By Ben Agande
Despite the many land mines, the Peoples Democratic Party has forged ahead and will be electing new officers to run the affairs of the party in the next three years.
This will be the second attempt by the major political party to elect substantive officers in the last three months to elect new officers after a similar attempt in the same Port Harcourt ended with the setting up of a caretaker committee, following the controversy generated by the sudden unilateral postponement of the convention by Senator Modu Sheriff, its erstwhile chairman.
Since that announcement, the party has been through series of crises, with Senator Sheriff defiantly laying claim to the leadership of the party, relying on series of court orders given by Justice Abang Okon of Abuja High court.
At a point, Senator Sheriff aided by some thugs forcefully took over the national secretariat from the Senator Makarfi led caretaker committee and it took the intervention of the police to avert a crisis when the Makarfi committee mobilised its supporters to counter the action.
Fresh breath for the Makarfi led mainstream of the party came when the Federal High Court sitting in Port-Harcourt endorsed the appointment of the Caretaker Committee. At that point in time it then quickly moved to quickly consolidate its hold. It appointed a zoning committee, headed by the governor of Ebonyi state, Dave Umahi which within one week zoned the various offices of the party.
According to the Umahi committee, ten of the offices of the party have been zoned to the southern part of the country while eleven have been zoned to the north.
Offices zoned to the North were those of the National Secretary, deputy national chairman 2, national financial secretary, national publicity secretary, national auditor, national woman leader, deputy national treasurer, deputy national organizing secretary, deputy national youth leader, deputy national legal adviser.
The positions zoned to the south were National Chairman, deputy national chairman 1, national treasurer, national legal adviser, national youth leader, national organizing secretary, deputy national publicity secretary, deputy national woman leader, deputy national auditor and deputy national financial secretary.
Although there are twenty one positions to be filled at the party’s convention on Wednesday in Port Harcourt, only five positions seem to have keen contenders. The offices are those of the National Chairman, Deputy National Chairman 1, Deputy National Chairman 2, National Secretary and National Publicity Secretary.
The position of the National Chairman seems to be at the top of the pack among those under serious contention. The position had been zoned to the southern part of the country whose chieftains resolved also to subzone it to the Southwest. In the Southwest, it was also further zoned to the Ogun/Lagos axis of the party.
However, not all are agreed on the zoning as Dr. Raymond Dokpesi from Edo State in the South-South region of the country escalated his campaign even after the zoning last week.
Others bidding for the office include former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Bode George, Former Minister of Education during Obasanjo’s administration, Professor Tunde Adeniran, another Minister of Sports and Special Duties in the same government, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, Media Mogul and founder of DAAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi and former governorship candidate of the party for Lagos state in the last election, Mr Jimi Agabaje.
Bode George, a retired naval officer comes to the job with lots of experience and exposure. He has grown through the ranks of the party and has been involved with the party since inception. He served last as the Deputy National chairman, South. He is highly visible in the party.
His downside however is that his involvement in politics has not been without controversy. His leadership of the party in the south has been seen by many observers as being especially divisive, a situation that many blame for the poor performance of the party in the south during the 2015 elections.
Prof Tunde Adeniran
Professor Adeniran recently increased his visibility in the party when he joined other founding members of the party to oppose the emergence of Senator Sheriff as the chairman of the party. He has been loudly quiet since he left as a minister under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Prof Taoheed Adedoja
Professor Adedoja is one other former minister whose name no longer ring a bell with most members of the party outside his state. Many party members who spoke on his aspiration believe that he is only trying to relaunch his political career.
One aspirant who has campaign through the nook and cranny of the country is High Chief Dokpesi. As a founding member of the party, he is highly visible. His visibility is further enhanced by his ownership of media organizations.
But with the new thinking that the leadership of the party at this critical time need a complete brake from the past, his heavy involvement in the last administration may be a drag on his candidature.
Jimi Agabaje was the immediate past governorship candidate in Lagos State, where he gave the ruling All Progressive Congress in the state a challenging run. He is zestful and energetic.
If the rumour making the rounds that the powerful governors of the party are behind him is anything to go by, he may as well be on his way to clinching the position.
But in the south west where he hails from, he is seen as an outsider, largely because of the massive support that he got from Igbo community last year. If he is able to garner support from northern delegates, he may as well emerge as one candidate who may not get the support of his home base but emerge victorious at the convention.
NATIONAL PUBLICITY SECRETARY.
So far, there are about five candidates for this position. These include Kola Ologbodinyan, Former Special Adviser to former President of the Senate, David Mark; Deji Adeyanju and a member of the caretaker committee of the party, Kabiru Usman.
For a party that has lost its voice since the former publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh became incapacitated because of his health challenge and his prosecution, the next Publicity Secretary needs to be grounded in information management. If experience will count, Kola Ologbodinyan stands shoulder above all other aspirants. however, the candidature of Usman was as at press time riffling feathers as it was claimed that he entered the contest against the quiet agreement by the members of the National Caretaker Committee that none of them should vie for any office in the convention being organised by the caretaker committee.
The position of the national secretary of the party has been zoned to the north and so far, two people have indicated interest. Senator Ibrahim Ida, a senator in the sixth assembly and Mustapha Abubakar, the former Organising Secretary of the party. Senator Ida seems to be the preferred candidate of the northern establishment and the opposition by Abubakar is not helped by the determination of many in the party for a clean break with the past having been the immediate past National Organising Secretary.