The political crisis that has hit the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) across the country continued in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, at the weekend as no fewer than 12 governorship aspirants from the state were inexplicably disqualified during the screening exercise.
The development led to the raking in of about N1.9 billion from 92 governorship aspirants from the four states of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta and Rivers who have indicated interest to contest the election on the platform of the party in their respective states.
The party made about NI billion from sale of forms from the region and raked in another N184 million from the N2 million charged every aspirant before they were all screened in Port Harcourt.
“We have altogether more than 90 aspirants who came for the screening exercise,” said the spokesman of the party, Imo Okpokpo, when contacted on phone.
It was gathered that after the screening, the committee refused to issue certificate of screening claiming that those qualified in Rivers State were not authentic members of the party, a statement that sparked an instant protest by the affected aspirants.
Some of the disqualified aspirants are Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack; Nimi Walson Jack; Tonye Princewill; Dumo Lulu-Briggs; Prof. Dom Baridom and Major Lasncelot Ayanya.
Others are Gabriel Pidomsom, Dennis Ojuka, Tamuno Gogo-jaja, Sunday Ngerebara and Mrs. Abietedogho Bob-Hart, among others.
It was discovered that almost all the disqualified aspirants who attended the three-day screening exercise are largely from the Kalabari and Ogoni axis. Major Lancelot Ayanya (retd) from Andoni, was also disqualified.
Those cleared by the screening committee are Pawariso Samuel Horsfall, Nwankwo Sunday, Nyesom Wike, Bernard Mikko and Ibinabo Michael-West.
Horsfall, Sunday, Mikko and Lee Maeba were members of the group of 16 aspirants who vigorously clamoured that the party should adopt the principle of zoning as enshrined in Section 7 3 (c) of the PDP constitution.
Peeved by the “unfortunate” development all those disqualified flew to Abuja on Tuesday morning to submit their petitions to the national headquarters of the PDP for immediate intervention.
The leader of the Rivers Mainstream Coalition, Prof. Israel Owate, condemned the disqualification of the aspirants, insisting that it was strange that the screening committee could describe such prominent members of the PDP as not being recognised by the party.
Owate expressed dismay that the party could turn around to disqualify such leading members of the PDP after the party had cleared them to purchase the expression of intent forms and nominations worth millions of naira.
Equally reacting, Prince Tonye Princewill said: “This is sheer madness. I am not a PDP member after I raised hundreds of millions for the party, donated a multi-million media centre to the national headquarters and participated in all affairs of the party I was invited to? Not a member but you collected millions for a PDP form. If this decision is true, this marks a new low in our state’s politics. This is a sad day for internal democracy.”
Princewill went on to vent his spleen, saying: “My options now are to: Appeal, quit politics altogether; stay in PDP even though they say I am not one of them, or to go to another party, not the All Progressives Congress, APC, and run.”
Meanwhile, the party has cleared 46 governorship aspirants to contest for its forthcoming governorship primaries in four states of the South-East geo-political zone.
Chairman PDP Screening Committee for the South-East, Umaru Ndanusa, disclosed this in an interview with journalists at the Zonal Secretariat of the party in Enugu on Monday night.
Ndanusa said the actual number of aspirants that his committee was to clear was 53, but seven of the aspirants failed to show up for the screening.
He stated that all those who were screened by his five-man committee were successful. “We don’t have unsuccessful ones, but we have those who did not come. We have four absentees from Abia, one each from Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo,” Ndanusa said.
He said his committee was not aware of the reason why the absentees did not show up.
On whether the absentees still have a chance, Ndanusa said they have the option of taking their case to the appeal committee.
Other members of the Screening Committee were Casmir Ugwu, Otunba Yomi Ajibola, Fatima Saleh and Shade Balogun.
In a related development, the National Vice Chairman of PDP for the South-East zone, Colonel Austin Akobundu, has assured that the party would provide a level playing ground for all the aspirants at the primaries.
Akobundu who gave the assurance in an interview with journalists at the Zonal Secretariat, said: “We will effectively deploy our internal mechanisms to make sure that anybody who wins, wins fair and square, and who fails will know that he failed there in the field.”
“Our job is to provide a platform for our members to pursue their aspirations. Our job is to make sure there is free and fair primaries,” Akobundu said.
Among the successful aspirants who collected their clearance certificates on Monday night were Senator Ifeanyi Ararume (Imo), Martin Agbaso (Imo), Chinedu Onu (Enugu), Felix Nwosu (Abia) and Marc Nwagbara (Abia).