The rescheduled national convention of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP may have pitched former Lagos State PDP governorship Candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and his godfather, Chief Olabode George as both have emerged as the contenders for the coveted national chairmanship of the party, News Punch has authoritatively learnt.
Chief Olabode George was a staunch supporter of Jimi Agbaje during the build up to 2015 Lagos PDP gubernatorial primary election at the detriment of the former minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro
A competent party source confided yesterday that the choice of Agbaje as chairman has received the approval of key party organs and stakeholders in virtually all the six geo-political zones, The Nation Newspaper reports this morning
The source, who craved anonymity because he is not mandated to divulge the information, said the South-East zone is the most favourably disposed to having the former governorship candidate lead the party.
The decision to settle for Agbaje was said to have emerged from well thought out permutations on various elective positions ahead of the 2019 general elections.
For instance, the party has zoned its 2019 presidential ticket to the North, which automatically disqualifies any chairmanship candidate from the region.
Similarly, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, is being primed for the vice president ticket.
The party’s immediate past Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, is also said to be in reckoning to retain the position, with the backing of the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike.
Power brokers in the PDP were said to have picked Agbaje after extensive deliberations in the past weeks.
He was said to have received more vocal approval than several others considered for the job.
The party leaders were said to have mapped out a strategy to ensure that they are not openly seen to be working for Agbaje’s emergence.
Our source said the former governorship candidate will be made to seek the party’s nomination alongside others with all aspirants treated equally.
“But plans are afoot for massive mobilisation of delegates in the six geo-political zones for Agbaje’s candidature at the upcoming convention to ensure his emergence.
“His backers have decided not to persuade other aspirants to step down, in order to avoid recriminations that could ignite fresh crisis in the party,” the source added.
In the South-West, it was gathered according to Punch Newspaper that both Chief Bode George and Prof. Tunde Adeniran have shown interest in the race.
George, a former military administrator of Ondo State, was also a former deputy national chairman of the party.
He is from Lagos State.
Adeniran, who once attempted to become the national secretary of the party, was a former minister of education.
He hails from Ekiti State.
Both men were said to have divided the party from the zone.
While some believed that Adeniran does not have a faction in the party from the zone, others say he has no experience in party management.
George who has experience in management of political party, is also being accused of belonging to a faction of the party in his home state.
A former Minister of Transportation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, however told our correspondent that members of the party in the zone would be working for George.
He said that a delegation from the South-West would be meeting with the national caretaker committee in Abuja soon to inform them about their support for George’s ambition.
Babatope also said that it would be wrong for the South-South to want to field a candidate for the position of the national chairman when it just produced the president.
He said, “We are fielding George for the race and we are visiting members of the national caretaker committee on Friday to openly say this.
“It will not be good for the South-South to still show interest in the race when the zone has just produced the president of the country from our party.”
It was however gathered that Adeniran has started sending text messages to his supporters to express his interest in the race.
George, in an interview with our correspondent, confirmed his interest in the race.
He said having served the party at various levels since 1998, he was prepared to lead it out of its present crisis.
He said, “In terms of experience and political exposure, I’m capable of leading the party and I’m ready to submit myself for election. The party is in an interim stormy water and it needs an experienced captain to take it to the harbour. Don’t forget that I’m also a permanent member of the Board of Trustees of the party.
“But we are waiting for the zoning committee to finish its job before I fully commence my campaign. Already, we are reaching out to all zones on the need to support the South-West to lead the party.
“This is because, we have never be given the opportunity of leading the party for the last 17 years.”
It is however not clear who among the candidates from the South-West will have the support of the two governors.
During the last botched convention, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State rooted for Sheriff before the two of them fell apart due to politics.
The party yesterday inaugurated an 83-member zoning committee charged with the responsibility of deciding the zones that will take the available positions at the national level.
The committee is chaired by the Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. Dave Umahi, with his Gombe State counterpart, Ibrahim Dankwabo, as deputy and former Benue State Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, as secretary.
The committee also has notable party chieftains across the six geo-political zones as members.
It is expected to submit its report within seven days, after which the sale of nomination forms will commence for the convention billed to hold in Port Harcourt on August 17.
Caretaker committee chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, charged the zoning committee to be fair and just in its assignment.
He advised that positions should not be restricted to only one state in a zone but thrown open to aspirants in all the states in the various zones.
Makarfi decried the previous arrangement under the leadership of Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, which led to the May 21 botched convention.
According to him, only one nomination form was made available for each position, including the chairmanship.
Also addressing newsmen shortly after the inauguration ceremony, the spokesman for the caretaker committee, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said no member of the committee will be contesting any of the available positions.
Adeyeye said the window of reconciliation with the Sheriff group remained open, but added that the condition given by the group that the caretaker committee be dissolved is untenable.
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