•Wike, Adeyeye, others speak
Dogged by controversies engendered by the action and inaction of some of its key leaders, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the once self-acclaimed biggest political party in Africa, has been having a series of battles over the conduct of the national convention, an essential exercise for any political party to be legally recognised.
The crisis, brought about by a resistance to the quest of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to assert himself as the substantive national chairman of the party, culminated in controversial rulings and judgments from courts domiciled in Port Harcourt and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. This led to a botched convention held in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2016 as the party could not elect its national officers as required by law but chose to put in place a caretaker committee to manage its affairs for 90 days.
Within the twinkle of an eye, the 90-day grace lapsed and, with great expectations and trepidations laced with the fear of another legal encumbrance, the PDP leadership fixed August 17 as another date with destiny. The party, again, fixed the Sharks Football Stadium (same as that of May) as the venue of the national convention, having zoned the chairmanship slot to the South-West.
Sheriff eventually proved to be a clog in the wheel as he got another judgment from Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja Federal High Court on Tuesday evening stopping the party from going ahead with the convention. The judgment aborted the idea of an elective convention and the party faithful had to settle, for the second time, for the caretaker committee whose tenure was elongated by one year and its membership expanded from seven to 13.
More importantly, the ruling by Abang effectively put on hold, the ambition of the four chairmanship aspirants from the South-West, namely, Chief Bode George, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Mr Jimi Agbaje and Dr Raymond Dokpesi, at least for another year.
Beyond the fact that an elective convention was aborted and that the chairmanship ambition of the South-West zone, nay other aspirants for other elective national offices, has been put in abeyance, the near abortion left many people with dashed hopes and disappointments, even as the leadership remains optimistic that the future is still rosy for the party.
We had a successful national convention –Wike
For Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who doubled as the chairman of the PDP National Convention Planning Committee, the convention, which was eventually held at the state secretariat of the party, was successful as it drew high-profile personalities. He described the non-elective convention as a bold step taken towards repositioning the party in the interest of the country.
According to the governor, the calibre of party members who graced the convention was a pointer that the party had moved on after the “unnecessary” crisis generated by its “former national chairman,” Modu Sheriff.
“The calibre of persons who attended the national convention is an indication that PDP remains strong with quality members who are ever ready to make sacrifices. At the national convention were PDP governors, former governors, senators and members of the House of Representatives (past and serving), former ministers, PDP BoT members, all state PDP chairmen, party elders and delegates from all over the country. We are happy that the party has moved on,” Wike said.
He said the PDP was a law abiding party which was why it did not struggle with security agents after they sealed off the initial venue of the convention. This is even as he berated the security agencies for refusing to obey the judgement of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt where, as parties to the suit, they [the security agencies] were directed to provide security for the national convention.
Non-elective convention saved us from further crisis –Adeyeye
The caretaker national publicity secretary of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said the disappointment occasioned by the nearly botched convention notwithstanding, the non-elective stand taken was to avoid further crisis as the extension of the tenure of the party’s caretaker committee had saved the party from not having leaders, legally, to steer its ship.
Adeyeye said the extension of the tenure of the Makarfi-led committee was a proactive measure taken by the party leadership to prevent lacuna. He also cleared the air on the reason the PDP opted for a non-elective convention. According to him, it was done to stave off crisis since the party had resolved to go ahead with the election of its national officers, having been prevented by the police from holding the convention at the original venue.
Apparently seeking to bury permanently, the haunting ghost of the Sheriff phenomenon as it is affecting the fortune of the party, Adeyeye said: “If the police claimed that they were obeying a court order, why didn’t they also obey a subsisting court order that instructed Ali Modu Sheriff to stop parading himself as the PDP national chairman? Sheriff has no basis to act as the PDP national chairman as he was not approved by any convention. So, how it got to his head that his tenure would end in 2018 was a clear indication that he was sent to destroy PDP.”
The PDP image maker, however, remained optimistic about the chances of the party ahead of the 2019 elections. He hinted that it was up to Nigerians to choose between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP in the quest to save the country from what he called the current pangs of poverty and suffering.
Describing the general election as a battle to rescue Nigerians, he said the electoral contest in 2019 would be an interesting one. “The 2019 election is not a PDP problem but a Nigerian problem. It is a battle between those in power and those who want to wrest it from them. It is a battle between Nigerians and those making living difficult for them,” he said.
The PDP caretaker publicity secretary also asserted that the party was truly a national party that would survive any regime, adding that the police violated a subsisting court order by sealing off the original venue of its national convention.
PDP members were denied generational change –Henry Ikoh, Abia State Commissioner for Commerce
It was a mixed feeling for Henry Ikoh, the Abia State Commissioner for Commerce and member of the PDP National Convention Electoral Committee. He said although the outcome of the non-elective convention was a welcome development, it denied the party faithful the opportunity of having a generational change in the leadership structure of the party.
Ikoh told Saturday Tribune that he was not really happy that an elective convention did not hold due to the action of the police who sealed off the original venue of the convention. While expressing confidence that the party would overcome all the challenges it was presently facing from Sheriff, aided by the “intervention” of the judiciary, he said the party members present at the convention were convinced that the election would have brought about the generational change.
“As a member of the election committee of the national convention, the thinking was that there would be a generational shift in the leadership structure of the party. My expectation was that an elective convention today (Wednesday) would have made PDP a more formidable political party.
“As an electoral committee member, we were prepared to return the party to the people and say bye-bye to the era of putting the destiny of our great party at the mercy of some individuals who will sit somewhere dictating who becomes what in the party. Democracy would have taken place today (Wednesday) because we were ready to return the party to the people by giving every contestant a clear, free and fair electoral space.
“The disappointment notwithstanding, our great joy lies in the fact that there are clear signs and indications that PDP will surely bounce back. Our renewed confidence, apart from the unity displayed by all leaders present at the convention, is the Abuja High Court judgment which again, today (Wednesday), ruled that Ali Modu Sheriff is not the PDP national chairman.
“The ruling is a great morale booster and an indication that all will be well with the party and its faithful members. With the ruling and the convention, the party has now got the chance to deal with any recalcitrant individual who is out to draw it back,” he said.
It is part of politics –Senator Durodola Faseyi
For Senator Duro Faseyi, the build-up to the PDP national convention and its eventual outcome were part of politics and it was an integral part of the effort at repositioning the party for the task ahead, namely, taking back power from the APC at the centre.
“What played out today was all politics. What played out shortly before the convention was discernible to all Nigerians but we shall surely overcome. I like what played out today (Wednesday) and I was not in any way disappointed that we could not have an elective convention.
“Let us just cross our fingers and see what will be the outcome. But one thing that I am sure of is the fact that the latest verdict by the Abuja High Court has vindicated our position that Ali Modu Sheriff is an interloper who was sent to PDP for an obvious reason, to wit, to destabilise us and put PDP in disarray.
“However, we have been vindicated. PDP and its teeming loyalists and members remain committed. The calibre of people present at this convention in Port Harcourt clearly indicated that we remain one. PDP is on track; we will reposition ahead the 2019 elections. We are ready and well prepared for the great task ahead,” he said.