PDP’s Journey of Self-rediscovery

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The Monday Discourse

 

With the outcomes of some of its ward and state congresses, the Peoples Democratic Party has shown the capacity to return to reckoning, writes the THISDAY Politics Desk

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had indicated its determination to return to power immediately it was kicked out of power in the 2015 general election. Although its defeat was a rude shock, it didn’t brood for too long and was resolved to learn from its failure even more intelligently. But since the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) took over power, happenings thereafter have shown that the election was really not much about the PDP, but former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Muhammadu Buhari bandwagon.
Nothing has lent credence to this than the outcomes of a majority of the elections since held across the many parts of the country, wherein the PDP came tops – practically in all. Whilst this has conferred on the PDP some valid relevance, it has in a different breath, exposed the growing resentment against the ruling party.
Cashing in on this, the PDP is daily upping its game and closing all loose ends in its determination to stay focused with eyes on the ball. Thus, the journey to the May 21 National Convention of the party has been more reassuring that the party is leaving no stone unturned to getting back its groove. The outcomes of some of the congresses so far held present a party ready to steal the show once again and a state by state account of the outcomes gives credence to this.
Akwa Ibom State
Okon Bassey

The May ward congress of the PDP in Akwa Ibom State was full of tension because of the struggle for structure control at the ward level. Although the official result of the congress was delayed, the principal characters struggling to control the soul of the party are the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Udom Emmanuel and his predecessor in office now Senator representing the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Unconfirmed reports had it that while candidates of Governor Emmanuel won in Eket and Uyo senatorial districts, consisting of 21 local government areas; the candidates of Senator Akpabio won in Ikot Ekpene with 10 local government areas. Political watchers were of the view that the governor’s target is to effect changes in the leadership structures of the party in order to consolidate his position ahead of the 2019 general election. Yet, the governor, many would concur, came to power on the back of Senator Akpabio.
The congress was conducted using option A4. It was therefore adjudged to be peaceful, transparent and fair, considering series of protests, riot, maiming and killing that often characterised previous congresses of the party in the state.
Governor Emmanuel said he was impressed and satisfied with the way the exercise across the state and thanked the people for selecting the officers of their choice devoid of rancor, adding also that the PDP has proven itself as a party that respects the wishes of the people.
Also, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, who participated in the congress at the Civic Centre, Ikot Ukopo, Itreto ward, Nsit Ubium Local Government Area lauded the returning officers of the ward for following stipulated guidelines in the conduct of the exercise.
 
Kwara State
Hammid Shittu
Unlike the past ward/delegates congress of the PDP in Kwara State which always ended with violence, the just concluded exercise across the 16 local government councils of the state were unbelievably peaceful. Ilorin West Local Government Council that used to be a hot spot of political crisis was done in a free and fair manner devoid any violence.
 
‎Reports from other local government councils also revealed that, all the ward executives of the party were harmonised without any hindrance, more so, the party was determined to forget the past and agreed to work together in the bid to ensure electoral victory of the PDP in the future polls.
 
The names of the ward executives were done on yes affirmative as all the members of the party jointly approved the names without any hindrance. After the congress, the names of the executive council at the 16 local government councils were collated and submitted to the state party secretariat. Delegates were also picked without any violence as members agreed with the names of delegates elected.

Public Relations Officer of PDP‎ in the state, Chief Rex Olawoye, who confirmed that there was no crisis throughout the exercise, said “The ward and delegates congress went on peacefully without any hiccups across the 16 councils in Kwara. The success of the congress was based on the fact that the national leadership of the PDP did what is right on the rules and regulations guiding the congress.”
 
He said “The forms brought from Abuja by the national leadership of the party to conduct the congress were uniform with the number of wards in the state and there were no manipulations whatsoever”. He lauded members of the party for their peaceful conduct throughout the period of the exercise.
 
Imo State
Amby Uneze
The congress held in Imo State was nonetheless peaceful, but with mixed feelings from members of the party, including some of the candidates. The congress which was originally fixed for Saturday, the 30th of May was shifted to Sunday, the following day probably because of the sudden change of the Caretaker Committee chairman, Vitalis Okafor, who was reportedly replaced by Sergeant Awuse from Rivers State. Okafor’s three months tenure had elapsed.
Although the change in baton did not affect the other members of the caretaker committee because they all had the constitutional provision to seek re-appointment, the appointment of a Rivers State born politician, Sergeant Awuse did not also change the decision of the people, who had made up their minds on the candidates they were to vote in.
In various wards, especially in Mbaise axis, party faithful converged in their different booths to cast their votes, while in other areas such as the Orlu and Okigwe axis, most of their leaders converged in a popular hotel at the heart of Owerri, capital city, where it was rumoured the results of the congress was written. 
Talking to THISDAY on the outcome of the election, the outgoing Chairman of PDP in Ezinihitte LGA, Chief Chineme Madu confirmed that the election went well and smoothly too.
Also, the outgoing Legal Adviser of the party, C.O.C. Akolisa told THISDAY that they were happy that the crisis in the party had been resolved and a new caretaker committee was in place to supervise the congresses in the state.
 
Plateau State
Seriki Adinoyi
In Plateau State, the congress was largely peaceful, except in Bukuru Ward in Jos South local government area, where there was fracas over the chairmanship candidate. THISDAY gathered that the people kicked against the choice of an unpopular factional candidate resulting in heated argument and fracas, leading to the damage of a party chieftain’s car.
The turnout was impressive in spite of the restriction on movement of people and vehicles during the hours of the monthly environmental sanitation that held in the state that Saturday, and the people conducted themselves orderly, an indication that the party still has its roots in the state.
Speaking on the congresses, Mr. Michael Dachom, the State Organising Secretary of the party, noted that “Most of our candidates at the Ward level were consensus candidates, and where there were elections, it turned out well.”
Also observing, one of the candidates for the position of state chairman and a former member of the National Assembly, Hon Bitrus Kaze said “During the April 30th Ward congresses, the determination of PDP faithful to assert their franchise became very obvious in most parts of Plateau State. This is consistent with our quest to return power to the people.” He said the congresses impressed in his heart the belief that Plateau people are determined to assert their franchise.
Meanwhile, at the State Party Secretariat, it was a beehive of activities as party members were seen carrying out one task or the other in an environment which had been largely deserted for months after the party lost power in 2015.
 
Osun State
Yinka Kolawole
The secretariat of Osun State chapter of PDP in Osogbo was engulfed in crisis during the congress as party members loyal to a contestant for the position of state chairman, Dr Bayo Faforiji, booed some PDP chieftains over the controversy surrounding the conduct of ward congress in the 332 wards across the state.
Faforiji stormed the party secretariat along with his supporters and demanded the cancellation of the ward congress and dissolution of the state executives of the party. He accused the incumbent chairman, Alhaji Gani Ola-Oluwa of manipulating the ward congress in favour of his opponent, Mr. Soji Adagunodo.
He alleged that Ola-Oluwa collected delegates’ forms from Abuja but released the forms to Adagunodo’s camp only.
“The normal practice is that the chairman of the party would collect the forms and bring them to the party secretariat here for interested candidates to obtain forms. But our Chairman, Alhaji Ola-Oluwa took the forms from the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja and released to the other group but he refused to give us our own.”
Faforiji added that the action of the party chairman would prevent the delegates, who are loyal to him from partaking in the ward congress and give edge to his opponent to emerge as the Chairman of the party during the state congress.
Speaking to newsmen earlier at the secretariat, Faforiji, said despite paying over N3 million to the national secretariat to purchase over 7,000 forms for his supporters to contest ward, local government and state congresses of the party, non was released to him.
According to him, the forms were paid for on Thursday, April 28, explaining that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party had mandated that every interested member should be allowed to buy form even up till the day of the exercise.
But Adagunodo debunked Faforiji’s claims, saying his opponent was not well prepared for the exercise. He said he paid for the forms and annual due on times and got the forms while his opponent paid for the forms on the eve of the congress.
“As they (Faforiji’s camp) are protesting in an unruly manner at the party, our people are at their various wards and the congress is going on in all the 332 wards across the state. All the normal traditions and procedures were duly followed in the exercise but they are crying because they are not well prepared and they don’t have delegates for the elections,” he said.
 
Enugu State
Christopher Isiguzo
Amidst fears in some quarters that the ongoing congresses of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would reopen the floodgates of crisis in Enugu State, in view of the disagreements that rocked the party in the build-up to the 2015 general election, the congress took place under a friendly atmosphere. 
Since his assumption of office as the Governor of Enugu State, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has remained a unifier, having successfully brought every member of the party under one umbrella with his resolve to carry everyone along. 
Before the exercise, the governor had hosted a stakeholders’ meeting at the Government House, where it was gathered that possible areas of disagreements were resolved with a view to having a smooth ward, local government and state congress, where new executives would be elected. 
The meeting had in attendance notable leaders of the party including the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and other members of the national and state assemblies, members of the state executive council, party stalwarts and chairmen of local government caretaker committees. Also in attendance was the former national chairman of the party, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, candidates for the state chairmanship of the party including Deacon Okey Ogbodo, among others. 
Speaking on the outcome of the exercise, Ogbodo said the exercise went on smoothly and expressed optimism that the remaining part of the congresses would equally be smooth and peaceful, a development he attributed to the governor’s peaceful disposition. 
 
Lagos State
Segun James 
Lagos State PDP, like others, had held its congress to elect ward party officials in the 245 wards in the state. But the exercise was later cancelled and shifted to Saturday, May 7. Again, the new date has been moved further up, with a new date not yet scheduled.
But before the cancellation, the exercise in Lagos also went well without any report of hitches or violence notwithstanding the initial fears that some people had planned to run a parallel congress. The exercise took place in all the ward secretariats and other approved locations and it is to produce 16 officers and three ad hoc state delegates.
According to the party guidelines, the officials from the national secretariat were expected to liaise with the State Executive committee through the state chairman of the party for necessary supports. Similarly, the results of the congresses were to be corroborated by relevant agencies and copies submitted with the party state secretariat.
When contacted, the party’s publicity secretary, Mr. Taofik Gani, said the PDP in the state was able to have a hitch-free exercise, declaring that reports reaching him attested to that. He said the party was optimistic that the congresses would produce officials, who would improve the success of the outgoing PDP Executive committee led by Capt. Tunji Shelle. But with the postponement, a new date is expected soon.
 
Ebonyi State
Benjamin Nworie
Ebonyi State congress held across the 171 wards was peaceful though late arrival of Electoral Congress Committee almost marred the exercise. The turnout, observers said has further shown that PDP remains the only preferred party in the state. The congress was, however, remarkable and historical for obvious reasons. It was the first time that the party’s congress was generally peaceful and harmonised to suit the varied interests in the state.
Before the congress, the party had begun harmonisation process which perhaps must have carpeted dissenting voices, as the state leader of the party and governor, David Umahi, who was once the state chairman of party must have brought his experience to bear in dousing dissenting opinions that may have erupted during the congress.
The congress results also showed that all the wards executives that emerged were unopposed courtesy of the zoning arrangements of the party in the state. This was possible because stakeholders were asked to harmonise and bring their list for ratification and approval by the State Executive Council of the party.
 
Ogun State
Sheriff Balogun
The PDP ward congresses held over the weekend in Ogun State was full of confusion as three different factions of the party conducted parallel congress in the 236 wards across the state.
The three leading leaders of the party, who conducted the parallel congresses include loyalists of the Senator representing Ogun East, Buruji Kashamu/Chief Bayo Dayo-led state exco; those loyal to former Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and the group led by a member of the House of Representatives for Remo Federal Constituency, Ladi Adebutu.
In Sagamu, Ikenne and Abeokuta local government areas, members of the different factions conducted the congress in the same ward. Despite the conduct of parallel congresses, in Sagamu Ward 7 and ward 3 of Iperu Remo and other areas in Abeokuta, the state capital, the elections were largely peaceful.
State Secretary of the PDP, Alhaii Semiu Sodipo said the congresses were conducted by a committee approved by the National Working Committee of the party.
While assessing the conduct of the ward congresses, chairman of the 11-Man Congress Committee, Muhammad El-Yakub, expressed satisfaction with the exercise, saying he was not aware of any parallel congresses conducted by any faction of the party in the state.
“I’m so confident that this time around they have elected their leaders that will take them to the promised land in 2019. How would I know of any parallel congresses? I don’t know of any other committee. I have no knowledge of any other one and I’ve not been informed by anyone,” El-Yakub said.
 
Benue State
George Okoh
The congress in Benue State held with a few disagreements occurring in some places. Relatively, the whole exercise was peaceful in the state. Before the congress on Saturday, pundits had predicted a clash of interested over who controls the party between former Senate President, Senator David Mark and former Governor Gabriel Suswam.
However, it turned out that both strong men allowed for an amicable harmonisation of the executives position in all the wards. PDP members had met earlier in all the local government areas to pick consensus candidates and were simply ratified by members during the congress.
In Okpokwu local government, the former Minister of Interior, Comrade Abah Moro and the state chairman, Dr Emmanuel Agbo appealed to the PDP party members in the twelve wards to see the possibility of having to choose members of the ward executive without crises. This position was agreed by members of the party which led to a very successful congress across the wards.
In Vandeikya local government, there was a mild disagreement, when a member of the outgoing council executive member gave a directive that forms for those, who intended to contest for positions be sold at a certain fee despite directives that forms should be given for free.
This led to a serious altercation between stakeholders in the council. The leader of Vandeikya township ward, Hon. Philip Wuhe accused some stakeholder of imposing a chairmanship candidate in the ward despite not coming from the ward. He said a petition has been written to the appeal committee to cancel the congress in township ward.
 
Taraba State
Wole Ayodele
In Taraba State, the ward Congress was basically a consolidation of power by the dominant force in the party rather than a contest. Before the 2015 gubernatorial election in the state, there were at least three political blocks within the party, which are the group led by former acting governor of the state, Alhaji Garba Umar, the David Sabo Kente led group and the group popularly referred to as the cabal which has Senator Emmanuel Bwacha as arrowhead and consists of the current governor, Arch. Darius Ishaku and the state Chairman of PDP, Hon. Victor Bala Kona among others.
With the emergence of Ishaku as the party’s standard bearer, almost all the members of the other political blocks dumped the party for the APC and Social Democratic Party (SDP) except Alhaji Garba Umar and a few of his followers, who chose to remain in the party. But despite the fact that they remained in the party, not a few were alleged to have engaged in anti-party activities.
Since Ishaku’s assumption of office, many of those that dumped the party have since returned and signified their intention to contest the congresses but with the consensus arrangement employed by the party, their ambitions were effectively tamed.
With the outcome of the Congresses, the ‘Cabal’ has further consolidated its dominance and control of the party as all the winners belong to the group which is now headed by Ishaku, who by virtue of being the governor, is the leader of the party in the state.
Justifying the adoption of consensus arrangement, the Public Relations Officer of the party, Alhaji Inuwa Bakari said the arrangement is a legitimate and recognised norm the world over, stressing that the exercise was a family affair.
 
Adamawa State
Daji Sani
Adamawa State congress was characterised by tension and crisis. A former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on political matters, Ahmed Gulak and his supporters were accused of hijacking the party election materials belonging to the state with the aim at wresting the party structures from the PDP state Chairman, Chief Joel Madaki and his supporters.
Madaki said when he went to collect the materials at Wadata Plaza in Abuja, he was told that Gulak had already collected them. But Gulak said what he did was to stand in as guarantor for the state in collecting the materials adding that he had no ulterior motives of hijacking the party structure from anybody.
Gulak explained that the party in Adamawa could not pay the over N9 million required to get the forms release to the state for the congresses hence he stood as guarantor and collected the forms, which he had since handed over to members of the congress committee for Adamawa.
However at the time of sending this report, it was reported that one of the members of committee was seriously beaten and wounded because of the crisis between the two warring group.
A source said the crisis was later contained by the Department of State Security, adding that the election committee had since collated the results which were not ready while filing thus report. When contacted on the development, a member of the congress committee, Mallam Yusuf Madugu, simply said there was no problem and that everything was intact with the collation going on smoothly.