Barring any last-minute change of heart, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hold its national convention on December 9, 2017, to elect a new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) members. Our correspondent examines the intrigues and new twist ahead of the convention.
Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, the PDP has managed to survive a tortuous crisis that tore it into two parallel shreds.
The survival of the party, through a landmark judgement on July 12, 2017, by the apex court which nipped in the bud all contentious issues, has paved the way for the party to prepare grounds for its success in future elections.
One of such grounds would be the election of new party officials and the amendment of its constitution at the next convention to suit the current political reality.
Pundits say if the party does not get it right at the convention by electing credible members into key offices, it should as well, forget about reclaiming power in 2019.
This is due to the fact that the new crop of NWC members would have the herculean task of leading the party to the much-touted 2019 general polls.
But as the aspirants spring up contesting the various offices, there have been some intrigues in the scheme of things.
Particularly, there is palpable tension, discordant tunes, anxiety, discontent and fear as to who emerges the next national chairman of the party.
One of the new twists in the build up to the convention, according to credible sources in the party, is that the battle has gone beyond the aspirants.
Inside sources say the PDP leaders cutting across the various organs of the party are not only considering the political antecedents of the contenders, but also the pedigree of those financing their course.
A source from the north confirmed to our correspondent that party leaders were being careful in order not to allow the party into the hands of anyone who might have been receiving support from the “enemies” of the party.
Because of this, the PDP Caretaker Committee Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, has asked all aspirants to caution their supporters and financiers not to dabble unnecessarily into bashing the decisions of the caretaker committee in the build up to the convention.
Makarfi, who is a former governor of Kaduna State, said that some disgruntled and aggrieved elements in the party were bent on consistently issuing statements criticising party decisions even when such criticisms were unnecessary.
Makarfi handed down the warning at the Wadata Plaza, the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, when a former Minister of Education and contender for the office of chairman, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, submitted his expression of interest and nominations forms.
Another turn in the scheme of things is the decision of the party to disqualify any chairmanship contender who is proven to have bribed or bought votes from the delegates.
Analysts say the party is doing so to make a difference and cause a paradigm shift from its usual way of doing things, where delegates are induced with financial favours to change their voting pattern.
Already, the eight aspirants for the office of national chairman had signed a peace pact meant to enhance internal democracy in the party.
The eight contenders, who signed the peace accord, include a former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; ex-governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; ex-governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja; ex-PDP Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; ex-governorship candidate in Lagos State Jimi Agbaje; the broadcast mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; ex-Minister of Sports and Special Duties, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja and a one-time PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George.
According to the terms of the accord made available to our correspondent, all the aspirants are to support whoever emerged as national chairman at the convention as far as the process was fair and transparent.
The document reads in part, “No aspirant shall leave the party or encourage his or her supporters, promoters to do so, as a result of the outcome of the national chairmanship election at the elective national convention.
“Any breach of the 2015 zero expenditure policy of the party, which prohibits the use of monetary inducement, including lodging of delegates and providing money for votes, shall not be tolerated in the 2017 national elective convention and shall be a ground for disqualification on or before the 9th December, 2017.
“Any aspirant, sponsor, supporter, financier, proven to have done anything contrary to the agreements reached herein and in circumstances that suggest the knowledge of the undersigned persons shall be disqualified from contesting the national chairmanship election.”
Speaking on behalf of the contestants who signed the pact, a former governor of Oyo State, Ladoja, assured that the aspirants would abide by the terms of the accord and asked the NCC to ensure a transparent process.
But some members of the party said that it would be cumbersome for anyone to monitor the relationship between the aspirants and the delegates. Therefore, the possibility of inducing the latter cannot be ruled out.
Apart from the aspirants having direct contact with the delegates, insiders say state governors to a large extent influence what transpires at the convention, especially as the delegates come from their home states.
Though it is not clear what would be the outcome, but it was gathered that governors could use their offices to give direction to the delegates as to how they would vote, a move some describe as a subtle form of imposition.
A foundation member of the party in the north-east, Alhaji Aminu Yakudima, told Daily Trust in a telephone interview that the race was getting difficult and tough.
“In any race, there must be sponsors and facilitators because of the enormous responsibilities involved. This is normal. In fact, this is the first time chairmanship contestants have signed an accord.
“I encourage such things to continue in the party. It’s one of the ways of ensuring unity and promoting internal democracy in the PDP,” Yakudima said.
While the race is being hotly contested, there are indications that Prince Uche Secondus may emerge.
Secondus, who is from the south-south, is former deputy national chairman of the party. He later served as the party’s acting national chairman, following the resignation of ex- Governor Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu on May 20, 2015, as chairman.
The PDP governors and other critical stakeholders of the party, including Board of Trustees (BoT) members, former governors and ex-ministers, met in Enugu last Sunday, to prepare grounds for the December 9 convention.
Sources at the meeting told Daily Trust in telephone interviews that Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), and Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), insisted that other aspirants should step down for Secondus.
But a statement from the Bayelsa State Government House, signed by the Chief Press secretary to the state governor, Francis Ottah Agbo, said the stakeholders had resolved to work with any aspirant who emerged as the party’s chairman.
One of the stakeholders from the south-west specifically told our correspondent that the move by Fayose and Wike to make Secondus a sole candidate for the chairmanship post hit the rock as other stakeholders preferred an all-inclusive contest.
But the BoT members are said to be divided between Prof. Adeniran and Chief Bode George who are also members of the board.
While Adeniran enjoys the support of a former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana and others, George enjoys the backing of Chief Ebenezer Babatope and others.
However, with December 9, fast approaching, it is left to be seen whether the PDP will get it right.