PDP In Make Or Mar Convention

Filed in Politics by on December 8, 2017

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is expected to elect a new national chairman and other officers at its national convention in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), tomorrow. But, the signal emanating from the various power blocs and caucuses have heightened anxiety as they fight for the soul of the party. Assistant Editor GBADE OGUNWALE reports.

After coming out of a major leadership crisis that plagued the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for 14 months, the main opposition party is heading for a make or mar national convention. The party appears to be at the crossroads as key stakeholders have continued to bicker over who becomes the national chairman. Of all the positions available for grabs, that of the national chairman has become a fierce battle between the Southwest and Southsouth geo-political zones. There are six aspirants from the Southwest, while the Southsouth has two. The aspirants from the Southwest are a former Education Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran; former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George; former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel; former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja; one-time Sports and Special Duties Minister, Prof Taoheed Adedoja; and former Lagos governorship candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

The two contestants from the South south are a former Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and media mogul Chief Raymond Dokpesi. The Southwest has continued to justify its quest for the job with the argument that the zone has yet to occupy the position since the formation of the PDP in 1998. In sympathy with the Southwest, a number of interest groups and stakeholders, particularly from the North, have also called for the position to be micro zoned to the region to enable the zone produce the chair. But, gladiators in the Southsouth have said that, being the major financier of the party since the PDP lost political power in 2015, the zone should naturally produce the chairman. After weeks of push, the contest has narrowed down to a two-horse race between Adeniran and Secondus. Adeniran, 72, is being backed by a coalition of forces comprising mainly of party leaders and elders spread across the three zones in the North. A former Information Minister, Prof Jerry Gana is leading the support outreach for Adeniran. On the other hand, Secondus is being propelled by a heavy war chest, apparently deployed for the epic battle by Governor Nyesom Wike of his native Rivers State. But, efforts are still being made by many prominent party leaders and senior citizens, including former military President Ibrahim Babangida, to find a common ground before the convention date. The Gana group, under the aegis of PDP Northern Leaders and Elders Forum, is still sweating it out for Adeniran. Rising from an all-night stakeholders meeting last week, the group announced the decision of the Northern stakeholders to have the chairmanship micro zoned to the Southwest. In a communique after the meeting and jointly signed by a former Kano State governor and one time Education Minister, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and Mrs. Margaret Icheen, the group called on delegates from the North to vote for only chairmanship aspirants from the Southwest. The communique, dated December 1, 2017 stated among others: “After extensive deliberations, it was resolved that, in the spirit of fairness, equity, carrying every part of the country along, giving every geo-political zone a sense of participation and inclusion in the affairs of the PDP, we strongly support the quest of the Southwest geo-political zone to produce the next National Chairman of the party.

“In line with our resolve to rebuild and reposition the PDP, we urge delegates from all the Northern states to abide by this decision and vote for only aspirants from the Southwest geo-political zone in the forthcoming national convention, in the best interest of the party. This is without prejudice to the right of aspirants from other geo-political zones to contest.”

But, in a swift reaction, members of another sub-group that attended the meeting, countered the position of the Northern leaders. Led by Mallam Sani Kutigi, the younger elements denounced Gana and his fellow elders, insisting that the position remained open to contestants from the three zones in the South. At a media briefing same day, Kutigi described the declaration by the Gana and others as an “obnoxious and objectionable” plot to rail-road the region into illegality. Kutigi said, “This group of people lacks any authority or voice to speak on behalf of the North as a homogeneous entity and is therefore on its own. Their action is hereby rejected and totally condemned. Majority of members from the North dissociate themselves from this misadventure which potents unintended consequences if left unchallenged. It is a slap on the face and an insult on the face of Southern Nigerian politicians/leaders that a few members from the North can sit down and determine who to elect.

While rejecting micro-zoning, we affirm our belief in the sanctity of the larger, more inclusive arrangement which gave Southern Nigeria the position of National Chairman of our great party. Party members from the North pledge to support only a free and fair process where a new National Chairman will emerge regardless of which place he comes from so long as he is from any of the states that make up Southern Nigeria. Power brokers in the two zones have continued to push arguments why they should take the slot. One of the chairmanship aspirants, Bode George, said it would be extremely difficult for leaders of the party in the Southwest to continue to mobilise support for the PDP in the zone, if the Southwest does not produce the party chair. George, while speaking with reporters at the PDP Abuja secretariat last week, said: “If they take the chairmanship away from us, how do they expect us to continue persuading our members and supporters to vote for the PDP in 2019? The position of chairman has been micro zoned in the past.” He recalled that at inception, the position was micro zoned to the North central zone, starting with the pioneer chairman, the late Chief Solomon Lar from Plateau State. He was succeeded by Chief Barnabas Gemade from Benue, also in the North central. Followed by Chief Audu Ogbe, also from Benue State. Ogbeh was forced out as a result of disagreement with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 and was replaced by Dr. Ahmadu Ali from Kogi State, also in the North central. The chair then moved to the Southeast in 2008 with the emergence of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor (Abia) who was succeeded by Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo from Enugu State, also in the Southeast. Two Acting Chairmen occupied the position in the interim, following the unceremonious removal of Nwodo at the convention ground in 2011. They are Dr. Mohammed Bello Haliru (Kebbi State) and Alhaji Kawu Baraje (Kwara State). Afterwards, the position moved to the Northeast in 2012 with Alhaji Bamanga Tukur (Adamawa State) as chairman. Tukur was removed in 2014 and replaced by former Bauchi State Governor Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, also from the Northeast. Mu’azu was forced to resign in May 2015 as a result of fallouts of the loss of political power by the PDP in the 2015 election. Secondus, who was the Deputy National Chairman, was asked to step in as Acting Chairman while the party struggled to shake off its post-election defeat trauma. Going by the party’s constitution, Secondus was to act as chairman for six months to enable the party pick a substantive chairman from the Northeast to complete Mu’azu’s truncated tenure. However, owing to hopelessness occasioned by the party’s electoral misfortune, the PDP became almost rudderless and Secondus continued to occupy the position for over nine months. It took the intervention of a former presidential adviser, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, for the PDP to wake up from its sleepless slumber. Gulak had in February 2016, stormed the party secretariat with a number of supporters. He declared himself the new party chairman. Gulak, who is from Adamawa State in the Northeast, had argued that he decided to take the seat to complete the tenure for the Northeast zone. The crisis was however resolved when the governors, against wise counsel, picked controversial former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff in 2016 to serve out the term for the Northeast. Attempts to elect a substantive chairman under Sheriff led to a 14 month leadership crisis that almost wiped the PDP out of existence. Having seen through Sheriff’s inordinate ambition to grab the party’s 2019 presidential ticket by default, the governors succeeded in removing the ex-Borno governor at a botched May 23, 2016 convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. A caretaker committee, headed by former Kaduna State Governor Ahmed Makarfi was set to run the affairs of the party, pending the election of a new substantive chairman. But, Sheriff remained adamant and continued to lay claim to the chairmanship. He had fought through the courts to remain in office for 14 months, trampling on every rule and guideline in the party’s constitution. In his characteristic brute force, Sheriff had fought Makarfi and his team to a standstill, leaving the party in utter disarray. It took the intervention of the Supreme Court to free the party from Sheriff’s grip with a landmark judgment delivered on July 12, 2017.

With Sheriff out of the way, the PDP was able to get its bearings under Makarfi whose tenure will expire with the December 9 convention. But the convention is being threatened by the ambitions and vested interests of a few gladiators gunning for the control of the party structure at the national level. The 19 states in the North succeeded in micro zoning the elective positions allotted to them without much rancour. Similarly, the 17 states in the South were able to micro zone some of the positions given to them, except the chairman. Pressure was mounted on the Makarfi–led Caretaker Committee to micro zone the chairmanship position to the Southwest, but Makarfi said his committee lacked the power to do so. Thus the party appears set for another leadership crisis that the convention may throw up if the matter is not resolved before the convention date. Governor Wike who is Secondus’ main backer has continued to insist that the chair must go to the Southsouth. Addressing party leaders and supporters from the zone in Port Harcourt on Monday, the governor maintained that his zone has been the major financier of the PDP. Wike was reported to have bankrolled the legal expenses the party incurred in the battle to take the PDP from Sheriff. But stakeholders argue that making Secondus party chair would amount to handing the PDP over to Wike. Incidentally, most party leaders, particularly the older generation, appear not to be comfortable with Wike’s sense of judgment. The governor’s brash and impetuous approach to decision making has become a major concern to many of them. Tagged along with Wike is the equally abrasive and rumbustious Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose who is also insisting on Secondus.


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