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Acting President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday attributed the lingering crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party to the ambitions by some of its members to seek political offices during the 2011 elections.

Jonathan, in his address at the 50th National Executive Committee meeting of the PDP, in Abuja, however, advised all those interested in the race to conduct themselves in a manner that would not overheat the polity.

The meeting took place after an Abuja High Court had earlier on Tuesday made a U-turn on its order on Monday that the Chief Vincent Ogbulafor-led leadership of the PDP should not go ahead with it. It started at exactly 2:38pm, a few minutes after the Acting President arrived at the Wadata House, the secretariat of the PDP.

The meeting was attended by 26 PDP governors, two former National Chairmen of the party — Dr. Ahamdu Ali and Chief Barnabas Gemade as well as a former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chief Anthony Anenih. However, the Chairman, Board of Trustees and former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was absent.

The court, in vacating the order, also directed that the 19 suspended chieftains of the party, including two former Presidents of the Senate—Chiefs Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani—should be invited to the meeting.

But the suspended chieftains, including Nnamani, Wabara and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Bello Masari, did not show up at the meeting which, a party official who insisted on anonymity said, was slightly tensed.

The Acting President said, 'People are talking and fighting because of 2011 elections. We should expect more of this as the election year gets closer. This is the problem in our party.

'In terms of political ambition, every human being is free to aspire to any office he likes. But within this period, while we are doing that, we should do it in such a way that it should not overheat the polity.

'There is something called mosquito campaign. You will be going round to market yourselves, but let us not overheat the system, if we do that, we create problem for the party.'

He described the last three to four months as being critical for the party and said he was very happy that it (PDP) was already surmounting its challenges.

The Acting President expressed hope that the PDP would not break up, adding that no matter its challenges the party would come out stronger.

Jonathan said, 'Also, we have to thank God that no matter the challenges, we have been able to stabilise. I have always believed in the PDP. People believe that the party will split into fragments. No matter how we disagree, at the end of the day, we come out stronger.'

He, however, pleaded with aggrieved members of the party to realise that the PDP and the nation were facing a challenging period.

Jonathan described as false, many of the statements 'being bandied about by some people' and called on the PDP members not to be in a hurry to react to these issues.

Jonathan said, 'Some of them are true, some half truths; and most of them are complete blatant lies. But nobody will be there to explain things.

'They will say this man said so or that this man has done this, especially those of us, who by divine providence and by your grace, are holding offices of governors, Acting President and chairman of the party.'

The Acting President said there were text messages aimed at tarnishing his image and that of government officials that were being circulated in the country.

He called on party members to be guided by the party's constitution in whatever they did, adding that until it was amended, all members should adhere to it.

Apparently referring to the suspension of 19 members of the party by the NWC, Jonathan called on party members to learn to resolve their differences amicably.

'One thing I believe in is that in every human society, there may be a tendency for people to disagree on certain issues. Even husband and wife disagree; but the most important issue is how we resolve our crisis. The PDP has that power to do so,' the Acting President added.

The party insider who spoke to our correspondent said that although the 'atmosphere was charged' the NEC members who spoke chose their words carefully in order not to further deepen the crisis that the party is going through. Nevertheless, he added, the meeting discussed a wide range of issues, including the need for unity before the party's imminent primaries (the date of which is yet to be decided) and the 2011 elections. One of those who spoke in this regard, according to the source, was Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, who reportedly said that the PDP governors were not happy about the crisis that had engulfed the party in recent times. The governor was said to have implored the Acting President to leverage his position as the overall leader of the party to take charge and quickly resolved the crises.

Another governor of a North Central State, who only spoke on the condition that he would not be named, said the governors agreed that the ongoing criminal trial of the party chairman is an 'embarrassment' to the party. He added, however, that the governors opted not to discuss the matter at length because of the perception among them that the Acting President is inclined to 'interfere' in the judicial process to save the PDP chairman. 'He (Jonathan) said that the Chairman should go and clear his name,' the governor said.

Speaking, Ogbulafor, who appeared sober, used the occasion to exonerate himself from allegations of corruption against him by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. He said that he was a victim of political witch-hunt.

He said, 'As for my alleged involvement in a certain N104m contract cases with the ICPC, let me, with all sense of responsibility, state that I am innocent of the allegations.

'I was a Minister of Economic Matters in the Presidency while the National Economic Intelligence Committee was an agency of government in the Presidency.

'It had a chairman and committee members. I was not a member of the committee. I never attended their meetings. More so, decisions were solely made by them.

'My role was limited to accompanying them to the Presidency to present the reports of the committee. I know that these allegations are politically motivated, and I am absolutely sure that justice will be done, and I will be vindicated.'

He said that people should not mistake his civility for weakness and called on the party to unite to face the challenges ahead.

'Let me use this medium to remind us that civility is not a sign of weakness. Notwithstanding their antics, the NWC will not shrink from its responsibilities,' he explained.

At the meeting, the NEC members passed vote of confidence on the Acting President and the Ogbulafor-led NWC leadership.

A statement after the meeting said the confidence vote on Jonathan was for his role in stabilising the polity since he assumed office as the Acting President.

The statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Alkali, added, 'NEC also passed a vote of confidence on the National Assembly for its steadfastness in ensuring the stability and good governance in the country.

'NEC also unanimously expressed a vote of confidence on the NWC led by Chief Ogbulafor and encouraged the committee to continue in current line of organising the party and ensuring its growth and stability.'

It added that the meeting also 'approved proposals for the amendment of section 12.14, 12.46, and 12.48 of the PDP constitutions which deals with number of delegates to elect flag-bearers of the party at various levels.'

The statement added that the NEC observed that the current provision which made the number of delegates in a Senatorial congress more than those electing a governorship candidate was an anomaly.