By Henry Umoru, Abuja
THE January 13 2011 special national convention of the PDP, held at the Eagle Square, Abuja, and where President Goodluck Jonathan emerged as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may have come and gone, but the mild drama which unfolded at the venue cannot be forgotten in a jiffy.
One can remember vividly that the event led to the forced resignation of the 6th national chairman of the self acclaimed largest party in Africa, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, after he engaged in what the party saw as a disgraceful and embarrassing act.
It was the day the party showed to the world that all is not well with it. Immediately after the now acting national chairman, who was until then the deputy national chairman, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, concluded the protocol at the occasion and was about starting his welcome address, Nwodo, the immediate past national chairman, who had a court injunction restraining him, collected the microphone and talked as the chairman. It was his last address to party members as their head.
Today, one major issue the PDP must contend with is who becomes the next national chairman of the party. But, it appears the PDP is not in a hurry for Nwodo’s replacement. Mohammed, who is acting, appears very comfortable on the seat. This has inevitably triggered the question as to whether or not his continued stay in office of the PDP national chairman is legal.
According to Article 14.5 of the party’s constitution as amended in 2009, ‘’where a vacancy occurs in any of the offices of the Party, the Committee shall appoint a substitute from the zone where the officer originated pending the conduct of election to fill the vacancy.’’
This provision has always been adhered to by the party.
When Chief Audu Ogbeh from Benue State in the north central left the office of national chairman, Ahmadu Ali from Kogi in the same north central replaced him because the position was then zoned to the zone; also when Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who was then the national secretary from Abia State, south east zone, left to become a minister, the late Chief Bernard Eze from Enugu State completed the tenure.
The same applied to when John Odey as national publicity secretary from Cross River State was appointed a minister, Lady Imeh Udoh from Akwa Ibom replaced him because the position was then zoned to the south-south.
Even recently, when the former national chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, from Abia State, who came in with the present members of the National Working Committee, NWC, on March 8, 2008, resigned through a letter he submitted on Wednesday, 14 May, 2010, Nwodo, from Enugu, took over from him.
But barely seven months in office, Nwodo narrowly escaped being sacked as he tendered his letter of resignation to members of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party at its 56th meeting.
According to Article 14, 14.1 of the PDP’s constitution, ‘’all National, Zonal, State, Local Government Area and ward Officers of the party, shall hold office for a term of four years and shall be eligible for re-election at the National Convention or appropriate Congress for a further term of four years and no more.’’
For the singular reason, it is no longer the issue of Ogbulafor or Nwodo, it is a constitutional matter. But the PDP is quiet over it, no official statement that the south-east should start preparing for the position of chairman.
The PDP’s constitution only stipulates in Article 13.25 that ‘’if a National Officer of the Party is removed or resigns, he or she shall immediately hand over to the National Secretary all records, files and other properties of the party in his or her possession and in the case of the National Secretary, he or she shall handover to the National Chairman. This provision shall apply mutatis to all other levels of the Party.’’
There is no provision for the position of acting national chairman in the party’s constitution, except for the normal function of a deputy national chairman who, according to article 13.3, “shall also perform such other party functions as may be assigned to him or her”.
Party members are raising the poser: what happens to the south east that is constitutionally entitled to produce the national chairman until the PDP holds the next national convention in 2012 where new executives of the party would emerge?
Prior to Nwodo’s emergence as the PDP chair, there were big names like Dan Ikechukwu Ulasi, Anyim Pius Anyim, Sam Egwu, Okorocha, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Ebenezer Ikeyina, Soni Iroche, Noel Agwuocha, Chukwuemeka Kanu, Tony Anyanwu, Dr. Ilechukwu Meshac, Dr. Nnamdi Ozobia, Dr. Aneze Chinwuba, Rex Onyebo, among others, who showed interest and worked vigorously to get the PDP top job but they were forced to step down on the morning of election after a meeting of the PDP governors with Governor Bukola Saraki as chairman.
Chairman of the electoral panel at the convention then was Mallam Adamu Ciroma who put up the team of PDP’s National Working Committee (NWC) members to work with Ogbulafor.
To actualize the plot to scheme others out, before the convention proper, one of the aspirants, Iwuanyanwu, was asked to speak for others that they were “withdrawing” from the race.
As the party shops for Nwodo’s successor, the south-east must get it right this time. The zone must look for a real party man. Ogbulafor came from the old APP, Nwodo from the PDP to Action Congress, AC, now Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and back to the PDP.
The south east PDP is now in its third journey for the party’s chairmanship. Can the party afford to experiment again?
There are interested persons from the south east vying for the position. They include Maduekwe, Ulasi, Anyim, former national vice chairman, South East, Nze Fidelis Izuchukwu and the national vice chairman, South East, Olisa Metu. But Metu is presently embattled against the backdrop that his Anambra kinsmen have proceeded to court to obtain a ruling restraining him from parading himself as the south east national vice chairman of the party and this may affect his chances of becoming the national chairman.
If the party is genuinely looking for a national chairman that will restore confidence, transparency, a good party man who knows the party inside out, from the state level, to the local government and ward is ideal.
How they stand
Ulasi hails from Anambra State. He was Anambra State Chairman, National Republican Convention, NRC, Anambra State Chairman, United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP, all during the military era. He was Anambra State Chairman of PDP and he recently led the team to Gombe State to conduct the last governorship primaries and the National Working Committee, NWC did not only commend him, but urged others to emulate him.
Ulasi enjoys the support of major stakeholders in the party in Anambra State. He may also get the blessing of President Goodluck Jonathan especially for his forthrightness, doggedness and the fatherly role he has been playing in the PDP in Anambra State and the country.
What may work against Ulasi, however, is his consistency, transparency people always mistake for arrogance.
Anyim hails from Ebonyi State. He came to political limelight when he was first elected a senator 1998 on the platform of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP). He later joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and again ran for election to the Senate in 1999 and won to represent the Ebonyi South Senatorial District. Anyim was appointed Senate President in August 2000 to May 2003.
What may work against him, however, is that his governor, Martins Elechi, is not supporting him.
Ozichukwu Chukwu, a former national vice chairman of the PDP, south east, is a Harvard alumnus, but what may work against him is the fact that the party lost out in the zone when he was the national vice chairman. The PDP lost in Abia to PPA; Imo – his home state, was also lost to PPA. Anambra had problems during his time until APGA captured it, just as he was said to be at loggerheads with Governor Ikedi Ohakim over allegations of manipulating the last PDP senatorial primaries against his wife.
Maduekwe, who hails from Abia State, is a former secretary of the party and a member of the National Executive Committee, NEC. He is the immediate past foreign affairs minister.
What may work against him is the fact that, like the Senate presidency which went round the South East states, others will also want to have the position of national chairman for the fact that Ogbulafor from Abia had it. Maduekwe may not enjoy the support of the president against the backdrop that he is said to be one of the ministers who opposed the Jonathan’s ascendancy at the peak of the late President Umar Yar ‘Adua’s illness.
On the PDP chairmanship, many questions beg for answers. Will the party hold a NEC meeting for the ratification of a name from the south east especially as the April date for the elections is not far? Will the party and the leader of the party, President Jonathan, allow for this now? How prepared are the Igbo for the position? How beneficial is it to the development of the people? Only time will tell wheher the answers to the questions will be yes or no.