Ahead the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) convention in Abuja, Dec. 9, the party may have embarked on a familiar journey which caused it to crash out of power in 2015 after 16 years hold.
Looking at the discordant tunes coming from the different candidates the party may yet come out from the convention a wrecked entity without a bite to give the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), a formidable opposition needed for a virile democracy.
Feelers from the candidates, especially from the South West, where bulk of the aspirants are from, the party may yet fall prey to imposition which had been its bane in the past.
Though, chairman of the convention organising committee, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, speaking to newsmen at the Wadata Plaza, National Secretariat of the PDP in Abuja, Thursday, assured that all was set to successfully usher in the party’s first national executive body after a fierce battle, which almost tore its soul ended with a supreme Court decision last July, political pundits are still worried that all may not be well.
The party had in an earlier statement announced a zoning formula geared toward ensuring that PDP remains formidable. Each of the six geo-political zones in the country was duly and accommodated in the arrangement. The party explained that political exigencies and fairness were considered and advised contestants to the various party offices to place their choices in compliance with the convention’s guidelines.
But with the utterances of candidates, accusation and counter accusation of attempt by power brokers to predetermine persons for the national offices up for grab during the convention, the party will need powerful spell to come out of the exercise unscathed.
The convention, which is billed as the panacea for the multifarious crises rocking the party, seems to be a harbinger of another major disagreement.
Before now, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a chairmanship aspirant, petitioned the party over the list of the panelists who will conduct the ward delegates’ election, saying they are Uche Secondus’ men. Secondus is one of the aspirants from the South South.
Another aspirant, Chief Olabode George, has been vehement in his opposition to the leadership style of the Caretaker Chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, demanding his resignation “forthwith” because “he has been severely compromised.
According to George, Makarfi is “already tarred and soiled in the muddy waters of partisan prejudice. He can no longer play the role of a neutral arbiter”.
George’s campaign organisation, in a statement, accused Makarfi of destroying the PDP for personal gain.
The statement signed by Director-General of the George Campaign, Alhaji Ibrahim K. Aliu, said: “Apparently spurred by personal ambition of contesting for the Presidential office in 2019, Makarfi is brazenly allying with a particular aspirant in the South South to deliberately distort the process, muddle equity and invariably destroy the democratic process for transient personal gains.
“Makarfi’s action, to put it mildly, is sickening, untoward, blatantly tendentious, totally stripped of the typical moral high ground that often defines a well-meaning, God-fearing arbitrating leadership.
“Everywhere you look, Makarfi is planting the agents of his favorite South South candidate to stage manage warped and skewed congresses in an undisguised mockery of all the normative patterns of our founding fathers whose enduring forte about equity, justice and fairness is now being flung into the gutter. In a way, Makarfi is evidently resolved to repeat the farcical malady that characterised the debacle in Port Harcourt last year.
“We have equally resolved that we will not be led along this ruinous path again. Never.
“Makarfi should now do the most honourable thing by walking away and face his ambition squarely. He cannot use a privileged non-elective position to wangle undue advantage to his own side. It is patently unacceptable.
“We need to redeem our party by being faithful to the great ideals of our founding fathers. We really believe that elders of the party across the nation should summon an emergency summit to deliberate on the right way to restrategise our party and rectify the wrongs on the ground.
“All the elders across the zones must take it as a priority that this party can only be redeemed and restore to its winning ways when we are all sincere, genuine, and anchored on the path of salvaging righteousness”.
A chieftain of the party, former Minister for Mines and Steel, Elder Wole Oyelese, on Wednesday, also warned party leaders and delegates to prevent disaster by avoiding the traps set by governors through the imposition of Secondus as national chairman.
In a chat with journalists in Abuja, Oyelese said Secondus’ leadership of the party was a disaster waiting to happen, urging the delegates to help the party avoid the disaster.
He said Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and some PDP governors backing Secondus to emerge as PDP national chairman were doing so for selfish reasons.
Oyelese said: “I will not expect anybody that loves PDP to support Secondus because of his antecedents but there is a difference between loving the party and being selfish.
“Wike wants to build a political empire using the PDP as a platform, hence his support for Secondus.
“Some governors who are also afraid of their shadows believe that they cannot manipulate Chief Bode George and believe Secondus could easily be manipulated.
“Wike and the other governors are unnecessarily anxious, they are not thinking about the future of the party; they should know that there is no room for experimentation.”
But Makarfi fired back, urging George not to blame his frustration on him, adding that it is because he had not done George’s bidding that he launched an attack against him.
Accusing George and Adeniran of crying wolf where there is none, Makarfi said George and a few other chairmanship aspirants mounted pressure on him to micro zone the chairmanship to the Southwest to favour them but that he resisted.
“I have refused to do so because I don’t have the power. Only the National Executive Committee (NEC) can do that.
“I saw a letter today alleging that five out of about 160 congress committee members are aligned to a particular candidate.
“Assuming that is so, then how about the remaining 155 members? Who are they aligned to? They should just campaign hard to win.
Meanwhile, Wike has openly come out to stand behind Secondus, who is from his state.
It is alleged that Wike has mobilised power brokers in the PDP line Secondus based on some political calculations.
Wike is said to have deployed his vault, state money, to ensure victory for his Secondus.
Wike, in what looked like a response to the mounting criticism against his open support and mobilisation for Secondus, said on Friday, that he believes Secondus is the best candidate to lead the PDP in view of his experience and track record.
In a statement by his special assistant on electronic media, Wike said Secondus is the only candidate from a state governed by the PDP, a statement that is not true. Ekiti is a PDP and has an aspirant
The Rivers Governor said the other candidates have no political presence in their respective states to drive the revival of the party.
“I have analysed the scenario. I have analysed the delegates spread of each state. There is no way that Prince Uche Secondus will not coast to victory by over 90 per cent of delegates votes.
“I am talking because I am in the campaign team of Prince Uche Secondus and I am a delegate,” the Governor said.
He said Secondus has no existing problems with the EFCC contrary to petitions against him.
“Somebody who believes that he will win, will not resort to writing petitions before the convention. All reports in the media against Secondus are planted and false.”
While saying there is no zone that should be taken for granted, Wike said that the South-south remains the bedrock of the PDP.
“National Chairmanship in the South West will not change the fortunes of the PDP. Even when the President hailed from the South West, the fortunes of the party did not improve in terms of votes in that zone. The zone is prone to incessant crises as can be seen. Any candidate who emerges from the South West will lead to further crisis from other factions from that zone.”
“Only a candidate from outside the South West such as Prince Uche Secondus can unite the zone. He has the reach and capacity to unite all factions in the South-west. He is the person suited for the party at this time
“After tomorrow’s convention, PDP will come out stronger. It will come out refreshed and re-positioned for the good of the country.”
Wike alleged that some of the aspirants have resorted to blackmail, simply because they have lost the support of the delegates.
“Anybody who believes in PDP will work for the party after the national convention, whether or not you emerge.”
Secondus, responding to allegations of imposition, denied that the Makarfi-led National Working Committee is working in his interest.
Secondus dismissed the insinuation that he was drafted into the race by Wike and Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose.
He said he only consulted widely by selling his candidacy to governors, former governors, critical party leaders and delegates, thereby having an advantage over others.
The aspirant said although he vied for national deputy chairman at the botched Port-Harcourt convention, the dynamic nature of politics made him to seek the highest party office.
Secondus said while other contenders were mounting visible campaigns across the regions, he consulted underground and secured the support of those that matter in the party.
He lamented that some aspirants decided to mount campaigns of calumny and blackmail against him because he had been ahead of them in consultation and mobilisation.
Acknowledging the sentiments that the slot should have been micro-zoned to the South West, the former acting chairman said the consideration that the party should be led by a competent person who can deliver in 2019 displaced the sentiment.
He said: “I will deliver my state and my zone in 2019 election and other leaders will deliver their states and zones, and our party will win the election.”
He chided those criticising him for allegedly misappropriating party funds, saying that their allegations were unfounded.
However, with plethora of accusations and counter accusations, it is hoped that the party has done underground work to resolve some of the issues that tended to polarise it in these past few days.
It is also hoped that the cries and hues of the South West have been addressed properly, otherwise it may erase PDP from the zone completely.
The convention, as many have rightly observed, is critical to the survival of the party.
It, therefore, behooves the party’s electoral body to organise an all-inclusive, transparent, and credible election that would rebrand the PDP as a truly, democratic party and reposition it for future tasks.
The choice of the right leadership at the convention will put the party in good stead to contest further elections with conviction.
It is expected that internal democracy will prevail rather than imposition of candidates. This is the redemptive route.
If the contest is free and fair on Saturday, it will make the party to bounce back like a phoenix from some near self-destruct gambles it attempted, especially in the last two years.