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PDP CONGRESSES: WHERE GOVERNORS ARE EMPERORS

By NBF News

PDP National Chairman, Dr. Ezkwesili Nwodo
Moves by the Peoples Democratic Party to whittle down influence of governors at its

congresses may enhance the practice of internal democracy in the party, writes Olusola Fabiyi.

Nigerians governors are powerful. The constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party made those elected on the platform of the party extra-authoritative. This is why on several occasions, the governors have exhibited their arrogance without minding whose ox is gored.

During the sickness of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, when he left Nigeria for the Saudi Arabia to seek medical help without handing over to his deputy, Nigerians watched helplessly as the governors tried to play god. While in one breath they claimed, through their chairman and Governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, that Yar'Adua was well and healthy, in another breath, they said the deceased President spoke with the trio of the then Vice- President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; Senate President, Senator David Mark and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole. Events that later followed showed that the governor was not actually saying the truth. It was later Nigerians got to know that the governors were actually not favourably disposed to Jonathan taking charge of the realms of affairs of the country in the absence of Yar'Adua.

That was probably how powerful the governors wanted Nigerians to know they were. But in their respective states, they are lords and it is difficult for anyone to either get elected or get appointed for any political appointment. This could be the reason the members of the outlawed PDP Reform Forum advocated the cutting of powers of the governors. The group, led by a former Senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Bello Masari, said with the way the party's constitution was written, it would be eternally impossible for any aspirant to defeat the incumbent governors during primaries irrespective of the level of their performance.

They were right. In the party's constitution, the composition of the state congress, which is saddled with the responsibility of electing governorship candidate of the party, testifies to this. The members, as stipulated in Section 12.40 are party's state chairman, the president and his deputy, who are members of the party, the governor and his deputy. Also listed as members of the congress are ministers, chairmen of boards of federal parastatals, ambassadors, special advisers and special assistants to the president and vice- president and members of the board of trustees from the state and members of the state executive committee and all members of the national and zonal executive committees from the state. The congress members also include members of the National Assembly and members of the State House of Assembly; 10 state commissioners and 10 special advisers to the governor, all elected local government council chairmen and vice-chairmen, all local government party secretaries, treasurers, women and youth leaders, there delegates per ward, former members of the state working committee, former governors, their deputy and former speakers and deputy speakers of the state House of Assembly produced by the party.

This long list is giving the leadership of the party migraine as it is believed that the party must shake off the shackles of the governors. The National Chairman of the party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, said it was wrong to allow governors to come to the congress with their political appointees. Nwodo spoke in Abuja on Wednesday when he received members of Delta State Elders and Stakeholders Forum led by a former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark. He said the constitution as currently stipulated, conferred undue advantages on the governors over other aspirants, adding that any political appointee, who believed that he or she was popular, must go back to his or her ward and contest election to become a delegate. Nwodo said this was part of the reform going on in the party, which he however said would become effective when the party's constitution is amended. The governors, he said, were so powerful that they could on their own decide to go for third term in office and would have the support of the delegates if not for the constitution. This, he said, was not acceptable to the party.

According to him, 'We are going to bring a lot of electoral reform in the PDP because our primary elections are decided before we get to the congress. When the governors come to an election with all their commissioners, with all their special advisers, with all special assistants, with chairmen not elected, and appointed councillors, they are already controlling 70 per cent of the delegates. So, if he says they that he will be there, even for third term, he has people who will vote for him. If he says AYZ are senators, they have started (celebration) and down the line. The rest of the governorship aspirants will be struggling for the 30 per cent whereas one man has 70 per cent (of the delegates). Is that a contest? Will that allow the best man to emerge?

'We have to change this constitution. We have to make sure that all these appointees cannot be delegates to our conventions.' And if they insist, Nwodo said there was a way out – they should go to their wards and test their popularity where they could emerge as delegates. 'If the people like them, they can be delegates. If people don't like them, let them stay away,' the former governor of Enugu State said. Perhaps, he is also of the opinion that it is also wrong for the party to say that those, who joined the party newly or defect from another party would have to wait for two years before they could contest for an election in the party has to change. This aspect of the party's constitution, he said, did not tally with Nigerian's constitution. This, though he did not say it, could be a subtle way by the governors to shut some people out of the contest. But suffice it to say that the party's chairman frowned upon that aspect of the constitution and he did not hide this. 'Then they say if you come back and if you don't stay for two years, you cannot run for election, where in Nigerian constitution is that one?' he asked.

He told Clark and members of his entourage, who came due to the problems within the party in Delta State that in the states where the party lost elections, it was not due to the level of its unpopularity but because of infighting between the members of the party emanating from flawed primaries and how candidates were picked. To avoid this, he had vowed not to take the 'PDP to an election where they (members) feel that the only way they can win is to go to INEC and have result written for them.' He also sent a message to the governors and others holding political office that the idea of people saying 'share the money when we say PDP must stop because we did not form PDP to share the money,' just he said that government would provide dividends of democracy for the people 'if we stop sharing the money.' Events of coming days will determine how far the Nwodo-led National Working Committee can go in this self-imposed task.