• Ladoja likely to emerge deputy chairman
• Yoruba aspirants reject consensus candidate
By Ismail Omipidan, Remi Adefulu (Lagos), Tony John (Port Harcourt), Obinna Odogwu (Abakaliki) and Sylvanus Viashima (Jalingo)
Strong indications emerged yesterday that the 19 northern states and the FCT chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have resolved to ditch the South-west in the race for the national chairmanship of the party.
If that happens, it means former acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, may as well carry the day, Daily Sun gathered.
Apart from the north, it was further learnt that the South-East delegates would go in one direction, in solidarity with the South-South.
Daily Sun also gathered that those backing Secondus from the north have also tipped former Oyo State governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja to emerge as deputy national chairman (South), just as it resolved to back Hajia Inna Ciroma as deputy national chairman (North) and Senator Umar Tsauri, as national secretary.
Although another meeting of the group is expected to hold tomorrow night, sources revealed that nothing “substantial” was expected to change from the arrangement.
“The only thing that may change is the position of the deputy national chairmen for both North and South. Ladoja was tipped because he is seen as someone who is level-headed and since we are going for Secondus who is relatively younger, we need Ladoja as a stabiliser from the South-west. As for Mallam Ciroma’s wife, you know she is with the Adeniran’s camp. So, anything can happen to her choice between now and Saturday morning,” the source said.
Before now, aspirants from the South-west and their supporters enjoyed the sympathy of the north and had even offered to give the zone bloc votes to enable. But at a recent meeting in Abuja, stakeholders from the North, especially the North-west, may have reviewed their earlier stance with a view to backing the only aspirant from Rivers State for the party’s plum job.
Specifically, Daily Sun gathered that the decision to support South-south for the position was reached at a recent meeting in the home of a former Sokoto State governor, which was reportedly attended by 14 top party chieftains. They included former vice president, Namadi Sambo, former Kaduna governor and national caretaker chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former Jigawa governor, Sule Lamido, a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and former foreign affairs minister, Aminu Wali, Senator Hayatu Gwarzo and former special duties minister, Kabiru Turaki.
Others were former Sokoto State governor, Attaihiru Bafarawa, former Katsina governor, Ibrahim Shema, former Sokoto deputy governor, Mukthar Shagari and former acting national chairman of the party, Dr. Bello Haliru.
The meeting unanimously agreed that since the South-west were unable to come up with a consensus candidate from among the six of them that have shown interest, and considering the crisis in the zone, it was in the best interest of the party to allow the South-south produce the next chairman.
“It is true that a meeting was called in Abuja. It was convened at the instance of the stakeholders from the North-west zone. We were worried about the development in the South-west. All of us in the North have sympathy for the South-west. But what else can you do when those you are trying to assist are unwilling to assist themselves?
“South-south presented us with just two aspirants. But your people refused to step down for each other. They could not come up with a consensus candidate. We said ok, give us two of them so we could choose, again, they failed us. So, in that circumstance, what do you want us to do? We had to forget about them and switch our support for the South-south, which appear to be more organised,” one of the sources at the meeting told Daily Sun.
Another member of the party, who incidentally has been elected as a national delegate to the convention, who though did not attend the meeting, but who is very close to one of the principal actors, confirmed that the meeting indeed took place on November 9.
Confirming the decision of the north to dump the South-west for South-south, a senior member of the party and a former federal lawmaker, who incidentally is a member of the BoT told Daily Sun that the South-west played into the hands of the South-south by their actions and inactions.
“The north has sympathy for South-west. If they had actually managed the issues very well and come up with one person, perhaps we may not have any justification to dump them. But from the way they have mismanaged this chairmanship issue, if we give them the position, we may never get out of the crisis that will follow till 2019 general election. And we want to avoid that pitfall.
“Fayose, who is the only PDP governor from the zone and who is the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum made it clear that he does not want the position, either in his state or in the zone. He threatened that if we insist that South-west must have the position, he will leave the party. For God’s sake, what do you want us to do? We reckon that South-west is a very important and strategic zone that we must not ignore, but their leaders have not done anything to help their case?
“Only yesterday (Tuesday) there was another court pronouncement over the leadership tussle in the zone. Now, it may get to the Supreme Court. So, we are afraid of witnessing another (former Osun State governor Olagunsoye) Oyinlola scenario, where a court nullified his election as national secretary of the party in 2013. You know it was the South-west zonal leadership crisis that led to Oyinlola’s ouster.
“So, just imagine the collateral damage it will have on us if we witness such a thing in 2018? To play safe, we are looking the way of the South-south. Please, no one should blame us for taking this position, it is in the best interest of our great party and that of the country,” the BoT member said.
With less than five days to go, Makarfi, the convention planning committee chairman and Delta state Governor, Mr. Ifeayi Okowa and other top members of the party were yesterday in Minna, Niger State where they held a close door meeting with General Ibrahim Babangida at his Hilltop mansion.
The delegation which included the Taraba State Governor, Dairus Ishyaku, Senate Minority Leader, Abdul Ningi and Senator Ben Obi were also at the Government House on a courtesy visit to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello.
The meeting with Babangida lasted for about one hour. Although journalists were not allowed into IBB’s house, it was, however, gathered that the parley was to brief IBB on preparations for the convention since “IBB has been playing positive and leadership role in the run up to the convention.”
The team left the state through the Minna International Airport at about 3.15pm.
Reacting to the charge against Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, his media aide, Mr. Lere Olayinka told Daily Sun that he was at a loss as to what they expected his principal to do in the circumstance.
According to him: “When they say he (Fayose) was not supporting any aspirant from the zone, he asked them which of the six will he support? Or they just want him to start following the six of them across the country to campaign? He does not have the power to prevent the South-south from showing interest. He can’t impose the will of the South-west on the South-South.”
Ahead of the make or mar convention, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi said delegates from South-East region would take common position on who to back.
Umahi stated this yesterday at the party’s secretariat in Ebonyi, when a chairmanship aspirant and chairman of DAAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi, came to canvass for votes in the state.
“We just had a meeting in Umuahia, Abia State. They agreed to give us direction; that we are going to meet in Abuja and take a common position. Common position in the sense that in the past, we voted blindly. Now, we’ll seek negotiation with anyone they want us to vote for. The person will agree on what he will do for us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the PDP chapter in Rivers State has unanimously endorsed Secondus, even as it dismissed claim of imposing any aspirant on delegates.
State Chairman of the party, Felix Obuah, at a joint press conference of PDP stalwarts and members of the House of Assembly in Port Harcourt, described Secondus as a God-fearing man who had paid his dues from the state, zonal and national levels, adding that the former acting national chairman has the wherewithal to lead the party successfully.