PDP NATIONAL CONVENTION: 5,000 DELEGATES STORM ABUJA

By NBF News
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About 5000 delegates drawn from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are expected to decide who picks the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket, for the 2011 general election today. The PDP National Organising Secretary, Uche Secondus, disclosed this in Abuja yesterday.

The party's special national convention will hold at Eagle Square, Abuja.

In the race are the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mrs. Sarah Jibril.

The three aspirants were cleared on Tuesday night by the Ambassador Aminu Wali-led 10-member presidential screening panel. The delegates, according to Secondus, would vote by open secret ballot system.

He also said the accreditation of the delegates would begin by 6pm yesterday (Wednesday) at two centres: Women Development Centre and International Conference Centre, all in Abuja. The convention, he disclosed further, would commence at 10 am at Eagle Square. But ahead of today's convention, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar has expressed concern over the composition of the PDP Special Convention Committee.

Speaking with Daily Sun in an exclusive interview, a media aide to the PDP presidential aspirant, Garba Shehu alleged that majority of those in the team were working for a certain aspirant in today's race. 'Didn't you see the list of the membership of the convention committee? Do you know that the five states in this country that Atiku went and wasn't allowed to enter those states, wasn't allowed to meet delegates, those were the governors that were rewarded with the membership of the convention committee. So in effect somebody is sending a signal that that is the kind of conduct they are encouraging.

That what they want the governors to do: to bar Atiku from having access to their delegates. And they have been promoted to the convention committee; that's the dangerous signal we have seen.' He further disclosed that formal complaint had been lodged with the party national secretariat. 'We have written a letter to the PDP national chairman protesting the membership of a sensitive committee like that if there is a trophy to be won with the hatred of Atiku all over Nigeria, you don't look beyond that committee to pick the winner of that trophy. It is full of anti- Atiku people.'

Meanwhile, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) also yesterday named a 40-member National Electoral Panel headed by former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran to conduct the voting at the convention ground.

Police ban carrying of firearms, luggages vehicles, around venue

Ahead of today's presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, has rolled out security measures to be observed by all delegates to the convention even as he assured that the Force and other security agencies have put in place maximum security at the Eagle Square, venue of the event and the entire Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The measures, according Ringim, include no carrying of arms, ammunitions or hand grenade or any weapon by security aides of VIPs inside the square, adding that a taskforce had been set up to ensure that no security personnel or orderly with arms or tear gas canister were permitted in. He further said vehicles also would be barred at about two kilometres away from the venue advising motorists to bear with the police for inconveniences it might cause.

This, he said, was to avoid any untoward incident like accidental gun discharge or harassment or threat of any kind from security men.

He said this at a press conference at the Force Headquarters, explaining that all delegates would be screened at the various states liaison offices before being conveyed to the square where they would be seated according to their states. The police boss said the Central Business Area of the FCT had been cordoned off and would remain under heavy security surveillance until the end of the convention, adding that from the Total Filling Station down to the Ministry of Justice building would be affected by the security measure, as no vehicle would be allowed to pass the area.

He apologised for the inconvenience, which he said was necessary in view of the recent bomb blasts at the Mammy Market, Mogadishu Military Barracks. 'On no account will vehicles be allowed to park or move around the Square. There would be no street hawkers and no orderly with arms and ammunition will be allowed into the Square. The public should be aware and be their brothers' keepers; they should report any suspicious movement or bags,' Ringim said.

The IGP said though the security measure was being done in collaboration with other security agencies, the police would be in charge of the operation but added that this did not mean the Force was superior to other agencies.

Responding to questions on the frequent attacks by the Boko Haram radical group in Borno State, Ringim said suspected members that were arrested had been charged to court and were in prison custody.

He revealed that two of them were still in police custody as they were helping investigators with useful information.

He assured that adequate security measures would also be put in place nationwide during the April elections, pledging that the police 'will remain untainted' in the polls.

Security men take over N'Assembly ahead of PDP primaries

Ahead of today's commencement of the national convention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to pick its presidential flag bearer for the April 9 elections, the National Assembly, has been fully secured.

As early as 7a.m, anti-terrorism squad, backed by a detachment of armed policemen and other agents in plain clothes took over the screening of vehicles and their occupants.

Starting from the Pilot Gate at the back of the Cenotaph, opposite the Eagle Square, venue of the convention, all vehicle owners were ordered to open their boots after proper identification. All items inside the boots must be identified, while a metal detector was used to screen the tyres. The multiple checks on every vehicle and their occupants, irrespective of social or political status, caused traffic gridlock. Senators and members of the House of Representatives, whether chauffeur-driven or not were not exempted as they were forced to comply with orders from the security men.

Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ndoma Egba, Senator Nuhu Aliyu, chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Power, Mr. Patrick Ikhariale were some members of the National Assembly who went through the double check before they could access their offices. Visitors were turned back at the main gate, as no entrance permit was issued to anybody by the sergeant at arm, while workers who failed to produce the National Assembly identity card were turned back.

It was gathered that the National Assembly will not open to the public today, but this could not be confirmed as the Sergeant At Arm, Col Emeka Okere [rtd] could not be reached on his cell phone.

Vote wisely, group appeals to PDP delegates
Ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) special convention today, a political pressure group, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum has appealed the delegates to vote wisely. The PDP presidential candidate in this year's general election would be elected in the convention. The group, in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Mr. Akin Malaolu and made available to Daily Sun in Lagos yesterday said it was confident that the delegates would vote in the interest of democracy in today's convention.

It implored the delegates to uphold the zoning principle in the PDP constitution through their votes.

'We therefore urge PDP delegates to uphold the zoning principle in their party's constitution and make it a duty to keep Nigeria one by voting wisely, so that the nation can be unchained from the hands obtuse, untrained and corrupt leaders.'

It added that 'presently, our dear President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has failed in both actions and deeds that can move the nation forward and neither can he guarantee succor and redemption for the helpless and hapless millions of our people.'

Youth leaders back Jonathan
Nigerian youths under their umbrella organisation, the National Youth Council of Nigeria, have endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan as the aspirant best equipped to translate the national youth manifesto into reality for the good of the nation. In a four-page communiqué issued after a three-day National Youth Summit held in Abuja and signed by the President of the council, Mr. Olawale Ajani and six other youth leaders, the youth leaders noted that after assessing the capabilities and track records of all presidential hopefuls, the candidacy of President Jonathan was most acceptable to Nigerian youths.

The youths noted with appreciation the move by the Federal Government to expand access to education and health services, rehabilitation of existing universities, funding of job creation programmes, enhancing of electricity generation and distribution as well as electoral reform to ensure one man, one vote, affirming that 'ongoing progress deserves to be sustained by well-meaning Nigerians and particularly the over 60 million Nigerian youths.

'As major stakeholders in the Nigerian project, we have crafted a national youth manifesto, which specified studied solutions to various youth developmental challenges. We are trusting President Jonathan as the man who can translate that manifesto into reality,' the communiqué said.

While calling on President Jonathan to sustain his commitment to Nigerian youths, the youth leaders pledged to create a nationwide youth-led democratic movement to mobilise the youth for voters' registration and actual voting in April under the patronship of the Minister of Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi.

Other aspects of the communiqué included a call on Nigerian youths to massively register during the forthcoming voters' registration exercise and deploy their demographic strength to determine the political direction and leadership of the country.

The summit organised by the Federal Ministry of Youth Development was attended by 4,500 youth leaders from across the country and Abuja.

150 reasons Nigerians should support Jonathan - The Jonathan Project

One hundred and fifty reasons why Nigerians should allow President Goodluck Jonathan to remain in power till 2015 were yesterday rolled out by an international non-partisan volunteer group, The Jonathan Project.

The National/International Coordinator of the group, Mr. George Kerly, Head, Northern Operation Zone, Mr. Mohammed Danjuma and Strategy Coordinator, Mr. Robinson Sibe, presented the book comprising the 150 reasons to journalists in Lagos.

Kerly stated: 'This document, 150 Reasons Why 150 Million Nigerians Should Support Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is the product of series of interactions with Nigerians all over the world. 'It is based on the impressions of the millions of Nigerians world over who believe that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the most competent and most experienced material for the office of the president in 2011.

'President Gooduck Ebele Jonathan is a good man with a good heart and with good intentions for Nigeria and Nigerians. He shares the same humility and sense of purpose with his former boss, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar'Adua.'

Kerly, however, maintained that the strategic objective of the group was not only to find support for Jonathan to win this year's presidential election but to build a progressive movement of Nigerians who would encourage and support him to succeed post-2011.

'The time to get things done is now and this is what we have done. We are tired of leaders, rulers and dictators who give us reasons why they think they are best to rule over Nigeria. Rather, common Nigerians have today unveiled 150 reasons collated from blocs of Nigerians all over God's earth,' he said. In the book, The Jonathan Project described Jonathan as an experienced teacher and technocrat, adding that the various political offices he had held such as deputy governor and governor in Bayelsa State as well as vice president and acting president of Nigeria had prepared him for the challenges ahead.

The group further explained that the fact that Jonathan was currently the president of Nigeria and the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bore testimony his leadership competence.

According to Kerly, 'never before have our politics and polity been so tested and tried. Never before has the state of our psyche been so heavily challenged. Never before has the strength of our unity been so questioned. Most of all, never before have the anti-progressive and power-addicted forces that have for decades held our nation hostage been so fiercely exposed.'

He was optimistic that the emergence of Jonathan as the winner of this year's presidential poll would lead to a new and stronger Nigeria.

April polls: Widows in Kaduna endorse Jonathan, Yakowa

The Kaduna State chapter of Widows Association of Nigeria (WAN) has endorsed the candidature of President Goodluck Jonathan for the April presidential elections as well as Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State for governorship race. The widows' endorsement of Jonathan and Yakowa respectively came on the heels of a call on the government by Divine Rescue Mission Ministries (Care Widows), a non-governmental organisation, to bring succor to widows in Nigeria.

The call was contained in a press release made available to newsmen in Kaduna by the Coordinator of the ministries, Mrs. Nonye Madubuko just as she urged widows in the country to register in the forthcoming voters' registration exercise. But addressing a press conference in Kaduna, President of the Association, Mrs. Margaret Gwani, said their endorsement of Jonathan and Yakowa was based on the fact that the president's running mate, Vice President Namadi Sambo, was the immediate past governor of Kaduna where the widows reside.

Mrs. Gwani, who said the association was unhappy with the unfavourable and unprecedented political developments in the country, advised stakeholders to contribute towards the sustenance of democracy and the unity of the nation.

However, Madubuko said it was the rights of the widows to exercise their civic responsibility to enable them elect credible leaders who would address the plight of widows in the country, noting that widows in the country had been relegated to the background of governance for long.

'Widows in Nigeria should come out enmass to register their names during the voters' registration exercise. Time has come when widows in Nigeria will live up to the challenge by making sure they come out enmass to register and participate in the forthcoming election.

'We need a government that will carry the widows in Nigeria along by giving them succor,' she said.