Plot to deny S/West of PDP chairmanship thickens •Party leaders meet in Akure today

SOME power brokers from the Northern axis of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are reportedly plotting to influence the choice of national chairman of the party from the South-West.

A meeting of South-West leaders is slated for Akure, the Ondo State capital, today, with one of the expected leaders saying he would use the opportunity to “speak frankly” on the necessity to forge a common front against any agenda to frustrate efforts by the zone to produce chairman of PDP in its 17-year history.

Nigerian Tribune learnt that some leaders from the zone intensified consultations and lobbying at the weekend, towards building a coalition preparatory to the Akure gathering that will be taking place eight days to the rescheduled PDP national convention in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

Chief Oladobe George, Professor Tunde Adeniran and Professor Taoreed Adedoja have so far formally declared their intention to become the next substantive national chairman of the PDP.

Sources, however, said the current anxiety in some quarters in South-West PDP was further heightened by a report credited to the chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, that despite the zoning arrangement for all elective offices, any aspirant who was determined to carry through his aspiration as the leeway.

Apparently buoyed by the development, a contestant for chairmanship from the South-South, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, obtained nomination form after southern leaders, who met in Port Harcourt, last Thursday, zoned the position to the South-West.

But in a counter move, some South-West PDP leaders met in one of the six states in the zone and resolved to collaborate with other stakeholders by putting in all that might be required to make sure the zone produces the national chairman.

One of the leaders at the meeting was quoted as saying some influential power brokers from the North were expressing doubt on the possibility of the chairmanship contest not creating further crevices in the PDP in the South-West if the post was restricted to the zone.

While all the other five zones had produced PDP national chairman, only the South-West is yet to occupy the exalted office since PDP was formed in 1998.

Besides, members of the caucuses in the North were concerned that the contenders for the position were not doing enough in terms of taking their campaigns to “strategic” places in  Abuja and other places in the North.

According to one PDP leader from the South-West, who claimed to have been involved in a number of interactions with some influential PDP members from the North, the contestants have not made any major attempt to reach out concerning their aspirations preparatory to the national convention.

Last month, the PDP National Caretaker Committee headed by Senator Makarfi had, in principle, zoned the chairmanship position to the Southern part of the country, which comprises South-East, South-South and the South-West, while its presidential ticket is reserved for the North.

Sequel to that arrangement, Southern PDP leaders rose from a meeting last Thursday, in Port Harcourt, allocating slots to be contested for by each of the three zones in the South.

The South-East was ceded the positions of National Organising Secretary, National Youth Leader and Deputy National Financial Secretary.

Aside chairmanship, the South-West got the positions of national treasurer and deputy national publicity secretary, while the posts of first deputy national chairman, national legal adviser, deputy national women leader and deputy national auditor were ceded to the South-South.

But Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, had also used the occasion of the meeting to emphasise that in spite of  the zoning of the positions, any party member willing to pursue his aspiration to a logical end could do so, notwithstanding the new sharing formula.

In the North, PDP leaders have harmonised their positions by evolving a mutual power sharing formula on the slots for the three zones of North-East, North-Central and North-West conceded to the political divide.

In the meantime, a chairmanship contender from the South-West, Professor Adeniran, has called for unity among the leaders from the South-West, so that the opportunity to produce the chairman for the first time does not elude the zone.

However, a former deputy national chairman of the party from the South-West, Chief George, who had also obtained nomination form, is optimistic about all those party stalwarts who defected to rival parties retuning to the PDP once he becomes next national chairman.

On his part, another contestant, Professor Adedoja said it was imperative the South-West was not denied the slot because other zones have had their turns over the years.