The December 9 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was to consolidate the gains from the July court judgment that restored the integrity of the mainstream of the party as led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The decision to enthrone a new national leadership to take over from the Senator Makarfi led leadership inevitably generated a tension that has now clouded the prospects of the party.
Expectations from party activists and chieftains were that the convention would become an opportunity to generate the momentum needed to project the party towards confronting the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in the 2019 general elections.
However, the national convention turned sour upon mutterings by the Southwest caucus that the office of National Chairman that the zone believed to have been zoned to the region was thrown open. Even more traumatic for the region was the fact that one of the last entrants into the race, Prince Uche Secondus garnered enough momentum to dislodge the Southwest candidates who entered the contest quite earlier than him.
The victory of Secondus was essentially based on the support he received from the party’s governors and principally, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Before the convention it was believed that Wike’s support for Secondus was to enable him have someone who could work out a way that he, Wike could emerge as the vice-president of the country in 2019.
It was a thought that bothered many including obviously, General Ibrahim Babangida who at the peak of the rumour issued a terse press statement condemning the use of money to buy the PDP chairman.
Babangida’s statement was generally believed to be directed at Wike and Secondus. However, a senior member of the party told Vanguard that the former military president was reassured after a meeting with Wike during which the Rivers governor affirmed that he was not interested in the office of vice-president in 2019, claiming that he preferred to remain governor that year.
The encounter with Babangida it emerged also helped to leak the tie between Wike and Secondus. Vanguard gathered that the governor’s commitment to Wike was actually a payback for the role Secondus played in inspiring Wike to become governor.
Whereas Wike was focused on Secondus becoming national chairman, other stakeholders also had their interests in other positions.
Indeed, besides the office of national chairman, two other positions that were aggressively fought over were those of the National Woman Leader and National Publicity Secretary.
Indeed, as the convention opened that morning, it emerged that a Unity List comprising candidates favoured by the party’s major stakeholders had been drawn up. Understandably, Secondus was at the top of the Unity List made up of the persons favoured by the party’s major stakeholders in the 21 vacant positions.
The circulation of the Unity List at the convention ground was seriously flayed by some of the chairmanship candidates, notably Dr. Raymond Dokpesi and Prof. Tunde Adeniran who were the two candidates that really posed a threat to Secondus’ aspiration.
Dokpesi saw the circulation of the Unity List as the rigging of the election, but his assertion was challenged by others who claimed that circulation of lists of favoured candidates was a regular feature of elective national conventions.
However, beyond that claim was the fact that in every position that was contested, all those who were on the Unity List were positioned as Number One in the list of candidates at the ballot box for every position.
However, the exception was in the case of the National Woman Leader and the position of National Publicity Secretary. Mr. Kola Ologbondinyan who entered the race for National Publicity Secretary just two weeks ago found his way into the Unity List in the early hours of the convention.
However, just before voting commenced it emerged that unlike others his name was not number one on the list of the five persons vying for the position of party spokesman. His name was positioned as number four, apparently as part of the intrigues laced to stop him. His campaign had to fight to tell delegates to vote number five when it came to National Publicity Secretary.
So unlike in other positions where candidates were sweeping the polls with up to 2,000 votes, the votes for that of National Publicity Secretary was not too wide apart as Ologbondinyan polled 1,162 to defeat Prof. Abubakar Suleiman supposedly the candidate of President Goodluck Jonathan who polled 670 votes arguably because he was Number One on the list for Publicity Secretary even though he was not on the Unity List. Farouk Audu-Adejoh, a former spokesman to Speaker Ghali Naaba and Governor Ibrahim Idris and famed as The General in Abuja media circles was third with 101 votes while Mr. Ben Duntoye came fourth with 61 votes.
The same thing also happened in the case of National Woman Leader.
Hajia Mariya Waziri from Kebbi State had successfully planted her name in the Unity List after the position was ceded to her state. However, in the view of many party chieftains, Hajia Baraka Sani, a vivacious former commissioner for agriculture, popular among party activists and leaders would have been a better candidate. Hajiya Sani, however, entered the contest quite late at a time that the party’s Northwest caucus had already micro-zoned the position to Kebbi State.
What some in the party hierarchy decided to do was to put Sani’s name as number one in the list of those contesting for National Woman Leader while Waziri’s name was placed as number five on the list. That was done in a way of to give the popular woman an edge, but then Hajiya Waziri fought back telling delegates not to vote Number one when it came to National Woman Leader.
Given the intrigues that played out it is not surprising that party leaders have decided to launch a peace process to heal the wounds from the convention. Indeed, Senator Makarfi had in the days leading to the convention even pre-empted the scenario when he decided to constitute a post-convention peace committee even before the outbreak of trouble.
The committee is remarkably led by Governor Serikae Dickson who was remarkably above the fray during the contests and as such well positioned to be a neutral arbiter.
The Dickson Committee had at least two preparatory meetings before the convention and on Monday following the convention also met during which it was resolved to launch out especially to the Southwest States to sooth aggrieved chieftains of the party.