The elective convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have come and gone, but left behind tales of celebrations, regrets, blames and woes.
The new National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus had in his acceptance speech, declared that his victory was for all the members of the party and promised to do everything possible to reconcile aggrieved members of the party and bring back to the fold those who abandoned the party following the defeat the party suffered during the 2015 general elections.
Last minute alignments
Realising that the chances of the South West zone in clinching the chairmanship position was becoming slimmer than they could ever have imagined, aspirants for the position from the zone decided to adopt a new strategy to see if it will be possible to savage the situation at the last minute.
The aspirants threw tradition, respect for elders and consensus to the winds and it became a free for all fight.
Taking cognizance of the implications of an elder losing out to the younger, and aware that the multiplicity of aspirants from the zone is to their disadvantage, Chief Bode George commenced a tactical withdrawal from the race, but the time was too late to salvage the situation and muscle enough support for Adeniran who remained the lone standing candidate.
Chief Bode George, who was the first to surrender in the contest said, “I have entered the contest on the fundamental predication of the micro zoning principle as laid down by our founding fathers.
“The zoning principle which was publicly reinforced last year in Port Harcourt had specifically and rightly affirmed the South-West as the zone to produce the National Chairman.
“But this old, legitimate and morally sound micro zoning principle has now been trashed, dumped in the waste bin, flung into the gutter by very little men who have compromised the pivotal moral anchor of civilised engagement for temporary selfish gains.
“I hereby withdraw from this brazen fraud and absolutely preconceived, monetized, mercantilist convention” George said.
A few hours later, other aspirants also surrendered to Adeniran, a timing too late to secure his victory.
Senator Rashidi Ladoja who was one of the aspirants said, “We all agreed that the chances of one person winning are better than those of seven people who are likely to divide the votes coming to the zone.
Since then, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, Chief Olabode George, Senator Rashidi Ladoja and Mr. Olusegun Aderemi have withdrawn from the race.
“Accordingly I am of the opinion that Professor Tunde Adeniran should become our consensus candidate for the South West Zone” Ladoja told the press in a statement.
The controversial result
Announcing the results of the election, the former governor of Benue State and Chairman of the election sub-committee, Mr. Gabriel Suswam said that Prince Uche Secondus scored a total of 2000 votes to defeat his closest rival, Prof. Tunde Adeniran who scored 230 votes, while High Chief Raymond Alegho Dokpesi came third with 66 votes.
He also announced that the total number of valid votes were 2,296.
Soon after the announcement was made, there was information all over the social media that the number of valid voters were more than the number of accredited voter, a situation that made the convention a nullity if found to be correct.
The media posted that the total number of accredited voters were 2,119 while the total number of valid votes were 2,296 making the number of votes more that the accredited voters.
However, the new National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan is yet to clearly clarify this matter save the comment he made that sometimes error find its way into activities of such magnitude.
Prior to the convention, there were allegations that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar doled out a whooping sum of N1.2 billion to bank roll the convention.
Although there was no disclaimer from the ever active Atiku Media Office, the former National Caretaker Secretary of the party, Senator Ben Obi described the allegation as a fiction.
The Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) also called for the probe of Governor Nyesom Wike, who according to them spent over N15.5 billion belonging to Rivers State to garner votes for Secondus.
“We are truly miffed and embarrassed about the damning report reaching us, indicating that Governor Wike wasted a whopping sum of N15.5 billion of Rivers State funds to finance the candidature of his stooge, Prince Uche Secondus, for the office of the National Chairman of PDP,” APC said in a statement signed by its state chairman, Chief (Dr.) Davies Ibiamu Ikanya.
“We have always been aware of the notoriety of Governor Wike in acts like this, so we are not surprised that he is today derisively referred to as The Port Harcourt ATM by PDP top stakeholders on account of his huge financial inducement as he is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to take full control of PDP ahead of the 2019 general elections.”
The Odds against South West
The South West zone stakeholders were very hopeful that the next Chairman of the party will come from the zone.
As the Port Harcourt convention which was narrowed down to Jimi Agbaje was truncated, the zone found it difficult to accept the new reality that the principle of micro-zoning was no longer feasible.
It is not strange for several aspirants to declare interest in political offices, but there was an erroneous assumption by the South West elders that other aspirants will chicken out of respect for elders and tradition.
Governor Nyeson Wike of Rivers State did not hide his feeling about the inability of the zone to make meaningful contribution to the party even when President Olusegun Obasanjo who was from the zone was the President.
Wike also pointed out the crises rocking most of the state in the region and how they allowed themselves to be swept away by the APC broom in the 2015 election.
According to Wike, the zone has not made any tangible contribution to the party to deserve the exalted position of the national chairman, but advised them to go home and work harder so as to have a stronger bargaining power.
The former Caretaker Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi had earlier attributed damaging campaigns as one of the reasons the zone lost the Chairmanship position.
He said, “For the South-West, it was at the convention venue that they resolved on a consensus candidate. And even then, another candidate came to the state box and met the leaders and said, look, they never resolved, that he was still in the race. So, it was a total confusion,” he said.
“Somebody signs on behalf of other candidates and say ‘we now have a consensus candidate and please support him’ and another going round and saying ‘no, we don’t have a consensus candidate.
“The whole issue of the South-West was its inability to put itself in order in good time. And then allowing some characters that cannot stand up in terms of credibility to occupy the political and media landscape; all kinds of abuses.
“And we cautioned them that that negative campaign by one individual was damaging them as people and members of the PDP and they needed to call that person to order. Still, they never called him to order.
And as far as I know, 90 percent of PDP members that that person comes to will run away,” Makarfi stated.
The unity list
One of the events that nearly marred the convention was the emergence of a unity list. Dokpesi who first raised alarm over the list described the unity list as a charade that may destroy the party.
Dokpesi told newsmen at the convention ground that the process of voting has been rigged, 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, Dokpesi said it is unfortunate that a party which is just getting out of a major leadership crisis will be involved in acts of impunity and election malpractice.
The media magnate 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 2019 general elections.
Also condemning the list, Taiwo Akeju, Director, Media and Publicity, Tunde Adeniran Campaign Organisation said, “We reject the entire electoral process of December 9, 2017.
The election has been grossly compromised to achieve a predetermined end in line with the illegal Unity List prepared by Governor Wike and Ayodele Fayose and foisted on the entire delegates.
“Consequently, we submit that this election is a sham and the result therefore is unacceptable. We reject it in its entirety.
“We consider this so-called election as a travesty of democracy and due process, which further entrenches the culture of impunity that has done a great damage to the party in the past.
“Our position is also that this election should be cancelled and the entire leadership of the party should be handed over to the Board of Trustees which we regard as the conscience of the party, to organise a credible election for the party in due cause,” Adenira stated.
In defending the unity list, the newly elected Legal Adviser of the party, Mr Agbo Emmanuel, said that it was a normal phenomenon and also said that there were other lists that were being distributed during the convention.
“In any election, there is always a lineup, it is not a Nigerian phenomenon, it is a global thing.
“Whenever you have an electoral college, there is always a line up by the contestants so in the last convention, there were a lot of lists generated by the different blocs that contested that election, so, that is not an issue,” Agbo said.
Also one of the defeated candidates for the position of the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Bamidele Salami, said that there is nothing illegal about the process.
“Of course I have my reservations about certain elements in the new leadership of the party, but the beauty of democracy is in accepting its outcomes regardless of whether they satisfy our fancies,” said Salami.
APC makes U-turn, congratulates PDP
After throwing tantrums at each other following the outcome of the election, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which had described the convention as a sham later congratulated the party.
An earlier statement by the APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi wrote that, “The abnormalities that trailed the PDP National Convention have further exposed the PDP as a party not ready and willing to change.
Indeed, the PDP has once again displayed itself to the generality of Nigerians that it is a party with corruption deeply rooted in its DNA.”
The PDP however did not spare Abdullahi and his APC, reminding them that they have flouted their constitution due to their inability to hold a convention which according to the APC constitution, must be held every two years.
PDP challenged them to convene any meeting as little as a National Executive Council meeting and see if the party will not collapse like a pack of cards.
PDP said, “Is it not disgusting, reprehensible and embarrassing that the APC that has repeatedly failed to hold meetings, congresses and convention in the last three years and has flagrantly continued to violate its own constitution is questioning our party’s rights to perform her legitimate and constitutional obligation?
“Perhaps APC leaders have never read Article 25 (A)(i) of their party’s Constitution which stipulates that “the National Convention of the party (APC) shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee (NWC)
and approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC) subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and at least 14 days notice given to members eligible to attend.”
The APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun seem to have gotten the signal and quickly sent a congratulatory message to the PDP.
In the congratulatory letter, Oyegun said, “Our party wholeheartedly welcome opposition because we believe that democracy cannot thrive without a vibrant but responsible opposition that puts the nation first. This will often challenge you to balance partisan interests with overall national considerations.
“I assure the PDP National Chairman of my willingness to engage him robustly in an atmosphere devoid of acrimony and rancour.
I believe that working together we can both elevate the language and temper of politics in our country, thereby providing the enabling environment for democracy to thrive in our country,” Oyegun stated.
In a move to bring all warring factions in the party under one umbrella, former President Goodluck Jonathan led a team of party elders on a visit to some of the aggrieved aspirants, to reconcile them with the party.
Some of the personalities in the entourage of the former President were his former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki (SAN); a former Minister of State for Finance, Amb. Bashir Yuguda, a former Minister of Finance, Esther Nanadi Usman, Yuguda Usman and King Turner his close ally.
The Daily Times gathered that Jonathan was also in the residence of a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Suleiman Abubakar, in Abuja.
Also on the move is the Reconciliation Committee of the party led by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.
The Committee visited one of the Chairmanship aspirants, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, former Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Ina Ciroma, who contested for the position of Deputy National Chairman, North, former Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ibrahim Mantu and many others.
Speaking on his responses from the visits, Dickson said, “Generally we are pleased with the outcome of the exercise. We have established contacts with some of them who have grievances and we want to interact with all the aspirants to find out what the problems are with a view to promoting understanding.
“We are pleased to announce that our contacts were well received, our overtures were well received. The Committee will undertake several visits to some of our leaders who are aggrieved.
“We call on all leaders of our party to be careful with the comments they are making. We don’t want a situation where their comments will be inflammatory and misconstrued as negative remarks.
“We assure all of you that these issues and grievances will be looked into. The party is not resting on its oars,” Dickson assured.
We are pleased to announce that our contacts were well received, our overtures were well received. The Committee will undertake several visits to some of our leaders who are aggrieved. We call on all leaders of our party to be careful with the comments they are making. We don’t want a situation where their comments will be inflammatory and misconstrued as negative remarks. We assure all of you that these issues and grievances will be looked into. The party is not resting on its oars