The emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) on Sunday at the end of the party’s national convention in Abuja is the outcome of serious political game plan, strategy, intrigues and horse-trading among prominent and relevant party stakeholders.
From the beginning, the open field was accommodating and very attractive to all who nursed various political aspirations.
However, as the battle began a few weeks ago with its scheming, it became a matter of survival of not only the fittest but that of those who get the acceptance of the real owners of the political field in the party.
The struggle to secure votes from 2,800 delegates majority of who are statutory delegates by aspirants went beyond mere campaigns and lobbying. Those who really own the delegates must also be reached.
So, the scramble for the position of national chairman became the most attractive and most keenly contested, a situation, which made those involved in the contest to deploy and apply different tactics.
First, the issue of zoning and micro zoning took center stage as most aspirants particularly from the South West consistently asked that the zone be given the opportunity to produce the national chairman. They were strongly supported by some northern key stakeholders too.
However, critics of the clamour to reserve the chairmanship seat for the South West drew attention to the decision of the August 12, 2017 national convention, which reserved the seat for all three zones in the South.
The Makarfi-led caretaker committee had always pointed out that only a consensus by all PDP stakeholders in the Southern part of the country could decide on which particular zone the seat should go to. He said the party having already taken its decision at the August 12 convention could not reverse itself.
That was how the zones and aspirants were left with no choice but to settle their political differences at the convention.
However, on the eve of the convention, one of chairmanship aspirants, Olabode George, addressed the media announcing his withdrawal from the race.
George, a former deputy national chairman of the party, expressed displeasure over what he described as failure of the party and its leaders to uphold the arrangement, which micro zoned the chairmanship to the Southwest. He also accused Governor Wike of insulting the South West by saying the zone had not contributed much to the PDP to warrant their insistence on occupying the national chairmanship position.
Following the withdrawal of George from the race, other five aspirants from the zone followed suit by pulling out of the race as well. Although not stated, many believed that these aspirants might have been aggrieved by what they perceived as unfair treatment of the zone and decided to pull out and also to boost the chances of former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran who is also from the zone.
A total of nine persons engaged one another in battle. Most of them went round the country begging for votes. The election was a special one and so also were campaign methods adopted.
Although delegates are spread around the country, they are not evenly distributed among states. Those who gain acceptance by delegates in PDP controlled states stood better chances because those states have higher number of delegates.
Details of the delegates’ distribution in all the states show that Abia has 90; Adamawa 56; Akwa Ibom 140; Anambra 20; Bauchi 53; Benue 69; Borno 63; Cross River 86; Delta 105; and Ebonyi 80.
Others are Edo 61; Ekiti 92; Enugu 101; Gombe 64; Imo 79; Jigawa 65; Kaduna 70; Kano 100; Katsina 76; Kebbi 48; Kogi 63; Kwara 22; Lagos 55; Nasarawa 42; Niger 63; Ogun 61 and Ondo 56.
The rest are Osun 11; Oyo 71; Plateau 56; Rivers 93; Sokoto 51; Taraba 77; Yobe 44; Zamfara 34 and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja 24.
The battle, which later became a straight fight between Secondus and Professor Tunde Adeniran showed that while Adeniran relied on delegates from the North, Secondus had the whole of the South and was able to snatch a larger number of northern delegates from Adeniran. How did this happen?
Secondus received strong backing of the 11 governors elected on the platform of the party, as they stood in solidarity with him throughout the exercise.
Governors of Rivers and Ekiti states, Nyesom Wike and Ayodele Fayose, actively mobilised support openly for the new party chair.
The unflinching support by the governors was said to have boosted Secondus’ chance in the North where Adeniran had initial support.
A member of the party from the North said that: “the northern caucus apart from Prof. Jerry Gana and Senator Ibrahim Mantu, decided to support Secondus because he was the toast of the governors an
Those who contested against him but lost were Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, Prof. Adeniran and Prof. Taoheed Adedoja.
Other contestants, apart from Chief George, announced their withdrawal from the race shortly before the commencement of the exercise.
George said on Friday at a press briefing that he was withdrawing due to the refusal of the party to micro-zone the office of the national chairman to the Southwest.
The party had zoned the office to the entire South, while it also ceded the presidential ticket to the northern region.
However, while there were seven aspirants from the South-West Zone, only two showed interest from the South-South.
Others from the Southwest included Senator Rashidi Ladoja, former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and Mr. Aderemi Olusegun.
The result as announced at the end of the convention at about 4 am on Sunday showed that
Secondus, who acted as National Chairman of the party shortly after PDP was ousted from power in 2015, polled 2000 votes to beat his closest rival former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, who got 230 votes.
Chief Dokpesi scored 66 votes while Prof. Adedoja got no vote.
Also Senator Umar Tsauri was elected the National Secretary of the party with 1,549 votes. He defeated Abubakar Mustapha who got 371 votes. Former Minister of State for Finance, Nanadi Usman, came third with 287 votes.
In other results, Senator Garba scored 1,316 to emerge the Deputy National Chairman (North). He defeated the wife of former Minister of Finance, Inna Ciroma who got 350 votes. The second runner up was Abdulmalik Mahmood who scored 325 votes while Senator Umar Kumo came a distant fourth with 89 votes.
David Mark’s former Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan, emerged the National Publicity Secretary of the party.
The convention was the party’s first elective convention since PDP suffered a devastating defeat in the 2015 general election and it had hoped to use the exercise to reposition itself ahead of the 2019 general election.
Dokpesi, who remained in the race till the end was involved in a mild drama just when the game was up. When rumour was rife that he was set to step down from the race, he called a press conference in his Asokoro residence in Abuja insisting that he was still very much in. That happened around 8 pm on Friday.
He followed it up with another press briefing around 9am right at the convention ground on Saturday with the same message that his chairmanship ambition was still alive. That second press conference left reporters wondering why he had to be repeating himself that much.
But Dokpesi was not done yet; when voting was in progress later in the night of Saturday, the Daar Communication chairman abandoned his Edo State stand and walked to Rivers State stand to sit with Secondus, as the results of the election were being awaited.