As the race for the chairmanship post of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) heats up, a former education minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, and a former Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel, have emerged front runners for the coveted party post.
Their emergence, THISDAY has gathered, stems from the insistence by the South-west zonal leadership of the party that the post of national chairman of the PDP must remain in the zone, in accordance with the zoning arrangement for key posts agreed to by the party early this year.
A source also said that the South-west zoneâ€™s contention for the chairmanship post has been given further fillip by former President Goodluck Jonathan who was said to have rejected the attempt by some governors of the party to back a former National Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, who is from the South-south zone.
Some governors with vice-presidential ambitions had thrown their weight behind Secondus, arguing that the South-west should produce the vice-presidential candidate as running mate to a Northern presidential candidate in the 2019 elections and as a counter-balance to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The argument of such governors is that if the South-west gets the vice-presidential slot, this could help to split the vote in the region that played a major role in catapulting President Muhammadu Buhari to the presidency in the 2015 elections.
However, Jonathan, the source disclosed, has counselled against altering the zoning arrangement agreed by the party on the grounds that it would lead to more rancour in the PDP at a time it should be presenting a united front for the 2019 general election.
â€œThe former president has counselled against altering the zoning arrangement agreed to early this year.
â€œIt will cause to much rancour ahead of 2019. Besides, Jonathan also believes that the South-south is already the stronghold of the PDP, so the focus should be on ensuring that there is no problem in the South-west before the next general election,â€ the source said.
Based on this, the source volunteered, Adeniran, Agbaje and Daniel have emerged front runners for the chairmanship post.
Looking at their strengths and weakness, he said while Adeniran has remained a PDP loyalist and has the maturity to lead the party, he lacks the sophistication and clout to keep the governors in check.
In the case of Agbaje, he is liked due to his reputation as an upright party man and the fact that he is seen as a new face that could usher a new beginning for the PDP and a break from its sordid past, but concerns remain among some party bigwigs that he may not possess the requisite party experience and an understanding of its dynamics.
â€œJimi Agbaje certainly has a lot of pros in his favour but concerns remain that he lacks an understanding of party dynamics and may be a stickler for due process which as you know the governors of the party will often try to circumvent,â€ said the source.
On Daniel, he said the former Ogun governor has the backing of a majority of ex-governors of the PDP who are still very influential and want one of their own to lead the party.
â€œThe view is that Daniel can lead the party and has the support of his former colleagues and some governors as they are the most influential on decisions of the party.
â€œBut there are some who argue against Danielâ€™s emergence because he may not be as malleable and could be quite polarising,â€ the source elaborated.
On Bode George, another former National Deputy Chairman of the PDP, the source said the public perception of the retired naval commodore had not changed much, following his conviction by a court in Lagos and his subsequent imprisonment, despite his eventual discharge and acquittal by the Supreme Court.