By Ibidapo Balogun
A battle royale of sort seems underway in the South-west following the zoning of the national chairmanship position of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the zone.
The South-west Zonal Caucus of the party had on Monday met at the Government House, Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo State in an attempt to present consensus candidates for positions zoned to the region ahead of its National Convention but the meeting ended in a stalemate.
The caucus, however, claimed it had zoned the national chairmanship position ceded to it to Lagos and Ogun states.
WESTERN POST gathered that with the zoning of the position to the two states, the election promises to be a battle royale among three candidates now seriously angling for the position, though a fourth candidate, who hails from Ekiti State, which is outside the two states to which the position was ceded, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, former Minister of Education, has not backed out of the race.
The three candidates are former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George; former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; and former PDP governorship candidate in Lagos, Chief Jimi Agbaje.
George, touted as the PDP leader in the South-west but whose leadership is being resisted by a few PDP chieftains in the state including a governor, has been very visible in his quest for the party chairmanship. He has traversed the length and breadth of the zone, meeting party members and canvassing support for his bid.
Many in the zone see him as the only one among the aspirants who can shoulder the responsibility but it is doubtful if the party’s governors trust him enough for the job.
Otunba Daniel, the former Ogun State governor, had initially stepped out of the race, saying he was stepping down for Chairman Emeritus of DAAR Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, but following the zoning of the position to South-west, out of the South-south zone of Dokpesi, he stepped back into the race.
Dokpesi and his camp may invest their support in Daniel if the DAAR Chairman Emeritus does not go ahead with his insistence on contesting for the chairmanship despite the zoning arrangement.
Some Northern political elites in the party are said to be rooting for Prof. Adeniran, citing his integrity as a major reason. Adeniran, former MAMSER boss, has been vested with many sensitive assignment in the party and is seen as someone who can wear the chairmanship shoe. Though he is from outside Lagos and Ogun, Adeniran has refused to bow out of the race.
But some other PDP stalwarts still see him as not too strong a politician to lead the party to victory in the 2019 election.
The young turks in the party are; however, rooting for the former PDP candidate in the last governorship election in Lagos, Chief Jimi Agbaje. He was drafted into the race by these elements and is banking on their support to go far in the race.
The Southern Caucus of the party had at a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, last Thursday zoned the office of the National Chairman, National Auditor and Deputy National Publicity Secretary to the South-west zone.
And at the end of its meeting on Monday, the South-west caucus agreed to peg the National Chairmanship position to between Lagos and Ogun states, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary to Oyo/Osun states and National Treasurer to Ondo/Ekiti states.
The caucus also set up a six-man committee to be chaired by Alhaji Yekinni Adeojo to meet with the three aspirants from Lagos and Ogun States with the view of coming up with a consensus candidate for the National Chairmanship position. The committee is expected to submit its report within 48 hours.
The meeting of the caucus in Akure was attended by the host Governor, Olusegun Mimiko; his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayodele Fayose; former National Deputy Chairman and National Chairmanship Aspirant, Chief Bode George; Chairman, House of Representatives Committee for Rural Development, Hon. Ladi Adebutu; and former Minister of Education and National Chairmanship aspirant, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, among other dignitaries.
Meanwhile, the zoning arrangement apart from zoning out Dokpesi in the South-south has also dashed the hopes of some aspirants in the South-west zone.
Prominent among those whose ambitions have been dashed is Mr. Lere Olayinka, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Fayose on Communications and New Media. Olayinka had wanted to be PDP National Publicity Secretary but the position was not zoned to South-west.
It is not clear if Olayinka would contest for the position of Deputy National Publicity Secretary, which was zoned to the state instead.