Nwodo can not chase us out of PDP, says Chime group
By Tony Edike
The face off   between Governor Sullivan Chime and the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo has gradually degenerated into a major political crisis in Enugu State.   The dispute which began as a minor intra-party squabble has polarised the ruling PDP into three major camps with Governor Chime leading one group and Dr. Nwodo leading the second.

The third group which is the Ebeano Political Family founded by former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani is singing a different tune.

Even as the party crisis continues to escalate, Chime still enjoys the loyalty and support of the elected public officers from the state, notably members of the National Assembly except Senator Nnamani and Hon. KGB Oguakwa, who are strongly opposed to him.

On the side of Nwodo are PDP elders and faithful including former military governors, former governorship aspirants, political office holders as well as those who dumped other political parties and joined the PDP soon after Nwodo’s emergence.  This class of politicians are also desirous to have a share of the various political offices at both state and federal levels.

They complain aloud about their alleged marginalisation by Chime’s government, hence they capitalized on the new opportunity which Nwodo’s leadership of the PDP has offered to have a foothold on the party in order to snatch tickets from the governor and his supporters.

Chime and Nwodo

However, the third group loyal to former Governor Nnamani which prides itself as “Ebeano” has a different agenda which is principally to wrestle power from Chime and the PDP.  The group had severally accused Chime and his followers in the National and State Assemblies all of whom emerged from Ebeano in 2007 of ‘biting the finger that fed them’.

The Ebeano Political Family apparently worried over the lingering crisis in PDP, decamped to another party, the People for Democratic Change, PDC,  recently and went further to adopt the Secretary to the State Government under the Nnamani administration, Dr. Dan Shere as its governorship candidate for 2011.  Hon. KGB Oguakwa, a member of the House of Representatives and a strong loyalist of Ebeano was also named as Shere’s running mate.

In the mean time, the rift in the state chapter of PDP over the dissolution of its executive by the National Working Committee, NWC, has taken a dangerous dimension as the party’s National Chairman, Dr. Nwodo, for the first time since the crisis erupted, addressed the media to explain his role in the matter alleging threat to his life.

The venue of the media briefing was Nwodo’s GRA residence where chieftains of the party had converged to pledge their loyalty and thank him for ensuring internal democracy within the party.  Nwodo narrated his role in what is now regarded as the protracted ‘Enugu PDP Crisis’ and his efforts to resolve the impasse.

How and why I came back to PDP

“The story I want to tell you this morning is the story I will like to tell my friends.  It is a story I want to tell my friends because my friends have been worried because of all the press bashing I have been getting both locally, internationally and in the internet.  We have received various phone calls asking us to state our own side of the story.

I didn’t believe that going to the press to tell the story was going to solve our problem.  I thought that the problem we had in Enugu was a problem which we could solve as brothers; which we could solve in-house, which was within the capacity of the state governor and the national chairman to handle.  I never wanted it to go public because there was no need for it to go public.

We had started on a very sound footing because when I decided to make my journey back to the Peoples Democratic Party, my first port of call was my state governor.  I informed him why I wanted to come back to the PDP and primarily among the three reasons I gave him why I wanted to come back to PDP was: one, to restore internal democracy in PDP. I had been away from the party for some time; I had tried to restore internal democracy in the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and in the Action Congress, AC.

I have tried to midwife a mega political party to see whether we could bring back internal democracy in our country, I failed.  And I felt that I failed because I needed the greatest political vehicle to achieve internal democracy.  And that political vehicle is the PDP.

I have been its founding National Secretary for three years and I knew the party and I felt that with its mega membership and tentacles across the whole of Nigeria, that it was the right vehicle to use to bring sanity to the political environment in our country.  So I returned to the PDP, believing that with my friend of over 40 years whom I was his Best Man at his wedding and who was the chairman of the party that I had access.

I believed that the state chairman of the party in Enugu State, Vita Abba,  is a very close friend and an in-law I had access to.  I didn’t have this access when Obansanjo and Chimaroke reigned supreme.  So I found a lee way to come back so that we can partner together to bring back internal democracy and I shared this view with the governor.

And when I came back, the governor invited the entire South East and some of our friends from all over the South East who wanted to come back to the PDP. We were on the same platform – former governors, important politicians, those who left and who were coming back and those who were joining for the first time.

They came to the Okpara Square and we all declared for the PDP.  We had a good time, it was a wonderful reception.

His journey to the office of PDP National Chairman:

Following that, the position of the Chairman of PDP became vacant and we got interested in the race and I had the support of my governor, and we went through the entire campaign for over six weeks, and I emerged as the chairman of the party.  Again I was hosted to a mega reception in Enugu State and I was deeply appreciative to my governor.

Indeed, before this time the governor had set up an Elders’ Forum,  I was also appointed in my capacity as a former governor but if the governor did not want to appoint me, I couldn’t have forced him under duress to appoint me.  So I appreciated his magnanimity in appointing me.

The governor had also extended some largesse to the former governors who had served in the state and who were born in Enugu State namely late Chief Christian Onoh, Jim Nwobodo, Allison Madueke and myself, by giving us  luxurious vehicles that we can use to make our journey.   So I was on the same page with my governor.  That is the point I want to make. I believed we were on the same bed, I believed we were dreaming the same dreams.

The point of disagreement:

But something went wrong and I am yet to be told why it went wrong. But I want to hazard a guess because while this went on, I went to my home to inform my Ward that I have come back to the party and we organised the Ward meeting and I invited my entire Senatorial Zone (Enugu North) to the Ward meeting.

And I invited the Chairman of the party in the state to chair the function, but I was embarrassed on that day when it was time for a welcome address to be read and my Ward Chairman could not be found. I was embarrassed that when we reached the high point of the function for me to be re-registered in my Ward, my Ward Secretary was not there, the register was not there and there were no membership cards.

I complained over ten times to the governor, to the chairman of the party in the state and to the local government functionaries of the party.  As I speak to you, I am yet to be re-entered into the register and given a membership card.  I felt it was humiliation for National Chairman who was three years National Secretary and founding Secretary of the party and who was governor of this state and two-third of Ebonyi State.

This situation continued to multiply in the sense that when my Ward Chairman died and I requested to replace him from the same village, I was not allowed to.  The entire stakeholders in my Ward wrote to the Chairman of the party in the local government , the local government council chairman and to the state party requesting that my nominee should become the chairman of my Ward, we were denied that opportunity.

A deputy chairman of the Ward was asked to become the chairman.  I felt that this was manifest hostility for me as chairman of PDP.  Because we were preaching internal democracy, we were preaching level playing ground, we are preaching that there should be no more godfatherism and godmotherism in our party, the mantra in Enugu then was that all elected people whether in the party, in the local government or in the House of Assembly, in the House of Representatives or in the Senate will have automatic go back.

I did not see any democratic document anywhere in the world that guarantees this kind of transition.  I know that late Kennedy went back to the Senate but he always went and asked for the people’s mandate and became the longest serving Senator in America.  He became the best Senator in America but he was never given an automatic ticket, he always went back to the electorate.

I felt that that was the epitome of democracy.  I felt that our people needed to go back to ask their people for a fresh mandate.  If they were doing well I do not see why the people should not give them a fresh mandate, if they were not doing well I do not see why the people cannot choose a new person who can do better.

That is the beauty of democracy and as we continue to preach that there was going to be a level playing ground and that there will be no influences of godfathers and godmothers, a lot of people in Enugu and across the country developed interest to contest for the ticket of PDP for the various offices they desired to occupy.

Indeed, I don’t believe that in the history of PDP that the PDP has raked in more money than they did on this occasion because of the come back syndrome and because of the trust that the people had that they could vie for the PDP tickets and that they had a chance to get the tickets to run for the election.

Protest by aggrieved PDP members shut out from election:

But as the people developed interests to contest elections in Enugu State, the party in Enugu State saw it as a challenge to the government of Enugu State because of the stated objective that all those who are serving will have automatic come back. Those who were vying for offices because they were not allowed to get registered in the party, because their supporters were not allowed to get interest in the party, they hired buses and came to Abuja and complained.

They complained that INEC had actually pencilled down Enugu State among seven other states in which there were no conclusive congresses and they wanted Enugu to have a fresh congress.  I believe that between myself and the governor that we will keep this under wraps.  That we could indeed do a harmonization which we could come before our people for acclamation and which will be acceptable to INEC, I canvassed this severally with him but each time, I met a brick wall.  We had interventions by the President, the Vice President and the Catholic Church in Enugu but we still met a brick wall.

Letter from INEC:

Then we had this letter from INEC. INEC indeed had been writing to the party since 2008 that Congresses in various chapters across the country were inconclusive and did not meet the expectations of the PDP Constitution. The party had not made any response to this letter. When I became chairman I figured that what the law said was that INEC should be invited by the political parties to observe their congresses but I did not figure out that INEC in observing could also dictate what happens as a result of the outcome of these congresses.  So I took their letter on board with members of the Working Committee in trying to resolve the crisis we have in various states across the nation.  Until the last letter that came in August  saying specifically that if we did not go back to conduct fresh congresses in eight states INEC will not accept candidates from PDP from those eight states in the next general election.  We quickly asked the eight governors to come to Abuja and we read this letter to them. They thought along the same line as the party that INEC did not have the authority to do so.  And we decided to approach INEC to clarify this matter.  INEC was not working on the present Electoral Law which had changed the word Observe to Monitor.  They were now to monitor the congresses and based on this change of one word, a lot has changed.  They will monitor and implement as a regulatory body whatever they monitored.  When we tried along with the governors, with our Legal Adviser and our National Organising Secretary and Attorneys General of their states and chairmen of parties of their states to persuade INEC that this was otherwise, INEC stood its position that we must repeat the congresses.  We then wrote to INEC and gave them date when we will conduct these congresses.  Congresses have been conducted in Anambra State; Congresses have also been conducted in Imo State.  Enugu was the next to have its congress followed by Kogi State.

Dissolution of Enugu Executive:

So when we dissolved the executive in Enugu State and sent in a committee to conduct the congress all hell broke loose.  We were challenged that we had no authority to dissolve the executive in Enugu State but this was the decision of the National Working Committee conveyed to INEC in a letter in which dates for Congresses were named and Congresses have started and held in two states now out of eight states.  As we speak INEC has also said they will entertain additional information from any of the states where they think that the decision of INEC could be reversed.  We have now made such information available to INEC as given to us by the respective states.  The party has also been sued along with INEC by Enugu State Chapter of our party challenging our authority to dissolve the executive  and conduct fresh congresses and challenging INEC for including Enugu State among the states where there should be Congresses.  At the time of the dissolution of Enugu State Chapter, I was out of the country.  The papers were awash that there was a crack in the NWC of the PDP.  As I speak to you I can tell you that the NWC is intact and that there is no crack. I presided over the meeting where we wrote to INEC responding that we are going to have congresses after we have consulted with governors of the states affected, the federal government, the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives.  All these consultations were done in order to carry everybody along.  The same NWC that is said to be divided  after our meeting last Wednesday, called the party in Enugu State, the Government of Enugu State and the State Assembly in Enugu to cease in their campaign of calumny against the party and the National Chairman.  That could not have come from a divided house.

M pains:

What pains me today is that this story that I have told you should now culminate in a situation where I become an object of bashing in the national dailies and on the internet.  The Constitution of the PDP is very clear in the election and removal of members of the NWC or national executive of the party.  You cannot remove the National Chairman of PDP by a House of Assembly somewhere in any state in Nigeria passing a vote of no confidence on him and asking for his removal.  The Constitution of PDP does not entertain removal of a chairman by local government chairmen in a state somewhere in Nigeria passing a vote of no confidence and asking for his removal.  That Constitution does not recognize that traditional rulers from the home of a chairman who will be intimidated by their government to pass a vote of no confidence on the National Chairman of PDP and that will result in his removal, neither does the Constitution mandate Councillors in any state of the federation to pass a vote of no confidence and ask for the removal of the Chairman and he will be removed.  Collecting signatures from traditional rulers in the state for removal of Chairman of PDP has no place in the Constitution of PDP.  Condemning a living Chairman to death and carrying his casket around the city is not a condition precedence for removing the National Chairman of PDP.  These situations only end up in calumny.  This character assassination has no place in the smooth running of the party’s affairs or is germane to peace in Enugu State.   My dear brothers and sisters, I thought that we have passed this stage in the politics of our country. What is happening in Enugu State is uncalled for.

Blame for Exco Dissolution:

If anybody is to be blamed for our having to order our congress in Enugu State it should be at the doorsteps of INEC and for us to obey the injunction of INEC in eight States and one state which happens to be the home state of the chairman, to go to this extent to malign my character and the authority of national chairman is a very sorry state.  I am yet to know why;   I will love to know why.  The governor and myself are Catholics, I thought when we went before the Bishop I thought that was an opportunity for us to say our confession but even at that stage I could not be told why.

Ceasefire and reconciliation efforts:

As I have said the President has called us for a ceasefire, the Church called for a ceasefire, National Working Committee called for a ceasefire, but in spite of this, I have been humiliated, I have been assaulted, I have been bashed, I have been condemned dead, and carried in a casket.   My dear friends, I thought you should hear this side of the story because as long as I say nothing it will in a way mean that whatever is being said is true and that I have nothing to say in my defence.  I have put the story to you as it is without embellishments.  These are the facts of the matter.  I think that we should pursue this matter with INEC to come out with their final verdict based on additional information that Enugu State Chapter has supplied in which they will not want a fresh congress in the state.  That matter is outside my portfolio. The State Chapter has gone to court against the national body as well as INEC and we would like the court to be left to adjudicate the matter as best they can.

Yesterday (Sunday) the three other governors of PDP in the South East also intervened in the matter and yet to no avail.  They have sought that the matter be withdrawn and resolved amicably but again they met the brick wall. Indeed it was after this meeting at 1am last night that I consented that it was about time I told my own side of the story because as we speak it looks as if many more things are lined up.  I will not give you details of death threats because if you look around my compound you will see that security has been unnecessarily beefed up around me.  The security agencies know better where the threats are coming from but I didn’t think that we have to go to this stage in politics in our country today.  I thought we have moved on to politics of issues, to politics of how we can create employment, improve education, healthcare, how we can put food on the table and eradicate poverty, how we can improve infrastructure in our country, but for us to descend back to politics of calumny I think it is uncalled for after 50 years of our Independence.  We must move on.

After the briefing, the reporters asked him to react to speculations that he wanted to be in control of the PDP structure in the state because of his desire to put his relations in power and he responded thus: “I am very happy with this question because a lot of rumour had been milling around – my wife wants to contest for senate, my younger brother is going to run for governor and that is why the national chairman is causing trouble in Enugu.

Let me say it publicly that in a meeting of my family, any member of my family – my wife, my children, my brothers and sisters, have decided to make a sacrifice that as long as I am chairman they will not contest elections in PDP.  It is their inalienable rights to do so but they have preferred that in order that I serve out my term with all these campaign of calumny, that they will not contest any elections in my time.   So that is not the issue.  I have been asked by the governor and the president what is my interest? Let me name my interest those that I will like to be returned to contest election under the platform of PDP, those I will like to be appointed Commissioners and Advisers in Enugu State.  And let me say publicly that I have said that I have no candidate for any election.  Anybody who wants to contest elections under the PDP what we have decided under the NWC is to provide them a level playing ground.  Let there be internal democracy in our party.

Let the people speak, this is a Peoples Democratic Party , it is not a party of godfathers and godmothers.  Anybody who is aspiring is aspiring to represent the people, why will the people not speak?  The choice must be the peoples’ choice not Dr. Nwodo’s choice and not the choice of any other person.

I don’t want any structure for anybody; I am not going to take over any structure for anybody; If we are going to have congresses members of the party in their various wards will troop out and elect their executive, they will come to the local government and elect their executives, they will come to the state and elect their executive.  And during the Congresses they will come out and choose their candidates.  The days of staying in a room and writing names of candidates are gone and gone forever as long as I am chairman.  And the days of PDP hoping to influence INEC to write results for our candidates are gone.  I will not do that.  The president has promised one man, one vote and it is free and fair election.  My business is to make sure that the PDP provides its first eleven for this contest by asking the people their choice and taking their choice for the election because it is going to be competitive and our people are going to vote on merit and for individuals and not for parties. Peoples sitting in a room and forcing candidates down the throat of the people,  that is not democracy.  We have to end that practice.

Nwodo also reiterated that the NWC’s dissolution order on the state party executive remains, adding that since the party would  not allow a vacuum in the state,  the South East zonal Working Committee led by Barrister Olisa Metuh had been mandated to oversee the affairs of the party in Enugu State until otherwise directed.  He said that this was in line with the Constitution of the party.

Chime’s group reacts:

Shortly after Nwodo had briefed the media, the Chairman of the dissolved PDP Executive in the state, Engr. Abba also addressed a news conference insisting that the decision of the Nwodo led NWC to dissolve the state executive was illegal and unacceptable to the party in the state. He accused Nwodo of trying to hijack the party structure to his own advantage.

He told his own story thus:  “INEC had confirmed in its report of 2008 the authenticity of the congresses through which this executive emerged. It is on record that there was a police report showing that no other congress was held in Enugu State. It is on record that all security agencies witnessed these congresses. It is equally on record that by the constitution of our party, the leader of the party in the state is the Governor and the leader of the party in Nigeria is the President.

Governor Chime and the entire members of the parliament in this state except two in the National Assembly were present in the congress. Members of the National Assembly led by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu were there.

Elected Council members and all the statutory members that were supposed to be in the congress were there. And indeed there was no other congress.  There and then after some days we got wind of people who never believed in the congress, and it is clear and it is on record that only two persons out of the statutory members, it is like having two percent out of 100 percent that should be in that congress were not there.  They put their cases before the PDP national leadership and in their wisdom; they directed the South East Zonal leadership headed by Olisa Metuh to set up a committee that will look into all the problems in the entire South East regarding the congress and others. This committee was set up under the leadership of Senator Jim Nwobodo.  The Secretary was Prof Igwe, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria.

It is on record that they visited all the states in the South East and came up with a report that was submitted to NWC under Prince Vincent Ogbulafor.  In the said report the committee recommended that the Vita Abba-led executive is the authentic executive of the PDP in Enugu State and should be recognised by the national leadership of our party.

This was immediately done.  It is on record that the National Executive Committee adopted that report and recognized my executive as the authentic executive in Enugu State.  And since then I have never ceased from attending the NWC meetings. I have participated in all the activities of the party in this country.  I was appointed the Chairman of Anambra State Congress Committee in my capacity as member of NEC of our party.  I have never missed out in the activities of the party at the national level.  Having gone through all these, we are equally very dry as to why anybody should turn around to say we are not recognised.  My executive had organised the biggest rally here in Enugu where some former members of the party in the likes of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, George Moghalu, Ikechi Emenike and many others came back to the party and all our governors were there.  In the same rally the then National Chairman readmitted all these people and proclaimed that the umbrella was big enough to accommodate all and this state was not an exception. This state did everything possible to bring back three former governors including Anthony Ogugua and Obi all came back that day and the world heard them. They rejoined the party that day, we accepted them and started working with them.

The day Okwesilieze Nwodo went to his ward to declare I made sure that a high-powered delegation of the party was there to readmit him into the party.  I did this with all good intentions, I did this in line with our believe that the umbrella is big enough to admit all of us. I did this because I believe he had been one of us.

I did this because he had been lost and we have to recover one of our own having been former National Secretary, having been a governor in this state and being a senior brother of ours. We fully accepted him.  The governor of this state did everything to aid Dr. Nwodo to get to where he is today.  It is equally on record that when vacancy existed in the Wadata House, the state leader of the party took it upon himself to move around the whole country telling our people that we have the best person to occupy the top party position.  The governor went round, met with the president, the governors to ensure that one of us occupy this seat and this was done.  That day the NEC of the party accepted Okwy Nwodo and appointed him National Chairman of the PDP to serve out the term of the South East.  We came home happily, we rolled out drums and celebrated it both in Abuja and in Enugu.

In a while, under the leadership of Governor Sullivan Chime, a national rally was organised in Enugu State where for the first time in the history of this country, in a non-partisan political setting all the governors of this country came together to give Dr. Nwodo a rousing welcome and gave him the support to lead the greatest party in Africa. The rest was history.  Speeches were made and encomiums were poured on the party leadership in the state by Nwodo and others but today we are getting a different tone.

Today, the state has been put into a turmoil by no other person than the person who applied to my humble self as the Chairman of the party who readmitted him in his family compound, who brought him back to the party, to day the discordant tone is that I am no longer the Chairman because I have produced a National Chairman.

Today the man who applied to me and said I sincerely beg to be given a waiver to allow him pursue other political tendencies has turned round on his own without due consultation, with out reference to the constitution of our party, without  reference to the NWC of our party, without reference to due authority- the National Executive Committee of our party that has right to dissolve any state executive committee, decided on his own for personal reason to dissolve the executive.  I want to tell the world and the entire Nigeria that we must protect this democracy.  We have to start protecting it from Enugu State here.  The right thing has to be done and I remain the State Chairman of the party. My executive is intact, my leadership is intact.  We believe and have absolute confidence in the leadership of the party under Governor Sullivan Chime.  We have absolute good relationship with members of the National Assembly, the State Assembly and the Local Government Chairmen as well as the entire party structure.

I also want to tell the world that under this umbrella, this party belongs to all of us.  We can never allow those we brought back into the party to chase us out of the house.  We are the landlord and the tenant cannot chase the landlord out of the house.”

However, as the battle for the control of the PDP structure rages on, tension has gripped the state once more and the ability of the warring parties to resolve the current impasse without destroying the fabrics of the party would determine whether the party would remain in control of the affairs of Enugu State from 2011 or not.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.