The recent meetings by the PDP to elect new state executives and resolve disagreements in the party have seemed to create new divisions, reports Onyebuchi Ezigbo
In line with efforts to reposition the Peoples Democratic Party after a woeful performance at the polls last year, the national leadership of the party decided to take the first step of trying to organise credible congresses nationwide. The party fixed April 25 as date for the commencement of elective congresses in 33 states of the federation, leaving out three states, Edo, Ondo and Kogi states.
A statement issued by the national publicity secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, to announce the state congresses, read, “In view of the resolve of the leadership of the PDP to enthrone and sustain internal democracy within our fold, and in line with the decision of the National Executive Committee on the exemption of states with on-going congresses as well as non-contentious states from the forthcoming congresses, the National Working Committee hereby announces that only three states, namely, Kogi, Ondo and Edo states are exempted from the congresses.”
Metuh said the remaining 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory will be involved in elective congresses starting April 25.
Controversial Congress Committees
But even before the party came up with the list of congress committees, allegations had started flying that the compositions were anything but fair. Despite efforts by the national headquarters of the PDP to explain that nothing of such happened, some of the stakeholders who had entrenched interests came to the national secretariat to protest the membership of the committees. They alleged that some of the compositions that were skewed against them.
The leadership of the party did not help matters, as it failed to start the process of composition of the congress committees early. In some cases, the lists of members of the congress committees were still being made less than 24 hours to the commencement of the congress.
As a result, notifications on the composition of the committees were sent out very late, with some of the lists being published on the day the congresses were to start. For instance, some of the states, like Anambra and Borno, had their committees published after the exercise had commenced. The result was that many of the stakeholders hardly knew those appointed to organise the congresses, while others took advantage of the ensuing confusion to corner the election materials for their own selfish purposes.
Some of PDP leaders alleged that the committees appointed by the national secretariat were hijacked by some politicians to ensure that they do their bidding during the congress. There were also allegations that members of congress committees were made up of loyalists of some politicians who on the congress day prevented others from opposing camps from getting forms to contest for positions, and simply wrote results to favour their benefactors.
In some of the states, there were court injunctions that restrained the committees set up for the congresses, while in others the battle lines were drawn, with two parallel state executive councils of the party in place even before the arrival of the congress committees.
Those who felt aggrieved with the outcome of the congresses have accused the leadership of the party under the national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, of working in cahoots with serving PDP governors to hijack the party structures in the states.
For states like Anambra, Imo and Lagos, where the state chapters of the party had been fictionalised even before the congresses, the congress committees found themselves in serious dilemma over which faction to work with. The case of Anambra State was particularly pathetic because even though the party was divided along political gladiators, such as former Governor Peter Obi, Senator Stella Odua, Senator Andy Ubah, and his brother, Chris Ubah, it was the Ubah brothers that were at each other’s throats over the composition of the congress committee.
The supremacy fight between the two brothers ensured that nothing fruitful came out of the state congress and it was scuttled. It was not only in Anambra that the fight for control of party structures during the congress was bitterly fought. The story was the same for Adamawa, Lagos, Osun and Sokoto states.
In Adamawa, former special adviser to the president, Ali Gulak, was accused of seeking to hijack the process. The congress committee members stormed the national secretariat of the PDP where they addressed journalists and alleged that they were almost kidnapped and practically prevented from conducting the congress by political thugs sponsored by contending forces in the state chapter of the party.
Similarly, in the South-west, key stakeholders of the PDP were in disagreement over the conduct of the zonal congress, with each group brandishing the list of its own candidates for the positions allocated to the zone. The matter led to a faceoff between the national secretary, Professor Wale Oladipo, and the governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose. Both engaged in a verbal war over the propriety of going ahead with the zonal congress despite a court injunction restraining the party from doing that.
While the PDP scribe accused Fayose of causing confusion in the party, the governor questioned the powers of Oladipo to give directives in such matters. According to Fayose, the national secretary alone does not constitute the leadership of the party. “He is an interested party on this issue,” Fayose alleged.
PDP later suspended the South-west zonal congress.
Oladipo, at a press conference, said the party had been duly served with a court injunction and will abide by the decision.
He stated, “We are in receipt of an order from the Federal High Court in Lagos, which had ordered us to put a stop to the exercise pending when the case filed is heard and resolved. As a law abiding political party, we have been served this order.
“I, as the national secretary of the party, and Alhaji Adewole Adeyanju, the national auditor, who are the two representatives of the zone, want to tell you that the party has decided to abide by the order.”
The South-west zonal secretary, Chief Gbenga Otemolu, on behalf of the zonal executive, had approached the court demanding the suspension of the congress on the ground that their tenure had not expired. But the national chairman, who was in Taraba State for the North-east zonal congress, said he was yet to be communicated on the court injunction.
However, Fayose insisted that the congress would go ahead.
Concerned Stakeholders of the PDP
The outcome of the congresses has seen many leaders of the party, especially those who had occupied the top hierarchy of government in the past on the platform of the PDP, screaming and claiming foul play. Many of those who had enjoyed the comfort of always remote-controlling the structures of the party from their Abuja base found that they had been taken out.
The group that seemed to be worst hit was the Concerned Stakeholders of the PDP, numbering over 50. Having felt threatened under the present circumstances, they regrouped and articulated a position demanding the cancelation of the congresses in some states.
While giving their reasons for revolt, the coordinator of the group, Professor Jerry Gana, said a lot of things had gone wrong, starting from arrangements being put together for the convention to zoning, congresses and constitutional amendment procedure.
Gana said, “It is very bad that in a number of states, congresses were badly conducted, totally unacceptable to the people and we believed that it will be fair that in such cases, they have to be re-done so that there will be credibility. In some areas, it should be a matter of reconciliation, which we shall do.
“We reaffirm our position that the party should suspend the proposed amendment to the party’s constitution because the procedures being followed are unconstitutional and illegal.”
However, in a desperate effort to reconcile the aggrieved members, the leadership of the PDP has accepted to revisit the conduct of the state congresses in eight states, including Lagos, Anambra, Adamawa, Osun, and Yobe.
Only time can tell how things would pan out in the former ruling party.