PDP in Make or Mar Convention

0
535

Next Saturday’s national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party will determine the party’s preparedness to take back power from the All Progressives Congress in 2019, Davidson Iriekpen writes

In the next four days, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hold its national convention that many observers believe will either make or mar the party as it prepares for the 2019 elections.
As the day draws closer, one major question that keeps recurring is whether the party has been able to conquer the ghost of acrimonious leadership selection.

So far, a lot of concerns have been raised as to whether the party can take its best foot forward in managing its affairs and perform its new status as the main opposition party. Part of the fear is whether the culture of imposition; impunity and cronyism is still endemic in the party. Most of those who show sedate interest in PDP’s ability to manage its affairs in the best of democratic tradition, point to why it lost the presidential election and the emergence of the stop-gap national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff.

This is why many party leaders have said the elective primaries of the party would determine its fortunes in 2019, including whether or not it would be taken seriously by the electorate.

Even though there are other positions for grab during the convention, that of the national chairman, is obviously the most important position. As at last count, the aspirants contesting for the position are former deputy national chairman of the party, Bode George; former Minister of Education, Tunde Adeniran; media mogul Raymond Dokpesi; former PDP governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje; ex-governor of Oyo State Rashidi Ladoja; former deputy national chairman, Uche Secondus; former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel and former Minister of Youths and Sports, Taoheed Adedoja.

While many party faithful in the South-west have urged stakeholders to ensure a candidate from the region emerge as the national chairman for the first time to avoid the death of the party in the zone, others feel that since the position was zoned to the entire South, others should to allowed to contest especially since the party won more states in the South-south and South-east.

Though observers had thought that the PDP being very strong in the South-south and the South-east, would need to woo the South-west with the chairmanship position in order not to create another crisis, many others feel that the party needs a zone where it is very strong and where there is no crisis and later woo the South-west with political appointments.

Meanwhile, while Daniel, Adeniran, Dokpesi, Ladoja and Adedoja feel that they have all it take to lead the party, observers feel that the duo of George and Secondus clearly stand out. This is because they are regarded as party men, having from inception of the party in 1998, been involved in managing its affairs. While George rose to the position of deputy national chairman of the party at a point, Secondus started cutting his leadership teeth in the party from the state level and rose to become deputy national chairman and acting national chairman.

This is why many pundits feel that if anybody is best qualified for the job right now, he should be the one. Besides, unlike George who many observers feel might not have the strength and stamina to effectively drive the affairs of the party due to his age, Secondus is considered younger, experienced, vibrant and strong. Besides, George was said to have refused to sign the peace accord titled: ‘National chairmanship aspirants accord on prevention of violence and acceptance of election result at the elective national convention,’ signifying that should he lose the election, he might support whoever emerges.

According to the pact, the aspirants agreed among other agreements to support whoever emerges among them as the national chairman of the great party as long as the process is transparent, free and fair in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the party and guidelines of the elective national convention; no aspirant shall leave the party or encourage his or her supporters, promoters etc to do so, as a result of the outcome of the national chairmanship election at the elective national convention.

With the signing of the pact, hopes were high that a rancour-free convention was in the offing. But allegations that Makarfi is working for the imposition of an aspirant was also making the round with Adeniran threatening to pull out of the peace pact. George on his part, has called for the resignation of the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. Adeniran accused the party’s leadership of aiding moves to impose Secondus on the party ahead of the December 9 national convention.

Specifically, he accused the Makarfi-led NCC of tilting the composition of ward and congress committees in favour of loyalists of Secondus. Speaking through the Director General of his Campaign Organisation, Shehu Gabam, Adeniran further threatened to pull out of the peace accord in the face of the unfolding events. He recalled that they warned against the impunity and imposition which led to the emergence of Sheriff and culminated in a 14-month long crisis that almost crumbled the party.

On his part, George called for the resignation of Makarfi ahead of the party’s national convention. Speaking through the Director General of his campaign organisation, Ibrahim Aliu, he added that an alleged 2019 presidential ambition of Makarfi had affected his ability to conduct free, fair and transparent convention.

George alleged that spurred by personal ambition of contesting for the presidential office in 2019, Makarfi was brazenly allying with a particular aspirant in the South-south to deliberately distort the process, muddle equity and invariably destroy the democratic process for transient personal gains.

But Secondus has disclaimed insinuations that he was an anointed candidate of the party leadership and by extension the governors. He also stressed that at no time was the national chairmanship position micro-zoned to South-west geo-political zone by stakeholders from the zone. He added that the position was zoned to the 17 states in the south, same way the presidential ticket of the PDP for 2019 polls was zoned to the 19 states in the north.

Secondus further clarified that he didn’t bother to contest for national chairman at the botched national convention last year in Port Harcourt, because party leaders from the South micro-zoned it to the South-west.

He explained that he had been a party man from the very beginning and that he was the only aspirant who has had the privilege of serving the party at the highest level as acting national chairman. He said he consulted with party elders in his state and his zone as well as other zones and came to the conclusion that he had “what it takes to restore the party to its pride of place especially as Nigeria approaches another election cycle in 2019.”
While Makarfi has denied claims of nursing a presidential ambition, the party was forced to break its silence on the issue as the allegations got hotter and messier.

Dayo Adeyeye, national publicity secretary of the party, while briefing the press denied that the national caretaker committee took nominations from any aspirant to serve as members in committees for ward congress.

Rather than accuse Makarfi of any plot, observers have blamed the South-west for not reaching any agreement on a consensus candidate. They feel that one advantage Secondus would have over the South-west, is that fact while the zone has six candidates whose votes would be shared, the South-south has two with the favourite candidate being Secondus.

It is for this reason that a former National Vice Chairman of the party, South-west, Chief Ishola Filani, has warned that the convention would either make or mar the future of the party. He urged stakeholders to ensure a candidate from the South-west emerged as the national chairman of the party for the first time to avoid the death of the party in the zone.

Filani stated that the national chairmanship position had been zoned to the South-west in the May 2016 National Convention, wondered why some interest groups were working against the agreement by supporting South-south’s candidacy.

He said: “PDP national chairmanship has not been occupied by the South-west while every other geopolitical zone had occupied it. We discover of late that our brothers in the South-south said they want to contest the national chairmanship. We want to appeal to our brothers that the South-west will support the South-east to grab the vice presidency zoned to the South.

But the Oodua PDP Alliance drummed support for Secondus and called on the South-west to drop the bid for the party leadership. The group which claimed to have members across the six south-western-states, announced its resolve to mobilise the Yoruba axis of the PDP for Secondus, describing the Rivers State politician as tested, experienced and competent to lead the party.

In a statement signed by the leader of the group who is also a leader of PDP in Osun State, Hakeem Ogunsola, the group affirmed that South-west has proved its unpreparedness for the party leadership, affirming that “the leadership should go to South-south, the main base of the PDP.

“We want to note that rebuilding the PDP and winning power back in 2019 demand a chairman with solid home base, deep experience and capacity to face the power of incumbency. We need Prince Secondus to lead this electoral and political battles to rescue Nigeria and change the fake change,” the statement noted.

While condemning the discordant and rancorous competition among South-west chairmanship aspirants, the group said: “South-west does not need party chairmanship. If anything we should rally round Secondus and seek better offer in arrangement of national offices.

“How can you be going for chairmanship when there are better bargaining to strike? How can you hope to lead the party when your zone is not a stronghold of the PDP? How can you even be taken seriously when many of your aspirants carry heavy baggage? We don’t want party chairman in South-west. Let Secondus have it,” the group opined.

In the same vein, a former Commissioner for Transport in Rivers State, Chief Emeh Glory Emeh, said Secondus stood far taller among the aspirants jostling for the chairmanship position of the PDP. He said apart from experience, Secondus has been tried and tested the party’s administration over time.

He added that the campaign of calumny against him at the moment was an afterthought by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government who were afraid of his political engineering to return the party to power in 2019.

No matter the disagreement now, the anticipation by most party members and political commentators is that the party holds a free, fair and credible exercise, wean itself off internal wrangling and be in a position to play its role as a viable opposition party in the country.

Quote

As the day draws closer, one major question that keeps recurring is whether the party has been able to conquer the ghost of acrimonious leadership selection.