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Search for Ogbulafor’s replacement divides PDP

By Henry UMORU
The in house war going on in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may swallow the self acclaimed largest party in Africa. With the present political tension in the PDP, it could well be described as a nest of scorpions where they sting one another everyday-from the PDP Reform Forum to resignation due to issues on ground and to meetings being aborted following some irreconcilable differences, based on personality.

The search for the sixth National Chairman of the Party since the exit of Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor Wednesday 13th, 2010 swells everyday from the South-East, the zone that clinched the  position in 2008. The rat race has reached its peak with intrigues, maneuverings, scheming, and mudslinging beclouding the entire process.

As the race heightens each day, the number of interested persons builds up with speculations of ‘these are the anointed ones’.

On  the race for the National Chairmanship race are former secretaries of the Party, Okwesilieze Nwodo and Bernard Eze both from Enugu State, former Caretaker Committee Chairman, PDP, Anambra State, Chief Dan Ulasi from Anambra State, ex-minister of External Affairs, Senator Ike Nwachukwu from Abia State and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim from Ebonyi State.

Also in the contest are former National Vice Chairman, South-East, Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu Onyebo, Sonny Iroche, Ezekiel Izuogu, Political Adviser to the President, Senator Polycap Nwite; former Nigerian ambassador to Togo, Thomas Aguiyi- Ironsi and only this week, the present National Vice Chairman, South-East, Olisa Metu is rumoured to be interested in the most exalted position of the party.

Vincent Ogbulafor resigned under pressure penultimate week as National Chairman of the PDP.

It was gathered that the heat became too much on Ogbulafor when it was said that the presidency was not comfortable working with him because of the moral burden of his alleged graft by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). ICPC had arraigned him and four others to court for a fraud of N104m, allegedly committed while he was a Minister during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

The search for Ogbulafor’s replacement in the last few weeks, to say the least, has thrown the party into a battle field, where it is not yet Uhuru. And the PDP is enmeshed in different crises everyday. Besides the National Chairmanship tussle, the issue of whether the zoning formula would be maintained is also tearing the party apart. It has even become a matter of power show.

To expose the wounds in the Party, the National Executive Committee ( NEC) meeting was cancelled through the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali when the news had gone round town that the meeting would hold with members already in Abuja, causing a lot of confusion.

Another meeting of the Board of Trustees, (BoT) was put off when it became clear that a National Chairman would emerge that night. The cancelation was contained in a three -paragraph statement by the party’s National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, just as he said a new date would be communicated to all members in due course. It caught members of the BoT unawares having arrived Abuja for the meeting.

The statement in full said:  “This is to inform all concerned that the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) earlier scheduled for Monday, 24th May 2010, has been postponed.

“A new date shall be communicated to all members in due course.

“The PDP regrets the inconvenience caused to members of the BOT by this postponement and looks forward to welcoming them as soon as the new date is announced.”

The untold story, as gathered, was that President Goodluck Jonathan, the leader of the party, had to show that he was in charge by ordering for the cancellation of the meeting when he got security report that the meeting was going to be turbulent if held as some Northern PDP stalwarts were prepared for the BoT chairman and Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was said to be prepared to impose on the party, Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu, former National Vice Chairman, South-East or ex-National Secretary of the party, Chief Bernard Eze.

The President, on his own, may have a candidate close to his chest and that person, as gathered, does not in any way fall into the plans of Obasanjo, and that due process was not followed in convening the meeting. It was learnt that  if the meeting had taken place, it would have created additional problems for the party that would have been difficult for it to handle.

As a divided house, last week, the National Auditor of the PDP, Dr. Samuel Ortom, said the president was free to contest for the 2011 Presidential elections, showing that the party was set to dump the zoning arrangement ahead of the release of its guidelines for its primaries.

According to him, though there was zoning formula in PDP’s Constitution, it was not rigid, as it may be subject to change when the need arises, just as he stressed that it was a flexible one made by the founding fathers of the party who, during that time, wrote the constitution.

He stressed that since the inception of the party and when conventions were held, no one from any zone had ever been excluded from vying for positions, especially, the most exalted one, which is the president of the country, buttressing that former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, Chief Barnabas Gemade, late Abubakar Rimi had contested for the presidency even when the party zoned it to the West during ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo.

According to him, “I am calling on Nigerians to put this thing to rest, that at no time did we as the National Working Committee discuss and zone the position of presidency. What the National Chairman said last time was just a clarification on what was done before in the past regime and not during our current tenure.

“The whole thing is flexible and President Jonathan is a Nigerian and by all standards and qualifications that the party and the constitution require, he is free to contest the election.

“It has become imperative for me to make this clarification. Though, there is position of zoning in PDP’s constitution, it is not a rigid arrangement. It is a flexible arrangement made for the forefathers of this party who wrote this constitution.

“But I want to let the public know that since 1999 when this party came into existence and started election and appointment of political offices, there has never been a time that anyone has been excluded who is interested in vying for any position in this party, whether you are from the South or East or from the North or West.”

If all is well in the house, it is over a week he opened up and the National Working Committee (NWC) for fear of the unknown, has failed to react.

As the journey for who becomes the National Chairman of the PDP is still on, there are still some permutations on who is favoured, while some are saying the pendulum is shifting to Nwodo, others singing to the side of Ulasi, Anyim Pius Anyim, Ike Nwachukwu, among others.  But what appeared to be one of the stumbling blocks in the way of Nwodo is the fact that he was still new in the party having left the PDP for the Action Congress, AC and now back.

There are still some views that he may be asked to explain his sudden removal as National Secretary of the party and replaced by Ogbulafor.

Another major obstacle which should have worked against him was the corruption charge on the Identity Card Scam that was struck out because of lack of diligent prosecution.


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