PDP Chairmanship Battle Begins, APC Govs Seek Backing for Buhari

  • Secondus, Bode George, Adeniran, others enter PDP race as Obaseki gets APC guber flag in Edo

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

As the Peoples Democratic Party prepares for a fresh national convention in Port Harcourt on August 17, some leaders of the party have indicated their willingness to vie for its national chairmanship position. Prominent among them are former deputy national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, a member of the Board of Trustees, Chief Bode George, and Professor Tunde Adeniran.

But there are others who are also believed to be nursing the ambition of becoming the next national chairman of the opposition party. They include, chairman of Daar Communications Plc, owners of African Independent Television, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chief Bode Olajumoke, Chief Shuaib Oyedokun and Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

In another development, governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress saturday in Benin City rallied behind President Muhammadu Buhari in his effort to better the lot of the country. It was at a ceremony where the APC candidate ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, was officially given the party’s governorship flag by the national leadership.

Meeting under the aegis of Progressive Governors’ Forum as a gesture of solidarity with Obaseki, the governors called on Nigerians to support Buhari. They expressed optimism that things would get better in the country.

PDP had held an expanded national caucus meeting last Thursday at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, to try to resolve the leadership crisis that has brewed in the party since its May 21 national convention in Port Harcourt. That convention was marred by controversy following the decision to remove Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as national chairman and constitute a national caretaker committee led by Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi.

Besides fixing the date for a new convention, the national caucus meeting also decided to zone the post of PDP national chairman to the South. This followed the decision at the last convention to zone the presidential position ahead of the 2019 general election to the North. The national caucus also decided to constitute a reconciliation committee headed by the deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to reunite members of the PDP in the South-west ahead of the national convention.

The decision to hold a new convention and zone the chairmanship post to the South has caused intense politicking within PDP, as prominent southern members struggle quietly to win support for themselves ahead of the contest for the headship of the main opposition party.

Secondus, from Rivers State in the South-south geopolitical zone, had led the party for almost eight months in acting capacity after the resignation of Alhaji Adamu Muazu as national chairman, before handing over to Sheriff. He is being tipped as the likely person to clinch the chairmanship post if the choice is narrowed to the South-south. A reliable source told THISDAY at the weekend that the former party scribe had been positioning himself for the post since he handed over to Sheriff.

The source said, “Secondus knows that as a well-grounded party man with an added advantage of being close to the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, he stood a good chance of picking the top job. All he has been doing is to play safe and avoid drawing attention to his ambition so as not to arouse suspicion from other interested parties.”

A source close to George confirmed last night that he was in the chairmanship race, stressing that he has been “drafted by the South-west PDP to lead the way for the zone.”

Adeniran also confirmed his participation in the race.
But the issue of who becomes the next national chairman of PDP has seemed to be made more difficult by disagreement among stakeholders from the South-west. It was learnt that the recent crisis that rocked the party in the zone was the result of a clash of interest between those, allegedly, seeking to position themselves for the vice presidential post in 2019 and others who feel that the zone should take its chance now by producing the national chairman.

However, a source said that following a recent reconciliation meeting at the Ondo Governors Lodge in Abuja by top party leaders from the South-west, the coast may be clear for the zone to make a strong bid for the chairmanship position at the August 17 national convention. The South-west PDP caucus at the weekend came close to settling the intra-party crisis rocking the zone.

Among the resolutions reached at the peace meeting were that henceforth, none of the leaders should interfere in the affairs of any state apart from their home states. It was also agreed that the state executive committees in Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti states, as presently constituted and approved by the National Executive Committee before the last national convention in Port Harcourt, should remain.
Other decisions in the peace deal were that the state executives of the PDP in Lagos, Oyo and Osun would be harmonised and consolidated.

Notable leaders of the party in the South-west, such as Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, and Senator Buruji Kashamu were also said to have met at the Ondo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja and agreed to drop their differences to allow peace to reign.

Another source of concern in the PDP as it goes towards the national convention is the seemingly adamant posture of Sheriff and his loyalists. They are, apparently, not satisfied with the way the reconciliation is going.

PDP leaders at the expanded national caucus meeting believed the presence of Kashamu, a strong supporter of Sheriff, was evidence that its reconciliation effort was working. But Sheriff’s deputy and former national vice chairman of PDP (South-south), Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh, who spoke to journalists yesterday, said they were still pursuing their cases in court.

Ojuogboh said , “I have the express permission of Sheriff to inform our teeming supporters and PDP faithful nationwide that he has not reached agreement with anybody, neither has he permitted anybody to conclude on any processes on his behalf.” He said that Sheriff would address a press conference tomorrow to state his position on the state of the party.

“We are continuing with our cases in court. We respect the rule of law,” Ojuogboh stated, saying, “Our goal remains to return the party to the people and stamp out impunity,”.

Makarfi, who addressed newsmen shortly after the expanded national caucus meeting said, “We received reports of reconciliation. You can see by yourself our brother, friend and associate, Senator Buruji Kashamu. That is evidence of the reconciliation making progress and I can assure you that we will never foreclose full reconciliation with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and others that may still be associated with him.

“What we want is an all-inclusive PDP. An equitable, fair and just system in the PDP, where the right of everyone commiserate with their own level is protected and preserved.”

Meanwhile, the APC governors meeting in Benin City yesterday, apart from showing solidarity with Obaseki, also canvassed support for the federal government and sought ways to end the incessant bloody clashes between herdsmen and crop farmers.

“We have also requested that the people of Nigeria should support President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the face of difficulties that our nation is going through, promising that things will get better as soon as possible,” chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, told journalists yesterday.

Okorocha said the party had set up a campaign council for Obaseki, aading, “We also deliberated on the issues of Fulani herdsmen and the crisis we have had as a result of some of their activities. We have requested that all governors should engage the Fulani in their areas with a view to finding a lasting solution and then to avoid further clashes from now henceforth.”