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Published On: Fri, Dec 8th, 2017

PDP Convention: Challenges, Intrigues, horse trading and glitz

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By Ali Alkali

As Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, prepares for its tomorrow’s National Convention, Abuja is already agog with the presence of party chieftains, about 3,000 delegates and thousands other party members. Hotels are full to capacity, while food vendors, general goods hawkers including pick pockets and sex workers are seen excitingly taking strategic positions around Eagle Square, the venue of the event.
A total of 774 delegates have been elected, while the rest, over 2,000, are statutory delegates for the elective national convention to be held for the purpose of electing national officers for the opposition, PDP, tomorrow Saturday, December 9.
Briefing the press this week, the Chairman of the planning committee of the convention and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, said, “The convention is going to be for delegates; and we are expecting a little less than 3000 delegates. And those delegates have been properly accredited by the accreditation committee.
“And for those our party members that are going to come are welcome to Abuja, but they will not be allowed to come to the eagle square; and this is because we want to be sure that we are in a position to deliver a credible elective convention. Movement will have to be somehow restricted to some important personalities who ordinarily will love to be around. We are trying to put all these processes in place so that we don’t over crowd the venue,” he said.

Campaign posters banned at convention
Political campaigns are known for their glitz and glamour. Apart from party flags, banners and colourful attire that usually identify delegates and their states, campaign posters for candidates for various elective offices also add colour to the events, as well as the information they convey.
But tomorrow’s PDP national convention will have no such campaign posters, if the party’s warning is adhered to by the members.
The planning committee of the Convention had this week issued a directive forbidding the display of campaign posters for any of the offices being vied for at the venue of convention.
Chairman of the planning committee of the convention and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, announced the ban at a pre –convention briefing in Abuja.
Governor Okowa urged aspirants to the various positions to keep their campaigners away from the convention venue as and all campaigns must have stopped by Friday.
Sounding the warning firmly, he said, “I will not expect any aspirant, especially presidential aspirants to bring their campaign posters, campaigners, men or women to the venue, because it will not be allowed. And we want to appeal to all of them campaigning to desist from doing that.
“For those who want to campaign for future election, possibly the presidential aspirants, this convention is not the place to display campaign posters or to display their intentions.
I believe there will be an appropriate convention for that. I want to urge them to cooperate with us as a committee,” he said.

Micro zoning
The office of the national chairman has been zoned to the South in anticipation of its Presidential candidate coming from the North, in line with its tradition of North/South zoning arrangement.
But, barely one week to the convention, the issue of which area among the three zones in the Southern part of the country will get national chairmanship slot, became a burning issue threatening to create divisions among party stakeholders from the North.
While some of the leaders were supporting micro zoning of the chairmanship seat to the South-West, others were stoutly resisting it, saying that the North should not take part in enforcing micro zoning of offices in the South where there is no agreement.
The protagonists of this agenda based their analysis on the fact that South-West is the only geo-political zone that has never produced the party’s national chairman.
They also said that whereas the party does not allow for outright micro zoning, it does not forbid it either. They are of the opinion that certain interests within the party who are perceived to be interested in flying its flag for the 2019 general elections and might not be favoured with micro zoning are the ones against the arrangement.
The idea of leaving the stage for the entire South has however put the race between South-West and South-South.
Hence, in the last few months the likes of former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George; former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, all from the South-West, have been traversing the length and breadth of the country canvassing for delegates to elect them for the position.
Other aspirants from the South-West include former Education minister, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, former Aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode; former governorship candidate for Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; among others.On Wednesday, Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of the party, Senator Walid Jibrin declared that it is too late to micro zone the position of the National Chairman of the party, advising the various aspirants to accept whoever emerges as the National Chairman at its national conventional.

Chair for the highest bidder?
Considering the crises that befallen PDP spanning over two years, most stakeholders are of the opinion that the party must re-invent and re-enact itself. The new leadership must therefore be one that enjoys the confidence of the majority stakeholders and members in order to have a seamless transition.
But as PDP stalwarts are known for using money to influence political outcome, former military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, IBB, early this week, warned leaders of the party to soberly reflect on the challenges confronting the party, identify their flaws and seek plausible ways to correct them in order to come out stronger in subsequent elections.
He said as founding fathers and stakeholders, there is urgent need to collectively assure Nigerians that the party has learnt bitter lessons.
The former Head of State indicated worries over possible monetization of the electoral process in the party, which he described as “disturbingly eroding” the power which should ordinarily reside in the people.
In a statement issued last Sunday, signed by his spokesman Prince Kassim Afegbua, IBB said: “In the last few days, I get frightened by the monetary consideration that is likely to dictate who emerges as the National Chairman of our great party, rather than what the people truly want. The discussion is more on the side of heavy monetization of the process and ultimate “procurement” of the position of the Chairman by the highest bidder.
“This approach, in my humble view, defeats the whole essence of participation, free choice and voting which are the essential attributes of any democracy without inducement and outright manipulation.
IBB pleaded that the party leaders “tread on the path of caution and common sense, conscious of our recent history of avoidable political crisis.”
“Following the defeat of the party in the 2015 election, it is incumbent upon us as leaders and stakeholders to use the opportunity of the convention to sober reflect on the challenges confronting us, identify our flaws and seek plausible ways to correct them in order to come out stronger in subsequent elections.
“At this point of our political history as a party, we need a National Chairman who is driven by uncommon initiatives, creativity in ideas and a rich content of character to lead and stabilize the party in line with the laudable ideals of the founding fathers of the party. Such an individual must possess national recognition to be able to galvanize political opportunities and transform them into tangible outcomes in our democratic engagements.”
He called on all delegates to use the rare opportunity presented by the convention as veritable platform to elect in a holistic manner “a credible, tested, down-to-earth and truly urbane candidate with enough stamina, distinguished character and national acceptability who is driven by incurable optimism and passion for a united Nigeria.
“At this critical stage of our political secretions, we need men of stature, discipline, character and commendable conduct to breathe fresh air into our party and not persons whose political relevance is the product of naira and kobo bargain across the counter.
“We need a National Chairman that would not bend to the vagaries of individual selfish interest but one who is strong enough to apply the rule of law without fear or favour. We must begin the process of interrogating processes that lead to outcomes and not just the outcomes. We must interrogate our leadership recruitment process and encourage our delegates to exercise the power of their thumbs in making their preferred choice among the candidates.

Peace Accord
Few weeks to the tomorrow’s event, seven of the eight national chairmanship aspirants signed a peace accord, with a resolve to abide by the outcome of the elective convention, solemnly abiding by and upholding the tenets of the National Chairmanship Election according to which they voluntarily subscribed.

In the accord, the aspirants resolved as follows:
“Support whoever emerges amongst us as the National Chairman of our great party as long as the process is transparent, free and fair in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the party and guidelines of the elective national convention;
“No aspirant shall leave the party or encourage his or her supporters, promoters etc to do so, as a result of the outcome of the national chairmanship election at the elective national convention;
“Any breach of the 2015 zero expenditure policy of the party, which prohibits the use of monetary inducement, including lodging of delegates and providing money for votes, shall not be tolerated in the 2017 national elective convention and shall be a ground for disqualification on or before the 9th December, 2017;
“Any aspirant/sponsor/supporter/financier, proven to have done anything contrary to the agreements reached herein and in circumstances that suggest the knowledge of the undersigned persons shall be disqualified from contesting the national chairmanship election.
The seven aspirants who endorsed the peace accord included Professor Tunde Adeniran (former Education Minister), Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Rashidi Ladoja, erstwhile governors of Ogun and Oyo States respectively, Prince Uche Secondus (ex- Acting National Chairman of the party, Professor Taoheed Adedoja (one time Minister of Sports and Special Duties), media tycoon, Raymond Dokpesi and Jimi Agbaje, the PDP governorship flag bearer in Lagos State in the 2015 gubernatorial elections.

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