One Month to Con­ven­tion: PDP Sinks into Deeper Cri­sis

Sunday Trust - - BIG STORY - By Hamza Idris, Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja) and Nu­rudeen Oye­wole (La­gos)

Chief Shuaibu Oye­dokun is a mem­ber of the PDP’s Board of Trus­tees (BoT) and a for­mer deputy na­tional chair­man of the party from the South West, who on Novem­ber 3 came up with a ‘con­tro­ver­sial’ ad­vi­sory that banned some na­tional chair­man­ship as­pi­rants of the party from the race.

Since then, the PDP has not known peace even as its con­ven­tion, sched­uled to hold on De­cem­ber 9, is just about a month away.

Though Chief Oye­dokun was the sole sig­na­tory of the pur­ported doc­u­ment, he claimed that all BoT mem­bers from the South–West were in agree­ment with the de­ci­sion, say­ing they found it per­ti­nent to pick only three names from the eight con­tenders vy­ing for the seat.

He said in ar­riv­ing at the three can­di­dates, the mem­bers con­sid­ered such fac­tors as ac­cept­abil­ity, vi­sion, ex­pe­ri­ence, per­cep­tion by mem­bers, win­ning chances, and ed­u­ca­tional ex­po­sure.

Oye­dokun said the move was meant to also re­duce elec­tion ex­pen­di­ture, avoid split­ting of South–West votes and ar­rive at a con­sen­sus can­di­date for the zone.

Those se­lected to re­main in the race in­cluded a for­mer deputy na­tional chair­man of the party, Chief Ola­bode Ge­orge; a for­mer Min­is­ter of Sports and Spe­cial Du­ties, Prof. Tao­heed Ade­doja and a for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Prof. Tunde Adeni­ran.

The doc­u­ment named the South-West as­pi­rants dropped from the race to in­clude Oyo State ex-gov­er­nor, Se­na­tor Rashid Ladoja; Ogun State ex-gov­er­nor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; ex-na­tional sec­re­tary of the Sim­i­larly, cred­i­ble sources in the PDP told our cor­re­spon­dents that po­lit­i­cal heavy­weights in the South-East are highly in­ter­ested in the vice pres­i­den­tial slot and are re­lent­lessly ag­i­tat­ing for it, al­lud­ing to the fact that many of those in the race are only try­ing to as­sert their in­flu­ence so that they would not be for­got­ten at the end of the day party, Prof. Wale Oladipo; La­gos State for­mer gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date, Jimi Ag­baje and Akin-Deko Ak­in­tayo from Ondo State.

Daily Trust on Sun­day re­ports that the de­vel­op­ment has sparked mixed re­ac­tions as those favoured to par­tic­i­pate in the race are in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively cel­e­brat­ing as they work to­wards en­dors­ing one of them for the cov­eted seat, while those that have been edged out of the race are cry­ing foul.

In Oc­to­ber, the PDP’s na­tional chair­man, Se­na­tor Ahmed Makarfi, told the party’s chair­man­ship con­tenders to for­get mi­cro zon­ing of the chair­man­ship po­si­tion to a par­tic­u­lar geo-po­lit­i­cal zone in the South.

This means as­pi­rants from the SouthWest, South-South and the South-East will slug it at the party’s elec­tive con­ven­tion.

Makarfi, who met with all the con­tes­tants for the PDP na­tional chair­man­ship at the Wa­data Plaza, the party’s na­tional sec­re­tar­iat, in Abuja, said the Care­taker Com­mit­tee lacked the au­thor­ity and le­gal back­ing to mi­cro-zone, ex­cept if the three zones in the South met and sub­mit­ted their res­o­lu­tion to the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC) for ap­proval.

But with Oye­dokun’s pro­nounce­ment, the three as­pi­rants that emerged as SouthWest can­di­dates will chal­lenge a for­mer act­ing na­tional chair­man of the party, Prince Uche Se­con­dus and a broad­cast mogul, Chief Ray­mond Dokpesi, who are con­tenders from the South–South.

This news­pa­per gath­ered that the whole arith­metic is about 2019, es­pe­cially be­cause of the fact that the North will pro­duce the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of the party while the South will pro­duce the vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Some peo­ple said the con­ven­tion would ul­ti­mately go in favour of Se­con­dus from the South-South while the vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date would be picked from the SouthWest “so as to de­plete APC’s strength in the re­gion be­cause the vice pres­i­dent at the mo­ment, Yemi Os­in­bajo, is from there.”

But Chief Bode Ge­orge, in an in­ter­view with our cor­re­spon­dents, de­bunked the claim, say­ing the two sce­nar­ios, in­clud­ing who be­comes party chair­man and who be­comes vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, are dis­tinct.

While Gov­er­nor Ayo Fayose of Ek­iti State from the South-West has al­ready de­clared to run for the of­fice of pres­i­dent, con­trary to the zon­ing for­mula and de­ci­sion of the var­i­ous or­gans of the PDP, an­a­lysts say he is ac­tu­ally eye­ing the VP slot.

There are also feel­ers that a for­mer gov­er­nor of Ondo State, Dr. Oluse­gun Mimiko, may con­sider run­ning.

Sim­i­larly, cred­i­ble sources in the PDP told our cor­re­spon­dents that po­lit­i­cal heavy­weights in the South-East are highly in­ter­ested in the vice pres­i­den­tial slot and are re­lent­lessly ag­i­tat­ing for it, al­lud­ing to the fact that many of those in the race are only try­ing to as­sert their in­flu­ence so that they would not be for­got­ten at the end of the day.

One of the sources, a for­mer na­tional of­fi­cer, ex­plained that politi­cians from the South-East zone have not shown any in­ter­est in the chair­man­ship race and have re­fused to make noise about it be­cause they want to be con­sid­ered for the VP ticket.

“Yes, it’s true, they are schem­ing to have it. About two politi­cians from the zone are an­gling for the VP slot,” he said.

It was gath­ered that the Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Ike Ek­w­ere­madu, and a for­mer gov­er­nor of Anam­bra State, Peter Obi, may likely con­test for the VP ticket.

How­ever, party big­wigs say the de­ci­sion to zone the vice pres­i­den­tial slot is not go­ing to be reached at the con­ven­tion.

Al­ready, the chair­man of the PDP’s BoT,

Se­na­tor Walid Jib­rin, has con­demned the move to re­strict the num­ber of the party’s chair­man­ship as­pi­rants from any of the geopo­lit­i­cal zones in the South.

Jib­rin, who was re­spond­ing to the pur­ported trim­ming of the South–West as­pi­rants, said, “I want to state clearly that the meet­ing in which such de­ci­sion was taken was never at the in­stance of the Na­tional Board of Trus­tees and that we can­not af­ford to hold such meet­ing now as done in the South-West.

“In the South-West, we have two BoT mem­bers con­test­ing for the chair­man­ship and who should never be in a meet­ing where such a sen­si­tive de­ci­sion was taken.

“I have in­vited Chief Shuaibu Oye­dokun to a na­tional cau­cus to ex­plain what led him to cham­pion that ex­er­cise. I want to fur­ther ad­vise all other or­gans of our party to be ex­tra care­ful not to rush to any one-sided de­ci­sion. All as­pi­rants must ex­er­cise re­straint of give and take and wait for proper guide­lines from the Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee.

“Count me out in any game that de­lib­er­ately ex­cludes any as­pi­rant from fair par­tic­i­pa­tion. The del­e­gates of our con­ven­tion should be al­lowed to de­cide in ac­cor­dance with set up rules of the party,” he stated.

Since the time Se­na­tor Jib­rin made this clar­i­fi­ca­tion, there is no in­di­ca­tion that the

It is ex­pected to be the largest gath­er­ing of the PDP faith­ful since the party’s 14-month lead­er­ship tus­sle be­tween Se­na­tors Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sher­iff was re­solved by the Supreme Court on July 12, 2017

em­bat­tled Oye­dokun has hon­oured the in­vi­ta­tion or not.

Also, Oye­dokun has nei­ther re­tracted what he said nor shed light on why he caused the con­fu­sion that might likely make the PDP con­ven­tion nearly im­pos­si­ble.

Some cam­paign co-or­di­na­tors of the em­bit­tered con­tes­tants are al­ready al­leg­ing that Oye­dokun was “in­duced” to do what he did with­out any con­sul­ta­tion, sim­ply to cause con­fu­sion in the party and have their ways.

“He was ac­tu­ally set­tled to do what he did be­cause the fact is that the chair­man­ship is not re­stricted to the South-West. Every­one from the South is free to con­test. How on earth would he ap­pear from the blues and say only three as­pi­rants should go to the ring, what was the cri­te­ria he used?” one of them asked.

Ef­forts to get him to clear the air proved abortive. While his phone rang a cou­ple of times on Fri­day, it sub­se­quently went dead. The short mes­sage (SMS) sent to him was also not re­sponded to as at the time of fil­ing this re­port.

Bar­ring any last minute change, the PDP will elect a new crop of Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee (NWC) mem­bers dur­ing the De­cem­ber con­ven­tion.

The con­ven­tion, which is the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body, will also rat­ify the amend­ment of con­sti­tu­tion of the PDP.

It is ex­pected to be the largest gath­er­ing of the PDP faith­ful since the party’s 14-month lead­er­ship tus­sle be­tween Se­na­tors Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sher­iff was re­solved by the Supreme Court on July 12, 2017.

If all goes well, the con­ven­tion would have more weight than that of Au­gust 12, which was tagged “mini and non-elec­tive.”

Party stake­hold­ers say if the party gets it wrong at the con­ven­tion, it would equally get it wrong dur­ing the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions by wit­ness­ing an­other round of de­feat.

Ex-Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan, ex-Vice Pres­i­dent Na­madi Sambo, serv­ing and ex-gov­er­nors, ex-min­is­ters, serv­ing and ex-mem­bers in both cham­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly and Board of Trus­tees (BoT) mem­bers are ex­pected to grace the event.

Sim­i­larly, found­ing fa­thers of the party, serv­ing and ex-prin­ci­pal of­fi­cers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, serv­ing and ex-mem­bers of the state Houses of As­sem­bly, serv­ing and ex-state chair­men, serv­ing and ex-lo­cal gov­ern­ment chair­men, party el­ders, ward lead­ers and all mem­bers na­tion­wide, are also ex­pected at the con­ven­tion. ‘EFCC watch­ing us’ Al­ready, some of the as­pi­rants that were asked to leave the scene and other chief­tains are voic­ing their anger, say­ing there must be re­straint so that the PDP will not col­lapse for the last time.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Daily Trust, Akin Deko said the EFCC would have enough grounds to de­scend on the PDP if any of those with case is fielded as chair­man of the party.

“These are my fel­low broth­ers from the South-West, I wish them luck. But I ask: Are they the right peo­ple for this po­si­tion at this point in time?

“The APC is watch­ing us hap­pily, they al­ready have the iron in the fire of the EFCC, that if you bring the wrong per­son out, they would haunt us all over the place. It is not

the ques­tion of whether the per­son has been found guilty, just hav­ing a lit­tle bit of debt on your hand that you haven’t washed off, the APC would make fire on the PDP.

“I am lucky, no­body can point ac­cus­ing fin­gers and say this man has done any­thing wrong. I am not say­ing the oth­ers have done any­thing wrong, but the al­le­ga­tions are mount­ing and the PDP can­not af­ford to have any­body com­ing to give them that kind of dif­fi­cult time.

“It would be hard enough to beat the APC; it would be hard enough rec­on­cil­ing all our mem­bers be­hind one per­son and for that per­son to be a sub­ject of EFCC in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be the death nail of the party. I have been in the race in spirit right from the be­gin­ning,” he said.

On his part, Se­na­tor Bu­ruji Kashamu re­futed a claim by Gbenga Daniel that the cor­rup­tion charges against him would not be an ob­sta­cle to his bid of be­com­ing the na­tional chair­man of the party.

The law­maker said in other climes, any­one stand­ing trial steers clear of run­ning for a pub­lic of­fice un­til he is vin­di­cated, ex­plain­ing that Daniel’s claim of be­ing per­se­cuted “does not hold wa­ter.”

He ar­gued that if the party elects Daniel, who is stand­ing trial for cor­rup­tion, it would be in­dica­tive that the PDP con­dones cor­rup­tion and is for cor­rupt peo­ple.

“This per­cep­tion will ad­versely af­fect the party’s for­tune. The PDP stands a chance to rein­vent it­self and im­prove its rat­ing among the pop­u­lace if it po­si­tions it­self as a party that is ready to make a clean break from its sor­did past.

“We should not re­peat the mis­take of 2015. This starts with elect­ing who is not tainted by cor­rup­tion charges or has an image deficit as Daniel,” he said.

Daniel had ear­lier said he was in­no­cent un­til proven guilty by a court of com­pe­tent ju­ris­dic­tion, adding that he had gone to court for about 40 times but was not proven guilty yet.“I don’t want to talk about my trial. Peo­ple call it pros­e­cu­tion, but I call it per­se­cu­tion. The case has dragged on for seven years. I Tunde Adeni­ran don’t want to talk about it, but in our laws, a per­son re­mains in­no­cent un­til proven guilty by a court of com­pe­tent ju­ris­dic­tion,” he said.

Ex-Pres­i­dent Jonathan has al­ready warned that the of­fice of na­tional chair­man and that of the na­tional pub­lic­ity sec­re­tary should not be taken for granted, say­ing only per­sons of proven in­tegrity who have in-depth knowl­edge of the work­ings of the party should be voted into those of­fices be­cause of the com­plex­i­ties in­volved.

But while the day for tak­ing the de­ci­sion is ap­proach­ing, there is anx­i­ety, ten­sion and un­cer­tainty as to who clinches the seat of na­tional chair­man of the party.

Daily Trust on Sun­day re­ports that the as­pi­rants pur­port­edly knocked out of the race have re­solved not to obey that de­ci­sion but keep their dreams alive in or­der to re­cover from the “dam­age” done to them.

For in­stance, Daniel has said that he has no plan of step­ping down for any­one, in­clud­ing Chief Ola­bode Ge­orge as be­ing spec­u­lated.

“I will not step down for any­one be­cause I did my con­sul­ta­tions dur­ing our con­ven­tion in Port Har­court and I know so many lead­ers in Yoruba­land who sup­port me.

“Peo­ple con­test for var­i­ous rea­sons. Some peo­ple con­test to en­rich their cur­ricu­lum vi­tae, some con­test to get do­na­tions while some run to win. It is not a do-or-die af­fair. It is an in-house con­test and I’m run­ning to win so as to bring my ex­pe­ri­ences to bear on the party and work on re-po­si­tion­ing it,” Daniel said.

But Chief Ge­orge is al­ready happy with Chief Oye­dokun, strongly be­liev­ing he is the man to beat.

Ge­orge, through his me­dia aide, Uth­man Shodipe, said the South–West BoT cau­cus in­ter­ven­tion was “a very sig­nif­i­cant step.”

“It is a nec­es­sary and im­por­tant move, which is pred­i­cated on restor­ing or­der, es­tab­lish­ing a co­her­ent plat­form where the el­ders can speak col­lec­tively about what is fair and proper.

“You can­not have a strong South-West pres­ence in the chair­man­ship race when every­one can ba­si­cally jump into the fray, whether the per­son is qual­i­fied or not.

“We do not need a pli­able and unassertive chair­man. We need an ex­pe­ri­enced and tested hand who will be de­voted to the greater glory of our party,” he said.

Prof. Adeni­ran also said he was favourably dis­posed to the South–West BoT en­dorse­ment.

There are feel­ers that for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar is pre­par­ing grounds to re­turn to the PDP and would per­son­ally want a party chair­man that would do his bid­ding in the scheme of things ahead of next year when he would vie for the party’s pres­i­den­tial ticket.

Though Atiku is still in the rul­ing APC, sources said he had gone far in pre­par­ing grounds for his even­tual de­fec­tion to the PDP, where he may likely find his way.

Just last week, the newly elected lead­er­ship of the PDP in Adamawa State led by Bar­ris­ter Tahir Shehu, urged Atiku to re­turn to the party.

The party lead­ers made the ap­peal dur­ing the swear­ing-in of the 21 lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas chair­men of the party who were elected dur­ing the re­cent con­gresses con­ducted by the party in the state.

It was based on this al­leged gam­bit that a for­mer aide of Atiku, Dr. Umar Ardo, who is also from Adamawa State, said the for­mer VP had planted his stooges in his home state ahead of his re­turn.

In a pe­ti­tion dated Novem­ber 5, 2017, and ad­dressed to the chair­man, Adamawa State PDP congress ap­peal panel, Ardo called for can­cel­la­tion of the con­gresses held last week in the state.

“We learnt that Atiku is com­ing back to the party with an am­bi­tion; an am­bi­tion to con­test for the pres­i­dency. Now, his re­turn will be a source of con­flict be­cause there are oth­ers in the party (PDP) who are also in­ter­ested and are nurs­ing this am­bi­tion.

“Se­condly, the deep pocket that Atiku has will not just serve that am­bi­tion, it will deepen the con­flict. The third dis­ad­van­tage is that those foot sol­diers will also serve for the am­bi­tion, and in the process, deepen the con­flict.

“Along with the friends that Atiku will be com­ing to the party are also those that will bring up en­e­mies. For in­stance, it is an open se­cret and ev­ery­body knows it that Obasanjo will fight him.

“I think I will con­clude that PDP will be bet­ter off with­out Atiku com­ing back,” he said.

But Atiku’s me­dia ad­viser, Paul Ibe, said it is “lu­di­crous to ac­cuse a man who is not a mem­ber of a party of plot­ting to hi­jack its struc­ture.

“Who­ever is mak­ing this al­le­ga­tion has to look else­where for their fail­ings,” he said.

A foun­da­tion mem­ber of the party from the North–East, Al­haji Aminu Yakudima, told Daily Trust on Sun­day in a tele­phone in­ter­view that it is wrong for Ardo to make such state­ment against Atiku.

“Ardo may be say­ing his own opin­ion, which he is en­ti­tled to. But what the PDP is do­ing now is se­ri­ous mem­ber­ship drive,” he said.

When asked whether Atiku is play­ing a key role ahead of the PDP con­ven­tion as be­ing ru­moured in some quar­ters, the party chief­tain said, “I can’t say be­cause it is not vis­i­ble. You can’t as­cer­tain that, but at the same time, you can’t dis­pute things like this in pol­i­tics. Whether Atiku is back­ing any­body or not is not known, so we can take that as an al­le­ga­tion.”

It is now left to be seen whether or not the De­cem­ber con­ven­tion will make or break the party.

There are feel­ers that for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar is pre­par­ing grounds to re­turn to the PDP and would per­son­ally want a party chair­man that would do his bid­ding in the scheme of things ahead of next year when he would vie for the party’s pres­i­den­tial ticket

Chief Ola­bode Ge­orge

Prince Uche Se­con­dus

Ex-Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar

Pro­fes­sor

Chief Shuaibu Oye­dokun

Otunba Gbenga Daniel

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