By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—The South-West lost the opportunity of producing the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, after Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who was the shoo-in candidate of the governors, was accused of abandoning the party at the time of the crisis instigated by the face-off with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
The expectation of the South-West zone was also compounded by the decision of the immediate past national chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, to open up the chairmanship contest to the whole south.
That decision, high party chieftains said at the weekend, was framed to also open up the presidential ticket zoned to the North to all areas of the North. Markarfi, who exited office on Saturday, had until the return of Atiku Abubakar, been considered the leading presidential aspirant in the party.
Meanwhile, multiple sources told Vanguard that some former PDP chieftains and some foundation members of the APC had been making overtures to rejoin or join the opposition party on account of developments at the weekend.
A senior party official privy to the developments that led to the emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman, said party elders had before the aborted Port-Harcourt convention of May 2016 agreed to micro-zone the position of national chairman to the South West.
Mr. Agbaje, who was the candidate of the party in the 2015 governorship election, was projected by the governors, following the resolve of the governors through Governor Nyesom Wike and the National Assembly caucus through Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy President of the Senate.
However, after the crisis broke out between the mainstream of the party and the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction, Agbaje, one of the very prominent party figures, was alleged to have become detached from the party.
“All the time we were in court, we did not see Agbaje. After the court judgment, when he now came and wanted to proceed from where we stopped, we told him to go away,” the normally reliable source disclosed at the weekend.
“Some suspect that Makarfi, because of his own presidential aspiration, decided to open up the office of national chairman to all the zones in the south so that he would himself not be restricted when the issue of the presidential ticket zoned to the North would be considered,” the source said.
The claim was upon suggestions in the past that the PDP could zone the presidential ticket to the North-East, considering that it is the only zone in the North not to have produced a Nigerian leader since the sixties.
Another factor that played to the disadvantage of the South-West was inability of the region to forge a consensus on the choice of a national chairman. Ahead of the convention, the Northern elders who had sympathies for the South-West had repeatedly passed the message to South-West candidates to prune down their candidates, but they were unable to do so until late on Saturday by which time Secondus had already cut deals with the Northern delegates.
Meanwhile, a number of the governors were also worried by the electoral value of many of the delegates. It was the opinion of the governors and major stakeholders that none of the candidates could deliver his state in an election.
Governor Ayo Fayose was said to have been particularly irritated by the aspiration of Professor Tunde Adeniran from his state and was reported to have openly disclaimed him in a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC of the party.
APC taunts PDP
Meanwhile, the ruling APC, yesterday, taunted the PDP for enthroning a new executive through a bazaar, saying the PDP is yet to change its colours.
“The abnormalities that trailed the PDP National Convention have further exposed the PDP as a party not ready and willing to change. Indeed, the PDP has once again displayed itself to the generality of Nigerians that it is a party with corruption deeply rooted in its DNA.
“Again, it is tragic that the PDP which used to pride itself as “the biggest political Party in Africa” has now been reduced to a regional party. By frustrating South-West chairmanship candidates, it is unfortunate that the PDP has decided to punish the South-West for not voting for the party in 2015.
“We urge members of the PDP that can pass the integrity test to join the APC so that we can together bring about the much-needed change the country deserves,” the APC said in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.
The APC was immediately rebuffed in a statement issued by the party’s new National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, who described the ruling party as being jittery over the emergence of the new executive.
The statement read: “It is indeed laughable that the APC which has roundly failed in not only managing the affairs of the country but also its own internal issues would recourse to panic mode just because the PDP has succeeded in uniting its fronts by conducting a very credible elective National Convention.
“We were very much aware of the plots by the APC to scuttle the convention and failing, it has resorted to a failed attempt to discredit an elective convention that has been adjudged as creditable, novel and laudable by political stakeholders and lovers of democracy across the nation.
“Is it not disgusting, reprehensible and embarrassing that the APC that has repeatedly failed to hold meetings, congresses and convention in the last three years and has flagrantly continued to violate its own constitution is questioning our party’s rights to perform her legitimate and constitutional obligation?
“Perhaps APC leaders have never read Article 25 (A)(i) of their party’s Constitution which stipulates that ‘the National Convention of the party (APC) shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee (NWC) and approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC) subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and at least 14 days notice given to members eligible to attend.’
“Which impunity could be higher than APC violating its constitution? It is strange that APC could be moralizing on the principles of social justice whereas its actions against Nigerians are a complete departure from the norms.
“Nigerians have come to discover that APC is a fraud, an organization of deceitful characters who have failed to keep a single of its countless promises made to the citizens.
“It is no longer news that the nation is drifting under APC and the PDP has come to the rescue. We must, therefore, remind the APC that the era of deceit, trickery and scare-mongering, which have been the hallmarks of their government, is gone and Nigerians are just waiting to kick them out come 2019.”
Jonathan, others hail new PDP NEC
Meanwhile, congratulatory messages continued to pour the way of the new executive, with former President, Goodluck Jonathan, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, among others, congratulating the new executives of the party.
A statement issued by Jonathan’s spokesperson, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said the ex-President also tasked members of the party to make sacrifices, noting that the only way to achieve the party’s goals and aspirations was to unite as members of one political family.
“I reiterate that the only way to prove that this is victory for the PDP and all our members is for the new leaders to be magnanimous and aim to carry everybody along, for we cannot achieve our mission and aspirations unless we unite as a family.
“To the rest of us, let us make sacrifices, put our differences behind us and accept this as a new dawn that will take our party to greater heights.”
Ekweremadu in a statement issued by his Special Adviser, Uche Anichukwu, said the PDP had set an example, which other political parties will have to emulate to deepen the nation’s democracy.
“Importantly, I believe that 2019 is a comeback year for the PDP because distraught Nigerians look up to our great party. However, there is a lot of work to be done, and party faithful expect members of the new NWC to hit the ground running because they have no luxury of a honeymoon.
“We expect them to start the process of galvanising party faithful to reposition the PDP and mobilise Nigerians towards building a Nigeria of our dreams.”
Fani-Kayode in his own message of congratulation said: “We must now all set aside our differences and prepare to face the monumental challenge that lay ahead.
“We must be ready and prepared to fight for a greater cause and to stand against a vicious, corrupt, deceitful, relentless and rapacious enemy that has divided our country, that has destroyed our economy, and that has persecuted, marginalised, humiliated, demonised, massacred and pauperised our people. Together we shall “change the change” and “burn the brooms” in 2019.”
New chairman, Prince Secondus has said that his mandate is to return the party to power in the Presidential Villa.
In his acceptance speech delivered early yesterday morning following his declaration, Secondus also promised to strengthen the processes of internal democracy in the party.
He said: “By my understanding, the mandate you have given us today is clear and unambiguous. It is to return our party to power come 2019. As herculean as this mandate seems, I know it’s achievable. My campaign pillars for this election are ‘To Rebuild, Reposition and Regain’. Let me assure you great members and leaders of our party that by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, the brief tenancy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Aso Rock Villa expires on May 28, 2019. By this, we serve them a quit notice.
“Under my watch, internal democracy will be strictly adhered to with a deliberate policy to return ‘real’ power to the people. No more imposition, no more impunity. Every member of this party can from this moment, consider him or herself, an equal shareholder in our common destiny. I call on all Nigerians to embrace this new PDP and join in this quest for a new Nigeria.”
He called on the trio of Professors Tunde Adeniran, Taoheed Adedoja and High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who contested the position with him to rally round the party, describing them as “eminently qualified to lead the party.”
PDP yet to overcome impunity — Adedoja
In his reaction, yesterday, one of the chairmanship candidates from the South West, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, said the process that led to the conclusion of the convention showed that the PDP was yet to do away with the culture of impunity.
Speaking in Abuja, the former Minister of Sports & Special Duties said he was not happy about the exercise as he thought the party would have learned its lessons from its recent past.
“The conduct of the national convention was characterized with impunity which must be reviewed in order to avert further crises in the party,” he said.