There was palpable tension in the top echelons of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last night over the choice of chairman of the party's Board of Trustees (BoT). The board meets today to decide on the possible choice.
Suggestions were rife that former chairman of the board and current chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Tony Anenih may emerge the ultimate front-runner going by the quantum of support being galvanised in his favour ahead of the meeting of the conclave.
But, there were conflicting feelers also yesterday from other PDP sources that neither Chief Tony Anenih nor Dr Ahmadu Ali may become the next chairman of the BOT, if resolutions by the presidency and some BoT members were anything to go by.
A source who confided in LEADERSHIP said that the presidency has decided to sacrifice its support for Tony Anenih and may have endorsed the option of allowing members to freely vote for their preferred candidate instead of the initially planned consensus option.
"I can reliably tell you that neither Anenih nor Ali would become the BoT chairman. Already it has been agreed upon that there would be election tomorrow and we understand that Chief Anenih might not even be at the meeting.
"For Ahmadu Ali, his case is a forgone issue as the refusal of the BoT secretary, Senator Walid Jubrin to step down has further endangered his ambition because both of them come from the same North Central," the source said.
Anenih, according to sources, would be a product of consensus in deference to the usual practice of the PDP. He is said to enjoy the support of the presidency, the party's National Working Committee (NWC) and other major stakeholders.
What is however certain, according to the source, is that Anenih would square out with former national chairman of the party, Senator Ahmadu Ali, a known ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Anenih/Ali contest is however said to be polarising the party apparatchik along two extreme divides, thus promising a major battle royale except an acceptable consensus is worked out before the meeting today.
Already, the party hierarchy was said to be frantically working out a consensus arrangement last night that would mitigate any open dissention that could trail the choice of Anenih.
"The issue of Anenih emerging as chairman of the BoT is a fait accompli because of the support of the presidency. There is nobody among members of the board that will openly oppose the president on this matter. In that case, if the president has endorsed Anenih, then that is the end, but that does not mean that every member would be in sync with him. Yet it will not change anything. What is being done is to work out a consensus arrangement that will assuage all the contending forces so as to coalesce the party into a family as it has always been," said the source.
It was learnt that the presidency has persuaded other strong contenders and their backers to withdraw and throw their weight behind Anenih. Sources say the former president of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, may have agreed to die his ambition after his initial vow to go ahead with the contest irrespective of any pressure to back out. The only person said to be remaining in the race is Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, but he is said not to be a serious contender.
So, barring any last-minute trade-off, it looks obvious that Anenih would carry the day.
The battle for the soul of the elders' council of the party has somehow pitted the presidency and former president Obasanjo against each other. While President Goodluck Jonathan is said to be pushing the choice of Anenih, Obasanjo is rooting for Ali.
Nonetheless, observers had believed that the recent appointment of Anenih as the chairman of NPA was to pay him off to pave way for the emergence of a neutral person. It was not the case, as sources disclosed that the appointment was only meant to empower him since the party does not allocate any fund for the running of the BoT.
In the same vein, observers still believe that the Vincent Ogbulafor scenario may play out, with the emergence of a neutral candidate other than Anenih or Ali. In that case, Nnamani may be the hidden choice. Ogbulafor emerged chairman of the PDP as a consensus choice, when the choice of either Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and ex-governor Sam Egwu threatened the unity of the party.