As the December 9, 2017 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) approaches, contestants to the position of the national chairman of the party have been on whistle stop visits to various states to woo state governors and other party chieftains to support their quest. Although the chairmanship slot is zoned to the south-west, PDP top shots in the other geopolitical zones in the south have also joined the race. Uche Secondus and media mogul, Raymond Dokpesi are contestants from the South-south zone also gunning for the position.
Two other contestants also in the race are Prof. Tunde Adeniran and Bode George from the Southwest zone. The two Southwest contestants demonstrated their seriousness about seeking that office last week when they stormed Diamond Hill, Calabar, the seat of power in Cross River State. They came on what they described as courtesy visit to Governor Ben Ayade and to seek his support for their ambition. Both of them arrived a few hours apart. First to arrive was Prof Adeniran, who boasted that PDP would overrun the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 presidential election if he was elected chairman.
According to Adeniran, who was accompanied by a member of the party's Board of Trustees, Prof. Jerry Gana, and another party stalwart, Ibrahim Mantu, after PDP has played the opposition role since 2015, it needed an experienced chairman who would confront the party's challenges head-on.
“We want to ensure that the party is revived and I want to say that if I am the party chairman, we will not be in the opposition after the next election,” he said.
He urged the governor to support him during the forthcoming convention and assured that as chairman, he would carry everybody along.
Prof. Jerry Gana, a former minister of information, also assured the governor that with Prof. Adeniran as chairman, the party would reinvent itself because “he has the experience and integrity to rework the party and bring it to winning ways.”
He said PDP needed of a mature leader who will carry every party member along, and promised that Adeniran would avoid the pitfalls of the past that plagued the party.
Ayade, who responded quite frankly, expressed surprise at the lack of consensus by contestants despite efforts to get them to agree, saying such attitude was not healthy for the party.
“Power is like a wind; it will soon blow away. It is not good when efforts have been made to find a common ground only to meet a blockade. This is not healthy for our party. It is only a successful success that can be successfully secured,” Ayade said.
Soon after Adeniran left, Bode George also showed up. He toed the line of Adeniran by boasting that PDP would reclaim Aso Rock in 2019 and soliciting the support of the governor for the PDP national chairmanship position.
George, a former deputy national chairman of the party and former chairman of the board of the Nigerian Ports Authority, was profuse with his accolades for Ayade, saying the governor helped to stabilise the party in the state during its protracted crisis that was eventually resolved by the Supreme Court.
While appraising the current state of the party, George asked rhetorically, "Are we getting out of the quagmire? Not yet. But God is wisdom because He is a God of justice and fairness. If we put the fear of God in our minds, we will get back to Aso Rock.
"We learnt a lesson, who is there in life that does not go into the valley once in a while? The highway of life goes into the trough once in a while. But the beauty of it is, with the fear of God in you, and your honesty of purpose, you will rise up again. This sun will shine, for this party the sky will be blue again.
"God is a God of second chance. We survived the other...the Supreme Court listened attentively and gave the right judgment. Get any Nigerian between Sokoto and Calabar or between Borno state and Lagos state, or between Jigawa and Delta, any Nigerian; Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Ijaw, Delta, Efik, whatever, ask them; are you better today than before?
"So, Nigerians are waiting for us, our party. And, the President himself challenged our mindset and said recently that Nigerians will want a vibrant opposition. If we want a vibrant opposition, what are we waiting for?
"We have a lot ahead of us. We must win back the hearts and minds of Nigerians. I said you survived here. The tsunami swept the whole north; I think they have just about two governors from about 28, 29 governors controlled by PDP. But, the sun will rise again."
After George's seemingly philosophical remarks, Governor Ayade commended him and described him as a 'great icon' of the PDP, adding that his doggedness and commitment to the party has been unflinching.
"You (Bode George) are a well-known name in Cross River. Everyone who sits here knows clearly that you are a very big name to reckon with in terms of character, in terms of commitment, in terms of action, in terms of purpose, in terms of sincerity, in terms of dexterity, in terms of agility, in terms of sagacity," he said, adding that George's military background was critical to the party.
From their interactions, it was not clear who the governor was going to support during the convention as he did not betray his preference for either of the contestants. It remains to be seen the extent Governor Ayade's support for any of the contestants would go to tip the scale in the contestant's favour. However, one thing is sure, the contest for the PDP chairmanship will be very keen during the convention as the gladiators are chieftains of the party who have the wherewithal to clinch the top post and have made their marks in politics and other fields of human endeavour.