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CONTROVERSIAL CONGRESSES: PDP ON A FAMILIAR PATH

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The dream of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for rancour-free congresses might have been defeated going by reports on the conduct of its two week old congresses across the country. The congresses, which started on April 30 in all the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognized wards across the country, have polarized the party leading to some members holding parallel congresses and producing factional leadership at various levels.
From the ward through local government level, the state and zones, defiant party members have organized their own congresses to produce factional leaders. And just two days to the zonal congress, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, restrained the party leaders from conducting any election into the PDP South West zonal executive.
The order was given by Justice Ibrahim Buba following the application by the zonal Secretary, Chief ‘Pegba Otemolu. Otemolu’s argument was that the tenure of the zonal executive still subsists until 2018 having been elected into office on October 11, 2014. The PDP constitution allows four-year tenure for elected party executive at all levels.
But Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, after consultation with the National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff shortly after the court judgment on Thursday, declared that the congress must go on as scheduled in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Even the May 21 National Convention scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where next PDP National Working Committee (NWC) members will be elected, may not be free from such crisis as some founding fathers and stakeholders are gearing to hold parallel convention. But that is if the PDP Deputy National Officers’ Forum who came into office on August 31, 2013 believes allows it to hold.
The Forum, which comprises PDP deputy national officers who are not statutory members of NWC, believes that there is no vacancy yet since members of the forum have a four-year mandate, according to the PDP constitution. A member of the Forum noted that “no organ of the party is authorized to alter that except you alter the constitution.”
He added that “except vacancy has been created, there won’t be any election into such offices” at the national convention.
At the inauguration of four special committees to plan for the national convention among them, the Reconciliation Committee, chairman of the committee, Governor Sierake Dickson of Bayelsa State, wished that the congresses were conducted in convivial atmosphere to reduce the work load of the committee. But it appears that this turned out to be a wishful thinking.
Like the situation in 2013 when he was saddled with the same responsibility, Dickson and his committee will have their hands full. Even before the committee ventures into post-congress crisis, it will have to reconcile the party’s National Chairman with those who oppose to his ambition to return to office after the convention.
Sheriff’s plan to succeed himself is ruffling feathers in PDP. And as he is trying to placate one group, many more are confronting him. Some of the groups include Northern Elders’ Forum led by former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, and Concerned PDP Leaders led by former Niger State governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu.
The Gana-led NEF, after its second meeting in two weeks in Abuja last Wednesday, insisted that the May 21 National Convention of the party should not hold. It cited the crisis rocking the congresses across the states, noting that “the current NWC has proven that they cannot organize a proper and transparent convention.”
It called on the PDP NWC members to handover to the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) when their tenure expires on May 21.
“In order not to create a vacuum, the BoT should provide credible trustees that will allow proper transition when a new date for convention is announced and new leaders elected,” the group said in a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting.
The Concerned PDP Leaders in who held a stakeholders summit a day after, described the present NWC members as an illegal body because their tenure expired in March.
The summit claimed that it has constituted a 21-member steering committee to manage the affairs of the party until a new leadership emerged according to the PDP constitution and guideline.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the founding fathers said the steering committee will “work intimately with our respected members of BOT who are the conscience of the party till such a time that a proper, lawfully organized National Convention of the party, where a new authentic leadership of the party will be duly elected in accordance with the provisions of our party constitution and guidelines.
“We enjoin all our party faithful nationwide not to despair. The new steering committee will soon embark on a Nationwide tour, to address and resolve all issues and areas of conflict in every state of the federation.
“The steering committee will immediately put in place a National Reconciliation committee to reconcile all previously aggrieved party members. “We condemn the attempt by the illegal NWC of the party to amend the constitution of the party in order to muzzle and control the BoT and thereby subject the BoT to the villains and caprices of the NWC. “Rather it is recommended that the BoT be further strengthened and empowered to function effectively as the true conscience of our great.
“We call on the governors elected under our party PDP, who are our leading beacons of light, our able senators, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly members to take up the gauntlet and support this noble cause.
“We need to come together as a family, to fight the cancer of impunity that has eaten deep into the tissues of our party.” The communiqué was jointly signed by former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ibrahim Mantua, former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran and High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, media owner. But unfortunately, no serving governor or National Assembly members attended the summit. Most people at the summit were former ministers and some former national officers of the party. Sheriff, however, described then as faceless and self style leaders.
He blamed the failure of PDP in the presidential election on the “ignoble role” they played during the electioneering campaign. Said Innua Bwala, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the National Chairman: “These were the same characters that deceived President Jonathan into failure. Unfortunately most of them still go round to ask the chairman of one favour or the other and when the chairman declines they take offence against him.”
Bwala took on Professor Gana, leader of the Northern Elders’ Forum, and who was guest speaker at the Concerned PDP Leaders’ summit, noting that he “attempts to play role in every government since the time of the military. ”I know as a fact that Professor Jerry Gana has written to the national chairman to allow him nominate some people into certain committees or allow them perform certain functions for the party. Whether these requests were granted or not is immaterial. But that is perhaps one of the reasons that he has taken the position against anything this man does.
“This is the same man that who recognized the national chairman, writing to him on the need to submit the report on the finance committee which he headed.
“The chairman has been running away from receiving that report because it is on record that the same Jerry Gana, on behalf of the party without using the machinery of the party, collected the sum of N500 million from Skye Bank for which the PDP has been dragged to court and is being compelled to pay back.
“Leaders of thought in this party including some elders have prevailed on the chairman not to make this matter known and to save this man from public embarrassment. “But as it is the chairman may be left with no option than to drag Jerry Gana before the EFCC to explain his role in obtaining N500 million facility on behalf of the party and let him also explain what he has done with the money.”
Gana is yet to react to this allegation as one of his aides said he was not available for comment when a call was place through his phone. Fayose who acknowledged the role of the founding fathers in nurturing the party, however, believes it is time for them to take back seats and allow the younger generation to take leadership of the party.
“I cannot drag position with my children,” the Ekiti governor added. When he headed the PDP Reconciliation Committee in 2013, Governor Dickson’s committee made spirited efforts to reconcile aggrieved party members who felt shortchanged in previous party primaries and congresses.
Unfortunately, towards the end of the year, most party members, including five governors and National Assembly members, left PDP to join the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC). PDP is still suffering from this, and it cost it the 2015 general elections. Congresses and conventions have proved to be the Achilles heel of PDP since 1999.
These are periods of intra-party wrangling, and it is not difficult to know why. Congresses and conventions are the constitution of new party executives at all levels and whoever gets his loyalists entrenched is sure of party ticket at primaries!

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