PDP’s national secretariat: Hangover of botched vision, missed opportunities
Curiously, the decision to locate the imposing structure along Muhammadu Buhari’s way in the Central Business District of Abuja might have fated the construction to incompletion. Although the symptoms of sluggish development predated the 2015 general elections in which General Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) displaced the owners, the building went into permanent abandonment shortly after.
After organising fundraising on two occasions and gathering millions of naira, most party faithful and Nigerians, in general, are worried that the PDP, despite its ostentatious display while in the office could not complete that single project.
As such, five years after work on the site was stopped in 2014, the new helmsmen in PDP are crying for funds to see to the completion of the building. However, the cry for more funds has raised fresh concerns over the status and whereabouts of the N21billion raised during a special fundraising dinner organised by the party on December 2014.
Incumbent PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, recently lamented that there was not enough money to complete the new national secretariat, which cost has was varied upwards from N11.5bilion to N16billion.
Secondus, who spoke to The Guardian through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ike Abonyi, dismissed insinuations that the project has been abandoned, even as he expressed optimism that work would resume at the project site as soon as funds are made available.
UNKNOWN to most Nigerians, the idea of constructing a befitting national headquarters (secretariat) for the then ruling PDP came in 2008, during the tenure of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor. Shortly after emerging as the caretaker committee chairman of Ebonyi State chapter of the party, Engineer David Umahi Nweze had decried the idea of paying huge amounts as rent for the secretariat instead of using the money to put up a permanent structure for the party.
Aided by about N50million loan facility from a commercial bank and levies on every party member holding elective or appointive office, Umahi and the caretaker committee members embarked on the construction a twin block of imposing structure along the Abakaliki – Enugu Express Road in Abakaliki to house the state secretariat of PDP in Ebonyi.
It was while on his visit to commission the Ebonyi PDP headquarters building that the national chairman, Ogbulafor, not only expressed his delight at what he saw but declared that the national headquarters “would borrow a leaf from Ebonyi and put up a permanent structure at the federal capital to serve as our national secretariat.”
The then governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, an architect, was commissioned to put up the project design. And in a bid to get the structure off the drawing board, PDP organised fundraising on November 14, 2008, targeting N10b out of which it raked in N6b. The dinner was chaired by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and the highest donation came from Mr. Femi Otedola, while the richest man in Africa, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, announced a donation of N3b worth of cement.
Funds also trickled in as both the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his vice, Jonathan alongside former President Olusegun Obasanjo donated 15 percent of their basic salaries, just as Ogbulafor levied N50m on the 28 PDP governors. In the end, the sum of N2b was advanced to the construction firm, Messrs BNL Limited.
Although work on the secretariat building progressed with vim and vigour, somewhere along the line, languor set in. First, President Yar’Adua took ill and internal bickering set in, culminating in Ogbulafor’s declaration that no matter what happens political power would remain in the north part of the country.
By the time Yar’Adua died, the politics of his replacement and decision of his former deputy, Jonathan, to contest 2011 presidential helped to divert attention from the ongoing construction of the new secretariat building. To compound the situation, Ogbulafor who was removed from office on the grounds of the alleged fraudulent transaction was replaced with a former national secretary of the party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo.
Nwodo came in with his own agenda, including the promise of reforming the party to get it back in the hands of the people through electronic membership registration and biometric capture.
The dingdong occasioned by internal struggles for the control of the party structure further defrayed expeditious attention to the completion of the bogus edifice. During the party’s presidential primary to select its standard-bearer for the 2011 election, Nwodo was shoved aside as national chairman and his deputy Alhaji Bello Haliru Mohammed took over as acting national chairman.
While Mohammed served as acting national chairman, the construction company BNL continued skeletal works on the project, but concerns were raised when another change in the leadership of the party happened. This time around, it was the national convention of the party in 2012. A new set of National Working Committee members emerged.
However, things did not go smoothly for the Bamanga Tukur-led NWC. Barely one year into their tenure internal recriminations had set in. Some members of the NWC rose in opposition to the national chairman’s style of leadership, accusing him of not carrying them along, as well as, running the party as his personal business.
All the same, the former chairman of African Business Roundtable, made plans to give new momentum to the construction work at the new secretariat building. The national chairman set up a committee headed by the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Godswill Akpabio, with a mandate to raise funds towards the completion of the building.
From the 20-member committee, that comprised Dr. Shehu Shema, Senators Ike Ekweremadu, Hope Uzodinma, Alhaji Idris Umar, Mohammed Shittu, Sani Dauda, Bolaji Anani among others, most have defected to the APC.
But, before they could consummate their terms of reference, a remedial convention to regularize the election of some NWC members in line with the observations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was announced.
In the course of the mini-convention, the party witnessed the breakaway of some influential members to the opposition APC. Not long after the August 2013 mini-convention Tukur came under a fresh barrage of internal insurrection, which culminated in his forced resignation.
Former Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, who stepped in as the game-changer, organised a twin fundraising to complete the new secretariat building, as well as cater to the re-election of President Jonathan.
At the event, chaired by Prof. Jerry Gana, N21b in pledges and cash donation was realised, prompting attacks from the opposition that the party was insensitive to the plight of the masses but blinded by the ambition to realise its dream of retaining political power for 60 years as declared by Ogbulafor.
Irked by the attacks, Gana was forced to explain that the N21b was not meant for election, but aimed at completing the construction work at the new secretariat building, assuring, “by the grace of God, this building would be completed this year (2015), because we want to put to rest all speculations that the money was meant for the President.”
Where Is The Money
FOUR months after the party got the N21b infusion; it lost the general election, thus compounding the woes of the property along Muhammadu Buhari Way in the city centre Abuja. Six months after President Buhari was inaugurated into office, PDP disclosed through its spokesman, Metuh, that it was cash strapped and was therefore unable to continue work on the new secretariat building.
Eleven years after, the fund has become the major hindrance to the project, which was originally billed to be completed in two and a half years. Sources disclosed that PDP’s surprising loss to the APC, especially fear of retribution from President Buhari made some of the donors at the December 2014 fundraising to rethink their commitment.
It was also alleged that some state governors, whose political fortunes were altered by the 2015 election decided not to honour their promises, even as the defection of others contributed to the failure by PDP to realise in total the expected fund.
Due to the frequent changes in leadership, especially the prolonged leadership tussle between factions of the party led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff, it was not possible for PDP to render a credible account on the monies realszed from the several fundraising efforts.
Attacks by the ruling APC on PDP’s style of leadership in the past sixteen years went a long way to diminish the credibility of the party’s efforts at constructing a befitting national secretariat that could stand as a beacon of Nigeria’s enduring democracy.
Against that background, it has not been possible to ascertain whether the N21b alleged to be slush funds from the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) Sambo Dasuki, was the same as the accruals from the fundraising.
The whereabouts of the N21b realised during the 2014 fundraising have remained a subject of conjecture and buck-passing. Former PDP national publicity secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh, had directed The Guardian to the national financial secretary of the party, saying that he (the financial secretary) was in the best position to respond to such inquiries.
Incumbent national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, did not respond to text messages to his mobile phone at the time of filing this report, but Abonyi, SA to the national chairman, said the party was not contemplating any loans from a commercial bank,
He pointed out that the party leadership was determined to complete the project, remarking there was no dispute with the contractor, even as he did not rule out the likelihood of a further variation on the value of the contract.
As a political party, PDP nursed the ambition of rivaling the African National Congress (ANC), its counterpart in the Republic of South Africa. The tall new national secretariat building in Nigeria’s federal capital was therefore expected to stand it out as the symbol of national appeal.
However, in its current state, the incomplete structure has come to symbolise the party’s opportunism and tottering vision. Though the party is waging a spirited presidential election petition at the tribunal, whatever the outcome, the completion of the project would show how far it has recovered from the 2015 surprise defeat and preparedness for the future.
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