- Okorocha expresses regret over Atiku’s defection
- Jonathan, ex-VP congratulate Secondus, others, Dokpesi makes U-turn
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure
Following the conclusion of the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that threw up Uche Secondus as the national chairman of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP were at each other’s throats yesterday, with the ruling party faulting the convention and describing it as an exercise tainted with irregularities.
In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, APC said it was surprised that things had not changed in the PDP.
APC made reference to the allegations of money-for-votes during the elective convention, adding that “systematic rigging was brazenly perpetuated during the convention”.
But in swift riposte, the PDP dismissed the statement by the APCº, saying its successful conduct of the convention had sent jitters down the spine of the ruling party.
Last Saturday’s convention of the PDP saw some contenders for the post of chairman of the party withdrawing from the race and others protesting the presentation of a “unity list” containing the names of favoured candidates, including that of Secondus, before the actual voting began.
Although Secondus eventually won the chairmanship post by a landslide, it was not a smooth sail, as other chairmanship candidates such as a former education minister, Prof. Tunde Adediran, and the founder of Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, complained bitterly about being schemed out of the process.
APC, in its reaction to the outcome of the convention, said that it was mindful of the popular axiom: “A leopard cannot change its spot.”
Continuing, it said: “The abnormalities that trailed the PDP national convention have further exposed the PDP as a party not ready and willing to change.
“Indeed, the PDP has once again displayed itself to the generality of Nigerians that it is a party with corruption deeply rooted in its DNA.
“Again, it is tragic that the PDP which used to pride itself as the ‘biggest political party in Africa’ has now been reduced to a regional party.
“By frustrating South-west chairmanship candidates, it is unfortunate that the PDP has decided to punish the South-west for not voting for the party in 2015.
“We urge members of the PDP that can pass the integrity test to join the APC so that we can together bring about the much-needed change the country deserves.”
PDP Knocks APC
But in response to the APC statement, the PDP said its successful conduct of the national convention had sent jitters down the spine of the ruling party.
A statement issued yesterday by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the PDP had succeeded in uniting on all fronts by conducting a very credible elective convention.
PDP said that it was laughable that the APC which has roundly failed in not only managing the affairs of the country but also its own internal issues would “recourse to panic mode just because the PDP has succeeded in uniting its fronts by conducting a very credible elective national convention”.
“We were very much aware of the plot by the APC to scuttle the convention and failing in that, it has resorted to a failed attempt to discredit an elective convention that has been adjudged as credible, novel and laudable by political stakeholders and lovers of democracy across the nation.
“This unwarranted attack is only symptomatic of a party that has lost control and is only clutching at straws for survival having been rejected by Nigerians.
“Is it not disgusting, reprehensible and embarrassing that the APC that has repeatedly failed to hold meetings, congresses and a convention in the last three years and has flagrantly continued to violate its own constitution is questioning our party’s right to perform her legitimate and constitutional obligation?
“Perhaps, APC leaders have never read Article 25 (A)(i) of their party’s constitution which stipulates that ‘the National Convention of the party (APC) shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee (NWC) and approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC), subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and at least 14 days notice given to members eligible to attend’.
“What impunity could be higher than APC violating its constitution? It is strange that APC can be moralising on the principles of social justice, whereas its actions against Nigerians are a complete departure from the norm,” Ologbodiyan said.
He noted that it was important for the spokesman of a failed party – Bolaji Abdullahi – and his pack of incompetent members to reminisce on the needless pains and suffering they had inflicted on Nigerians rather than getting jittery over the successful outcome of the PDP elective convention.
“Nigerians have come to discover that APC is a fraud, an organisation of deceitful characters who have failed to keep a single of its countless promises made to the citizens.
“It is no longer news that the nation is drifting under APC and the PDP has come to the rescue. We must, therefore, remind the APC that the era of deceit, trickery and scaremongering, which have been the hallmarks of their government, is gone and Nigerians are just waiting to kick them out come 2019,” the new PDP spokesman added.
Also responding to the APC statement, Mr. Reno Omokri a former aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan reminded the ruling party that the man who released the APC statement taunting the PDP that it cannot change its spots was Bolaji Abdullahi, “a former PDP member and minister in the PDP administration of Goodluck Jonathan”.
According to Omokri, “The APC spokesman is himself, living proof of what he says cannot happen. And it is not only him; 50 per cent of APC are likewise proof of that.
“But to address the specific charges in Bolaji Abdullahi’s statement claiming the media reported that money was paid to delegates, I remind Bolaji Abdullahi that such unfounded claims were made by an online news media notorious for spurious claims.
“That same media has reported that President Muhammadu Buhari is the mastermind of the recall, reinstatement and double promotion of Abdulrasheed Maina, the alleged notorious pension thief, dismissed and declared wanted by the PDP administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“That same New York-based media also reported that President Muhammad Buhari’s chief of staff received a bribe of N500 million from a major Nigerian corporation. That same media reported that President Buhari colluded with the GMD of the NNPC over the $25 billion contracts that did not follow due process.
“That same media reported that money was paid to delegates to vote for President Buhari against Atiku Abubakar using public funds during the last APC presidential primary.
“So, if Bolaji Abdullahi accepts that this media’s story is true in this instance, does he also accept that their stories were true when they reported negatively against President Buhari and his cronies?”
Omokri said it was a pity that the APC spokesman described the PDP as a regional party, reminding him that it was not the PDP or any of its members that said: “The constituents who gave me 97 per cent cannot, in all honesty, be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5 per cent.”
He added: “Perhaps Bolaji Abdullahi is missing the PDP, his original home and mistaking it for the APC.
“While unsuccessfully mocking the PDP, may I remind Bolaji Abdullahi that his beloved APC has shifted its midterm non-elective convention three times this year alone.
“It originally fixed it for April, then August, later November and now till next year.
“Yet, this is a party that is pointing its leprous fingers at the PDP that held its own convention on the date that it said it would hold it.
“And finally, it is laughable that Bolaji Abdullahi calls on PDP members that have integrity to join the APC. Is that not the same promise they made to Abdulrasheed Maina when the Attorney General of the Federation visited him in Dubai and discussed his return to Nigeria to help the APC fulfil its change mantra? Are we not witnesses to Maina’s APC campaign posters for governor of Borno State?
“My advice to Bolaji Abdullahi is to appeal to Maina to release some of his pension loot to him so he can pay for courses in media management. He surely needs it.”
Okorocha Regrets Atiku’s Exit
But even as the APC and the PDP bickered over the convention, a chieftain of the ruling party and governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha at the weekend admitted that the defection of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar from APC to the PDP was not a good development for the ruling party.
Okorocha bared his mind during an interview with journalists after receiving an honorary doctorate degree at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, stating that Atiku is a political heavyweight.
“I have taken a holistic view of our party, it (Atiku’s exit) is not the best because no matter how anybody thinks, Atiku carries some political weight. His leaving our party is not the best,” he said.
Nonetheless, Okorocha, who is the chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, noted that since Atiku has decided to move on politically by returning to the PDP, the APC should adjust and his (Atiku) place filled up accordingly.
While tacking the national leader of the APC, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on his comment about the possibility of Buhari running in the 2019 presidential election and the position of APC governors, Okorocha said he would support Buhari for a second term.
Okorocha was earlier reported to have said that all the governors would support an automatic ticket for Buhari as the sole candidate of the party at its presidential primary for the 2019 election.
But Tinubu disagreed insisting that the APC presidential candidate must emerge through a competitive primary.
Responding to Tinubu’s statement, Okorocha said: “The statement came to me as a surprise. Come to think of it, I never referred to him. I referred to the governors of Nigeria including the PDP governors and I said only one or two of them had not joined yet.
“Since I made the statement, no governor has said something contrary to what I said. I am surprised that Asiwaju (Tinubu) will now be speaking for the governors.
“He looks like somebody crying more than the bereaved. I did not see any reason for the statement actually. But he commands my respect and I don’t want to join issues with the national leader of my party.
“What I mentioned was for the governors and secondly what I said was I would support for Buhari. The word I used is support and that does not mean there will not be primary.
“The governors can only contribute 37 votes, we still have over 5,000 votes up there. What I was talking about were the governors. I was not talking about other party members. Governors alone do not determine the flag bearer of a party.
“If you recall, I said but for Buhari, I would have run for the presidency of Nigeria. But I found in him a credible man and he still has another four-year term to do.
“I will allow him to complete that and I will go back to my political trenches because I would still run for presidency anyhow. I consider myself young enough to wait until 2023 and I don’t hide my stand on any issue. But for now, my support goes to President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Ahead of the 2019 elections, Okorocha said the ruling party was not jittery about the outcome of the PDP convention, assuring reporters that Buhari would defeat any candidate presented by any opposition in 2019.
“There is nothing to be jittery about the outcome of the PDP convention. We are very confident that our presidential candidate to be, President Muhammadu Buhari, is up to the task.
“He has an impeccable track record that it would take an unusual presidential candidate of a rival political party to match him.
“That is the strength of our party, coupled with the fact that APC governors are performing, so we are sure we will deliver in 2019,” Okorocha said.
Jonathan, Atiku Congratulate New PDP Officials
Meanwhile, former President Jonathan and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar yesterday congratulated the newly elected national officers of the PDP and urged them to seek to carry everyone along and reposition the party.
In a statement issued yesterday by Jonathan’s spokesperson, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the ex-president also urged members of the party to make sacrifices, adding that the only way to achieve the party’s goals and aspirations was to unite as members of one political family.
Jonathan said in the statement: “I congratulate the newly elected members of the National Working Committee of our great party led by Prince Uche Secondus and wish them a successful tenure as they seek to reposition our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
“I reiterate that the only way to prove that this is a victory for the PDP and all our members is for the new leaders to be magnanimous and aim to carry everybody along, for we cannot achieve our mission and aspirations unless we unite as a family.
“To the rest of us, let us make sacrifices, put our differences behind us and accept this as a new dawn that will take our party to greater heights.”
Also in a statement issued by his media office, Atiku called for unity among members of the PDP.
In his congratulatory message to Secondus as the new national chairman of the PDP and other elected officials of the exco, Atiku said the immediate challenge before the newly elected national officials of the PDP is to run an all-inclusive administration where the various interests within the party can find accommodation.
Atiku reminded the new national officials that Nigerians are looking up to the PDP for unity in the party, “because it takes a united and coherent PDP to sack the APC government in 2019”.
He added: “Our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party is again at the threshold of an historical moment. Just as we mobilised to bring an end to prolonged military rule in 1999, the people of Nigeria at this moment look up to us to rescue the country from the misgovernment of the APC.
“Arising from our elective congress, there should be no victor and no vanquished. Our paramount attention should be focused at sacking a government that deceived the people of Nigeria into power by promising our youths three million jobs annually, only to deliver three million job losses annually; a government that is repeatedly living in denial of its commitment to restructuring.
“We must be united to take power back to where it belongs: the Nigerian people.
“As members of the PDP, we must take pride in being able to hold a national convention and in so doing, we have lived up to the billing of being a truly democratic political party.
“Our major opponent has not been able to achieve this feat and I join millions of our party members to congratulate the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee.
“I understand that there are complaints and grievances from many of the co-contestants in the congress. I am aware that the PDP has a mechanism for addressing such complaints and it is important that such avenues of redress are made available for members to explore without let or hindrance.
“In the meantime, I call on all our leaders and members to rally around the new executive for the sake of our party, Nigeria and the good of our people.”
Their congratulatory messages came just as the founder of Daar Communications, Chief Dokpesi, who contested the PDP chairmanship position but lost, made a U-turn yesterday by congratulating Secondus.
Dokpesi, who had earlier faulted the process of the party’s convention held in Abuja on Saturday, declared that “the delegates have spoken”.
“Ì appreciate the delegates for voting at the convention and congratulate the newly elected National Working Committee of the PDP led by Prince Uche Secondus.
“You will recall that I said that the PDP must be the ultimate winner at the end of the contest.
“God bless the Peoples Democratic Party. Congratulations PDP as I wish all our members the best of luck,” Dokpesi said.