By Charles Kumolu
FOR a party that had for a long time, sought to reinvent itself in Lagos State, the seemingly frosty relationship between a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, is likely to shape the conduct of the party’s governorship primaries.
Famed for being an old rivalry, the resurgence of the clash of interest between the duo did not take observers aback. But the pattern it has assumed has not stopped being a source of anxiety for party faithful.
The fact that the development makes the party’s dream of presenting a sellable governorship candidate vague, makes the matter more worrisome.
For a disagreement that has so much polarised the fold ahead of the primaries, it is believed that the PDP is again about to self-destruct in Lagos.
Like in the past, the growing impasse is largely unconnected with who the party’s flag bearer should be in the next gubernatorial election in the state.
Current Storm In The Party
The decision of Obanikoro to participate in the race again, is believed to have exhumed the carcass of the feud that had existed between them, leading to the current storm in the party.
Accordingly, the George group, which is believed to be an alliance of other hitherto factional blocs, has not spared any of its political arsenals in its bid to ensure that the former minister did not participate in the race.
While this had earlier existed in the realm of speculations, it became much of a reality when an alliance was forged under the leadership of George with the perceived objective of stopping Obanikoro’s governorship ambition.
This unusual unity is undoubtedly around a new entrant into the party, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, whose ambition is being championed by George against the wishes of the traditional PDP family in Lagos.
George, it was gathered, sees Agbaje as a non-controversial candidate, with no baggage against Obanikoro, who he had always opposed for yet to be known reasons.
The George group has not failed to back its support for Agbaje with claims that there was a gentleman agreement that Obanikoro, having been made a minister, would forego his long held ambition.
The former Ambassador, has however, denied that and is insisting on pursuing his ambition despite the seeming consensus by party chieftains that the 2015 candidate should be a Christian in order to frontally confront Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s alleged plot.
Similarly, the recent attempt by three members of the party seeking the disqualification of the erstwhile Minister of State for Defence from the governorship race, was linked to George by Obanikoro’s supporters.
In like manner, the outcome of ward congresses held across the state, pitched the supporters of the duo against each other.
So obvious was the backlash arising from that exercise that Obanikoro wrote a notice of complaint to the PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’Azu.
Bode George’s Undue Interference
In the notice, Obanikoro pointedly alleged that George had unduly interfered with the conduct of the congresses.
While stating that the ward congresses were manipulated by George, he urged the party’s leadership to check George’s influence ahead of the party’s primaries. He also added that no cynic in the state could stop his governorship ambition come 2015.
“PDP needs a free and fair primary that is devoid of Bode George’s undue interference as seen during the ward congresses. What I see is a greater Lagos, where the hopes of the little girl growing up in Mushin are the same as the dreams of the child in Victoria Garden City. Cynics have perfected the art of telling us that the Lagos of our dreams is not possible. We refuse to agree with them! One million cynics cannot stop the dream of a greater Lagos. While they focus on impossibilities, we focus on a greater Lagos,” he stated.
Notwithstanding, George’s body language, is such that suggests that he stands against everything Obanikoro stands for politically.
For instance in a recent interview with Vanguard the retired Naval officer had this to say about Obanikoro: ‘’He said that he resigned as Minister because the President endorsed him, that is the greatest lie. Quote me. That is the greatest lie. And when you build your house on lies, it cannot stand a little storm, not now. Who asked him to be Minister? I think the president has made his statement when he came here and I queue up behind that statement.
‘’He is still very much alive. Wike too in Rivers, is it the president who asked him to resign? Did he put his name on the paper? Who signed the paper? Is it the president? People lie. That is a blatant lie. And you can put it down that I said that.’’
Amid the ensuing battle, Obanikoro has remained upbeat about his chances of clinching the ticket, on the strength of his grassroots popularity.
With his campaign slogan titled: Greater Lagos, the former Ambassador to Ghana, has repeatedly noted that he would not be detracted by the perceived conspiracy against him, adding that having associated with the defunct Alliance for Democracy,AD, he is the best man to defeat the APC.