Battle for the soul of PDP on the Plateau

The crisis rocking the Plateau State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is far from over as its major stakeholders are neck-deep in a battle for the leadership of the party in the state, ISAAC SHOBAYO writes.

Still smarting from its poor outing in the last governorship election, the People Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State was recently thrown into further confusion occasioned by the sudden suspension of its state chairman, Honourable Damishi Sango and his deputy, Honourable Amos Goyol. The suspension by some members of the state executive of the party was a rude shock to many other members who did not envisage that such action could be taken when the party is trying to refocus and put the election trauma behind it, even as it is still pursuing its case challenging the outcome of the election at the election petitions tribunal

The suspension of the chairman and his deputy was like a palace coup and it was too late before they could put their acts together to wade off the storm. It would be recalled that Sango, who was a former Minister of Youth and Sport became the chairman of the party during the prevailing circumstances that led to the 2015 election. He did not signify his intention for the job but was co-opted, based on his experience, to salvage the party on the Plateau.

Sango was expected to bring his wealth of experience in politics to bear to revamp the party, but along the line, the embattled chairman ran into mucky waters over some pre-election matters and was accused of some financial misdemeanours.

Piqued by his style of leadership, 16 members of the state executive of the party connived with some elders who were acting behind the scene to pass a vote of no confidence on the chairman and his deputy. In their resolution, they alleged that the resources sent to the state for the presidential election were not accounted for by Sango and his deputy. They alleged that the duo concealed the amount sent by the PDP Presidential Campaign Committee and created a fraudulent template used as “a sharing formula unknown to the state party structure.”

They also alleged that money raised and saved by the party to assist Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) was also not accounted for and they equally noted that the Plateau PDP deputy chairman was the chairman of the committee on IDPs for the party. They further added that money meant for Plateau PDP Retreat was equally not accounted for by the chairman and/or his deputy, Goyol.

The 16 Plateau PDP SEC members further alleged that the highhandedness of Sango and his deputy plunged the party into confusion, causing high disregard elders, critical stakeholders and members of the SEC as their advises and decisions were no longer relevant to the duo.

They directed the embattled Plateau PDP chairman and his deputy to return with immediate effect all party property in their possession to the state secretariat. This was as they appointed the state PDP vice chairman, Northern Senatorial Zone, Chris Hassan, to take over the leadership of the party in acting capacity.

However, the decision of the aggrieved SEC members has caused further division and disaffection among PDP stalwarts and followers in the state. While some are rather watching the unfolding events from the sidelines, some others who were alleged to be sponsors of the crisis are reportedly providing necessary logistics to those on the front line to remove Sango and Goyol.

The governorship candidate of the party in the last election, Senator Jeremiah Useni, frowned at the way and manner the chairman was suspended, saying the process was not in tandem with the constitution of the party.

Reacting to his suspension, Sango said the claim by the 16 SEC members that they took the action to save the party does not hold water because the party see their action as a morbid attempt to divide the party and cause disaffection and confusion, adding that his suspension and that of his deputy was illegal as it did not follow the constitutional requirements.

On the resources sent to the state for the presidential elections, Sango said the matter was appropriately reported to the State Campaign Council, adding that the template was also discussed at and approved by the Campaign Council.

“We want to state that the money for the retreat amounting to N2.6m and other funds of the party were domiciled in Sterling Bank. However, these sums were garnished by a court order on all PDP accounts – national and state- following a judgment against the national secretariat of the PDP.

“This situation has been consistently reported at SEC and SWC meetings. The chairman of the retreat committee, Honourable Chris Hassan who is illegally being touted as the interim chairman of the party, is very much in the know of these facts and cannot claim ignorance of same,” he said.

Nigerian Tribune learnt that several entreaties by the PDP national secretariat to prevail on the SEC members to sheathe their swords and rescind their decision were rebuffed. This was as a national delegation sent to the state on fact-finding mission could not pacify the aggrieved party members.

To legalise the suspension, 65 members of SEC met and ratified the suspension of the chairman and his deputy and further set up a 7-member disciplinary committee with Mr Sunday Pangwal as the chairman and Pamson Dagyat as secretary, with a view to investigate and recover party funds allegedly in possession of the chairman.

The acting chairman, Chris Hassan who presided over the meeting, gave the committee 30 days to submit its report to the State Executive Council of the party for further action.

“We are glad to inform you that 65 out of the 72 members of the State Executive Committee (SEC) of Plateau PDP have ratified and endorsed the suspension of Honourable Damishi Sango as chairman of the Party and Honourable Amos Gombi Goyol as deputy chairman.

“A disciplinary committee has been set up by the SEC members. The committee has 30 days to submit it report to the SEC for action. If the allegations raised against them are not true, they will return to their offices. But if they are found guilty, they will be discipline by the party,” he said.

However, those who are sympathetic to Sango faulted the ratification on the premise that the composition of the SEC was not in line with the party constitution. One them who craved anonymity, declared thus: “The SEC that ratified the suspension was 65 of the 72 members, though, this is the required number but 10 of the 65 are not members of SEC while three members were absent. Therefore, in the order of addition and subtraction, they did not form quorum.

“Most of the issues raised against the chairman and his deputy were fundamental and genuine, the cup of chairman in particular is overfull but those behind the plot circumvent the laid down procedures to achieve their objective. Moreover, since the chairman and his deputy have less than one year to complete their tenure, they should have waited instead of heating up the polity at this time when the party need concentration to pursue its petition before the election petitions tribunal.”

Those who have been watching the trend of events within the party on the Plateau posited that the crisis is as a result of bottled-up anger and malice that characterised the governorship primary of the party and the quest for revenge. Prior to the primary, there were betrayal of trust among the political gladiators and the aspirants.

A source close to the PDP in the state revealed that Sango and his deputy are yet to appear before the committee set up to investigate the allegations against them. Meanwhile, Chris Hassan has resumed as the acting state chairman of the party, but this has not assuage the feelings of aggrieved loyalists of Sango

As a result of the division, analysts said the unfolding drama might factionalise the party if not properly handled, saying that if this happens, it might spell doom for the PDP in Plateau State and forced some of its members to drift into other political parties of their choice and further jeopardise the petition of its governorship candidate at the tribunal despite assurance of team of lawyers handling the matter.

Considering the dimension the impasse is taking, the question on the lips of people is, “would PDP on the Plateau survive the crisis, given the threats and counter-threats from both sides of the divide?”

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