PDP Chairmanship Aspirants Unmasked

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‎As the Peoples Democratic Party’s national convention draws near, Segun James takes a critical look at the growing list of candidates jostling for the leadership of the opposition party

Many expect the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) coming up in December to be a game-changer because whosoever emerges as the national chairman of the party will become the leader of the opposition in the country and the man who will pilot the party back to power.

The person who takes this position must be a superman who can, at a short period of time, bring a fractious party together while mobilising the party faithful towards a common goal of wrestling power from the All Progressives Congress.

The man will also have the herculean task of convincing Nigerians why they should welcome the PDP back.

Although the field is open only to candidates from the southern states, in view of the fact that the party hierarchy had zoned the presidential ticket to the north, the south-eastern states have refused to contest the position because the zone has been pencilled down for the vice presidential ticket; hence, leaving the chairmanship post to the south-west and south-south zones.

So far many aspirants have thrown their hats into the race. A lot of horse-trading is already taking place. But who are the candidates?

Among the frontrunners are Olabode George and Prof. Tunde Adeniran.
While George is said to have the support of the majority of the party’s board of trustee members, Adeniran on the other hand is the preferred candidate of former vice-president Atiku Abubakar who may end up as the party’s candidate if the negotiations going on with the party leadership are anything to go by.

Another front-liner in the race is the former Governor of Ogun state, Chief Gbenga Daniels who is said to have the support of some former governors.

All these candidates are from the south-west. But coming from the south-south geopolitical zone are media mogul, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi who has taken his campaigns to most of the elders of the party and Prince Uche Secondus who is the choice of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Wike is at present the major sponsor of the party and exerts a great influence in the party.

However, there are still some dark horses in the wings who are yet to formally indicate interest. Among them are the party’s former governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and the former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode.

Already, the aspirants have started selling themselves ahead of the national convention. However, with the loss of power at the centre, raising money isn’t going to be easy. As the party limps towards the 2019 elections, it requires a lot of money; money that is no longer available! Luckily however, the party controls some of the richest states. But will they be willing to finance the party? So, whoever emerges as chairman will have the herculean task of raising funds for the party.
Here is a cursory look at the candidates.
The Contenders

Prof. Tunde Adeniran

Born in Ekiti State in 1945, Adeniran is a Political Scientist and a product of the University of Ibadan and Columbia University, U.S.A. He was a staff of the United Nations in the mid-seventies and taught in some American universities before he took up appointment at the University of Ibadan where he worked for twenty years before joining politics in 1998.
While in the university, Adeniran was appointed Minister for Education before being appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States of America.

A recipient of many honours and winner of many distinctions, Adeniran was a beneficiary of scholarships and fellowships while a student (including being the first Nigerian to win the youth foundation fellowship and the first African to win the Dana Backus Award
There appears to be a consensus within the south-west that Ogun-Lagos axis should produce the chairman. This may be his Achilles heel.

Bode George

Olabode Ibiyinka George is one of the most experienced aspirants for the PDP top job. He was a former military governor of Ondo State. He later became the chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority. In between them, he was the national vice-chairman, south-west zone of the PDP and later, the deputy national chairman of the party.

George was born on November 21, 1945 in Lagos. He earned a BSc and an MBA from the University of Lagos. George became a Commodore in the Nigerian Navy. He became Principal Staff Officer to General Oladipo Diya when the latter was Chief of General Staff, between 1993 and 1997. George was also a Director at the Nigerian National War College (NWC). George used to be closed to former-president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Today, those who control the party’s apparatchik are persons between the age of 45 and 60 years. George needs to convince these young turks that he has all it takes to take the party to the next level given his age. He will need to relate with them and convince them that he is what the party needs at this critical junction.

Strong-willed, inflexible and arrogant, Bode George is one man who the hawks in the party will find it hard to push around. He is one man who is not afraid to say his mind on issues.

Gbenga Daniel

Gbenga Daniel, a businessman turned politician, was born on the 6 April 1956. He was governor of Ogun State from 29 May 2003 to 29 May 2011, making him the longest-serving governor of the state.

As governor, he attracted heavy criticisms and commendations as well. He constructed the government secretariat at Oke Mosan which brought all the state ministries together in one administrative complex.

He attended the Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta from 1969 to 1973, followed by studies at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, and the School of Engineering of the University of Lagos.
He once worked against the party he now sought to lead when he refused to back Adetunji Olurin as the party’s candidate for the Ogun State gubaratorial race. The All Progressives Congress took advantage and won the state.

Raymond Dokpesi
Raymond Anthony Aleogho Dokpesi was born in 1951 in Ibadan. He entered the Nigerian mass media industry with his company DAAR Communications and set-up Ray Power radio station and television network Africa Independent Television (AIT). He was the organising committee chairman of the People’s Democratic Party national conference in 2015.

Dokpesi attended Loyola College Ibadan before going on to the Immaculate Conception College (ICC) Benin City. He did his undergraduate studies in the University of Benin and completed his studies at the University of Gdansk, Poland where he earned a doctorate degree in Marine Engineering.

Dokpesi started his working life as a personal assistant to Bamaga Tukur who was the general manager of the Nigerian Ports Authority. One of his first political assignments was as campaign manager for Bamanga Tukur which saw Tukur becoming the governor of old Gongola state.

He was also campaign manager to the Alhaji Adamu Ciroma presidential campaign, and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s presidential campaign in 1993.

One of his many sins is that like Daniel, he was not a completely faithful party man. In 2015, Dokpesi criticised the PDP for fielding Jonathan Goodluck as the PDP’s presidential candidate in the March 2015 elections.
Like Daniel, he is charged with alleged money laundering charges. Although he remains innocent, the party however will not want any one with encumbrance as its leader.

Uche Secondus

Prince Uche Secondus was born on the 22 March 1955. He acted as Chairman of the PDP from 2015 till 2016 before he was ousted following the crisis that engulfed the party. Before then, he had been chairman of the Rivers State chapter of the PDP, a position he held for two terms.

Secondus was born and raised in Andoni. He completed his elementary and secondary education in Rivers State. He further attended the London Chambers of Commerce Institute where he obtained a certificate in commerce.

He joined politics during the Second Republic in 1978. He served as Rivers State Youth Leader of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Rivers State Publicity Secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC) (1993 – 1998) and a two-term chairman of the Rivers State PDP.

In 2007, Secondus was the south-south coordinator for the PDP National Campaign Council that organized the campaigns for the party during that year’s general elections.

On 1 September 2013, he was elected Deputy National Chairman of the party. He also briefly served as acting national chairman of the party, following the resignation of Adamu Mu’azu in 2015.

As acting national chairman, Secondus could not hold the fractious party together. Besides, leaders of the party in his zone believe the south-west should be allowed to produce the next chairman. But with the financial muscle of Wike behind him, he could still be the candidate to beat.

The Dark Horses

Jimi Agbaje

Olujimi Kolawole Agbaje, a pharmacist was born on March 2, 1957. He was the party’s gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State during to the 2015 election.

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Based on his affiliation with Afenifere, Jimi Agbaje joined the Action Congress (AC) – his first political party. In 2007, Agbaje who had initially aspired to contest for the governorship election in Lagos on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) left the party to join the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA). He was among the 11 aspirants that turned their back on AC when it was alleged that Governor Bola Tinubu had already anointed someone else to succeed him even before the party primaries.

Widely believed to have conducted the best campaign in 2007, Agbaje contested in gubernatorial election on the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) platform but lost to Babatunde Raji Fashola of the AC.

He left DPA in 2011 to join the PDP. He defeated Musliu Obaikoro in the primary but lost the election to APC’s Akinwunmi Ambode.
Many believe he is too young in the party to be the chairman. They want a guarantee that he will not move to another party when the going get tough.
Nevertheless, If there is one man who fits into the bill of those shopping for a true consensus chairman of the party, Agbaje is the one. He is the one that neither threatens the hawk nor drive away the doves. Yet he is a man of his own. He has the capacity to carry every shade of opinion along while also maintaining the party’s agenda and manifesto.

Femi Fani-Kayode

Femi Fani-Kayode was with the APC until June 2014 when he returned to the PDP. Although his family lineage originates from Osun, he was born in Lagos, on 16 October 1960 to Chief Remi Fani-Kayode and his wife Chief (Mrs) Adunni Fani-Kayode.

Fani-Kayode was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. He was appointed the Minister of Culture and Tourism from 22 June to 7 November 2006 and as the Minister of Aviation from 7 November 2006 to 29 May 2007.

Fani-Kayode attended the University of London where he graduated with an LL.B degree in 1983 and later attended the Cambridge University. Fani-Kayode went to the Nigerian Law School and in 1985 was called to the Nigerian Bar.
Bold and courageous, he sustained attacks on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration even when the PDP was in disarray.
Those close to him said that he was not interested in the party’s chairmanship.
How Fani-Kayode is going to lead the PDP given his straight and inflexible type of politics will be determined after he gets elected as the national chairman at the convention.

He is one man who is not afraid to speak his mind on issue. When he disagreed with President Obasanjo his boss; he simply walked away. When he joined the APC and could not agree with the system, he just walked out. Fani-Kayode is ready and will take on controversial issues any time any day and it does not matter to him if his position is likely to inflame the polity.