PDP: A PARTY AT WAR WITH ITSELF
Members of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] agitated over the flight of camaraderie in the state chapters have concluded that the greatest threat to PDP in the 2011 general elections is not the opposition parties which exist in pockets of states across the federation, but PDP gladiators themselves.
Spurred by the platitude of its National Chairman, Dr Okwesilizie Nwodo to reclaim the party from godfathers, party members almost on daily basis, emboldened by factional leaders, thronged to Wadata Plaza, the party national secretariat in Abuja to protest openly to the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) over the administration of the state chapters.
Bone of contention
Before Nwodo's ascension as national chairman, there had been crises of leadership tussle in almost all PDP chapters across the federation.
The persisting allegation is that sitting PDP governors had appropriated the party secretariats in their states, proclaiming themselves as party leaders. In Oyo, Ogun, Delta and Bayelsa states, among others, there have been war of attrition between incumbent governors and other prominent members of the party, who are averse to the control of the state chapters by their governors.
Incumbent governors who are aspiring for fresh tickets are desperate to foist their loyalists as the executive in their state chapters, while contenders for gubernatorial tickets continue to squeal that such an arrangement would not guarantee a level playing field for all.
In Oyo State, two groups are embroiled in the battle for the control of the party: the sitting governor, Otunba Alao- Akala who insists that a duly conducted state congress produced the Chief Dejo Afolabi-led state chapter, while the factional group, the Patriotic Elders Forum has former governor, Senator Rasheed Ladoja; former gubernatorial candidate and national vice-chairman, South Eest of the party, Chief Yekeen Adeojo; former Minister for Special Duties under the Sani Abacha regime, Elder Wole Oyelese and Senator Lekan Balogun as leading members of the opposition flank in Oyo PDP.
The two groups had disagreed over the modalities for the implementation of the General Ike Nwachukwu Report, which recommended the dissolution of the Chief Dejo Afolabi-led leadership for an interim committee to manage the party affair in the state.
A 19-member committee set up by the immediate past National Chairman of the Party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor on the recommendation of the General Ike Nwachukwu-led Reconciliation Committee Report had constituted an all inclusive implementation Committee to serve as an interim executive of the party in Oyo State.
While the Nwachukwu Committee had given five slots in the new arrangement to Ladoja, it also gave same number to Governor Alao-Akala, leaving nine slots to be shared among other members of the opposition group, the Patriotic Elders Forum.
The governor has not allowed the Alhaji Yunus Akintunde-led Implementation Committee to function and a suit instituted to challenge the Nwachukwu report by the party chieftains loyal to the governor is before a High Court in the state.
The NWC on the prompting of the Independent National Electoral Commission, [INEC] had since called for a fresh congress in Oyo State.
In Bayelsa, where the NWC had equally directed that a fresh congress be held, the opposition flank, Bayelsa PDP Stakeholders, is led by former Deputy Governor of the state, Peremobowei Ebebi, Chief Furoebi Akene and Chief Fred Agbedi.
Addressing a conference recently in Abuja, the group alleged that the votes of Bayelsa delegates for the presidential primary could be a nullity, as the party executive in the state was not recognized INEC.
Spokesperson of the group, Furoebi Akene acccused the Bayelsa State Governor, Timipire Sylva of high handedness despite the entreaty of the Peoples NWC for a fresh congress.
Akene recalled that INEC had in a letter dated June 23, 2010 and signed by the Secretary of the commission, Alhaji Abdullahi Kaugama, listed Bayelsa as one of the states, where its congresses were annulled.
'You will agree with us that at times like this when political activities have reached fever pitch, there is need for all and sundry to apply justice and fair play.
As loyal party members, we are worried that the present state of affairs in the party in Bayelsa State is extremely precarious: INEC has repeatedly warned that the PDP candidates that will emerge from states [Bayelsa inclusive] where congresses were not conducted, or properly conducted in year 2008 will not be recognized.
The consequence of this is obvious—it will spell doom for our great party at the general elections'.
The group further alleged that the State governor was planning to hand pick delegates for the party primary, in spite of the avowed commitment of the national secretariat for a level playing field.
'Political developments and the situation of the party executive in the state clearly indicate the ominous sign that His Excellency, Chief Timipre Sylva, Governor of Bayelsa and his hand picked nominees will automatically return as PDP candidates without a level playing field in clear contradiction to Mr. President commitment to conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
'Specifically, we have been informed that the executives at the ward, local government and state levels who will be delegates in the forth coming primaries of the party remain those the NWC and the INEC have long declared not duly elected.'
The group raised the alarm that Sylva alleged intransigence on going ahead with a discredited executive of the party has dire consequence for the ambition of President Jonathan and called for suspension of party primary in the state.
'If an agency of government, [INEC] says what you want to do isn't known to law, then, it is a nullity. If you insist, it shows high handedness and disobedience to law“.
In Kwara State where a PDP presidential aspirant, Dr Bukola Saraki holds sway, some members of the party recently besieged the party national secretariat to protest an alleged high handedness and meddlesomeness of the governor in the party affair.
Addressing the PDP National Chairman at Wadata Plaza, the leader of the delegation from Kwara, Alhaji Olateju Titilayo, had called for dissolution of Kwara chapter of the party, from state to the ward level as he alleged that they were imposed on the party faithful by Saraki.
'Governor Bukola Saraki had been conducting all party and government elective posts inside the Government House, without primaries, sidelining and relegating the foundation members to the background.
The present ward, local governments and state executive under Alhaji Yusuf Aiyedun were carried out in a selective manner without the participation of the founding members on whose back Governor Saraki rode to power as the State governor in 2003.'
In States like Kano, Yobe and Borno where PDP is in opposition, gubernatorial aspirants are being alleged of buying over the state executives of such states and scaring away their opponents.
In Kano, Mohammed Abacha, son of former military dictator recently defected to the Congress for Progressive Change, [CPC] to pursue his gubernatorial ambition, as he alleged that former Defence Minister, Musa Kwankwaso has hijacked the party's chapter in Kano led by Alhaji Farouk Iya.
Politics of expediency
On assumption of office, an elated Nwodo had promised to take the party back to the people, away from the godfathers.
At a reception organized in his honour at Michael Okpara Stadium, Enugu by the South-East Governors, Nwodo had restated his commitment to restore PDP back to its good days, as he acknowledged that the journey was arduous, but assured party faithful of victory.
'It is a journey that will help Nigeria; it is a journey that will help you and I. I will give PDP back to you; PDP must restore your power back to you.
We must break the chains of slavery, of intimidation, of marginalization. We must move on. The time is now to restore what God has in store for Nigeria. Nigeria's Obamas must rise!
But faced with the grim reality of the subterfuge in PDP, Nwodo, former National Secretary of the party, is learning the rope of real politik, faster.
His scheme, the on-line registration that would make all PDP members to assert equal right to the party was botched by the PDP Governors, at the party NEC, even when the PDP NWC had signed the contractual agreement and President Jonathan had formally registered on line!
Daily Sun investigation revealed that the fresh congresses, being conducted was almost put on hold by the governors of the affected states, who had “instructed“ the PDP NWC to ignore the INEC, as the governors claimed that the electoral agency has only observatory role over political parties.
'The NWC was being circumspect as certain governors who are opposed to fresh congresses in their states are supporting President Goodluck Jonathan for the PDP presidential ticket,'' Daily Sun sourcerevealed.
A tired reformist?
While Nwodo has the entrenched interest of the governors to contend with, Daily Sun source further revealed that the party NWC is equally polarized over the party National Chairman reform agenda.
Speaking recently while addressing factional leaders from Kwara and Rivers State, Nwodo expressed his state of helplessness in retrieving PDP from the abyss, as he admonished members to be patient.
Dr Nwodo, revealed that the NWC was trying to be circumspect in taking an action against the affected state chapters, as 'this is election year.'
'I have said we must take the party to the people, that there would be no god father, but we have to be pragmatic.
This is election year. If we aren't pragmatic, we might take action that could make us lose election. The PDP NWC is being mindful of that.
We are doing conflict resolution, trying to create level playing field, but you must understand our predicament. But whatever we can achieve, between now and before the general elections, take it as our best. We can improve on it.'
Nwodo called on disenchanted party members that the crises in the party chapters had been long in existence, before his assumption of office as national chairman and it would be unrealistic to expect him to change the situation overnight.
'This thing has been going on for long, since 2003 and to correct it overnight isn't easy. We are making progress, steadily. Please, tell them that you met a listening national executive. We shall partner with you to achieve peace. Our agenda for internal democracy isn't an agenda for Nwodo; it isn't an agenda for PDP NWC. It is an agenda for Nigeria.'