- PDP delegates storm Abuja to revive partyÂ Â
- Bode George withdraws, Dokpesi says heâ€™s still in the race
- Northern caucus insists on chairman from South-west
- Jonathan: I have no preferred candidate
By Yemi Adebowale in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
After surviving leadership crisis that almost crippled it, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will today continue its great revival at an elective national convention in Abuja, during which a new leadership is expected to emerge, to steer the party into the 2019 elections.
However, one of the chairmanship aspirants, Bode George made a surprise withdrawal from the race yesterday, blaming his action on the failure of the party to uphold micro zoning.
This elective convention is a make or mar event for the party, because if it fails to get this particular act right, it may head back to political doldrums.
With the withdrawal of George, eight aspirants are now locking horns to clinch the national chairmanship position, the partyâ€™s most coveted trophy. Yesterday, the Screening Committee of the party cleared all of them as suitable for the position.
Chairman of the committee, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, subsequently presented certificates of clearance to all of them at the partyâ€™s National Secretariat located in Abuja.
In the race for todayâ€™s chairmanship election are Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education; Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, another former minister; Mr. Jimi Agbaje, the former Lagos state governorship candidate of the party in the 2015 election and Uche Secondus, a former acting national chairman of the party.
Others are Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of Ogun state; Chief Rasheed Ladoja, former governor of Oyo state; Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, a media mogul; and Chief Akintayo Akin-Deko.
As part of last minute strategic alliances for the election, Secondus had his chances bolstered, yesterday morning, with the leadership of the South-east caucus adopting him for chairmanship.
From available statistics, the former acting national chairman looks set for victory.
THISDAY gathered that the optimism is based on an alliance reached between the South East and the South-South zones of the party which from all indications have the bulk of the delegates that would vote to elect the next chairman.
The leadership of the South East caucus met yesterday morning to adopt Secondus.
The zone in a statement said: “We are very conscious of the personality of who becomes the national chairman of our great party for the next four years. Based on the foregoing, we have unanimously in our today’s stakeholders meeting, here in Abuja decided that we will back an aspirant that has character and content. In this circumstance, and without prejudice to the rights of other aspirants to this national chairmanship position, credible and transparent election, we have decided to back and vote for Prince Uche Secondus for the position of national chairman of our great party.
“We have also agreed to vote the following positions zoned to the South east, Col Austin Akobundu for national organising secretary; Hon Ude Okoye for youth Leader; Alphonsos Gerald (Deputy financial secretary).â€
Secondus had earlier been endorsed by South-south governors and the entire South-south caucus of the party.
However, he would have Adeniran to contend with today, following the decision of leaders of the party from the North to back a South-western candidate.
The group of northern elders, which included Professor Jerry Gana, former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau and former speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Margaret Icheen, after a meeting of the PDP Northern Elders and Leaders Forum urged northern delegates to vote for only aspirants from the South-west zone.
Sources said Adeniran enjoys the support of the Jerry Gana-led group and that he would get a bulk of the votes of delegates from this region.
However, the campaigns leading to todayâ€™s election was bitter and intense, resulting in sharp division among party members.
It means that whoever emerges the national chairman will face a daunting task of not only shepherding the party towards an election that is barely 14 months away, but also will spend considerable time trying to reconcile warring members and political enemies who may constitute obstacles in the run towards the election.
The national leadership of the party had zoned the office of the national chairman to the southern part of the country. However, it refused to micro-zone the office to any of the three geo-political zones in the southern region.
Apart from the support he is getting from the South East, Secondus has also received solid backing from the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who has thrown everything into the game to ensure that the state produces the next national chairman of the PDP.Â
Secondus came into the race without much fun fare but it is believed that his confidence is based on his short but eventful reign in office during which he tried to revive the party by refocusing its agenda and setting the foundation for reforming its affairs.Â
According to his campaign office, Secondusâ€™ experience and disarming human relations are the most potent ingredients for him now because of the urgent harmonious environment the party would need immediately after the convention to confront the challenges ahead.
It said that as a committed loyal party man, who has held virtually all critical positions in the party at various levels of the party structure, Secondus stands out well-equipped more than anybody in the race at this time to take the party back to power.
“Secondus’ clear understanding of political party administration, his firm grip of the party’s workings, are clearly his biggest strength as the party is poised to take its rightful place in the polity and to quickly save Nigerians from the obvious lack of direction the APC government has subjected the country into in the last two years.”
Adeniran was, until a few days ago, being tipped to clinch the position. He was said to be enjoying the support of some prominent leaders of the party, especially from the north. The former minister is seen as a credible personality who is without blemish.
But along the line, he had cause to petition the leadership of the party, alleging bias in the manner in which the whole chairmanship race was proceeding.
However, Adeniran’s campaign organisation addressedÂ
Journalists last Thursday and expressed confidence that the process would be fair and transparent.Â
George: PDP Now Headed for Self-Destruct
Â One of the chairmanship aspirants, Bode George yesterday made a surprise withdrawal from the race, blaming his action on the failure of the party to uphold micro zoning.
Addressing journalists yesterday night at his campaign headquarters in Abuja, George also blamed the alleged monetisation of the chairmanship race, saying that the PDP is on the verge of self- destruct.
“Let me make it abundantly clear that I, Olabode George, did not step down for anybody. I will not step down for anybody but what I am doing is to withdraw from the race on principle and against the observed wrong.
“I listened to my younger brother on television and I feel that he has insulted my people of Yoruba. I demand that he tenders apology to the Yoruba race for insulting them on a national television.”
He alleged that Wike had yesterday questioned the contribution of the South West to PDP in terms of electoral value since the Obasanjo administration, which will qualify it to insist on picking the chairmanship slot.
Dokpesi Disagrees with Endorsement by Edo PDP
In a related development, another chairmanship aspirant, Dokpesi has said that there was no truth in a report that the Edo state chapter of the party had reached a decision to give block vote to any aspirant.
Addressing journalists yesterday evening, Dokpesi said that he had not dropped out of the race for the Chairmanship elections at the PDP Convention, as was erroneously being peddled.
“It is now very clear that some PDP members, masquerading as leaders are hell bent on sabotaging and inflicting several damages on the well-organised and victory-bound aspiration of High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi.
“The position of this campaign organisation is that only delegates to the Convention can and will decide the fate of all aspirants on the floor of the Eagle Square and Convention grounds onÂ Saturday, 9 December, 2017.
“Raymond Dokpesi has not and will not withdraw from the race for any reasons whatsoever,” he said.Â
Jonathan says he has no preferred candidates
Meanwhile, former President Goodluck Jonathan has sent a goodwill message to members of the PDP, as they prepare for todayâ€™s national convention.Â
In the message released by his media adviser, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the former President expressed his optimism that the convention would produce positive outcomes which would help the party regain its pride of place in the affairs of the nation.
Jonathan also reiterated that he has no preferred candidate, stressing that he is prepared to work with all those that would emerge as new leaders, in the interest of the party and the nation.
The message reads: â€œAs the father of the party, ex-President
Jonathan is prepared to work with all those that will emerge as members of the new NWC, to ensure that the party regains its pride of place in the affairs of the nation.
â€œThe former President is pleased with the dedication and enthusiasm of all party members towards building a strong PDP and wishes all participants successful deliberations, as they seek to freely elect members of the National Working Committee that will lead the party for the next four years.
â€œDr. Jonathan is impressed with the level of preparations for the convention, especially with the number of candidates and the spread and vibrancy of the campaigns, which has established a new paradigm for intra-party elections, in the country.
â€œContrary to speculations and permutations by some interest groups, Dr. Jonathan has never discussed or plotted with others against the ambition of any of the candidates, as is being falsely reported by those who are adept at spreading negative stories against the immediate past President.
â€œThe former President is therefore optimistic that the convention will produce a positive outcome that will help the PDP consolidate its position as the party with the best democratic ideals in the country.â€