By JIDE AJANI, Editor, Northern Operations, HENRY UMORU, TONY EDIKE & PETER OKUTU
ABUJA—THERE are strong indications that the acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Mohammed Haliru Bello, would see the party through the April, 2011, elections, Vanguard can reveal.

This indication was hinged on the position of South East governors on the platform of the party who have indicated their disinterest in the chairmanship slot.

From left: President Goodluck Jonathan; Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar iii; and Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; during a meeting with the delegation of traditional rulers at the State House, Abuja, Sunday.

But Vanguard has also been reliably informed that in “the event that Mr. President’s disposition is to ensure that the slot, which within the present arrangement in the PDP is reserved for the South East geo_political zone, then it may likely go to Ebonyi State.”
However, as at yesterday the two major potential candidates from Ebonyi State, former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and former Governor Sam Egwu were yet to reach out to Governor Martins Elechi on a possible run for the top party post.

Chairmanship slot

One of the South East PDP governors, speaking through his commissioner for information, volunteered the information regarding the seeming “lack luster disposition of the South East governors to the PDP chairmanship slot.”

He said: “What the governors have agreed to do is just to focus on the coming election and how to forge a united front for the April elections. The governors are holding talks with interest groups who lost at the various congresses and who still feel aggrieved.

“And one of the things they appear to be united about now seems to be the issue of chairmanship for the singular reason that rather than become an advantage for the state from whence the chairman emerges, it has been discovered that the position has almost always become an albatross for the state governor from whose domain the chairman emerged.

“We have seen what happened to Governor Chime of Enugu State who worked to get Okwesilieze Nwodo to become chairman of the party only to start having problems with him over delegates’ issue.  Certainly my own governor would not want to go through that experience.

“In fact, the governors are more disposed to a situation whereby they would have finished their elections and won before contemplating to get a chairman emerge from their state. But if the President wants the South east to enjoy its slot, then it may likely go to Ebonyi State.  Mr. President is the leader of the party and if he pushes, the governors will move.”

Asked about the initial seven_man panel set_up to screen a possible successor to Nwodo, the commissioner simply said:  “This is politics and anything can happen.  That was in the frenzy of trying to find a replacement for Nwodo. Mind you events are still in a state of flux.”

The seven man committee under the leadership of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu it was learnt was yet to begin its assignment as the committee members and the party itself was still grappling with issues emanating from the just concluded primaries.

Peace and harmony

By the same token, a serving National Vice Chairman in one of the geo-political zones told Vanguard that “what the PDP is focused on now is the April elections and the need to bring about peace and harmony in the party. This is a time when the party is looking to bring all together for the April elections.

“From what is on ground today, the acting national chairman may likely see the party through the elections”.

Reacting to the focus on Ebonyi State as the origin of the next national chairman of the party, the Chief Press Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Onyekachi Eni noted “at present the state government has not taken any position.

The reason being that Ebonyi State as a PDP state depends on direction from the national leadership of PDP. For now there have not been indications from the national leadership of the party.

“For now Ebonyi State is just waiting like other states to know the direction the party wishes to go. It would appear that much of the energy of the PDP is being directed in putting its house in order for the electoral contest that is at hand.”

Demand for Metuh’s appointment

Meantime, some members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the South East Zone, yesterday, gave the party’s national leadership a 72_hour ultimatum within which to appoint the National Vice Chairman of the party in the zone, Chief Olisa Metuh as the acting National Chairman in compliance with the zoning principle of the party.

The party members who faulted the appointment of the Deputy National Chairman, Alhaji Haliru Bello as acting National Chairman following the resignation of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, noted that rather than empower Bello, the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC should have respected the party’s zoning arrangement as contained in its constitution and accordingly empower the highest ranking party official from the South East Zone to act as National Chairman pending the election of a substantive Chairman.

In a petition addressed to the PDP Board of Trustees Chairman and former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and signed by Chief G. Tagbo Ike, counsel to the party members drawn from the five states of Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi, the national leadership was asked to comply with Article 14.5 of the Constitution of PDP or risk legal action.

The petitioners include Chief George Ibekendu, Anambra; Victor Imediegwu, Abia; Ali Egwu, Ebonyi;, Paul Ogbonna, Enugu; and Chief Tony Okoroafor, Imo.

In the three_page petition copied to Alhaji Bello and Barrister Metuh, the aggrieved party members noted that they were compelled to issue the ultimatum considering what they described as “legal oddities and absurdities now existing in the party” which if care is not taken, could spell doom for the party ahead of this year’s general elections.

The petition reads: “On January 18, 2011, the erstwhile National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo formally resigned from office, and which resignation was dully accepted in a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of your party held the same day, and thus ensued vacancy in the office of the National Chairman.

“At the said meeting of the NEC of your party, the NEC purported to have empowered the National Deputy Chairman of your party, Dr. Bello, to act as the National Chairman pending when the vacancy shall be filled by your party. That decision of NEC is as void as it is illegal and gross violation of the Constitution of Peoples Democratic Party, 2006 (as amended) as set out hereunder:

“First, the letters and spirit of your Constitution do not provide for succession from National Deputy Chairman to National Chairman.  Rather, succession to the office of the National Chairman, and indeed any office of the party, in event of vacancy is governed by Article 14.5 of the Constitution of PDP, 2006 (as amended).  It provides as follows:

Filling the vacancy

“Where a vacancy occurs in any of the offices of the party, the committee shall appoint a substitute from the zone where the office originated pending the conduct of election to fill the vacancy.”

“The effect of the foregoing provision is that the vacant office of the National Chairman shall be replaced by a member of the party from the same zone with the departed National Chairman, which is the South East Zone of our clients.

“Second, if your party needed more time to elect a National Chairman, the best it would have done under the doctrine of necessity was to empower the highest ranking party official from the South East Zone, which is the National Vice Chairman of the South East Zone, Chief Olisa Metuh to act as the National Chairman pending the election of the substantive National Chairman.”

The petitioners, however, urged Chief Metuh to do “the needful “ and protect the interest of generality of members of PDP in South East, whose constitutional right to assume the office of National Chairman is being impeded by the NEC decision of January 18, 2011.

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