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PDP nervous congresses

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Ali-Modu-Sheriff-1• Confronting odds in Anambra, Adamawa, Lagos, Osun
In the end, the Southwest geopolitical zone showed it belonged to a class in political savvy. From raising the stakes about the zoning of party positions, the zone climbed down its high horse and adopted a commonsense strategy for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Three states were asked to return to the starting block following the haziness that attended the ward congresses held there. Clambering away from the local government councils, the main stress now shifts to the main show, which is the state congresses that would come up next Tuesday.

So far the agitation by the Southwest chapter to produce the national chairman of the party or take their membership elsewhere, ended up as a wishful thinking. By aligning with the zoning of the national chairmanship to the Northeast, the Southwest PDP demonstrated strategic positioning for the future, because while it bowed to good reasoning, it has started its quest to produce the presidential running mate.

It is also most likely that during the mid-term convention of the party, the zone would renew its chase for the party’s topmost post. The Akure meeting, which succeeded in supplanting the one planned for Ijebu-Igbo, saw leaders of the party from the two divides lining up behind the common agenda of sacrificing the national chairmanship and accepting the positions zoned to Southwest by the Emmanuel Odom zoning committee.

As soon as the two Southwest governors, Olusegun Mimiko and Ayo Fayose came together, it was easy for the rest, including Chief Bode George, Ebenezer Babatope, Doyin Okupe and other leaders that angled for the post of national chairman. The implication of the quick resolution of the Southwest incipient division is that it could be that all the while; Senator Buruji Kashamu was bearing the authentic position of the zone, while Babatope and his group decided to fly a kite.

This inference could be deduced from the deliberate omission of a demand on the zoning committee to revisit the zoning and cede the national chairmanship to the Southwest. Instead of that, the party leaders in the communiqué harped on the socio-economic challenges of the Yoruba and the plan to set up a committee for evenhanded redistribution of those offices already zoned to the area.

Going by the roll call of caucus leaders present before Professor Taoheed Adedoja read the communiqué; it was evident that Southwest PDP was standing together in their resolve to remain in PDP. In attendance at the Akure meeting were: Ondo State deputy governor Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo; Hon, Mulikat Akande; Mr. Jimi Agbaje; Iyiola Omisore; Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe; Chief Mrs. Jumoke Akinjide; Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan; Chief Segun Adegoke; Jide Adeniji; Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo; Dr. Saka Balogun; Clement Faboyede, Elder Joju Fadairo; Tunji Shelle; Akogun Bisi Jinadu; Ojo Williams, among others.

In the communiqué the Southwest leaders resolved “to fully back and work for the re-invigoration of the PDP.” They noted that “the time is ripe for all members of the party in the Southwest to forge a common front and pursue a common agenda towards occupying their destined leadership position in Nigeria.”

Most importantly, the leaders agreed “to rise up beyond personal interests to confront crucial national issues that affect us as a race, especially the thriving menace of the Fulani herdsmen.” They also noted “with dismay that the current ruling party has not demonstrated the capacity to contain the economic challenges with attendant dwindling fortunes that has reversed almost all the economic gains recorded under the PDP.”

Governor Mimiko, who welcomed the leaders to Akure, urged the party leaders not to use their ambitions to destroy the party in the Southwest, pointing out that “if we don’t show enough concern about issues concerning the people now, there is no way people will have confidence in us through their vote in 2019.”

The highpoint of the Akure meeting is the effective reconnection of the former Oyo State governor, Rashidi Ladoja to the PDP. With that, the Southwest dropped a big hint that the zone was ready to meet the challenge posed by the ruling APC and show the way for the ultimate reconciliation and rebuilding the party for future electoral battle.

However, while the Southwest zone put efforts into mending fences, signs of the party’s old ways refused to go away in some states. Allegations of hijacked of congress materials by some well placed chieftains of the party were rife.

Falling back on the recommendations of the Congress Appeal Committees sent to the states, the national leadership of PDP cancelled the ward congresses in three states of Adamawa, Lagos and Osun. Anambra State escaped by the whiskers, due in part to the effect of the stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja, prior to the congresses.

The rivalry between the Ejike Oguebego state executive committee and PDP members loyal to Prince Ken Emeakayi would have marred the congresses, but for a letter from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters, Abuja.

In the letter dated April 22, 2016 with reference number INEC/DEPM/PDP/024/55 and signed by Bala I. Shittu for the Secretary, INEC disclosed that the tenure of Ejike Oguebego State Executive Committee had expired. Titled RE: Status Of PDP Executive Committee In Anambra State, the letter read: “The Commission notes that following the expiration of the Ejike Oguebego-led Anambra State Executive Committee and other states affected, there is the urgent need for the party to clarify those responsible for the day to day running of the party and especially as it relates to the conduct of the rescheduled congresses of 23, 30, April and May 7, 2016.

For PDP, Anambra has remained a sore reference point in its reconciliation efforts. Many people in the state believe that after enjoying popularity but losing the governorship for ten years, it was high time the party got its acts together and forge a common front.

The decision by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, to opt out of further quest for party position seemed to have paved the way for the much expected resolution of PDP crisis in the state. For the past seventeen years, Metuh had been a constant face in the party, rising from the position of zonal vice chairman, (Southeast), to that of party’s spokesman. He became so powerful that in the absence of a governor on the party’s platform, he served as quasi governor to dispense political favours and considerations.

Most aspirants to various elective offices in the party from Anambra State alleged that Metuh helped to make the PDP ticket cash intensive in the state. It was against that background that most PDP stalwarts heaved a sigh of relief when Metuh declined further interest in holding any position in the National Working Committee (NWC).

As the congresses kicked off in the various wards, concerns were rife that Prince Ken Emeakayi might contest for the chairmanship and renew the tribulations of PDP in Anambra State. Emeakayi had in an interview with The Guardian disclosed how he had been single-handedly funding the party, particularly maintaining the state secretariat of PDP in a rented apartment in Awka from his purse.

He blamed the so-called party financiers from the state, saying that they are only investing on candidates they sponsor rather than building PDP in the state. But some party faithful accuse Emeakayi of running the party as his own corner shop, saying that what he spends on maintaining an office was but a paltry from the huge revenue he rakes from aspirants and holding base for wealthy politicians.

Ejike Oguebego maintains that Emeakayi and his group refused that PDP should adopt democratic culture in running its affairs. Yet Oguebego is also accused of being the shop assistant for Chief Chris Uba, who most members alleged see PDP as a tender board. Uba is not known to be eager to contest for any elective position, but prefers to trade on ambition of aspirants. He reluctantly contested the PDP senatorial ticket against his brother Andy, in 2015 after his preferred candidate refused to run against Andy.

A former governorship aspirant of PDP in the state, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, told The Guardian on phone that the only way to make PDP strong in Anambra is to abide by the resolutions reached at the Abuja meeting of stakeholders. He noted that though congresses had been held without hitches in the various wards and local government councils, it is left to be seen on Tuesday whether those who win the congresses can win peace for the party.

“What I saw was that there was an attempt by some people to boycott the congresses. I told winners of the congress in my LG that winning the congress does not mean that peace has come.

“They should be generous, magnanimous and compassionate to ensure that the party is united,” Obiogbolu stated, adding that the problem in the state chapter of the party could be likened to a leader staying in Aba and trying to foist leaders in Oguta.

While adducing the unhindered congresses to the implementation of the Abuja agreement that stakeholders should go back to their LGs and let the LG agree on how to hold peaceful and peaceable congresses, Obiogbolu said it would be unwise for those with eyes on the governorship ticket to take sides, so that when they emerge they could be candidate of the party and whole members.

But in Adamawa, party stalwarts sustained the claim that the former Special Adviser to for President Goodluck Jonathan on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, hijacked the materials for the congresses. The process was suspended but after two days, results of the ward congress were released.

Announcing the result in Yola, Abdullahi Ohioma, who stood in for the chairman, said the processes were initially turbulent because according to him, some people tried to hijack the process by carting away original result sheets, but added that “the problem was later resolved when the panel obtained a court affidavit.”

Ohioma contended that for the fact that the panel had photocopies of the original results sheets, they decided to obtain court affidavit after the results sheets were authenticated by the court in order to regularise the process. Consequently he declared that the result turned in by the electoral panel remains authentic, stressing that only the panel was constitutionally empowered to conduct the congresses.

The situation was also rekindled in Lagos after the initial fiasco. Congress Chairman, Adamu Waziri, disclosed that a new three-man committee was set up for Lagos State ward congresses, pointing out that though the exercise would kick off late, the panel needs to ensure a practical process.

Waziri assured that the pitfalls of the cancelled exercise would not be repeated, adding that the panel would send in their reports by the next day.

PDP State Chairman, Tunji Shelle, explained that the rowdy situation at the secretariat was signs that PDP was the beautiful bride of the 2015 elections in Lagos.

Despite the initial hiccups, a group of concerned leaders of the party, led by former Niger State governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, and immediate past Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Bala Mohammed, called for the postponement of the national convention, fixed for May 21 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Basing their call on the last PDP National Executive Committee (NEC), the concerned leaders argued that what took place in the meeting was not consistent with the original principles of PDP. Former ministers that attended the concerned leaders’ meeting include those of Women Affairs, Hon. Mrs. Zainab Maina;  Environment, Mr. John Odey; National Planning, Hon. Sulaiman Abubakar; Capt. Hassan Mohammed (rtd); Saidu Ndako Idris; Dr. Bolere Ketebu and Hon. Kaulaha Aliyu.

Babangida Aliyu announced after the meeting “that the procedure and conduct of the congresses nationwide were flawed with resultant disaffection and disagreements.” He explained that the meeting was summoned to “critically examine the current developments in the party with special reference to the ongoing ward, LG and State congresses, leading to the forth coming National convention.”

However, with the fair-minded resolution adopted by the Southwest PDP, the position of the concerned leaders may end up as another attempt to grandstand or seek attention. But by Tuesday, it would be seen by the nature of the state congresses and their outcomes whether the PDP convention would hold on May 21 as planned. And if it holds, whether the party would suffer another polarization.

There are speculations that those certain incumbents who are desirous of defecting to the ruling APC might want to stoke division so as to create the enabling constitutional culture to consummate their dream of dumping PDP. So far, with the way incumbents, especially Mimiko and Fayose, have conducted themselves, there is nothing to lay credence to that fear. But all eyes would be on first term governors that feel their second term ambition could only be guaranteed on the ruling party. Whether the prevailing mood and capacity of APC justifies such move, is a point to ponder.


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