The long expected move by the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to reinvent itself was yesterday turning into a comedy of errors
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
High ranking party members were taken aback after the country’s former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida who had been scheduled as the special guest of honour at the national conference of the PDP starting today issued a stern rebuke to the party disclaiming his involvement.
“I have many friends and associates in the two dominant political parties; APC and PDP, and numerous other smaller political parties. At this stage of my political journey, I want to be able to interact and socialize with them without being branded “anti-party”,” the former military ruler said.
“It is on the score of this that I have elected to turn down this request to participate in the rebranding conference of the PDP in a partisan manner.”
Babaginda was not the only one. Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, the respected former governor of the old Bendel State is also set to make a no show as sources close to him disclosed yesterday that he had not received an invitation besides the public advertisements that had been running.
Even worse, some of those being paraded by the party to be the organisers of the conference were claiming not to be involved.
Members of the National Working Committee, NWC, which reluctantly gave in to the idea of the conference, were meanwhile yesterday trying to minimise the damage arising from the faux pas.
The idea of the national conference was in fact not the idea of the NWC and members had stoutly opposed it when it was first mooted given that the leadership had already delegated a committee headed by Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the deputy president of the Senate and the party’s highest elected public official to study the outcome of the last election and make recommendations.
The Ekweremadu committee finished its work and submitted its report to the NWC more than a month ago. The expectation of the NWC was that the report of the Ekweremadu Committee should be the working document to reinvent the party, but some had other suggestions.
However, NWC members who are increasingly facing calls for their exit from power were hamstrung to openly stop the plans for the conference as doing so would portray them as being desperate to hold on to power.
A number of stakeholders who championed the need for the conference including Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, Senator Ibrahim Mantu among others were believed to have also established relations with the Board of Trustees, BoT of the party through the chairman, Dr. Mohammed Bello who without consideration of the NWC endorsed the conference. It was against that background that the NWC reluctantly gave in to the plans for the conference.
The conference as envisaged was expected to bring back a number of old faces including some of the original founders of the party who had not partaken in the programmes of the party in the immediate past.
Among those contacted and had been publicised were Babangida, Ogbemudia, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Mallam Adamu Ciroma among others.
In fact, some NWC members it was learned had asked the organisers to shift the date of the conference away from today and tomorrow on account of the nearness of the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa.
“We told them that it was best that we get the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa out of our way first before this kind of conference,” a senior party official told Vanguard yesterday.
However, the response from the organising committee was that Ekwueme, Ciroma and Babangida had firmed up that date as when they would be available, a development that prompted the NWC to give the conference more seriousness.
It was as such not surprising that when he was formally inaugurating the committee that the acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus confidently charged the committee thus:
“This national conference is meant to fashion out strategy that would help PDP sustain democratic ideals while in opposition, hence the choice of the conference theme, “PDP and the sustenance of democratic ideals in Nigeria”
It was especially so, given suggestions that the PDP could take opportunity of the continuing problems of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in the National Assembly and flowing from disgruntlements over the choice of ministers to take the ascendancy.
The organising committee is led by Dr. Raymond Dokpesi who had earlier been tasked with the tasking duty of leading the party’s e-registration drive.
The high profile of those supposedly organising the PDP conference also gave some measure of credibility to the conference.
Measure of credibility
Among those listed to attend were all former presidents, serving and former governors, serving and former principal officers of the National Assembly, members of the state Houses of Assembly among others had drawn attention to the conference as the possible opportunity for the PDP to reinvent itself.
However, the prospects of the only former president still in the party, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan attending are said to be remote. Jonathan is believed to have recently left the country for Europe and the only other living former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has torn his membership card.
For a conference expected to rebrand the party, the imprint of anarchy that was the trademark of the party in its days in power may have to be first addressed.