Can PDP Nip Post-convention Crisis in the Bud?

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Latest developments in the Peoples Democratic Party haven’t shown that the party would get round the crisis that strewn its national convention pretty soon. Onyebuchi Ezigbo reports

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has successfully conducted its elective national convention but what remains to be laid to rest are the acrimonies and grievances that the December 9 event generated. Beginning with the disagreement among PDP stakeholders from the south over micro zoning of the chairmanship position, the convention squabbles later switched to complaints over an illegal list of aspirants known as “Unity List”.

Although no one has owned up to being responsible for initiating and circulating the ubiquitous list, many stakeholders of the party have traced it to an arrangement engineered by the PDP governors to harmonize all interests and reduce tension.

However, it turned out to be that many of the aspirants were not carried along and they became very highly agitated. Some of these aspirants saw the wholesale adoption of the Unity List as another form of imposition and protested vehemently against it on the convention day.

In fact chairmanship aspirants like the former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran and founder of DAAR Communications Plc., Chief Raymond Dokpesi went to the extent of demanding for outright cancellation of the exercise. However, it is to the credit of the party that it wasted no time in reassigning the committee on reconciliation headed by the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Sirieka Dickson to immediately begin consultations with aggrieved persons with a view to assuaging their feelings and dousing the tension.

So far the reconciliation efforts appear to be paying off. The committee has met with almost all the chairmanship aspirants and they have accepted to join hands to chat a way forward for the party. The duo of Adeniran and Dokpesi had issued statements pledging their loyalty to the new leadership of the party and to support the National Chairman, Uche Secondus.

Similarly, the Dickson committee had reached out to former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Bode George and former governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje and had secured an understanding to accept the outcome of the national convention.

But just as the party was about to celebrate that its problems were over, another chairmanship aspirant, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, suddenly slammed the party with a court action. Adedoja, a former Minister of Youth and Sports, said he filed a suit at an Abuja Federal High Court to challenge the outcome of the election, which saw to the emergence of Secondus as national chairman.

The aspirant claimed that his name was wrongly spelt as “Taoheed Oladoja” thereby misleading delegates and robbing him of victory at the convention. And as the party was destined to have a full dose of the post-convention crisis, another aggrieved group of aspirants has set up a parallel office in Abuja, promising to constitute its own national executive by January.

The group, which called itself “Fresh PDP was led by Obi-Nwosu Emmanuel Butches, a member of the planning committee for the just concluded national convention of the party. The group threatened to go ahead and name a parallel national executive soon.

Addressing a press conference at the new office located at Asokoro in Abuja, Nwosu accused former Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led committee of imposing “predetermined persons” as leaders of the party.

While stating their grievances, Nwosu said the petition written by some of the aspirants with respect to the chairman and secretary of the electoral committee, former Governor Gabriel Suswam and Dr. Sunday Onor respectively who were clearly identified as lead campaigners to one of the chairmanship aspirants, were completely ignored by the NCC and never attended to it.

But the PDP has said it was unperturbed by the development, describing the rebellious group as comedians, who were out to make outlandish claims in the media regarding the party.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Olagbondiyan, the party said it was happy with the efforts of the Governor Dickson-led Reconciliation Committee as well as the responses from all the respectable and responsible leaders of our party in that regard.
According to the PDP, “The Prince Uche Secondus-led national leadership will continue to focus on repositioning our great party to be the formidable opposition that will guarantee checks and balances in our polity and ultimately regain power in 2019.

“We will however not be responsible or respond to any person or groups of individuals, who decide to allow themselves to be used by forces from another political party in a laughable and childish attempt to distract us”.
However, in a bid to forestall any relapse to legal tussle in the PDP, Dickson has waded in to engage the aggrieved former minister and all others still nursing grievances about the outcome of the convention. Dickson, who gave the hint at a retreat for the newly elected national executive of the party, said the committee is going to meet with Adedoja with a view to persuading him to withdraw his suit against the party.

In the midst of these skirmishes, the party appears bent on charting a new cause in its efforts to rebrand and reposition itself for the task ahead in the next election in 2019 despite skirmishes of disenchantment among some of its members.

The Secondus leadership has started off on a more purposeful note, organising a retreat to brainstorm on strategies to bring back the party to its preeminent position in Nigeria’s politics. Unlike what held in the past, the new team is not ready to toy with issues of party unity and solidarity and is ready to engage all aggrieved stakeholders in reconciliatory talks, especially those who had raised issues over the last convention in Abuja.

At the same time, the party is not allowing the squabbles to sway it from focusing on critical issues that can propel it back to power. Speaking at the two-day retreat for the newly elected National Working Committee last Tuesday, Secondus said the new team was determined to return to power in 2019, adding that efforts would be geared towards repackaging the PDP and to unveil it to the Nigerian electorate to regain their confidence.
According to him, PDP will be taking a cue from the International Republican Institute (IRI), which said the party lost the election because of its inability to recognise the power of social media and its failure to harmonise its communication channels.

Secondus said “the two-day retreat is self-reawakening; to give everyone a say in the outcome, a chance to fully participate in crafting the key strategies to move the party forward. We must therefore begin to invest in our party with the aim of repackaging and eventually unveiling a reformed PDP to the Nigerian electorate, so as to regain their confidence. We must redefine who we are in the minds of Nigerians, down to the grass-root level”.