Obanikoro, Bode George Battle For Supremacy

Obanikoro, Bode George Battle For Supremacy

Monday, November 24, 2014 12:34 pm

Eromosele Ebhomele

Ahead of the 2015 governorship election in Lagos, the age-long rift between Bode George and Musiliu Obanikoro, two giants of the Peoples Democratic Party, has again reared its head

No doubt, one very huge ambition for Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President David Mark, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa-Ibom State and chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governors Forum; as well as members of the PDP, is for the party to clinch Lagos State in the 2015 elections. Lagos remains not just a central point for Nigeria’s economic growth and progress. It has been the stronghold of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.

This much was stressed when, during the PDP South-west rally held at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, many of the speakers noted how attractive the state had become, especially, to the success that would be recorded by the party in 2015. President Jonathan told the gathering at the rally that residents of the state would begin to see what true development means when his party finally takes over the government of Lagos. In all, the event venue was a scene of unanimous hunger and optimism on the soul of Lago,s as displayed by the party members.

•Chief Bode George

•Chief Bode George

Just weeks away from the 2015 elections however, the supposed formidable force for the taking over of the state is crashing, giving thought to the belief expressed by some Nigerians, especially within the opposition, that all those who spoke at that rally could just have engaged themselves in wishful thinking. This is because Bode George and Musiliu Obanikoro, the two strong bones on which the flesh of the PDP in Lagos is tacked, have again started falling apart. And this time, it looks like a war that would linger till after the election for a party which its members had vowed to come together, resolve the differences between them and eschew self-interest in its overall interest. George, a retired military man, was the party’s national vice-chairman for South-west while Obanikoro grew from being a senator to trying his hands on the governorship seat of the state.

Residents of the state had watched keenly to know how members of the PDP would forge a formidable front against the APC in the state after members of the former, reportedly, at different fora promised to resolve all their grievances ahead of the election. But the first reason to doubt the resolve to work together stemmed from the fact that the George and Koro, as Obanikoro is referred to by his loyalists and friends, were hardly seen together prior to the face-off. Then Obanikoro suddenly resigned his position as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Defence to contest the governorship election.

Currently, apart from other aspirants for the governorship race on the platform of the PDP, Obanikoro has a major obstacle in Jimi Agbaje, a Lagos-based businessman and producer of pharmaceutical products who left his party, the Democratic Peoples Alliance, DPA, for the PDP months before the electioneering began. Agbaje, in 2007, contested against Governor Babatunde Fashola and Obanikoro. Though he came a distant third, political pundits agreed that he gave the two others a good fight that would throw him up as a possible candidate of a party for the same position in the future. When he announced his defection to the PDP from his party that had been deregistered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, therefore, residents already knew the direction he was headed.

Sources within the PDP said Agbaje’s entry into the party was not an accident. According to them, before moving over from his then party, he had secured the consent and understanding of the powers that be in the PDP, both in the state and in the presidency. Particularly, he is believed to be favoured for the candidacy of the PDP by George and Adeseye Ogunlewe, a former minister of Works in the country.

Those opposed to Agbaje’s emergence as the PDP flagbearer in the state are of the view that it would not augur well to just impose a new face on those who had struggled and sacrificed to keep the party going even though the party in the state had never experienced oneness. They, including supporters of Obanikoro, believe that the PDP is too complex for such an action. But those in support of Agbaje argue that he is the most qualified to give the candidate of the APC a run for his money among the aspirants of the PDP.

Beyond qualification for the job, there are those who see the current degeneration of the PDP in Lagos as more of a supremacy battle between George and Obanikoro, both of whom have been engaging in confrontations using their loyalists and structures against each other. For this set of opinion makers, it would be difficult for the warring factions to resolve without dropping their egos, interests and ambitions. “While Obanikoro’s main aim is to govern Lagos, George wants to retain the party structure in the State since that is where he derives his own powers. Aside the politics of bitterness that has played out between them over the years, there is the belief and fear that Koro could take over the party structure and ease out his perceived and obvious enemies in the State. Until both parties know cut their strengths and recognise their limits, nothing will be achieved by our party,” a top PDP member in the State told TheNEWS.

This magazine learnt that President Jonathan is not unaware of the current squabbles in the Lagos branch of the party. But those who spoke said he has preferred to remain neutral since the two factions are important for his own presidential ambition in 2015. During a meeting he held with the party members shortly after the Lagos rally, he reportedly only told the members to see how they could prune the number of aspirants for the party to achieve its desired goal. Nothing much had been said by him or the party concerning the crisis since then.

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