By Lateef Ibrahim
The stage is set for the Saturday’s elective national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, slated to hold at the Eagles square, Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The primary assignment of the national convention, under the chairmanship of the Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, is to elect national officers for the opposition party, which has virtually be in political limbo since losing election to the incumbent All Progressives Congress, APC, government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
There is no doubt that the convention will be both intriguing and interesting. The high point of the convention, where a little less than 3,000 delegates will be voting, will be who emerges the National Chairman of the party, out of the various aspirants jostling for the office. Who will get the position of the National Chairman of the PDP?
On the list of those jostling for the number one party position are; Commodore Olabode George, a retired Naval officer and former military governor of Ondo State from Lagos State, Prince Uche Secondus, a former acting National Chairman of the PDP from Rivers State, Prof Tunde Adeniran, a one time Minister of Education from Ekiti State, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the Chairman of African Independent Television (AIT) and Ray Power Radio from Edo State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a two-term former Governor of Ogun State, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, former Minister of Sports and Youth Development from Oyo State, Mr Jimi Agbaje, the PDP governorship candidate in Lagos State during the 2015 general election, Senator Rasheed Ladoja, former Governor of Oyo State and Mr Olusegun Aderemi from Ekiti State.
Interestingly, the jostle for the various positions, particularly that of the National Chairmanship, has aroused the most attention from different quarters, more than even before. Some have even likened the contest to that of a general election, judging from the rigorous campaign by the aspirants across the nation. Who will lead the PDP to the 2019 general elections among the various aspirants? Will the next National Chairman of the party come from the South Western part of the country or the from the South- South? Will it be Prof Tunde Adeniran, who is strongly believed to be enjoying the support of former Military President Ibrahim Babangida or Prince Uche Secondus, who is being backed by the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyeson Wike among others? How prepared are the members of the Senator Okowa-led national convention planning committee in terms of logistic arrangements and accommodation among others?
Governor Okonwa, at a pre-event press briefing, said, “The venue of the convention is the eagle square. It has been secured and we have had a lot of discussions concerning the need for accreditation, securing the venue and also the electoral process.
“We are very confident that a lot is being put in place and between now and friday (today) we would have been able to achieve every other thing that we need to do to deliver a credible convention.
“We need to make this announcement to all our party members and well wishers that 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 our party members who 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.
The convention planning committee however introduced something somehow new and strange when it announced the banning of the display of posters at the venue of convention.
According to Governor Okowa “I Want to urge aspirants to the various positions to please keep their campaigners away from the convention venue and we believe all campaigns would have stopped by friday.
“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.
One issue which had dominated discussion over the National Chairmanship issue is whether the position should be further micro zoned, after it has been originally zoned to the Southern part of the country. Opinions have been divided on this with some pushing for it to be micro zoned to the south west, while others believe that is should be for the three geo-political zones in the South to contest for.
But the Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Walid Jibrin pointedly declared that it is too late to micro zone the position of the National Chairman of the party.
Rather, Jibrin advised the various aspirants for the National Chairmanship position to accept whoever emerges as the National Chairman at its national conventional on Saturday.
The aspirants, he stated, should be allowed to test their fame through the primaries that is about to start on the 9th-10th December 2017, assuring that the BoT is ready to cooperate and work with whoever emerges the National Chairman.Senator Jibrin reiterated that the BOT has not anointed any candidates for now.
His words, “The BOT believes that it is too late to micro-zone the position of National Chairman considering that after more than Eight [8) aspirants have purchased the forms and are right now about to be Screened by the Special Screening Committee.
“They should be allowed to test their fame through the primaries that is about to start on the 9th-10th December 2017.
“I want to assure our party members that whoever emerged the National Chairman, the BOT is ready to cooperate and work with him for the progress of the party. I would like to reiterate our position that BOT has not anointed any candidates for now”, he said.
The PDP has however raised the alarm that some elements within the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, are trying by any means to disrupt it.
The Publicity Secretary of the National Caretaker Committee, NCC, of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, who raised the alarm at a press briefing in Abuja, claimed that the governing APC is afraid that if the PDP should hold a successful convention, that their days in government are numbered.
The opposition party thus called on President Buhari to carry out his investigation as well as call those who are trying to cause the problem to desist because “it is capable not only of destroying this democracy but also capable of destroying the country”.
The National Publicity Secretary of the NCC of PDP said, “ I want to draw your attention to an issue that bother us. We have a credible information that some overzealous elements in the government are trying by any means to disrupt the convention of the PDP; to make sure this convention does not hold successfully.
“They have been trying every effort but we are happy that we have no information that it is coming from the very top.
“But some overzealous elements in the administration are bent…It is a very credible information and they are doing everything possible to make sure that this convention is disrupted.
“They are afraid that if the PDP should hold a successful convention, that their days in government are numbered.
“By the time we hold this convention and our officers are elected and they take office next year; there will be a floodgate of people even from APC to the PDP.
This is a credible information and that is why we are appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to please rein in his aides.
We have no evidence that the President is aware of this. It is happening and we are calling on him to do his own investigation and to call those who are trying to cause this problem to desist because it is capable not only of destroying this democracy but also capable of destroying the country”, he said.
The success or otherwise of the PDP national convention will go a long way in determining the direction the opposition party will go ahead of the 2019 general election in the country.