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By NBF News
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As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) South-east Working Committee's five-man peace panel set up to resolve the crisis rocking the party in Enugu State begins sitting today, the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, has declined to serve on the panel.

The panel, which was set up on Monday has as members Governors Ikedi Ohakim, Imo; Martin Elechi, Ebonyi; Theodore Orji, Abia; the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Mr Emeka Ihedioha, and the deputy senate president.

The panel has the mandate to restore peace to the state chapter and reconcile the feuding members.

But shortly after the panel was constituted, Ekweremadu declined to serve on it as he was quoted to have opted out on the grounds that it would not be proper for him to come from the state and at the same time be in the committee because of the possibility of a clash of interests.

When Daily Sun contacted the South-east National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, who announced the inauguration of the panel on Monday, he confirmed that Ekweremadu had declined to serve in the committee.

Metuh told Daily Sun that Ekweremadu had requested that he be excused from the committee on his own volition as he is from the Enugu State.

The vice chairman, who also confirmed that the panel members would begin sitting today, however, disclosed that they would not be looking at the state party structure, which, he said, was the prerogative of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.

He pointed out that their term of reference covers only the making of peace in the party in the state and reconciling the aggrieved members.

However, when the Enugu State secretariat in PDP was contacted, an officer who pleaded anonymity told Daily Sun that the embattled State Chairman, Mr. Vita Abba, was not aware of such peace and reconciliatory panel just as he had not been communicated on the coming of the panelists to sit in the state or anywhere today.

The source said the committee might be another ploy to infiltrate the state chapter with a bid to disrupting its peace, saying that there was no need for any reconciliation since there is only one PDP led by Abba in the state.

The Abba-led executive was dissolved penultimate week by the NWC of the PDP in Abuja and the conduct of a fresh congress ordered in the state by it. But the embattled chairman headed for the court, which restrained the PDP from executing the NWC order.

The Abba executive had emerged in February 2008 following a congress staged at the Presidential Hotel while another congress organised at Mac Devos Hotel by the Ebeano Group, led by former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, had produced Mr. Ray Nnaji as parallel chairman.

However, mid this year, Nnaji had embraced the Abba-led executive, thus leaving the factional war for ex-Governor Nnamani, whose supporters, in October, decamped en masse to the People Democratic Change (PDC) believed to be awaiting platform on which the senator would launch himself back to the Senate in 2011.

Therefore, political observers said the peace panel would be facing an uphill task in its peace and reconciliation mandate as it was not constituted at the nick of time.

With the bulk of Nnamani's supporters going to a new party and the senator almost in there with them, and two other PDP stalwarts of the Ebeano stock, Dan Shere, former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and KGB Oguakwa, a House of Representatives member, indicating their interest to run for governorship of the state alongside Governor Sullivan Chime, observers say the peace committee, indeed, has a daunting challenge.

Intense trouble started in the state PDP chapter when after Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo became the national chairman of the PDP following a waiver granted him by the state chapter led by Abba and he wanted to take charge of his senatorial district, which Governor Chime was said not to be favourably disposed to.

Since then, the relative peace in the state chapter of the party has fled as the battle for the structure in the state rages on.

After the dissolution of the state executive of the party in the penultimate week, the Governor Chime and Abba camp was highly rattled as they began a frantic search for copies of documents endorsed by INEC authenticating the 2008 Presidential Hotel congress in the state, which was said to have suddenly disappeared.

Tension in the camp only lowered recently when Senator Ekweremadu volunteered to release his own copy of the congress document to INEC, and thus making the governor and Abba to smile again.

This probably explained Ekweremadu's reason of backing out of the peace panel.