By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Tony Edike & Henry Umoru & Emmanuel Edeki
PEOPLES Democratic Party (PDP) governors, have threatened to pull out of the PDP, if President Goodluck Jona-than, assents to the electoral act.
The governors took this decision, after their meeting, which held at the Kwara State Governor’s Lodge at Asukoro. In their communique after the meeting, the governors condemned the amendment to the electoral act 2010,passed by the House of Representatives, describing it as repugnant and self serving, and therefore, dissociated themselves from the action.
The statement reads:”We the PDP state governors met on the recent amendment of the electoral act 2010.Having closely followed the efforts being made by the National Assembly to amend the electoral Act 2010 amendment Bill, and having critically reviewed the various amendments being proposed, we hereby resolved as follows: we condemn the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 passed by the House of Assembly, which is repugnant and self serving and we therefore dissociate ourselves entirely from the action.
“That we find it especially embarrassing that a National Assembly dominated by our party the PDP could contemplate this kind of undemocratic and brazen self serving and unpopular act. We see this action as a great threat to our party PDP and our democracy. In view of the above, we call on the national leadership of our party to join other parties and well meaning Nigerians to condemn and reject this undemocratic act.
“It is also of extreme importance to realise that coming so close to the handover date of May 2011, the nation can ill afford the luxury of an extensive debate of any amendment to the electoral act at this stage, without casting doubts to the commitment to a free and fair election.
Finally, we have resolved to take all necessary measures to save our democracy and the country from the imminent danger of this action.”
At the end of the meeting, a seven man delegation was constituted immediately to meet with Mr. President to give him their position.
The governors in attendance at the meeting were Governors of Adamawa, Bauchi, Cross-River, Enugu, Gombe, Imo Kaduna, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states.
Meanwhile, Governors nd chairmen of State chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on the receiving end of the proposal to foist members of the National Assembly on the National Executive Committees, NECs, of political parties are gathering in Abuja today to battle the proposal.
Besides Governors, Speakers of State Houses of Assembly representing their members, chairmen, secretaries, youth and women leaders of state chapters of the PDP are also gathering in Abuja to protest the proposal which will deny them delegate status in the forthcoming national convention of the party.
Under the proposals adopted by the House of Representatives, statutory delegates to the national convention of the PDP could be limited to about 500 besides the elected 774 elected delegates from the local governments in the country.
President Jonathan, enjoying the benefit of the alleged pact between him and the National Assembly could well be assured of at least two thirds of the statutory delegates from the National Assembly putting him in good position to easily sink Atiku Abubakar his main rival for the PDP presidential ticket.
The Governors and the Atiku Abubakar Campaign organization working separately towards different political ends were, meanwhile, finding common ground against the proposal which they believe gives President Goodluck Jonathan an advantage in the primary contest.
Vice presidential ticket for Ndigbos
Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that the Atiku Campaign was itself mobilizing interested stakeholders to protest the proposal. The efforts of the Atiku Campaign nonetheless, Igbo leaders including Governors from the five States of the Southeast upheld the endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan by Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the 2011 presidential elections. They said that efforts by the Atiku Campaign to woo Ndigbo with a vice_presidential ticket would be in vain.
According to the amendments sought to section 87(4) of the Electoral Act, party delegates would be: The President and former Presidents who are members of the Party. The Vice President and former Vice Presidents who are members of the Party; Members of the National Assembly who are members of the Party, Governors who are members of the party, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly of a State who are members of the Party and elected State Chairmen.
Other delegates would be elected National Officers of a Political Party, elected zonal chairmen and zonal secretary of a political party where they exist, former Presiding Officers of the National Assembly, who are members of the party.
Members of Board of Trustees of a political party where applicable but shall not be more than 72. One delegate elected by party members from each of the 774 local Government areas of the Federation.
The proposal in the House of Representatives excludes several others who had in the past been statutory delegates, notably local government chairmen of the parties and elected local government chairmen. Both sets of officials alongside commissioners and other political appointees of Governors had in the past provided the powerful bloc with which Governors sought to throw their influence in the choice of presidential candidates.
The Governors are equally piqued that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill presently before the House of Representatives has reversed the order of the primaries as first proposed by putting the presidential primary ahead of that of governors.
Party officials and members of the Governors Forum are meeting at two different levels today on the issue. Besides the meeting of all 36 Governors, the Northern Governors Forum would also be meeting today to strategise ahead of tomorrow’s NEC meeting of the PDP.
Capacity to influence policy
The Governors are especially miffed that their capacity to influence policy in the party would be largely removed under the proposals which will leave them as minions in the decision making NEC as the legislators would now have the superior say.
There were insinuations in Abuja, yesterday, that the meeting of the Northern Governors which in the past took place in Kaduna was shifted to Abuja following the discomfort of Vice_President Namadi Sambo over the possibility of an untoward political declaration by the northern governors.
The head of the secretariat of the Northern Governors Forum and Secretary to the Niger State Government, Alhaji Muhammad Yahaya, told Vanguard on telephone, that the meeting was shifted to Abuja for logistics purposes.
Vanguard gathered that State chairmen of the PDP who are meeting in Abuja today ahead of the meeting would come up with a resolution on how to respond to the development.
One of the chairmen told Vanguard, minutes after he arrived Abuja, yesterday: “The work of the National Assembly is to legislate that there should be political parties and I feel strongly that they should not dictate how the internal affairs of the parties should be conducted.”
The State chairmen are expected to demand the rational for the changes.
President has the advantage
Vanguard learnt that the Atiku campaign was especially miffed by the changes which they felt had been doctored to benefit the President in the forthcoming PDP primaries. A source said: “There is no need for a contest as the President already has the advantage. He is already in a marriage of convenience with the National Assembly members who will now form the majority at the party convention.”
The Atiku Campaign Organisation Vanguard learnt was openly mobilizing those on the receiving end of the changes. Among those being mobilized, last night, were 43 youth leaders who would be denied participation at the national convention including 37 youth leaders of the 36 State chapters and the FCT and the six zonal leaders from the six geo-political zones.
Meanwhile, the Senate has assured that its version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was not the same as that now lying in the House of Representatives. Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze told Vanguard that the Senate was considerate of its obligations even as he assured that what was before the Senate was not the same as in the House of Representatives.
Vanguard gathered that the Senate version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill would give automatic membership of the NEC to 84 members of the National Assembly with one Senator and one House member per state and all principal officers.
The meeting of the Governors earlier scheduled for last week was put off following the death of Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s wife, Clara. The meeting it was learnt would also discuss the report of the Governor Babatunde Fashola ad_hoc committee set up to formulate operational structures for the forum.
The six_man Committee had the objective of formulating issues concerning succession, tenure of chairman, transition arrangements, among others, with a view to preparing the body for the election of a new leader. Other members of the Fashola’s Committee were the governors of Sokoto, Niger, Delta, Borno and Enugu states.
The Committee was given three weeks within which to submit its report.
South East leaders dismiss VP slot
Atiku’s efforts to mobilize opinion against the Electoral Act Amendment proposals nonetheless, Southeast political leaders, yesterday, dismissed efforts to get him a vice_presidential candidate from the zone as irrelevant.
The leaders including Governors who met under the chairmanship of Governor Elechi Amadi of Ebonyi State reaffirmed their support for President Jonathan as the choice of Ndigbo in 2011.
Their support for Jonathan was, however, with a condition that Jonathan must support the aspiration of Ndigbo to produce a president for the country in 2015 in line with zoning arrangement that recognized the country as a federating entity.
Although the political leaders approved the decision of the South East governors who had earlier endorsed the aspiration of Jonathan, they Igbo said however that they should have consulted Ndigbo before taken the decision to avoid the discordant tones.
At the meeting chaired by Governor Martin Elechi of Ebonyi State were Governors Peter Obi, Anambra; Theodore Orji, Abia. Deputy Governors Sunday Onyebuchi, Enugu; and Ada Okwuonu, Imo; represented their governors.