By Tobi Soniyi and Segun James
Two top contenders for the post of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, Chief Bode George, a former deputy national chairman; and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of Ogun State; at the weekend exchanged hot words over their bids for the partyâ€™s top post.
The party has zoned the post of national chairmanship to the south while the presidential ticket is zoned to the north of the country.
The South-west is favoured to produce the party’s national chairman because it is the only zone that has not occupied the position.
Both George and Daniel as well as the partyâ€™s 2015 gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, are the leading contenders from the region.
At a caucus meeting of PDP leaders in the region to resolve the crisis in the Lagos State chapter of the party, which was hosted by Daniel, someone who attended the meeting told THISDAY that Daniel asked George to forget the idea of running for the party’s national chairman in order to save the South-west from losing the post to either the South-south or South-east.
Daniel, who is also an aspirant for the position, told George that since the position had been zoned to the South, a rival from the South-south or South-east would easily beat George to clinch the position, a situation that would be a loss for the South-west, the only geopolitical region that is yet to produce a leader of the party till date.
The source said Danielâ€™s advice resulted in a shouting match between the two leaders as he cited Georgeâ€™s age and alleged controversial past as reasons the former deputy national chairman should consider stepping down for a much younger politician to shepherd the party to the 2019 general election.
He told the former military governor of old Ondo State that most of the young politicians who now control all aspects of activities in the party do not want George as national chairman and that he should rather play a fatherly role in the race.
Daniel insisted that the South-west would never choose George as a consensus candidate as was done during the botched convention that was held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, last year.
According to THISDAY sources, Daniel gave the advice after George had insisted that the 22-man caretaker committee set up by the National Caretaker Committee be increased to 40 for peace to reign in the party in Lagos State.
A source said that this was done to placate George as time ticked towards the national convention of the PDP tentatively scheduled for December.
George was said to have replied that Danielâ€™s advice was not in good faith because he was also an interested party. He, therefore, rejected the advice.
George told Daniel that he would run and would rather lose gallantly than chicken out before the race.
He said that he would not succumb to any blackmail especially from Daniel.
He challenged Daniel to a test of popularity to determine who between them was more popular and acceptable as leader of the party.
George told those at the meeting that what PDP needed was a leader who could take the party to the next level and would ensure that the party wins in the 2019 general election instead of another mediocre.
He, therefore, told Daniel to meet him in the field instead of engaging in an emotional blackmail.
The 40-man committee is expected to plan and form caretaker committees both at the local government and ward levels in the state in order for the state chapter of the party to participate in the December elective convention.