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South East gets secretary as micro-zoning crises threaten PDP convention

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Deputy Abuja Bureau Chief) and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
12 October 2021   |   4:25 am
The intrigues, game of wits and power-play that have characterised the process of deciding, which zone gets particular positions between North and South, no doubts is posing serious threat to the October 30 National Convention...

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• Aspirants fail to buy forms
• Northern leaders meet today to finalise zoning arrangements
• PDP fixes N5m for chairmanship form, deputy national chairman, national sec N3m
• APC crisis: Adamu, Dogara, others to parley Tinubu, Akande to reconcile warring groups
• 2023: Attempts to divide Tinubu, Osinbajo will fail, says Ojudu

The intrigues, game of wits and power-play that have characterised the process of deciding, which zone gets particular positions between North and South, no doubts is posing serious threat to the October 30 National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The sale of nomination forms for various National Working Committee (NWC) offices, originally fixed to begin yesterday, failed to commence owing to the inability of the two regions to conclude their micro-zoning arrangements across the six geo-political zones.

Although the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP had last week, ratified the recommendation of the zoning committee, led by the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, distribution of these offices among the states in the federation is giving PDP leaders sleepless nights.

The party had approved that all NWC positions currently retained in the North be swapped for those in the South.

Positions taken to the Southern part of the country are: National Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, National Woman Leader, Financial Secretary and National Auditor, among others. The North has the National Chairman, National Legal Adviser, Treasurer, National Publicity Secretary, among others.

But checks, yesterday, revealed that none of the two regions have been able to decide on offices to be filled by the zones. In the North, governors and key party leaders have been meeting in Abuja since last Thursday on how to take final positions on the geo-political zone to produce the National Chairman as well as other positions.

While former Senate President, David Mark, has been vastly speculated as the man for the chairmanship position, other names being equally speculated include former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, another former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, as well as Senator Suleiman Nazif.

It was gathered that though some governors want Mark as the next chairman of the party, other prominent party members, including former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, are trying to convince party leaders to settle for Makarfi. The former Kaduna governor is gradually becoming the frontrunner as stakeholders believe he gave a good account of himself when he presided over party affairs as chairman of the PDP caretaker committee that conducted the 2017 national elective convention, which ushered in the outgoing NWC.

The Northern PDP leaders, it was learnt, have fixed another meeting for today in Abuja to discuss further on the issues. This will be the third meeting since last Thursday when the party adopted recommendation to zone the chairmanship seat to the North.

Meanwhile, the delay in resolving the problem of micro-zoning of offices is preventing emergence of aspirants. It has also prevented potential aspirants from collecting nomination forms.

The party had last week released a timetable and schedule of activities for the 2021 National Convention. According to the timetable issued by the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), which was approved at the party’s 94th NEC, “all potential aspirants for various party offices at the national level are to purchase their expression of interest and nomination forms at the National Secretariat in Abuja from Monday, October 11 to Friday, October 15, 2021.”

According to the timetable, screening of all aspirants for national offices is slated for Monday, October 18, while hearing of appeals arising from disputes, is slated for October 21. Publication of names of aspirants cleared for the various positions is slated for October 23, to be followed by a meeting of the NWC, where the list of delegates to vote at the convention will be adopted on October 25.

Those contesting the office of the National Chairman of the party are to pay N5 million as nomination fee, while those seeking the office of Deputy National Chairman will pay N3 million. Aspirants for other offices are to pay N2 million each, while those seeking the offices of deputies to NWC members will pay N750,000 each.

An official of the party at the PDP secretariat told our correspondent in confidence that though the office of the National Organising Secretary opened as early as 8:30a.m. yesterday, no aspirant for any of the offices turned up in what he ascribed to “the ongoing deliberations on which state should get what.”

According to him, “things are not going on smoothly particularly on which state in these zones to produce XYZ? The chairmanship position, for instance, is now a battle between the North Central and the Northwest. Until an agreement is reached in the ongoing deliberations on which state should get what, it will be foolish to rush to obtain nomination form,” he said.

IT, however, emerged yesterday that PDP leaders have agreed to zone the position of National Secretary to the Southeastern part of the country. This was confirmed by a member of the zoning committee of the convention, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, yesterday.

The source further confirmed that a crucial meeting of the Southern PDP governors and leaders has been scheduled for Benin, Edo State capital, today, to conclude arrangements on the zoning ahead of the convention.

The meeting is expected to be hosted by Edo State governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki. At least, four PDP governors are said to be solidly in support of the move to zone the National Secretary of the main opposition party to the Southeast.

Although, the Southwest was initially favoured to produce the National Secretary, the feud between Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, and former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, which has since led them to support different aspirants for the office, may have yielded the position in favour of the Southeast.

It was gathered that the decision to cede the National Secretary to the Southeast was informed by the sharp division among party leaders in the Southwest zone.

The two leading camps have failed to reconcile their positions despite a series of reconciliatory efforts initiated by various stakeholders within the leadership of the PDP. They have been going in opposite directions on virtually every decision needed to be taken on behalf of the Southwest zone and have been taking conflicting positions on issues.

HOWEVER, in the ruling party, a nine-member national reconciliation committee of the All Progressive Congress (APC), led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is to meet with the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, to proffer solution to the crisis rocking the party across the country.

The committee, which was inaugurated by the Chairman APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Mai Mala Buni, in Abuja, is mandated to conduct appropriate engagement between identified groups in each state where there are disputes with a view to bringing about genuine reconciliation and establishing lasting peace and unity in the party.

The committee is to consult with party leaders and concerned members as the committee deems necessary with a view to achieving peace therein, as well as critically examine areas of conflict on the just concluded ward and local government congress and advance solutions accordingly.

Adamu, who fielded questions from reporters, disclosed that his committee would consult with Tinubu and the former national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, to achieve the goal.

He said: “We believe we will be able to accomplish the responsibilities bestowed on us today. We will consult with one of our leaders, Jagaban Asiwaju. We will consult with the first national chairman of our great party, Chief Akande, who was my contemporary as governor of Osun as he then was and other prominent leaders and stakeholders of the party that will take interest in what we are doing, we will not hesitate to approach and talk to them and see the best way forward in reconciling our ranks.”

Buni charged members of the committee to reconcile aggrieved members of the party ahead of the National Convention of the party.

Other members of the reconciliation committee are the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Senator George Akume, former Enugu and Jigawa states governors, Sullivan Chime, Ali Saad Birnin Kudu, Alh. Suleiman Argungu, Dr. Mrs. Oluranti I. Adebule, Dr. Mrs. Beta Edu and Otunba Moses Alake Adeyemo, who serves as secretary of the panel.

The APC said it has eroded the stronghold and decapitated the opposition parties in the Southeast with the glee of defections of their members.

Governor Buni, speaking during the inauguration, yesterday, said: “Today, the Southeast geo-political zone, hitherto referred to as the stronghold of opposition parties, is gradually melting into the APC and increasing the fortunes of APC to remain Nigeria’s leading political party.”

He said the development was a manifestation of his November 24, 2020 projection that APC will shock the political space with massive and unprecedented defections ever witnessed in the political history of the country.

The APC Chairman noted that since the caretaker committee came on board on June 25, 2020, the party has progressed significantly with purposeful and productive leadership that promoted justice, equity, fair play and genuine reconciliation. He maintained that every party member now has a true sense of belonging, confidence, and trust in the party.

On the ongoing membership drive, the chairman said that the party recorded over 40 million members during the recently conducted nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise by the party.

The chairman then said the fallout of the just conducted congresses, informed the setting up of the National Reconciliation Committee to reconcile emerging misunderstandings and differences, which might arise from the outcome of the exercises.

SENATOR Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser on Political Matters to the President, Office of the Vice President, last night dismissed insinuations of a crack between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Asiwaju Tinubu in reaction to Channels TV ‘Sunrise’ programme where two persons supposedly representing Asiwaju Support Group and Osinbajo Support Group were pitched against each other.

In a statement, Ojudu said: “Neither the Vice President nor his office is aware of this or endorse this kind of divisive engagement and news reports. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are members of same party. Osinbajo regards Tinubu as a respected leader of a political family to which he belongs and will therefore not for any reason endorse an endeavour that seeks to pitch them against each other.

“We are not unaware of some people who may want to foist a crack among our leaders. Such an attempt is abortive. Osinbajo and Tinubu’s relationship dates way back and it shall continue to wax strong.

“Let me therefore call on individuals and media houses engaged in this act to desist from doing so. The APC remains one single, indivisible party and Osinbajo remains a loyal member of the party who respects both the party structure as well as its leadership.

“Moreover, INEC has not given a go ahead yet for politicking towards 2023. As a law-abiding citizen, Osinbajo will not commence any act in this regard until INEC blows the whistle, and in any case the VP has not indicated interest in the 2023 elections

“While appreciating individuals who are clamoring for him to contest, we however want to plead that they should not draw him or allow themselves into an unnecessary and precipitous controversy.

“We welcome our great leader, Asiwaju Tinubu back into the country. As a great democrat himself, he will certainly welcome politics without bitterness and divisiveness. We wish him good health, long life and prosperity.”