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NWODO'S SECOND COMING: THE LONG, TORTOUS ROAD TO REFORMS IN PDP

By NBF News

Finally, after frenzied politicking and horse- trading, the Peoples Democratic Party was able to ratify former Enugu State governor who was also former national secretary of the party, Chief Okwesilizie Nwodo as  successor to Prince Vincent Ogbulafor.

Nwodo`s speech,  during a formal hand over ceremony performed by the deputy national chairman of the party, Dr Haliru Bello Mohammed, offered an instant illumination on the direction the party would take with Nwodo on the driver's seat

“There is a great disconnection between our party and Nigerians. Nigerians aren't happy with the way we had won elections. From now on, we don't want to win only the elections, but the hearts of Nigerians.

That's the change we want to bring.  To make Nigerians believe in PDP, we must select our candidates for elections through fair primaries ; there must be no imposition,“ he had said.

At the core of the agitation for restoration of internal democracy is the separation of party from government. In virtually all PDP states, governors have appropriated the party secretariats. They decide, who gets what, when and how from the ward, council to the state.

Former governors, senators and ministers who had since lost out in their respective states, form the bulk of the agitators in the PDP Reform Forum. The governors proclaim themselves party leaders, alienating others who have sincere motive.

During the administration of former national chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, party members demanded for implementation of the Alex Ekwueme committee report which recommended for the separation of government from party. A similar position was canvassed by the General Ike Nwachukwu reconciliation committee, which sought for, without success, an inclusive state executive of the party in states where PDP members are the only visible opposition to sitting PDP governors.

Daily Sun findings revealed that PDP members across the country are craving for a leadership that would address its mind to genuine reconciliation. Speaking with Daily Sun, Tunde Odanye a gubernatorial aspirant in Osun state disclosed that reconciliation in PDP is most urgent.

“The first thing he should do to carry the party to loftier heights is to reconcile PDP members who felt disenchanted and either moved out or away from PDP. Again, he needs to assert himself so that the party organ would be seen as supreme, as against the supremacy of god fathers. Nigerians see the party as a conglomeration of people merely seeking for power, but it isn't true.`

A party source however told Daily Sun that the Ekwueme`s committee report, while it comes handy, its implementation could boomerang, as it would not only set the governors, who proclaim themselves as party leaders in their states on war path with Nwodo, but the report also calls to question, the seeming over bearing attitude of a sitting president who wants to oversee the administration of the party national secretariat to achieve personal agenda.

“Nwodo must tread with caution, as the man who foisted him on PDP also wants to control Wadata Plaza`.

Speaking further, the PDP source told Daily Sun that the PDP governors have not given up on their fixation to continue to be in control of the party secretariat in their states, which informed the call for the disbandment of the PDP Reform Forum which was in the vanguard of the call for mutual exclusivity of government and party.

“ At the last PDP NEC meeting, Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi had kicked against the reversal of the suspension of members of the Forum and actually insisted on the dissolution of the movement. He had even queried the reversal of the suspension, but for the intervention of former PDP national chairman, Ahmadu Ali and others before the entire National Executive Committee agreed on the dissolution of the group.“

Speaking with newsmen, last Tuesday in Abuja, the Rivers State governor stated in clear terms that the twenty eight PDP governors would continue to call the shots, in spite of the budding revolt that they must give way.

The 2011 power game, Amaechi told journalists would be won and lost with PDP governors taking central stage.

'The governors will eventually sit down and discuss. Some of the delegates to the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party are Special Advisers/Assistants or their aides. So no matter what you do, the governors will still beg their aides to come and vote.“

Besides the restoration of internal democracy which genuine stalwarts of the party agree deserve an emergency, is the restoration of the party constitution. It has always been observed in the breach.

Article 9.1 > of the PDP constitution frowns at existence of factions, groups whose activity may undermine the working of the party, or elected government on the platform of the party.

Daily Sun investigations, however revealed that the party has so many amorphous groups which have constituted themselves to visible opposition to the party national secretariat and elected governors than the opposition parties in PDP controlled states . Before the PDP Reform Forum, which was a reaction to the PDP Governors Forum, there were, the PDP Integrity Forum, the PDP Stability Forum, Conference of PDP state chairmen and secretaries among others, speaking for or against the Ogbulafor led National Working Committee.

Unwieldy leadership?
After the removal of Ogbulafor, other members of the National Working Committee of Peoples Democratic Party had watched with bated breath.   There was speculation that President Jonathan actually toyed with the idea of  dissolving the entire National Working Committee and constituting a new team to work with Nwodo, but the idea was later shelved.

According to Daily Sun findings, both the national secretary of the party, Kawu Baraje and the deputy national chairman, Haliru Bello who were believed to have emboldened Vincent Ogbulafor at the heat of the cold  relationship between the PDP NWC and Goodluck Jonathan while he was acting president, were allegedly penciled for removal.

But speaking at the formal hand over to the new chairman, Bello who was in charge in acting capacity after the resignation of Vincent Ogbulafor, allayed whatever fears the presidency and other members of the party could be nursing, when he pledged absolute loyalty of the team to Nwodo.

“Most of us know Nwodo, as Enugu  State governor and as national secretary of our great party. So, he isn't new to PDP or administration of the party. We are lucky to have an old war horse on the saddle. There is nothing new to teach him, he has been watching the trend in the party.

Under  the late President Umaru Yar`Adua and Vincent  Ogbulafor, as national chairman of our great party, our loyalty to the late president and the former national chairman—up to the time of Yar`Adua`s death and Ogbulafor resignation, was total.

We have always been loyal to a fault. This time around, we want to pledge the same loyalty to you, President Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP Board of  Trustees and National Executive Committee, so that the National Working Committee can remain focused and deliver in 2011, “Bello told Nwodo.

Zoning as banana peel.
Zoning of elective offices in PDP was the issue that consumed the immediate past national chairman of the party, the besieged Vincent Ogbulafor. It remains the burning issue in the party and the entire polity. While President Goodluck Jonathan and the chairman of the party board of trustees, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo are working in tandem with some members of the party caucus  towards the jettisoning of the zoning arrangement which ensured two term presidency for Obasanjo, the party highest organ, the PDP NEC is heavily polarized.

Dr Morounkola Thomas, Director of Media ad Strategy of PDP Oyo state aligns with those canvassing for the removal of the PDP zoning arrangement. He told Daily Sun that the situation that called for the adoption of the zoning principle no longer exists.

“I will suggest that we look at the party constitution on zoning. The situation that brought about zoning in 1999 is no longer there. We have young, educated Nigerians who have experience and are seeking for accommodation under the party umbrella. I think zoning should be knocked off.`

The party should pick candidates solely on merit, credible hands for elective offices, not green horns who would get to positions and constitute embarrassment to our party. Take for example, the people in the House of Representatives. I am sure most of them aren't the best their constituencies  could offer, but they are product of zoning.  “

Nwodo in his acceptance speech has promised the entire party members of his determination to mend the PDP leaking umbrella and inspire peoples confidence in the party.

'I am saying that there must be total inclusivity of all party members in the membership and running of the party. The new umbrella we are here to build is so wide and can indeed accommodate all that wish to come under it.

The more we reach out to the people and involve them in selecting our candidates, the better our chances of finding the candidates that we can market and who can bring us victory in general elections.“

Stalwarts of PDP have always insist that the party has the capacity to solve its crises, even when it reach a crescendo. What the PDP does with zoning under Nwodo leadership would be the beginning of the end of the party that has always prides itself as the largest political party in Africa.