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PDP in fresh crisis over chairmanship zoning, threatens 2019

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By Obinna Ezugwu

The December 9 Convention of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will be the most critical in its history; it is a convention that would, to a large extent, determine its fate and course for action ahead of the much awaited February 2019 general election and may also determine its chances of returning to power.

 

It is the first convention the party would be holding since it lost power in 2015. And as an opposition party looking to bring a largely depleted membership under its one umbrella especially after a protracted leadership crisis, it has little margin for error. Indeed, a mishandling of the convention could have far reaching implications for a party that is essentially now a fish out of water.

 

Interestingly, two weeks to the December 9 date, there is little yet to suggest that it would be a convention devoid of rancour.

 

Eight of the nine aspirants for the party’s chairmanship, including former governors, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Rashidi Ladoja; former ministers, Professor Tunde Adeniran and Professor Taoheed Adedoja; former acting chairman, Prince Uche Second; former chairman of DAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi and the party’s governorship candidate in Lagos, Jimi Agbaje, met Tuesday at the party’s secretariat to sign peace accord.

And they resolved to: “Support whoever emerges amongst us as the National Chairman of our great party as long as the process is transparent, free and fair in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the party and guidelines of the elective national convention;

 

“No aspirant shall leave the party or encourage his or her supporters, promoters etc to do so, as a result of the outcome of the national chairmanship election at the elective national convention;

 

“Any breach of the 2015 zero expenditure policy of the party, which prohibits the use of monetary inducement including lodging of delegates and providing money for votes, shall not be tolerated in the 2017 national elective convention and shall be a ground for disqualification on or before the 9th December, 2017;

 

“Any aspirant/sponsor/supporter/financier, proven to have done anything contrary to the agreements reached herein and in circumstances that suggest the knowledge of the undersigned persons shall be disqualified from contesting the national chairmanship election.

 

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“We solemnly abide by and uphold the tenets of this National Chairmanship Election according to which we hereby voluntarily subscribe.”

 

But it is still apparent that rift over who should indeed be chosen to lead the party, and from which zone the person should be chosen could constitute a major stumbling block on its road to 2019.

 

The party had from the outset zoned its presidential candidacy to the North and its National Chairmanship position to the South, it was suggested that the North East having not produced a president after Tafawa Balewa would get the nod while the South had initially micro-zoned the chairmanship position ceded to it to the South West the only zone yet to lead the party since its formation in 1998.

 

The idea for the South had been for the South West to produce national chairman, and the South East to produce vice presidential candidate, but latest developments suggest that the idea may not be followed through.

 

It has emerged that the party is now considering ceding vice presidential slot to the South West and chairmanship position to the South South with Prince Secondus who is said to have the support of key stakeholders of the party in both the South South while South East would get senate presidency in the event that the party is able to return to power.

 

The consideration of Secondus is said to have been informed by the strategic importance of Rivers State to the party, and especially considering the potentially explosive battle between Governor Nyesom Wike and his predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi who is the serving Minister for Transportation ahead of 2019 governorship election in the state.

 

The idea of zoning the vice presidential ticket to the South West, sources said, is to ensure that the party is able to neutralise the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) advantage in the zone. With the vice president of APC coming from the south west, only a similar or higher position would entice them to vote PDP.

The calculation is that with the northern votes split over the two presidential candidates and that of south west divided over the vice president, then the PDP will be able to win with he south east and south south block votes given the unpopularity of the ruling party in the zones.

 

Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose who had since declared his intention to run for president is said to be one of the key persons pushing for the ceding of the number two position to the zone with a view to running with a Northern presidential candidate. But the party is now largely polarised in the South West where most of the aspirants to the chairmanship have come from and it would seem unlikely that the idea of vice president is one that would be bought by the zone.

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On Monday, governors of the party alongside other leaders met in Enugu with a view to reaching a decision on where the national chairman would come from and who it should be, but the leaders failed to reach any agreements in that regard.

 

Fayose who also serves as the chairman of the party’s governors’ forum told newsmen after the meeting the interest of the party was paramount.

 

“We met in Enugu State Government House to deliberate on our national convention and we took time off to meet with the chairmanship aspirants, believing that we want to have a convention that all parties in Nigeria will emulate, convention that will represent the word democracy and serve as template for other parties.

 

“We have responsible people vying for the office of chairman of the PDP, nationally, and we are on one page and the page is PDP first.

 

Speaking to BusinessHallmark in the aftermath of the meeting, a member of the party in Enugu State, Mr. Gerald Ugwueze said although he was yet to ascertain if the leadership had reached any agreements with respect to zoning the vice presidential slot to the South West, but suggested that such would be a good idea as according to him, the South West is a force to reckon with and giving them the VP slot will help the party in 2019

 

“The vice president of APC is from the South West, the president is from the North so it is also likely that the PDP would zone its vice presidential ticket to the South West because the South West is a force to reckon with,” he said. “But I’m yet to confirm it.”

 

Nonetheless it would appear that the zone is not keen on the VP slot as some of the stakeholders spoken to said they would not trade the office of chairman for vice president.

 

In a chat with BusinessHallmark, Mr. Taofic Gani, spokesperson for the party in Lagos State stated that he was not aware of the plan to cede the VP ticket to the South West, but maintained that it would be an offer the zone would not accept.

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“I’m not aware. To the best of my knowledge, the party has zoned the office of the president to the North and the office of the national chairman to the South, and it is our expectation that in the North they will look for the most credible candidate and consider also the zone so as to carry everybody along, because that is the hallmark of the PDP politicking,” he said.

 

“We have this turn by turn arrangement, the PDP actually promoted this issue of geopolitical zones. So in the South West, we are expecting that the minimum that should come to us is the micro-zoning of the national championship to the South West.

 

“Anybody who is touting the office of the vice president is attempting to jeopardize that bigger interest. It would never excite us that we are getting the vice presidential instead of the national championship position.”

 

On why the South West has been unable to reach a consensus on who to back for the position despite several attempts to do so, he blamed those he called fifth columnists who according to him do not wish the party well.

 

“You know politics well. There are serious and unserious contenders; there are builders and there are destroyers. So you must always be sure that there would be fifth columnists in all the arrangements.

 

“Without disparaging any of the aspirants, imagine someone returning to the party less than three months ago and is coming out for the office of national chairman. Not only that he was not part of us, he worked against the party using another platform.

 

“So you can imagine how such a person could have a sincere interest of the party. We know those of them who have been with the party through thick and thin and if at the end of the day, the caretaker committee of the party could not manage it well it may affect the party.

“In any case, we are from Lagos, and we are not saying this out of sentiments or emotion, but we know that Chief Bode George who had been national deputy chairman, who had been South West chairman and who was Director General of the presidential campaign that brought in the best president under this dispensation, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who for the few years he ruled was well liked by everybody.

 

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“So, if we are talking of experience, if we are talking of influence we know the Chief George stands tall.

 

“And you should not also push away the fact that if you lose the support of Lagos State, you have a minimum of seven million votes to lose. The micro-zoning arrangement favours Lagos State, and if for any reason the state is denied this opportunity, we wish the party good luck,” he concluded.

 

 

 

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