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Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo
The efforts to appoint a new chairman for the Peoples Democratic Party have taken a new turn as its leadership has been dragged to court by a group in the party.

Also taken to a Federal High Court, Abuja by the group known as the PDP Stability Forum, is Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, whose name has been widely reported as a topmost contender for the chairmanship of the party.

The National Executive Committee of the party, and the Independent National Electoral Commission were also listed as defendants in the suit filed on behalf of the forum by one Mr. Imo Ugochinyere.

In his motion on notice, the forum asked for an interlocutory order restraining the PDP from appointing Nwodo as the chairman of the party.

It also wants an order stopping the party 'from recognising any purported appointment of the third defendant (Nwodo) as the national chairman of the first defendant (PDP) pending the determination of the substantive suit.'

The forum added that in case Nwodo was appointed, the court should nullify it because it would amount to a contravention of the provisions of the party's constitution.

Listed as the grounds for the application are that by virtue of the provisions of the PDP constitution, Nwodo was not qualified to be appointed or allowed to contest for the office of the party's national chairman.

The applicant also claimed that it was the party's NEC that had the power to appoint its national chairman and that Nwodo was not a consistent and committed member of the PDP.

It also claimed that Nwodo did not meet the PDP constitutional provisions of Sections 8.9 and 16.4 concerning those who left the party but later returned.

The former governor of Enugu State, who was also a former National Secretary of the PDP was said to have left the party before he returned to it on June 14, 2009.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the case.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja on the issue, Ugochinyere said that the forum decided to go to court because of the arraignment of Nwodo and others by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission in 2003 for alleged involvement in the $214m National Identity Card scam.

He said since the former chairman of the party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, was forced to resign when he was arraigned before an Abuja High Court over alleged involvement in a N104m fraud, it would be wrong to ask Nwodo to replace him.

'If Nwodo is confirmed, then Ogbulafor needs to be anointed a saint as days of evil machinations and self-serving strategy of a few must be checked and brought to an end if this nation must succeed,' he said.

He wondered why the leadership of the party believed that only Nwodo was capable of leading the party even when 'there are one million and one capable hands to do so.'

'We cannot afford to take a contaminated egg to pollute the PDP further,' Ugochinyere added.

The PDP NEC meeting which had earlier been scheduled to hold on Thursday ostensibly to ratify the appointment of a new chairman of the party was on Tuesday put off indefinitely.

A PDP source had on Monday told THE PUNCH that the appointment of the party's new chairman had run into a hitch because the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), raised concerns that Nwodo did not meet the conditions to occupy the party's number one seat.

The minister was said to have pointed out that Nwodo did not meet the PDP constitutional provision of Sections 8.9 and 16.4 concerning returnees.

The former governor was said to have left the PDP and returned to the fold on June 14, 2009. Article Eight of the PDP constitution outlines conditions for membership.

Article 8.9 which deals with those returning to the party states, 'Persons who desire to rejoin the party after leaving it shall, unless exempted by the National Working Committee, be placed on probation for a period of time not less than a year.

'On the payment of prescribed fees, a member on probation shall have the right to attend all meetings of the party but shall not be entitled to vote at such meetings.'

The AGF was said to have warned that Article 16.4 states, 'No member of the party shall be qualified for nomination or election or appointment into any of the offices of the party, unless he or she has been a registered member for at least 18 months and is of good financial standing in the party, except there is a waiver by the appropriate executive committee.'

According to the source, Adoke had pointed out that unless a waiver was secured, Nwodo's opponents could go to court and challenge the party's decision.

But the Enugu State chapter of the PDP said on Tuesday that it had granted a waiver to Nwodo on April 16, 2009 when he rejoined the party.

A copy of the waiver letter distributed to journalists in Abuja, was titled, 'Re: His Excellency, Dr. Nwodo's return to our great party. waiver notification.'

It was addressed to the National Vice-Chairman of the PDP in the South-East, Chief Olisa Metu, and signed by Mr. Vita Abba.