• Adeniran, Dokpesi protest

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Delegates to the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party saturday elected Mr. Uche Secondus, from the South-south, as the party’s national chairman, amid protests from two other contenders, who alleged that the voting process was compromised with the circulation of a ‘unity list’.

In his acceptance speech, Secondus said he felt humbled, and promises to rebuild the party and lead it to regain power from the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Secondus, who acted as National Chairman of the party shortly after PDP was ousted from power in 2015, polled 2000 votes to beat his closest rival former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, who got 230 votes.

Chief Raymond Dokpesi, scored 66 votes while Prof. Taofeed Adedoja got no vote.

Also Senator Umar Tsauri was elected the National Secretary of the party with 1,549 votes. He defeated Abubakar Mustapha who got 371 votes. Former Minister of State for Finance, Nanadi Usman, came third with 287 votes.

In other results, Senator Garba scored 1,316 to clinch the position of deputy national chairman (North). He defeated the wife of former Minister of Finance Inna Ciroma who got 350 votes. The second runner up was Abdulmalik Mahmood who scored 325 votes while Senator Umar Kumo came a distant fourth with 89 votes.

Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan emerged the National Publicity Secretary of the party. (See full list of the new executives of the party)

The result of the election followed a particular trend with most if not all candidates on the controversial ‘Unity List’ emerging victorious.

Yesterday’s convention was the party’s first elective convention since PDP suffered a devastating defeat in the 2015 general election and it had hoped to use the exercise to reposition itself ahead of the 2019 general election.

Though there were eight candidates for the party’s topmost position, one of them, Chief Olabode George, withdrew his participation less than 24 hours to the election, while four others – Mr. Jim Agbaje, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Chief Rasheed Ladoja and Mr. Olusegun Aderemi withdrew from the race at the convention ground, thus leaving the remaining four – Mr. Secondus, Prof. Adeniran, Chief Dokpesi and Prof. Adedoja- to slug it out.

However, following intense lobby and horse trading involving an influential bloc in the party which favored Uche Secondus, a former acting national chairman, he was already tipped to win the race even before actual voting began.

It was however not a smooth sail as some chairmanship aspirants complained bitterly about their being schemed out of the process.

Prior to voting, a list tagged ‘Unity list’ containing names of candidates said to have been endorsed by the party to win their offices, was circulated. Top on the unity list was Secondus. The circulation of the ‘unity list’ at the convention ground was vehemently protested by one of the aspirants, Dokpesi.

Dokpesi, who addressed journalists faulted the elections, describing it as a charade, warning such may destroy the party. Dokpesi said the voting process had been compromised, following the distribution of a ‘unity list’ containing names of candidates believed to have won elections into various national leadership positions in the party. He explained that the 21 names of candidates contained in the list appeared on the ballot papers as number one and in the voting boots as number one. He said complaints were lodged to the chairman of the PDP electoral committee Gabriel Susuan who confirmed that he had seen the list with some delegate but he was overwhelmed and could do little or nothing about it.

Dokpesi said it was unfortunate that a party which was just getting out of a major leadership crisis would be involved in acts of impunity and election malpractice. He however called on the party leadership to urgently rectify what he called an anomaly and a charade before it becomes another major challenge in the party ahead of 2019 general elections.

Also reacting to the election yesterday night, another aspirant, Adeniran said the circulation of the list of candidates while voting was yet to take place was absurd, adding that it had tainted the entire process.

He said although the arrangement put in place by the convention planning committee was very good, the organisers were overwhelmed by fraudulent people who would never let democracy thrive.

“The desperados are the ones perpetrating this act.

On the circulation of the ‘unity list’, he described it as absurd. This is the type of imposition we have been talking about. And when it is coming from those who are supposed to guide people to make free choice, then, of course, the consequences will be there,” he said.

He accused those he regarded as agents of imposition and impunity of being behind the unity list. These people, he said, were bent on destroying the party and would never let internal democracy and free choice to exist.

Adeniran alleged that the list were printed on the official PDP letter headed paper.

“I believe it couldn’t have come from any other source except the powers that be and their sponsors,” he said.

On whether he would accept the outcome of the result, he said: “We signed the peace accord and agreed that we will accept once it is free and fair. But when the conditions were not met, we are not bound to accept it.”.

However a member of the convention planning committee and former minister of Environment, John Odey, described the alleged circulation of candidates’ list as a non issue. He said that the list could not be traced to anyone since it was not signed.

The former minister said that the process at the convention was democratic despite the complaint over the circulation of the unity list by unknown persons.

Meanwhile, the disaffection created by the failure to micro zone the position of the national chairman zoned to the South, was not entirely laid to rest before the convention was held. On the eve of the convention, one of chairmanship aspirants, Olabode George, addressed the media announcing his withdrawal from the race.

George, a former deputy national chairman of the party, expressed displeasure over what he described as failure of the party and its leaders to uphold the arrangement arrangement which micro zoned the chairmanship to the South-west. He also accused Governor Wike of insulting the South West by saying they have not contributed much to the PDP to warrant their insistence on occupying the national chairmanship position.

Following the withdrawal of George from the race, other five aspirants from the zone followed suit by pulling out of the race as well. Although not stated, many believed that these aspirants may have been aggrieved by what they perceived as unfair treatment of the zone and decided to pull out and also to boost the chances of Prof. Adeniran who is also from the zone.

George, who withdrew from race 24 hours to the commencement of the exercise, also blamed the monetisation of the chairmanship race for his withdrawal, saying that the PDP is on the verge of self- destruct.

“Let me make abundantly clear that I, Olabode George, did not step down for anybody. I will not step down for anybody but what I am doing is to withdraw from the race on principle and against the observed wrong,” he said.

Though the convention was billed to commence at 10am, as early as 6.30am on Saturday, delegates started trooping to the Eagle Square, venue of the convention, located in the Three Arms Zone.

Security was tight within and around the venue as a combined team of security operatives was on ground.

Only duly accredited party members and journalists were allowed into the convention ground.

All the PDP governors, former President Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President Namadi Sambo, past PDP governors and ministers were among leaders of the party at the convention, where they expressed optimistism that PDP would win the 2019 presidential election.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan who led other leaders to flag off the elective convention said the chances of the PDP at the next election was bright.

“Our party has done extremely well in managing the affairs of this country. Let it be known, in all nooks and crannies of our country, that the PDP is back to reclaim its rightful place in the affairs of our nation.

“As we have always done, we are ready to return Nigeria to the path of steady and robust economic growth, driven by sound sectoral reforms, infrastructural renewal, gender balance, youth entrepreneurial development and job creation,” former President Jonathan said.

Jonathan criticised the APC-led administration for turning its anti-corruption war into persecution of opponents, adding that such practice would soon end.

On his part, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said in the 16years that PDP governed the nation, it succeeded in keeping it united, peaceful and prosperous.

“We made mistakes, but we put our nation first. We did not favour only states that voted for us and punish those that did not. We favoured all. And we also know that 5% and 97% do not add up to 100%,” he said.

Atiku, whose comment was his first at a major function of the PDP since rejoining the party early this month, regretted that APC government had continued in the same act of blaming previous governments for the nation’s woes rather than solve problems it was elected to address.

He said PDP was the party that would restructure Nigeria into a modern nation with working institutions and a system that gives back power to the people.

In his welcome address, chairman of the dissolved National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said his committee had been able to navigate through difficult circumstances to be able get to the current stage of the party.

“We have laid a foundation for the effort at rebuilding the party,” he said.

On reconciliation, Makarfi said the party had succeeded in getting everyone to make sacrifices.

He advised the new leadership to focus on ways to encourage women and youth participation in the affairs of the party.

Speaking on the failings of the APC administration, Makarfi said government seemed unaware that Nigerians were hungry as poverty was ravaging the land.

He said insecurity in the North-east which was thought to be receding was creeping back with greater ferocity, particularly against soft targets, adding that kidnapping for ransom has taken a life of its own, just as incessant farmers/herdsmen clashes were becoming rampant.

While addressing party members, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, scored the APC-led administration low on security, economy, job creation, and national unity.

He described the 16 years that the PDP was in power as glorious years for the country, noting that “good men and women who left PDP for the APC are eager to return to join us to build a better Nigeria”.

He said: “the PDP worked out Nigeria’s debt forgiveness and paid up our remaining debts, but today, we are getting indebted more than any other time in the history of Nigeria.

“We groomed and bequeathed the fastest growing economy as well as the largest economy in Africa. The story is different today”.

At the convention, motions were moved for the amendments of certain provisions of the party’s constitution.

Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Sireka Dickson, moved the motion for the amendments.

The amendments include Section 8, to change the procedure for rejoining the party by members who left and seek to return; Section 50, to relax the minimum time requirements before members can seek for election to offices of the party; Section 29, to make the six national vice chairmen members of the NEC of the PDP constitution; Section 41 (1), to strengthen the powers of the national auditor; Section 31(1) d, to give chairman and BOT members voting rights in NEC; and Section 32, relating to the composition and membership of BOT.

All the amendments were proposed to take effect on January 1, 2018.