FOR the first time since 1998, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), South-West chapter, is set to produce the national chairman of party as part of its overall strategies to regain power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023.
Major stakeholders of the party in the zone, according to multiple sources, have made a strong bid for the position in order to boost the chances of PDP in the governorship elections coming up in Ekiti and Osun states on June 18 and July 16 respectively in 2022.
The bid, the Nigerian Tribune learnt, is said to enjoy the support of a preponderance of party buffs from other zones, as members of the zoning committee set up last week by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of PDP might meet in the federal capital any moment from now.
The chairman of the 44-member committee is Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, while the secretary is Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. Apart from having a governor elected on its ticket, the PDP in the South-West has a number of senators, House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly from Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed the elections for June and November in Ekiti and Osun States respectively, once controlled by the main opposition party.
South-West is the only zone out of six that is yet to produce a national chairman in the 23-year history of PDP.
Past national chairmen of the party include Chief Solomon Lar from Plateau State; Chief Barnabas Gemade (Benue); Chief Audu Ogbeh; Dr Ahmadu Ali; Prince Vincent Ogbuluafor; Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo (Enugu); Haliru Mohammed, Alhaji Kawu Baraje; Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Adamu Mu’azu.
A fomer Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran and ex-PDP deputy national chairman, Chief Olabode George were among other leading contenders at the 2017 national convention that produced Prince Uche Secondus.
In a veiled reference to the circumstances that deprived the zone of the post in 2017, the South-West PDP leaders said they were united this time in their quest for the position. According to the sources, the committee, which begins sitting from Thursday, has the Herculean task of whether PDP chairman should come from North or South, with far implications for where the presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 election will come from.
However, the South-West leaders reportedly listed a number of reasons that make the strong bid imperative now as the buildup to the next general election begins to take shape across the country.
One of the strands of their arguments was that the zone was robbed of the post of chairman about four years ago by a clique that twisted the fact that the party had zoned it to the South.
The other point was that the PDP could be strengthened and returned to its winning ways if the position now goes to the South-West as the people from the zone will literally claim ownership of the party again.
A related point canvassed by the leaders was that SouthWest PDP needs a rallying figure that could galvanise it towards taking advantage of a likely implosion in the APC that controls five of the states in the zone right now.
A source hinted: “The leaders of PDP in the six states in South-West have sent a strong message to the leadership of the party on the need to zone the post of national chairman to the zone in the forthcoming national convention.
“The South-West PDP leaders believed the chairmanship should be specifically zoned to the South-West to compensate for the 2017 situation in which it was unjustly denied the slot after the post had been zoned to it.
“The South-West PDP leaders noted that apart from Anambra State, where a gubernatorial election will hold on November 6, the zone has two governorship polls pending in Ekiti and Osun states before the 2023 general election, and having the national chairmanship slot will help seal victory in two states, thereby shoring up the chances of the party in the 2023 general election.
“The South-West leaders noted that it now boasts of a united rank more than at any other time in the recent past and if given the chance, it will produce a viable, strong and popular consensus candidate capable of uniting the party and leading it to victory.”
Another source said: “The key stakeholders in PDP recalled that the zone was cheated or robbed of the position of national chairman because the party had zoned it to the South-West before some individuals came up with some funny and curious interpretations.
“They contended that the PDP is apparently weak in the South-West because they do not have a rallying figure. Therefore, to wake up the party in the zone, it is necessary to give them the position of national chairman to rouse the zone to action, and judging by the looming implosion in the APC, the SouthWest would become another strong base for PDP.
“The other part of their arguments is that the two governorship seats that will be in contention before the 2023 general election are in the South-West; that is in Osun and Ekiti States. So, to them, if the chairmanship of PDP is conceded to the zone, it will be too easy for the PDP to pick the two states. They are within their reach if they work for it.”
However, the sources said the leaders did not give an indication of endorsing any contestant for the position “because there are many individuals in contention.
“But, PDP faithful in the South-West are united this time around. They raised very valid points and their position is sinking well with the party leadership,” another source said.
The party has scheduled its national convention for October 13 to elect new national executive committee members.