PDP NWC: Jonathan's Men At War Over Party Positions
In the contest aimed at getting Jonathan's favourite into the NWC, a former minister and a Second Republic senator from the South-South geopolitical zone, who are also the president's allies, are fighting over who should be the new PDP deputy national chairman and national secretary.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that President Jonathan is under intense pressure from these men to anoint their choices for the affected offices.
While one of the leaders, a recurring figure in the politics of the PDP, is rooting for the return of former PDP national organising secretary, Uche Secondus, and Ebenezer Babatope as deputy national chairman and national secretary respectively, the Second Republic senator and prominent regional leader from the Niger Delta backs Senator Adawari Pepple and Professor Tunde Adeniran for the same positions.
Adeniran's desire for the position of national secretary for which he has written to the former senator for his blessings might hit the bricks as it runs against an existing zoning arrangement.
It was learnt that a PDP delegation from the South-South was at the senator's Asokoro residence in Abuja over the weekend to press for the adoption of Senator Pepple ahead of the convention.
Pepple, from Rivers State, was Senate chief whip between 1999 and 2003.
A member of the PDP's Board of Trustees (BoT) told our correspondent that both leaders have elicited the support of President Jonathan's political adviser, Ali Ahmed Gulak, and the chief of staff, Mike Oghiadhome, to realise their ambition.
The argument of the camp of the Second Republic senator is that Secondus has stayed too long at the PDP headquarters, aside the fact that he allegedly supervised the adoption of Musa Babayo as consensus chairman for the North-East zone of the PDP until President Jonathan insisted on the incumbent party chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
The special convention which was earlier scheduled for July 20 has been postponed to a yet-to-be-announced date.
The presidency has however refuted the claims that President Jonathan is under pressure from certain quarters due to the forthcoming PDP convention.
The presidency's official denial notwithstanding, an impeccable source in the presidential villa said lobbying cannot be ruled out.
'You know at times like these, people really want to be seen as the ones making things happen; we cannot say the coming convention of the PDP will be without intrigues and lobby; definitely there would be, and that is why people are already making efforts to elicit support from those who can help them realise their desires.
'Honestly, lobby cannot be ruled out; people are at liberty to lobby for whatever they want; and in this case, I think some have commenced their lobby and have even started mounting pressures on the president to give support for certain candidates. 'In all these, one cannot say that the president is supporting this or that, but the obvious thing is that people are really canvassing their individual choices in the coming NWC of the party; it is only normal but I think President Jonathan understands the lobby game, so it's left for him to manage the pressure because it is not every pressure one caves in for,' the source said in confidence.
President has no anointed candidates – Gulak
Gulak who insisted that President Jonathan was not under pressure from any 'power brokers' also denied media reports that certain party men had been shut out from returning as NWC members by the president.
He said: 'How can the president be under pressure? Where is the pressure coming from? I wish to state without any equivocation that Mr President is not under any form of pressure from any quarters; that is a rumour and it should be treated as such. 'I think it is very pertinent to clear the air on some media reports concerning the NWC we expect at the next convention of the PDP. Mr President has no anointed candidate for any of the NWC positions because this is democracy where everyone exercises his or her right to anything within the stipulated laws of the land.
'Let me state that the president has not, will not, and has no intention of shutting out anyone from the next convention of the PDP. I wish such reports could be ignored because there is no way a president who has shown respect for rule of law can shut out anyone from exercising his constitutional right to aspire.'
A national daily had reported that the presidency had directed that offices of the PDP deputy national chairman, national secretary, national youth leader, national treasurer and national legal adviser be replaced by new persons
Apart from the national secretary, all previous occupants of the positions had resigned three weeks ago on the strength of a report by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which faulted their mode of election as NWC members of the PDP.
A PDP top official said not all those that were relieved of their posts would be returned. He said that former deputy national chairman Jaja and former national secretary Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola would not return because of the antagonistic posture.
He said: 'You remember how he (Oyinlola) was abusing Alhaji Shaibu Oyedokun, the former PDP deputy national chairman, over the comment (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo reportedly made in Jigawa State. And you would recall that he and Jaja were at the press conference where they attacked Alhaji Tukur.
This is why I said neither of the two would return to their offices.'
Bode George's return tears South-West PDP apart
LEADERSHIP Sunday checks in the South-West PDP showed that some of its leaders are not happy with the return of Chief Olabode George to the party. They accused him of calling the shot in the ongoing re-organisation of the party in the zone.
'Olabode George is now the one dictating who becomes what as a result of Obasanjo's indifference to the political activities of the party.
That is not good enough for the South-West and some of us are not ready to work under him at least for now,' a PDP chieftain told our correspondent.
He said that some former governors like Segun Oni and Oyinlola are in Obasanjo camp while Alao-Akala and Gbenga Daniel have dumped the former president.
Although Chief Ishola Filani, the PDP South-West zonal caretaker committee chairman, has said that the party's leadership in the bloc has decided to maintain the existing distribution formula of party positions, there are indications of a power tussle between him and Bode George on the issue.
Last week, both leaders summoned two PDP parallel meetings for Ibadan and Lagos on the same day, a situation which re-enforced speculations that both are working at cross-purposes.
While the group loyal to Bode George held its meeting in Lagos, Filani's group met in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
In Ibadan were five of the six PDP state chairmen, former governors Ayo Fayose and Isiaka Adeleke of Ekiti and Osun State respectively while the immediate past national secretary of the PDP, Oyinlola, was in Lagos.
The chairmen of Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Ogun State chapters of the party attended the Filani meeting even as the PDP chairman in Lagos honoured the meeting summoned by George.
Reacting on the parallel meeting, Filani said he was surprised that George summoned his own meeting to coincide with the one called by the zonal caretaker under his leadership even as he disclosed that the national headquarters of the PDP was handling the matter between him and George.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the cold war brewing between George and Filani had its root in the new power play, with support coming from one of the influential South-South leaders for him (Filani) to emerge as the substantive zonal chairman.
But the Ekiti-born politician, who, prior to his appointment, was Tukur's political adviser, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that he was not sure if he would run or not.
Bode George enjoys our backing – Senator Arise
Meanwhile, a former senator from Ekiti State, Ayo Arise, has come out in defence of George over the Lagos meeting just as he denied that there was any crisis in the South-West PDP.
'I don't believe there is any crisis in the South-West PDP; at best, we can say there is communication gap amongst leaders. As far as I am concerned, Chief Bode George has the popular support of a majority of PDP leaders in South-West; to the best of my knowledge, Chief George didn't summon a meeting in Lagos as a way of undermining Filani's caretaker leadership.
'Chief George merely called leaders to brief them on the outcome of the meeting he had led a South-West delegation to have with the president,' Arise said.