Imo PDP Battling to Reposition for 2019

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The Peoples Democratic Party in Imo State is reorganising against the next general election, reports Amby Uneze in Owerri

Peoples Democratic Party, which once prided itself as the “biggest political party in Africa”, is today struggling to return to the position of leadership that it had occupied in Imo State for several years. In 2011, the party in the state lost power to All Progressives Grand Alliance, a section of which later joined other parties to form the All Progressives Congress. PDP crashed to their worst defeat so far when at the general election last year it, again, lost the governorship to APC.

Picking Up the Pieces
The former ruling party is trying to pick itself up after the devastating electoral outings. It is planning ahead in the hope of a possible return to power in 2019.

PDP had taken the lead in the state right from the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999. For 12 years, the party dominated politics in the state. After losing power in 2011, rebuilding the party has proved a herculean task for the stakeholders. But some ardent pillars of the party, which had controlled the soul of politics in the state, have swung into action to remove the obstacles on the way to the party’s progress.

It is a well-known fact that the level of preparation for the 2015 general elections by the party’s flag bearer for the governorship election, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, was second to none. The PDP was the party to beat in that election. But it lost at the end. The loss has largely been attributed to incompetence and anti-party activities on the part of some members of the PDP state leadership.

Overstay
Following the fact that the state working committee of PDP has outlived and even transmuted to a caretaker committee, the elders and stakeholders of the party recently decided to appeal to the National Working Committee to change the caretaker committee members, pending the congress to elect a new SEC, which comes up soon. This appeal was considered on its merits, especially as both the NWC members, elders and stakeholders of the party in the state were keen on putting their house in order.

It was widely noted that the Chief Nnamdi Anyaehie-led SWC/CTC had overstayed in office, as its tenure ended on October 30, 2014. But due to the approaching party primaries then, the tenure was extended for three months in line with the party’s constitution. Ordinarily, the three months’ extension expired in February last year, and since the election proper was just around the corner, the caretaker committee was allowed to function till after the election.

A chieftain of PDP told THISDAY in confidence, “But for the benevolence of the National Working Committee and plea from stakeholders from Imo State, with Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, then Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, as the arrowhead, they were converted into caretaker committee at all levels (state, local government and ward). It was reasoned then that if we go ahead with fresh congress, it would further polarise the party, especially as the party primaries at all levels (presidential, governorship, senate, House of Representatives, and House of Assembly) was around the corner.”

NWC Intervention
The PDP constitution stipulates that a caretaker committee should stay in office for three months. In other words, the Imo State caretaker committee would have left by the end of February last year. But the NWC decided to appoint a 16-man caretaker committee, led by Hon. Vitalis Okafor, on January 29. They took the oath of office and allegiance on February 1 and commenced work immediately.

Anyaehie and his team were communicated accordingly via a letter from the PDP national secretariat signed by the national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh.
According to the publicity secretary of the new caretaker committee, Dr. Chidi Onuoha, “Our activities for the past one month centred on consultations with various stakeholders across the three senatorial zones of the party: Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri. In one of our meetings at the state secretariat, Okigwe Road, Owerri, to intimate stakeholders about our findings from the various consultations and sensitisation for the forthcoming congress, the former chairman, Barr. Nnamdi Anyaehie, threw decency to the wind by upturning the tables and chairs with his hired thugs thereby disrupting our meeting.

“It was also a thing of surprise that Anyaehie and few of the executives took the party to Orlu High court on February 4, 2016 challenging their dissolution and the matter is now before the court. In the magnanimity of the national chairman, he told Senator Hope Uzodinma and Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha that he will like to have a meeting with Imo stakeholders at the secretariat on Tuesday, March 8, which he did.

“On said day of the meeting, the chairman expressed his displeasure to a publication in a local tabloid in Imo purporting that he has dissolved the Imo State caretaker committee and that he has no powers to do so because they were appointed by the National Working Committee and ratified by the National Executive Committee. He listened to the views of Imo Critical Stakeholders and promised to set up a reconciliation committee to be headed by Governor Seriaki Dickson of Bayelsa State to reconcile all interests in the state. He also said that the party will set up a State Congress Committee that may not necessarily come from Imo State to liaise with State Caretaker Committee to conduct free, credible and transparent primaries for the party in the state in May this year.”

Reconciliation
Following the effort of the NWC to unite the party in the state, the state chapter last week resolved to work together in order to have a peaceful congress. The meeting midwifed by Dickson at the Bayelsa Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, was at the instance of the acting national chairman of PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.

The chairman had on March 8 set up a peace and reconciliation committee headed by Dickson. The committee swung into action on March 9th by convening a meeting of leaders and elders of PDP in Imo State at the Bayelsa State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro. In attendance were two former governors of the state, Chief Achike Udenwa and Chief Ikedi Ohakim, Ihedioha, three serving senators – Uzodinma, Samuel Anyanwu, and Athan Achonu – former senators, former ministers and ambassadors, all former state chairmen of the party, led by the pioneer chairman, Chief Innocent Nwoga, and other leaders.

In a communiqué at the end of the meeting, the leaders pledged their loyalty to the PDP NEC and NWC.
Issues discussed ranged from the leadership of the party in the state to the upcoming national convention and congresses and how to ensure peace and harmony in the party.

The meeting came up with a template for an all-inclusive- leadership meeting to hold in Imo State under the leadership of Dickson. Interpersonal issues were amicably settled and the meeting ended with a unanimous resolve by members to work as a team in moving the party forward, while noting that all feuding camps and structures would coalesce in the overall interest of party. Further, they resolved that the upcoming congresses would be conducted in a free and fair manner in line with the constitution of the party.
The meeting concluded that all members, elders and leaders of the party should unite and work for the victory of the party’s Imo North Senatorial candidate, Chief Athan Achonu, at the scheduled election.

Litigation
Not satisfied with the new caretaker committee, the Anyaehie-led SEC has taken the party and the new caretaker committee to court to challenge the powers of the NWC to constitute the committee. But the Imo State High Court sitting in Orlu judicial division a fortnight ago dismissed the application by the Anyaehie group to allow them continue in office.

Ruling in favour of the newly constituted caretaker committee headed by Okafor, the judge, Justice Ononeze Madu, held that the fact that the sacked caretaker committee was given liberty to serve for the required three months period after the expiration its constitutional tenure did not mean they should stay in office indefinitely.

The court also held that the plaintiff could not blow hot and cold, having been a product of the NWC of the party, which had decided to remove them, adding that one cannot fight the system that put him in place.

Optimism
Briefing newsmen at the party secretariat, the chairman of the new caretaker committee, Okafor, who was flanked by other members of the 16-man caretaker committee, expressed the desire to reposition the party in order to “fully apply the zoning principle of the party” and move the party to greater heights.
Okafor stated, “We are now fully ready to reposition the party, to apply the principle of zoning, and to come and take power back to the people where it rightly belongs.

“Our opponents whom I know must have joined other political parties took the party to court and by the constitution of the party, sections 58 and 59 1(c) and (g), if you take the party to court such person(s) stand dismissed. But we have decided to wave such sections aside and asked them to come back to assist in rebuilding the party.”
Okafor said, “We are not going to allow one man to control the party.”

New Caretakers
Other members of the new caretaker committee are Mr. Martin Ejiogu (deputy chairman), Mrs. Vivian Echeruo (secretary), Chief Fabian Ogbonna, Dr. Chidi Onuoha, Chief Peter Ezenwa Orji, Chief Isaac Anyiam, Engr. Innocent Ikpamezie, Chief Henry Onwukwe, Chief Eze Ugochukwu, Hon. Okechukwu Dike, Mr. Roy iwuala, Chief Ugochukwu Nnawuihe, Hon. Emma Dike, Mr. Bon Unachukwu, and Mrs. Josphine Nnoaham.
Many PDP stakeholders in the state say they are satisfied with the calibre of people selected to run the affairs of the party until the forthcoming congress. How far the new helmsmen can go in driving the party back to governance in Imo State remains to be seen.