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INTRIGUES, THY NAME IS PDP: Primaries like bno other before

By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor
This is an exclusive report on the highwire intrigues going on preparatory to the coming Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, National Convention.

But, the report concludes that should the PDP presidential primaries be manifestly transparent and it is seen to be so, then the general election may give vent to the intent of One-Man-One-Vote, at a time when the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, is waiting on PDP to make the first move.

Shortly before the PDP presidential convention in Jos, Plateau State, something interesting happened.  Rivers State had suddenly become a contentious state for the party because the choice of Peter Odili appeared to be creating some discomfort in the leadership of the state chapter of the party.

Some vested interests just did not want Odili as the party’s governorship candidate.  Later, Olusegun Obasanjo, the presidential candidate of the party needed an individual with commitment to and strong contacts in the party to do the job of addressing the matter and, as a source disclosed, “bring the matter to a closure.”

It was Anthony Anenih, who by then was usually referred to as the former National Chairman, Social Democratic Party, SDP.  Anenih went to Rivers State, oversaw the state congress and Odili still emerged winner and went on to serve two terms as governor of Rivers State.

Today, December 26, 2010, as matters stand, Anenih remains at the epic-centre of the quest to assist President Goodluck Jonathan win the presidential ticket of the PDP – at least working with other leaders who have their loyalties and support spread wide for the incumbent President and Commander-in-Chief.

Interestingly, the major contender against Jonathan is an old war-horse, Atiku Abubakar, who happened to have emerged since the Ibrahim Babangida transition days of 1992/1993, as an Anenih contemporary in the highwire politics of the Nigerian state.

Therefore, when some keen observers insist that whoever emerges between President Jonathan and Atiku as PDP’s presidential candidate stands to shape PDP and Nigeria for good or for ill, they base their expectations on solid reasons.

First, being the largest and most domineering political party in the land, PDP remains a behemoth.
Following on the heels of this is the fact that the party’s presidential ticket appears to be a green card which allows the holder a somewhat direct entry into Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Add to that the perception even in the camp of the opposition political parties that PDP’s strength appears unassailable.

What appears to be the major concern on the part of Jonathan and Atiku is how to muster support for the presidential primaries.

Sunday Vanguard has been able to locate one of the very first axes of support which both camps attempted to coral – the leadership of PDP, the leadership of the Senate, the leadership of the House of Representatives and the camp of the state governors.

In terms of the leadership of PDP, President Jonathan appears to be in the lead.

He is in the lead, according to a source, because “he appears to have appealed to the sentiments of the leadership of the party,” a National Executive Committee, NEC, members of the PDP told Sunday Vanguard.

However, upon further interrogation, Sunday Vanguard discovered that the support Jonathan has within the leadership of PDP is “not wholesale.”

This was amply demonstrated penultimate Tuesday when the NEC meeting of PDP had to be hurriedly postponed in the face of opposition to the leadership of the party that was “seen by some to be tilting in the direction of the incumbent president.”

But, President Jonathan has not gone to sleep.

Last week, under the guise of some state functions, President Jonathan was about the country, talking to delegates, with a view to getting them to buy into his candidacy.

Atiku, too, was in Lagos and Akure last week.  He, like Jonathan, has been on the road talking to delegates one-on-one.
But talking to delegates directly would not a PDP presidential candidate make.

At the heart of the matter now is the presidential primaries and how each camp is attempting to strike the high ground.
On the front of the National Assembly, Jonathan and Atiku have been flexing their muscles.

To be fair, whoever would emerge as the PDP presidential candidate would require the emotion of the delegates, employ huge money and muscle the delegates.

Therefore, the Electoral Act remains a subject of yo-yo in the National Assembly.
Severally, attempts were made to ensure that the final copy of the Electoral Act as amended would favour the candidacy of either Jonathan or Atiku.

When some forces attempted to rail-road the National Assembly into amending the Electoral Act in a particular manner, a source in the Senate disclosed to Sunday Vanguard that at “separate times, that Atiku held meetings with legislative caucuses – both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The series of meetings were followed by another between Governor Bukola Saraki and some legislators privately, too. The kernel of what the two politicians told the lawmakers was that the contents of the proposal for the amendment were grossly undemocratic.

The two presidential contenders also made it clear that the undemocratic nature of such proposals rest in the fact that from the outset, a candidate would have an unassailable advantage over the other contenders.”

The proposed amendments as sent sought to allow the caucuses of political parties to be the decider of the style and format of the party congresses.  By extension, the caucuses of the parties would reserve the latitude to decide on the type of primaries the parties would have – whether direct or indirect.

In addition, the final composition of the number of delegates who will be eligible to vote in the primaries would be at the determination of the caucuses. All these were in the beginning.

Then came another supposed deal between the leadership of the National Assembly and the Presidency.

According to a legislator who occupies a commanding height in the National Assembly, “the questions to ask are not being asked.”  This relates to the proposal by the National Assembly to regulate internal democracy within the parties – (See Box).

“When the amendments were sent to the state houses of assembly, it was for the lawmakers at that level to have a look at it and either agree by causing a two-third majority in each house and spread across the states in the country to hit the 24-state target or disagree.

“Now that that has been done and the amendment, according to a law court is for presidential assent, why are people saying we smuggled something into the constitution.

“Look, what that amendment provision seeks to do is to ensure a level-playing field.  We have 469 members of the National Assembly and we have 774 local government chairmen in this country; whereas we have members in the legislative houses at the state level and all these come to over 10,000 elective offices in the country, those who sit to determine how these people emerge, irrespective of the political parties from where they will emerge are just 37 people – 36 state governors and Mr. President.

The question we are asking in the National Assembly is:  Why should 37 individuals determine the fate of over 10,000 politicians who would be elected. How does a member of the National Assembly tackle his state governor and a President who is determined not to allow him return to office?  And they are the ones who determine what even happens at the National Executive Committees of the political parties.”

What the National Assembly members had attempted to do was to negotiate their return ticket with the membership of the NEC of political parties.  They almost succeeded with the insertion of the clause which would have allowed them.

But the plot failed and it was dumped on the give-me-I-give-you approach of the Presidency.
Then came the latest round of intrigues.

This time, it had to do with the state governors and their endorsement of President Jonathan.

Penultimate week, it had to take the consummate wily-dealing of Anenih to get the 21 state governors to endorse President Jonathan after the latter had made a passionate plea that he would serve one term as well as his declaration that he was amenable to any order of congresses that would ensure peace and stability in the party.

But last week, the Atiku Campaign Organisation came to town with allegations that the staggered primaries for the presidential ticket of the party was being jettisoned based on media reports.

And, whereas PDP is looking at the logistics of getting to achieve the intent of staggered primaries, and instead opting for the once-and-for-all approach in Abuja, the Atiku Campaign Organisation which has been talking to delegates directly is crying foul.

However, the real issue that Nigerians would want resolved is that of a transparent process preparatory to the emergence of a PDP presidential candidate.

They are right.
For so many reasons, the hold of PDP on the polity should give direction.
Following directly from that is the fact that the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, has deliberately fixed its own presidential convention for some 48 hours after the PDP’s candidate would have emerged for strategic reasons.

That ANPP is waiting on PDP is symbolic of the fact that if PDP can get it right, other political parties would follow lead.
Whoever emerges as PDP’s presidential candidate in a free, fair and transparent process, would be hailed by all as a candidate of choice.

Conversely, should PDP allow irregularities to bug down its convention or process, it would tell on next year’s general elections.

If the latter is the case, then the one-man-one-vote syndrome would have come to waste.
Also, the opposition ANPP would capitalise on the error to present a seemingly more acceptable presidential candidate.

In an exclusive interview with the Director-General of the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Chief Ben Obi, Sunday Vanguard was told that “if President Jonathan emerges through a free and fair process, I would write to him and congratulate him.”

The PDP presidential convention has been slated for Thursday, January 13, 2011.
Nigerians wait.

PARTY PRIMARIES

Waiting on the National Assembly
The proposed harmonised version of the Electoral Act which the political parties are waiting for as a guide to how their candidates would emerge from next year’s general elections.  This is what Nigerians and the political parties are still waiting for.

87-(1) A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions.

(2)  The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries.

(3)  A political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.

(4)  A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below:

(a)  In the case of nominations to the position of
Presidential candidate, a political party shall,

(i)  hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the Federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote  for each of the aspirants at designated centres in each state capital on specified dates.

(ii) a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes.
(iii) the aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting in the 36 states of the Federation and FCT, shall be declared the winner of the Presidential primaries of the political party and the aspirants name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party after ratification by the national convention.

(b)  In the case of nominations to the position of
Governorship candidate, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates:

(i) hold special congress in each of the local government areas of  the states with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at the congress to be held in designated centres on specified dates.

(ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party, for the particular state.

(c)  In the case of nominations to the position of a
Senatorial candidate, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates:

(i)    hold special congresses in the Senatorial District, Federal Constituency  and the State assembly constituency respectively, with delegates voting for each of the aspirants in designated centres on specified dates.

(ii)   The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.

(d)  In the case of the position of a Chairmanship candidate of an Area council, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates:

(i) hold special congresses in the Area Councils, with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at  designated centres on a specified date.

(ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.

(5)  In the case of a councillorship candidate, the procedure for the nomination of the candidate shall be by direct primaries in the ward and the name of the candidate with the highest number of votes shall be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.

(6)  Where there is only one aspirant in a political party for any of the elective positions mentioned in sub-section (4)(a), (b), (c) and (d), the party shall convene a special convention or congress at a designated centre on a specified date for the confirmation of such aspirant and the name of the aspirant shall be forwarded to the Independent National

Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.

(7)  A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.

(8)  No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of nomination of candidates for any election.

(9)  Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue.

(10)  Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a state, for redress.

(11)  Nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election under this Act pending the determination of the suit.


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