PDP to Hold Emergency NEC Thursday over Planned Defection of Umahi

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David Umahi

•Board of Trustees meets Wednesday
•Umahi moves to woo Ikpeazu to APC
•South-west PDP repositions, endorses Makinde as zonal leader

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Against the purported defection plans of Governor Umahi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has allegedly summoned an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.

The meeting, THISDAY gathered has been slated for Thursday, November 19 at the National Secretariat of the party, Wadata Plaza, Abuja.
But, preparatory to the Thursday emergency NEC, the Board of Trustees (BoT), the highest advisory organ of the party, is also scheduled to meet on Wednesday at 2pm.

Consequently, the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, who last Tuesday told a delegation of the PDP NWC led by the National Chairman, Uche Secondus, that he had made up his mind to leave the PDP, is believed to have been making overtures to his Abia State counterpart, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, to go with him to the APC.

Meanwhile, in its bid to reposition ahead of next elections, the South-west leadership of the PDP has acknowledged the roles of the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, in the region and agreed to work with him to move the party forward.

Umahi was reported to have hinged his planned defection to the agreement with the APC that the presidential candidate of the party would be zoned to the South-east.
He claimed that the PDP had been unfair to the South-east since 1999, as it has deliberately refused to zone the presidential ticket of the party to the zone.

Besides, the zone was said not to be happy with the appointment of Peter Obi as the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the PDP in the last general election.
A source in the PDP said Obi was an imposition as there were politicians in the South-east that could have given more credibility and weight to the zone in terms of attracting more votes.

THISDAY was however informed that aside his decision to defect to the APC, Umahi has also been making efforts to woo other PDP governors in the zone to go with him to the APC, with Ikpeazu being the first on his list.

According to a source that was privy to some of the undercurrents, “The move is to have at least three APC governors in the South-east and use it as a canvassing opportunity to convince the APC leadership to give the APC presidential ticket to the zone.”
Inside sources also claimed this was with the consent of the leadership of the pan Igbo socio-cultural group, the Ohaneze Ndigbo.

“Election is like warfare and all is good in any war. Since the PDP has deliberately refused to zone its presidential ticket to the zone, the Igbo will go with any political party that panders to its interest. Check out since 1999, the Southeast has been a backbone of the PDP and nothing to show for it.

“South-south has produced the President of Nigeria in the person of Goodluck Jonathan, Olusegun Obasanjo from the Ssouthwest was president on the platform of the PDP for eight years. The northwest has had it in late Umaru Yar’Adua and though, he did not win, the Northeast produced the presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 general election. Something has to be done to the Southeast for its massive support to the PDP”, the source said.

It was for this reason that the PDP has summoned an emergency NEC meeting to address this concern of the PDP in the Southeast.
A chieftain of the party and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, last week, described the report of the planned defection of Umahi as “troubling”.

Fani-Kayode therefore urged the PDP national leadership to pacify Umahi as more governors in the party might follow the Ebonyi governor to the APC.
He tweeted thus: “I urge the leadership of the PDP to do all they can to ensure that he stays. Not only is he a profoundly good man and an excellent governor, his contributions to the success of the PDP over the last 20 years at various levels are immeasurable and simply extraordinary.

“What makes the matter worse is that other governors may also contemplate leaving if he does because he has a lot of friends and goodwill amongst them. If that happens, it will affect our party’s chances in the 2023 presidential election in a very significant way. Again, I call on the National Chairman and the NWC of our great party to do all they can to keep Umahi on board.”

In another development, the PDP in Southwest has begun to take steps to solidify the party in the zone.
A statement by Hon. Dayo Ogungbenro, PDP Caretaker Chairman in the zone said Governor Makinde’s leadership was sacrosanct and leaders of the party in all the six states of the region had agreed to work with him to move the party forward.

According to the statement, all the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Southwest geopolitical zone had agreed that there was evidence of division among individual states, which was making it difficult for them to come out victorious in recent elections in the region with specific reference to the Ondo State governorship election, despite the rejection of the APC in the region by the electorate.

Other resolutions of the meeting included, “That all leaders agreed that a concrete and positive steps be taken on the need for unity and cohesion in the party”, stating that the zone remained strategic to the PDP if it must win presidential and other national elections in the country.

“That a 5-man committee be set up to be known as the South-West PDP Reconciliation Committee to be headed by former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola with the following people as members: (a) Chief Saka Balogun; (b) Chief (Mrs.) Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, (c) Ambassador Omolade Oluwateru and (d) Barr. Olayinka Kukoyi.

“That the leadership of the party in the Southwest led by Oyo State Governor, HE, Engr. Seyi Makinde should call on the national leadership of the party to bring all aggrieved factions in the party together by ensuring that whatever we agreed upon at the zonal level should be the final decision that will be approved by the national leadership of the party without any interference whatsoever from any individual or group of people.

“That the leadership of the party decided on the zoning of the Zonal Offices of the party to various states, which was democratically debated and agreed upon as follow: (a) Zonal Chairman – Oyo State (b) Zonal Secretary – Lagos State, (c) Zonal Publicity Secretary – Ekiti State, (d) Zonal Organising Secretary – Ondo State, (e) Zonal Financial Secretary – Osun State, (f) Zonal Youth Leader – Osun State, (g) Zonal Legal Adviser – Ogun State, (h) Zonal Treasurer – Ogun State, (i) Zonal Women Leader – Oyo State and (j) Zonal Auditor – Lagos State. (k)”
The meeting also resolved that, in the spirit of fairness and equity, additional slots of ex-officio members be given to Ekiti and Ondo States in view of the fact that they would occupy only one office each in the zone.

The PDP leaders also used the occasion to call on the federal government and the National Assembly not to go ahead with the proposed regulation of the social media, saying the move would infringe on Nigerians’ freedom of expression.
Instead it was agreed at the meeting that they should call on the federal government to strengthen existing laws to prevent the abuse of the freedom of expression.