out.
Though, the zone occupies the offices of deputy senate president and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, they consider the offices de-facto heads.
In the past few weeks, Nnamadi was arguably the most popular South-east contender for the BoT chairmanship post. But he is believed to be close to Obasanjo, a situation that seems sure to rob him of the president’s support. Ekwueme might then have emerged as a moderate force likely to be accepted by all sides.