By Bamidele Salako
D-day has arrived and all eyes are on the Eagle Square in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, as the country’s principal opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) holds a two-day elective national convention to elect new members into its National Working Committee (NWC). Many consider this convention as perhaps the most pivotal in the party’s history and possibly its last chance at redemption.
Most newspaper headlines have focussed primarily on the tussle for the party’s chairmanship and neglecting the fact that the NWC made up of more than just the position of chairman. As such many are actually in the dark about the other important positions that are also up for grabs at the convention.
In all, there are 92 aspirants running for all of 23 offices.
The big names jostling for the chairmanship need no introducing after months and months of a frenzied build-up. All the chairmanship aspirants were screened at the Presidential Campaign office of the party in Maitama District, Abuja, by a screening panel headed by former Edo State PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Five of the seven aspirants are from the South-West which leaves two from the South-South. The South-South aspirants are Daar Communications founder, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi and former acting Chairman of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) from 2015 to 2016, Prince Uche Secondus.
The aspirants from the South-West former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, ex-Minister of Education and Deputy Director General of the Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organisation in the 2015 election, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, former Minister of Sports and Youths Development, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, former Oyo State Governor, Rasheed Ladoja and Aderemi Olusegun.
In a surprising turn of events, barely hours to today’s exercise, Chief Bode George and Jimi Agbaje, who were two of the nine contenders for the party’s Chairmanship seat, withdrew from the race. George, who is a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, had been cleared by the Osagie Ize-Iyamu-led screening committee, but announced his withdrawal from the race during a conference in his Asokoro residence in Abuja on Friday. The party stalwart had previously flayed the party’s leadership for not micro-zoning the office of national chairman to the South-West.
The Boss x-rayed the strengths, weaknesses and chances of each aspirant in this article from October.
A peek into the party’s constitution furnishes us with a clear view of the composition of the all-important NWC and gives us a vivid idea of the principal positions that will be filled by the end of the convention.
As contained in Part VIII, Section 29 (1) of the PDP constitution, the committee comprises the national chairman, the deputy national chairman (north and south), national secretary, deputy national secretary, national treasurer, national financial secretary, national organising secretary, and national publicity secretary.
Other slots to be filled are those of national legal adviser, national auditor, national woman leader and national youth leader. The NWC has a four year tenure and will be in charge of administering the party’s daily affairs.
National Deputy Chairman (North)
Hajia Maryam Inna Ciroma
The 63-year old is the wife of former Minister of Finance, Adamu Ciroma. She was formerly a Minister of Women Affairs and a former national woman leader of the PDP and is no alien to party administration. She was also previously the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), a positioned she resigned from recently.
Concerning her ambition and the current state of the party, she said, “We know we have problems in the party. We need to have people that will now look at the problems we had and see how we can now change the way we do things and that is why I am aspiring to be the Deputy National Chairman of this party so that we can now reposition the party and take the party back to the people, take democracy seriously”.
Many are counting on her strong northern connection to muster support for the PDP in that part of the country ahead of the crunch 2019 polls. She is also rumoured to enjoy the backing of some PDP Board of Trustees members as well as two PDP governors from the north.
Senator Babayo Garba Gamawa
Babayo Garba Gamawa served as both the Deputy Governor and Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly. He became Deputy Governor of Bauchi when Alhaji Mohammed Garba Gadi was impeached from his position. In 2011, he was elected as the Bauchi North Senator for the 7th National Assembly.
Mr. Mahmud is also another old party hand. He is the immediate past chairman of the caretaker committee of the PDP in Borno State. He was also one time caretaker committee chairman of the party in Zamfara State.
He is an ex-Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party in Gombe State.
Others vying for the position of deputy national chairman (north) include Alhaji Musa Usman and Bala Ilela.
National Deputy Chairman (South)
Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarumi
Alhaji Gbolarumi is a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State. Although a strong man of Oyo politics, many question his influence and pedigree across the Southern zone of the country.
Alhaji Sarafa Tunji Isola
Ogun State born Alhaji Isola was Nigeria’s Minister of Mines and Steel Development from July 2007 to October 2008 when he was released from his duties by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Others in the race for the office of the national deputy chairman are Yemi Akinwonmi, Adisa Oladapo and Sterling Ellis.
National Publicity Scretary (which has been zoned to North Central)
Prof. Abubakar Suleiman
A former Minister of National Planning in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Kwara State-born Prof. Suleiman was a lecturer at the University of Abuja. He is currently the spokesperson of the PDP Forum of Ministers and so boasts ample experience and exposure for the role he is vying for. That also appears to be his unique advantage as he is believed to enjoy the support of the PDP Forum of Ministers, many of whom attended his declaration ceremony. The corruption charge currently hanging over his head could mar his chances however, having been fingered in the alleged corrupt sharing of $115 million by former petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke with politicians and other prominent individuals during the 2015 general elections.
Audu-Adejoh, a former political correspondent of the Punch newspapers, reporting on the National Assembly and the Presidency is from the eastern senatorial district of Kogi State. He also worked with House of Representatives Speaker, Ghali Na’Abba as media aide, later transiting to media consultant to the presidency during the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua. He is also a former Chairman of Olamaboro local government area of Kogi State. On Wednesday, the FCT chapter of the PDP adopted Audu-Adejoh as its candidate. The Kogi chapter of the party has reportedly pledged their loyalty to Usman Kabiru, another contender for NPS who is also from Kogi State.
One of three contenders for the position from Kogi State, Kabiru, a lawyer, was the PDP’s legal adviser in the north central zone, also serving in the same capacity as a member of the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee. He is said to have the backing of the Kogi State PDP executive and the entire delegates from the state who adopted him as their candidate for the position last month. It is also rumoured that two former governors of the state, Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada have thrown their weight behind the barrister.
Ologbondiyan is the third aspirant from Kogi State, although unlike Kabiru and Adejo-Audu who come from the eastern senatorial district, he hails from the state’s western senatorial district. He comes with a track record for the role having worked previously as special adviser on media and publicity to former Senate President, David Mark. A graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, he distinguished himself as a journalist with ThisDay newspapers where he rose to hold top editorial positions, having excelled at covering beats such as the Presidency, National Assembly, State Government Houses and political parties. He is reported to enjoy the unalloyed support of his former boss, David Mark.
Duntoye is a former Commissioner for Information and Communications in Kwara State and was previously the Executive Director, Youth Development and Reformative Initiative. He once served as a delegate to the 2014 National Conference representing National Youth Organisation.
Other positions being contested and the contenders include:
National Secretary (zoned to North West)
Nenadi Usman: former Minister of Finance and former senator, representing Kaduna South senatorial district.
Umar Tsauri: a former Katsina State senator.
Abubakar Mustapha: former national organising secretary of the PDP until 2016.
National Organising Secretary (zoned to South East)
Austin Akobundu: a retired army colonel and former Minister of State for Defence in the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Others are Emeka Donald and Godwin Duru