PDP: Back from the Brink

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The Peoples Democratic Party put up quite a show in Abuja last Saturday that sent a powerful message to the ruling All Progressives Congress. Onyebuchi Ezigbo was there and reports

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have kickstarted its campaign for the 2019 general election. The party, which lost the 2015 presidential polls, has not given up hope of returning back to power.

Still basking in the euphoria of the victory secured at the Supreme Court, the party’s National Caretaker Committee (NCC) organized what looked like a carnival convention in Abuja to re-enforce its move to reclaim power at the centre in 2019.

After the judgment of the Supreme Court, the PDP NCC was faced with the daunting challenge of picking up the pieces from the rubble. The challenges were as real as the options were limited. The Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led committee took the first step by summoning a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to chat the way forward.

At the end of the meeting, the party resolved among others, to hold a non-elective national convention on August 12 and to disband all state caretaker executives set up by the former national chairman, Senator Alimodu Sheriff after the May 21 botched national convention. It also decided to set up two standing committees, the disciplinary committee and reconciliation committee expected to handle wrong doings of the Sheriff-led executive. Before the NEC meeting, a meeting of the national caucus and the Board of Trustees was held in which all the issues presented were endorsed.

While speaking to newsmen on the out come of the NEC meeting, the spokesman of the NCC, Prince Dayo Adeyeye said the party also approved the removal of state caretaker committees in Jigawa and Benue states.

Adeyeye said: “You will recall that immediately after the Court of Appeal judgment on the 17th of February and March in Port Harcourt, which gave our victory to Ali Modu-Sheriff, he set about installing caretaker committees in some states of the federation, particularly in Jigawa and Benue states”. He explained that the affected states’ caretaker committees were the ones set by Sheriff during the crisis.

“So, we brought a motion before NEC today and the motion was duly passed. NEC declared and affirmed the leadership of the party in the two states of Jigawa and Benue that emerged after the April/May 2016 congresses.

“All state caretaker committees and state parallel executives set up after the Court of Appeal judgment of February 17, 2017 at Port Harcourt to be dissolved and the duly elected officers returned to the office forthwith. That is to bring normalcy back to the party, installing legality and constitutionality.”

Since the mandate given to the NCC at the August 17, 2016 Port Harcourt convention was for it to continue in office for 12 months, which lapsed on August 16, 2017, it became apparent that something needed to be done to renew that mandate. The alternative was to conduct fresh election to pick new national officers.

But the party’s NEC in its wisdom chose to hold a non-elective convention so as to extend the tenure of the NCC for at least another three months to enable it put things in order and conduct an elective national convention.

The position of the party was justifiable considering that the NCC faced a prolonged litigation for most of the 12 months, which did not allow it to actualise its mandate. While defending the decision to extend the committee’s tenure, Adeyeye said: “Practically, it is going to be impossible to have an elective national convention before August 16 because we need to give certain statutory notices to INEC. And our own has some special provisions that we have to meet and there is no time to meet up with those provisions. Therefore, NEC took a decision that in the circumstances, NEC invoking the powers conferred on it under Section 31 (2a), decided to convene non-elective national convention on August 12, 2017.”

In order to finally resolve some of the issues that cropped up during the leadership crisis, the party set up two standing committees: the disciplinary an the reconciliation committees. It also constituted a 262-member national convention planning committee headed by the Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa. The reconciliation committee is co-chaired by Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike. Another stalwart of the party and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi is heading the disciplinary committee.

While inaugurating the committees, Makarfi advised them to carry out their assignment diligently so as to reconcile all aggrieved members and to even woo all those that left the party back to its fold.

Before Saturday’s non-elective national convention, fears were rife that some members of the party who were still dissatisfied with the position of things might approach the court to stop the exercise. Indeed the fears were justified because by Friday no fewer than four attempts were made to secure injunctions to stop the NCC from proceeding with the convention. Although the origin of the court actions was not immediately known but credible party sources traced it to some aggrieved stakeholders from the South-west zone of the party who lost their hold on the party structures as a result of the decision of the Supreme Court.

Also before the convention, an elder statesman and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark fore warned the party on the issue of extension of tenure of the NCC leadership, saying such decision should be in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution which stipulates not more than three months.

He also advised against undue reliance on the governors for patronage and bankrolling of the convention budget. However, while addressing a pre-convention NEC meeting at the national secretariat of the PDP, late Friday night, Makarfi said he could not but acknowledge the special contributions made by the governors to defray the budget for the convention even though some of them have chosen to remain anonymous.

The chairman of the planning committee of the non-elective national convention Okowa was full of optimism about the success of the event when he said that the party was set to take over power at the national level in 2019. Okowa saw the convention as an acid test for PDP’s readiness for the election. He said the party had realised areas it failed to meet up with the expectations of Nigerians and is now determined to make corrections and provide Nigerians with good governance, anchored on accountability, rule of law and improved welfare of the citizenry.

The convention, held at Eagle Square in Abuja attracted a record crowd of party supporters. Most of the prominent leaders of the PDP who spoke said that the party was on its way back to power. The speeches were greeted with loud ovation from an enthusiastic crowd made up of delegates and party stakeholders. Foormer president Goodluck Jonathan told the crowd that PDP administration was comparatively better than the present administration led by the All Progressives Congress (APC). He went to recount most of the key milestones recorded in the last four years of PDP administration in the country. He accused the present federal government of mismanaging the economy which he said accounted for the hardship, poverty,inflation and rising insecurity in the land. An obviously elated Jonathan told the party faithful and delegates to brace up to do battle to reclaim power and not to be intimidated anymore.

“Let it be known, in all nooks and crannies of our country, that the PDP is back to claim its rightful place in the affairs of the nation. As we have always done, we are ready to return Nigeria to the path of unity, peace and prosperity”..

Jonathan who spoke for about 20 minutes, said his administration made a lot of impact in various sectors including economy, agriculture and employment and wealth creation. On the economic front, he said the PDP administration provided focused leadership, through institutional and sectoral reforms which impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth.

According to him, the result was that “the administration was able to keep inflation at a single digit, maintained price stability, grew the economy to become the largest in Africa with a GDP of over half a trillion US dollars, and the number one foreign direct investment destination on the continent”.

Jonathan also responded to claims by APC that the country’s economy would have been worse if PDP had remained in office, saying that this couldn’t have been the case. He said rather than blame the PDP for the present economic woos, Jonathan said the APC administration should accept the fact that it lacked the capacity and creative thinking to successfully navigate the country out of the recession with minimal impact on ordinary Nigerians.

“We had a sound economic team in place, managing the economy. Let us not forget that the great floods of 2012 was a major calamity that damaged homes and farmlands on the plains of River Niger and Benue.

“But despite the devastating effect of this natural disaster, there was no food shortages or arbitrary increase in prices, because of what we were able to accomplish with our Agriculture Transformation Agenda, which considerably boosted food production.

“If we say that we rekindled hope in our people and regained international goodwill, it is because we pursued a number of policies and programmes that were not only richly rewarding for our people, but were also being copied by many countries across the globe, a few of which I will mention here.”

In his speech, Makarfi said the party would work hard to replace the APC government come 2019 election. “We wish well for our president and will continue to pray for his full recovery. We want him to be fit and well when we will defeat the APC in the next general election. We will continue to pray for him, but that does not mean we will go to sleep. We will work hard to replace the APC government come 2019 election”.

For the outspoken Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Mr. Peter Ayo Fayose, Aso Rock Villa is within the grasp of the PDP because the current occupants have failed to utilise the opportunity offered them to lift Nigerians out of suffering.

Ikimi was even more forceful in criticising his former party when he said‎ “APC has no Board of Trustees, and cannot hold NEC meeting nor convention.”

Apart from extending the tenure of its National Caretaker Committee by four months, the convention also ratified the dissolution of its executive committees’ in Anambra, Adamawa, Borno, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun and Osun states.

The convention provided a signpost of what is likely to happen in 2019. Political gladiators, especially those nursing political ambition, all used the opportunity of the convention to fly their kites and showcase their interests. By the sheer number of notable personalities and powerful politicians that turned up for the convention, it is clear that the party will give the ruling party a tough fight in 2019.

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By the sheer number of notable personalities and powerful politicians that turned up for the convention, it is clear that the party will give the ruling party a tough fight in 2019.