The outcome of the PDP congresses in some of the states is a precursor to what to expect at the December 9 national convention, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo

On December 9, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is expected to hold its all-important elective national convention. The exercise will not only serve to pick national officers of the party but will be seen as an acid test for its much-touted desire to bounce back to reckoning and possibly retake the power it lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015. No doubt, a lot is at stake in this national convention and the PDP cannot afford to toy with the opportunity.

However, in the build-up to this epic event, there are signs that the journey might be turbulent for the PDP. To prepare adequately for the national convention, the party needed to set its structures right at the state level, having resolved the crisis that bedeviled it at the national level. It needs to harmonise issues especially in some of its state chapters, where there have been disagreements, crisis of confidence and even factional executives.

The party, most importantly, is required to put machinery in motion to elect delegates that would participate in the elective convention in December. As part of the moves to resolve outstanding disputes in some state chapters of the party, the National Caretaker Committee under the leadership of Senator Ahmed Makarfi appointed state caretaker committees in states such as Oyo, Ogun, Anambra and Adamawa.
These caretaker committees were mandated to help reconcile the warring factions and organise congresses that would produce national delegates for the convention. But so far the exercise has not been quite smooth-sailing as it has pitted many contending forces against one another.

For instance, the Oyo State chapter of the PDP is presently engulfed in another survival crisis as leaders of the party on Saturday held two separate state congresses. The congresses were said to have been held simultaneously at the Baptist Secondary School, Oke-Ado and Watershed ground, Old Ife road, both in Ibadan, the state capital.
In the end, two persons emerged leaders from the parallel congresses. While Chief Jacob Adetoro emerged from the Oke-Ado congress, Alhaji Kunmi Mustapha emerged from the Watershed congress. One of the major reasons for the two parallel congresses was said to be the failure of the leaders to agree on how to share party executives among the different interest groups within the Oyo PDP.

What is particularly worrisome about the resurgent crisis in the Oyo PDP is the fact that the party was still basking in the euphoria of having attracted back to its fold one of the key elements in the state, a former governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, and his supporters. But his re-entry seemed to have reenacted the old rivalry between the former governor and others led by Seyi Makinde, Senator Hosea Ayoola Agboola and Hon. Mulikat Adeola Akande.

Those at the congress held at the Watershed ground include Senator Rashidi Ladoja, Chairman of the party’s caretaker committee, Hon. Tunde Akogun and other stalwarts of the party. Whereas at the Oke-Ado congress, there were, Makinde, former Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate in the state, Senator Agboola, Hon. Akande, Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarumi, Alhaja Bose Adedibu, Hon. Oluyemi Taiwo, Hon. Tirimisiyu Okunola, and Hon. Dare Adeleke..
In the end, the two congresses produced parallel executives with Chief Ogunlade Segun‎ and Mr. Wasiu Adeleke emerging as Vice Chairman and Secretary respectively at the Oke-Ado congress while the Watershed congress on the other hand, produced Alhaji Wasiu Emiola as State Secretary and Engineer Akeem Olatunji as Publicity Secretary.

An intriguing aspect of the development is that most of the leaders of the Oyo PDP still expressed their commitment to work together to ensure that the political party returns to power in the state in 2019 even with the seeming polarisation.
Makinde was recently quoted as saying, “What we are witnessing here today is normal in politics. There is no rancour among us”.
If one can describe the situation in the Oyo state PDP as a mild disagreement, that of Ogun state chapter is a rather different kettle of fish as the factions are set apart, perhaps, by irreconcilable interests and are in the courts.
In Ogun PDP, what appears to have heightened the crisis is the supremacy battle between former governor Gbenga Daniel and a serving Senator representing Ogun East senatorial district, Senator Buruji Kashamu. The duo is said to be behind the seemingly unending struggle for the party structure in the state.

Whereas a recent congress ordered by the Makarfi-PDP National Caretaker Committee produced a new state party executive led by Chief Eddie Oyefeso, the other faction loyal to Senator Kashamu has rejected its outcome, insisting that it was illegal. The faction led by Mr. Bayo Dayo had earlier approached a magistrate court in Abeokuta, where it obtained an order to restrain the state Caretaker Committee from going ahead to conduct the congress.

The National caretaker committee chairman, Senator Makarfi, has responded to the development in the Ogun PDP chapter, accusing Senator Kashamu of instigating the crisis in Ogun State chapter. Inaugurating the caretaker committees for Osun and Adamawa States at the PDP national secretariat, in Abuja, Makarfi maintained that Ogun State was one of seven states, where caretaker committee were appointed to take over the affairs of the party.
Makarfi regretted that Ogun PDP caretaker committee has not been able to function due to the refusal of the existing state executive committee, which is loyal to Kashamu to hand over to it. On the other hand, pro-Kashamu state executive committee claimed it has court orders recognising it as the valid executive committee, which are yet to be challenged in the appeal court.

“It is very unfortunate that some members are still rushing to court over party matters without following due process. This must stop forthwith, members should embrace ‎peace. We are all members of the party and the interests of all party members will be protected. From now on, going to court on party matters will be seriously resisted by the leadership. You must look inward for peaceful resolution of your grievances as contained in the party’s constitution,” Makarfi said.
Adamawa State is another area, where trouble is brewing due to the fallouts of the recent state congress. Supporters of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is being rumoured to be planning a return to the PDP, have clashed with some stakeholders of the party in the state.

An aggrieved stakeholder of the PDP from Adamawa, Dr. Umar Ardo, took his protest to the PDP headquarters, where he submitted a petition. Ardo, who is a former Special Assistant to Atiku on Research and Strategy, alleged in a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday that the conduct of state congress in Adamawa was deliberately skewed to favour supporters of Atiku Abubakar.

Ardo, who submitted a petition against the outcome of the Adamawa State congress to the party national leadership, accused the members of the state caretaker committee of flouting the party’s constitution and directive of the national caretaker committee. He alleged that state caretaker committee simply shared the positions of the state executive committee among themselves.

Some of the areas of dispute arising from the last Saturday’s congress in Adamawa State include the chairmen and delegates in Yola South, Girei, Numam Madagali and Jada Local Government Areas. Although his claims are yet to be verified, Ardo was vehement in his condemnation of what he described as acts of impunity perpetrated by the state caretaker committee and accused them of transmuting themselves to substantive executive of PDP contrary to their mandate.

Battle for the National Chairmanship
Aside from the turbulence being witnessed in the conduct of state congresses and selection of delegates to the national convention, another area that is presently giving cause for worry is the tussle for the next national chairman of the PDP. The battle for the coveted chairmanship seat is becoming intense by the day and it is not certain if efforts to broker a consensus amongst the contenders will succeed.

Amongst the aspirants that are jostling for the chairmanship seat are former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George; founder of Daar Communication Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; former Acting National Chairman, Uche Secondus; Ex-Ministers, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja and Prof Tunde Adeniran; former Oyo State governor, Alhaji Rasheed Ladoja; former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, and Mr. Jimi Agbaje.

So far, George, Dokpesi, Daniel, Secondus and Adeniran have purchased the nomination forms, while others are expected to do so before the end of the deadline. Also, Dokpesi submitted his nomination form last Wednesday. But indications emerged yesterday that the effort to broker a consensus among the chairmanship aspirants may prove difficult because of the various interests of those who want to secure the chairmanship position.

Apart from the antics of the presidential hopefuls, who are known to be pulling the strings behind the scene, another interest group that is openly canvassing to take control of the party structure by snatching the chairmanship seat has members of the Board of Trustees (BoT). This group, made up of old and experienced politicians, have allegedly regrouped to support one of their own, Prof. Adeniran to see if he could clinch the job.
They were said to be behind the attempt to edge out some contestants from the South-west under the pretext of brokering a consensus. Some of the leading members of the BoT like a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana and former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, have been traversing the country lobbying for endorsement of their candidate of choice, Adeniran.

The move has not gone down well with other aspirants. One of them, Dokpesi has kicked against it, describing the development as an attempt by the BoT to have total control of the party structure. He accused some members of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) of trying to hijack the party ahead of the national convention.

According to Dokpesi, some members of the BoT were behind the attempt to scheme out some aspirants from the South-west under the guise of building a consensus. Expressing his concerns in an interview with journalists the day he returned his nomination form at the party’s national secretariat last week, the founding chairman of DAAR Communications condemned what he described as attempts to intimidate the Makarfi Committee into endorsing micro zoning arrangement outside the resolution and constitution of the PDP.

“Members of BoT want to take over the party. Some people want to use BoT to take over the day-to-day running of the party. Members of BoT have been going out with some aspirants. They have been meeting delegates and stakeholders of the party. Some of them (BoT members) smart as they are, are peddling rumours that the BoT has endorsed some aspirants as their choice of national chairman. But we know that the BoT has not met,” Dopkesi said.

But the Makarfi-led NCC has openly distanced itself from any move to endorse a particular aspirant. Rather, it has insisted that it would ensure a fee, fair and transparent national convention. It has also put paid to the contentious issue about micro zoning of the national chairmanship seat to a particular zone in the south.

While reacting to insinuations that the leadership was behind the move to alter the micro zoning arrangement, which ceded the national chairmanship seat to the South-west, Makarfi said there was no truth in the assumption.”
He however cautioned against pushing the leadership of the party to assume powers that could make it act arbitrarily and which the party will later regret. Makarfi who said this during the opening of the 76th National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP recently, said the NCC has no power ascribed to it to warrant its interference in the choice of chairman of the party.

On the outcome of the meeting with aspirants, he said they sought and obtained from the aspirants the fact that they would all approach the contest with decorum.
A former President of the Senate, another top member of the PDP, Senator David Mark pleaded with party faithful to reflect on the issues that led to the fall of the PDP in 2015 and do well by avoiding the pitfalls at the convention. He warned against impunity and imposition of candidates.

As it is now, everyone in the PDP appears to be taking positions based on permutations for the 2019 presidential ticket and where their interest will be served best. According to the approved schedule of activities for the forthcoming PDP elective convention, the sale of nomination forms and submission of completed forms is November 19, while screening of chairmanship aspirants will take place on November 22.
But many observers have cautioned against allowing the struggle for the next chairman of the PDP to generate another round of intra-party crisis as the party may ill-afford it and may not have a second chance of recovery before the 2019 elections.