By Olusegun Akinseye
As the elective national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for December 9 draws close, there is anxiety among members over the possible outcome of the chairmanship election as it has become a bitter contest between the South-South and the South-West dangerous game. This election is unlike previous elections into national offices of the party whereby only candidates from the zone to which a particular position was allotted contested for it.
At least two candidates from the South-South are fully on the field slugging it out with six candidates from the South-West. One of the two from the South-South is Chief Uche Secondus, a former state chairman of the party in Rivers State who rose to become the deputy national chairman and later acting national chairman between 2015 and 2016. The other is Chief Raymond Dokpesi, a media chief and owner of African Independent Television (AIT).
Leading the six candidates from the South-West is Chief Olabode George, a former national vice chairman (South-West), who rose to become the deputy national chairman (South) and later deputy national chairman for the whole country. He parades an intimidating profile as the only contestant and the only leader of the party who has had ten years unbroken service at the national level.
The others are Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a former minister of education; Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, a former minister of sports and special duties; Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of Ogun State; Senator Rasheed Ladoja, a former governor of Oyo State, and Mr Jimi Agbaje, a former governorship candidate in Lagos State.
What makes the chairmanship election controversial this time around is the altercation between the two zones and their claims and counter claims to the position. The South-West insists that it is its turn to produce the next national chairman going by the power rotation and zoning policy of the party as it is the only zone that has not produced an occupant of the position since the party came into existence in 1998.
The South-West also claims that the chairmanship was actually micro-zoned to it at a meeting of southern leaders of the party summoned to share the six main offices of the national executive zoned or allotted to the South. The meeting reportedly held in Port Harcourt during the build up to the botched national convention of August last year. The meeting was reportedly chaired by a very prominent and respected leader from Rivers State.
According to some South-West leaders, who attended the meeting, there was no disagreement at the time in the micro-zoning of the offices which were shared. The South-South got the positions of deputy national chairman and national legal adviser while the South-East got the positions of national organizing secretary and national youth leader. The South-West got the positions of national chairman and national auditor.
However, Dokpesi, one of the candidates from the South-South, has continued to deny that there was a sharing arrangement which micro-zoned the chairmanship to the South-West. It is not clear if he attended the said meeting. Somehow, other leaders from the South-South and the South-East geopolitical zones, including the one who was said to have chaired the meeting, have kept mute over the matter, neither corroborating Dokpesi’s denial nor affirming the claim by South-West leaders.
Curiously, the said agreement is being adhered to in the contest for every other office in the sharing arrangement, except for the office of the national chairman. It therefore seems more plausible that the agreement exists but some leaders from the South-South decided to circumvent it to suit their interests. What is clearly apparent in the present circumstance is that those behind this move now prefer the chairmanship to the deputy chairmanship earlier alloted to the zone.
The interest of some powerful stakeholders from the South-South in the chairmanship was first speculated last year as the reason for an attempt to impose a national chairman in the person of Mr Jimi Agbaje. The move did not succeed. It is very doubtful if Secondus, the candidate they are currently pushing, can make it there as he is alleged to have some unresolved issues pertaining to the management of the party when he was a member of its national working committee.
Apart from this factor, the formidable resistance of the South-West to any attempt to deny it the chairmanship at this time is a great obstacle, more so that the zone has attracted a lot of sympathy from stakeholders particularly from the North and the South-East. There are those who believe that since the South-South produced the immediate past president, it should not be so uncharitable as to want to grab the highest party office so soon at the expense of compromising a long established party policy.
A lot of other stakeholders are of the opinion that the South-South agenda, if allowed to get out of control, will throw the party into a spin as it will lose the support of the South-West. The possibility of this particular scenario is of great concern in the North, where the presidential candidate will come from, because it is believed that it will truncate the party’s ambition to win the 2019 presidential election since it is now established from the outcome of the 2015 elections that no party could win the presidency without obtaining substantial votes from the South-West.