By NBF News

FORMER Vice President and presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has raised posers over the party's preparations for its presidential primary, declaring that the entire exercise is shrouded in secrecy.

Addressing a media conference at the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation headquarters in Abuja yesterday, Director General of the organisation, Ben Obi, said Abubakar was not comfortable with the way the party was handling the preparation for the presidential primary.

Meanwhile, one of the presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP, Sani Aminu Dutsinma, who obtained a judgment on the party's zoning arrangement has again filed a fresh suit asking for an order of mandamus for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enforce the verdict.

Speaking at a media conference in Abuja yesterday, Dutsinma said he had given the commission reasonable time to carry out the order of the court but since it was not effected, he had no option than to go back to the court.

He disclosed that hearing in the matter had been fixed for Tuesday, January 11, 2011.

And, Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State has assured all political office seekers in this year's elections of a level playing ground irrespective of their party affiliation.

Imoke spoke while receiving Atiku in Calabar during a courtesy call on him by the latter.

And contrary to speculation, Atiku met with most of the PDP delegates from Cross River State on Wednesday night through the early hours of yesterday in an undisclosed venue.

The Presidential aspirant, who arrived Calabar on Wednesday evening, was seen in the company of former Governor Donald Duke whose aides and vehicles were deployed for Atiku's use.

This prompted speculations that Duke might return to the PDP and run for office as running mate to Abubakar.

In the brief session with reporters, Atiku commended the warm reception he

received in Calabar saying: 'It has been very warm and friendly and I had an

interactive session with the delegates. I believe I was able to convince them that I am the best candidate in this race and I am satisfied that I have made an impact.'

On the clamour by some PDP members that he should not be allowed to contest the party's presidential primaries, Atiku said: 'I have my constitutional rights guaranteed under the constitution. The fact that they protested does not make any sense. In any case, it is sponsored by the Presidency and I am not disturbed at all.'

Reading from a text titled: 'Troubling matters surrounding the conduct of the PDP presidential primary election,' Obi submitted that all was not well with the arrangement for the primary.

He said: 'There are a number of troubling signals surrounding the conduct of the PDP presidential primary election which we feel compelled to lay before the Nigerian public. Precisely one week to the conduct of the primary election, which comes up on 13 January, 2011, the National Convention Committee, which has the overall mandate of planning and executing the primary election programme is yet to be composed. If one has been composed, it is not yet been made public.

'Relatedly, less than five days to the screening of the presidential aspirants, an exercise that is slated for January 11, 2011, the presidential screening panel is yet to be constituted. I leave it to the imagination of the Nigerian public the implication of this to the proper, result-oriented, fair and equitable screening of the aspirants.'

Obi alleged that the PDP had left him in the dark over relevant information regarding the primary, despite inquiries.

He said: 'In spite of our unrelenting efforts and considerable pressure on the party leadership to convene a meeting between it and all the presidential campaign organisations, no date, to the best of our knowledge, has been chosen for this dialogue to take place.

'The implication of this is that one week to the presidential primary election, our Campaign Organisation is completely in the dark about issues and processes that affect us, and in which we have expended and are still expending enormous amount of time, energy and resources.

'Specifically, we are yet to receive any official communication from the party on the guidelines and ground rules that will govern the conduct of the primary election; about the time, location and method of screening delegates; the issuance of passes to accredited officials; the security arrangements for such a major political undertaking; a published list of all delegates who will participate in the voting exercise; voting method and procedures; counting and announcement of results; and a thousand and one other details that must be clearly set out weeks before the conduct of the election.

'Preparations for the conduct of the PDP presidential primary election appear to be going on in extreme secrecy, which makes the entire process suspect and places it under grave threat going by the omissions noted above.'

To resolve the identified lapses Obi said:  'After an exhaustive examination of the situation confronting us, and with due regard to our loyalty to our party and fidelity to the cause of Nigerian democracy, we wish to state our stand as follows:

'A meeting between the leadership of the party and the various Campaign Organisations should be convened as expeditiously as possible so that all matters relating to the conduct of the primary election are thrashed out and agreed upon as a binding arrangement between all the parties concerned.

'This meeting is a necessary condition towards the conduct of a free, fair, credible, transparent and acceptable primary election.

'The list of delegates who will vote at the primary election must be published and widely advertised in the print media. This list is as crucial to the successful conduct of the primary election as the list of Nigerian voters which the INEC must publish before the conduct of the general election.'

The former Vice President concluded that if the measures above were ignored, it would mean that the party had resolved to manipulate the process but vowed to resist such act.

The campaign organisation also expressed concern over the conduct of the PDP primaries thus far.

Obi said: 'The conduct of the primary election held so far in many states is extremely troubling. In many states, authentic delegates to the primary elections have been disenfranchised leading to what appears to be an unfortunate disintegration of the party in the states concerned. In some states, our delegates were barred from meeting our aspirant on the directive of the governors. We condemn such undemocratic practice and call on the leadership of the party to take a firm and decisive stand on these troubling issues, but failure to arrest this situation will be indicative that the presidential primary is on the verge of being manipulated.'