…December 9 convention endangered
…Party’ll emerge stronger — Babatope, Ogunlewe
BY ONYEDIKA AGBEDO
THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is prostrate and will not find itself back to power in 2019 as some of its chieftains boast. And the bickering in the party ahead of its December 9, 2017, national convention will further incapacitate the party and add to its woes.
These were the views of former national deputy chairman of the party under the quashed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, who told Sunday Sun in a chat that the forthcoming national convention of the party would amount to a funeral service for the party.
He opined that the party has been shaken to its foundation and would not find itself back to power anytime soon.
Ojougboh said: “Who is there in the PDP that will make it able for them to stage a come back in 2019? There is nothing in PDP; there is nothing left in the party. The December 9 national convention of the party is going to be a funeral service for the party. It is a doomed convention that will eventually bury the party. You will see that it’s a funeral service and not a convention.”
He hinged his assertion on the alleged plan by the National Caretaker Committee of the party led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi to favour a particular candidate for the national chairmanship position at the convention. Ojougboh said the plan was being hatched by the leadership of the party in collaboration with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
“Wike wants to make Uche Secondus the National Chairman of the party and once he gets it, the party is doomed because nobody will remain in the party. That is the truth of the matter. And whether Uche Secondus gets it or not, the party is currently too divided; it’s not a party. Impunity has grown very deeply into the fabrics of the party that it cannot be cured. There is no medicine that can cure PDP of impunity. The PDP is obviously doomed; can’t you see it?” he queried.
Ojougboh, who is now a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), said those bragging that the PDP would return to power in 2019 had neither any plans nor the structure to make their wish a reality. “Ask them the people who are going to wrest power from the APC. What are their plans? There is no such structure on the ground that can help the PDP back to power in 2019; it does not exist. To explain it further, there are no credible persons in the party now who Nigerians will listen to. You see, after all the problems that impunity caused the party, it’s too fresh for Nigerians to reverse to that party. It’s not possible,” he noted.
He further stated that the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari in office would grant the APC victory in 2019 no matter the antics of the PDP. He explained: “You can see that the President’s fight against corruption is very deep and total. And as the President is fighting corruption, it will free funds for the development of the country. You can heckle or mock the war against corruption, but you are deceiving yourself. It’s only the criminals that are being investigated and their agents and cronies that are heckling the President’s anti-corruption efforts. But the international community hails it very seriously. You can recall what the Archbishop of Canterbury said recently about this present government to the effect that President Buhari is doing well. If the international community can so acknowledge, then you know that the President is doing well with the anti-corruption fight.”
He added: “Nigerians must defeat corruption. Those of us, the soldiers of truth in this country, will stand by the people; we will not rest until corruption is defeated.
“The 2018 budget that was recently presented by the President was a turning point in the affairs this country. You can see that the country has come out of recession. You can see that our GDP is back on the growth path and that economic boom is somewhere in the near future and we are looking forward to that. The President is going to ride on all these to get re-elected into office. PDP does not have the capacity to stop him.”
Surprisingly, the PDP, which is looking forward to wresting power from the APC in 2019, appears to be growing weaker by the day. For instance, the party came third at the recently concluded Anambra State governorship election behind the APC, which many analysts believed had no chance in the election at all because of the perceived anti-APC position of the Igbos. There are also discordant tunes within its fold ahead of the national convention, which ought to serve as the fulcrum towards righting the wrongs of the past and preparing the party for the 2019 general election. But the convention, from every indication, would provide another ground for the take-off of a fresh crisis in the party if care is not taken. The current squabble in the party is based on alleged plans by the party’s leadership to favour some contestants instead of allowing for a free and fair contest.
A national chairmanship aspirant, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, had recently petitioned the party over the list of the panelists who would conduct the ward delegates’ election, saying they were Uche Secondus’ men. Secondus is also one of the chairmanship aspirants.
Also, another chairmanship aspirant, Chief Olabode George, recently called for Makarfi’s resignation, alleging that “he has been severely compromised and can no longer play the role of a neutral arbiter.”
In a statement last Tuesday, George’s campaign organisation accused Makarfi of destroying the PDP for personal gain.
“Apparently spurred by personal ambition of contesting for the Presidential office in 2019, Makarfi is brazenly allying with a particular aspirant in the South-south to deliberately distort the process, muddle equity and invariably destroy the democratic process for transient personal gains,” the statement signed by Director-General of the George Campaign, Alhaji Ibrahim K. Aliu, said.
There is also disquiet in the North-west chapter of the party over an alleged plot to micro-zone party offices allocated to the area.
A chieftain of the party in the zone, who addressed newsmen recently in Abuja, claimed that there was no level playing field for aspirants to the offices, alleging that positions were being allocated to Makarfi’s loyalists.
“Makarfi is micro-zoning the position of National Secretary to Katsina and even to an individual, thereby trying to kick out Abubakar Mustapha who is from the same Makarfi local government of Kaduna State like him all because of his presidential ambition,” the source alleged.
Nevertheless, Secondus has denied that the Makarfi-led National Working Committee is working in his interest.
He has also dismissed the insinuation that he was drafted into the race by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, saying he only consulted widely by selling his candidacy to governors, former governors, critical party leaders and delegates, thereby having an advantage over others.
Secondus, who spoke recently, said while other contenders were mounting visible campaigns across the regions, he consulted underground and secured the support of those that matter in the party.
Markarfi, who is at the centre of the allegations, has also denied foul play in the processes leading to the convention. He rather accused George and Adeniran of crying wolf where there was none. From the foregoing, it’s clear that the PDP is heading into the national convention with distrust. And the questions on the lips of many observers are: Is the PDP yet to learn its lessons? Will it come out of the forthcoming convention united or doomed indeed as Ojougboh predicted above? Is the party really prepared to stage a come back in 2019?
A member of the party’s Board of Trustees and former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, told Sunday Sun that he was aware of the reported plan to favour a particular candidate from South-south for the position of national chairman, but maintained the party would not disintegrate because of that.
He said: “Well, all of us heard about that. But all I can tell you is that we of the Bode George Campaign Organisation believe in the unity of the party. We will never do anything that will dent the unity and image of the party. So, I can assure you that we are very much ready to ensure that we give peace the best of chances. Whatever the outcome of the convention, we pray and believe that we are going to have peace.”
Also speaking in the same vein, former Minster of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, said the party would emerge stronger from the convention. “The party will be even more united after the national convention particularly where the convention is conducted in a free and fair manner. Why should any member leave the party? What I would appeal to the NWC is to provide a level playing field for everybody. If you are transparent and everybody sees the transparency in the process, why would anybody complain? So, it is fairness that is important. Once it’s fair, free and transparent, we are not afraid at all of any form of election,” Ogunlewe said.
He, however, warned that the future of the party depends on the successful conduct of the convention. He noted: “The future of the PDP depends on the successful conduct of the forthcoming convention. So, everybody must be careful. There should be no room for somebody to feel frustrated or sidelined. If things get difficult, the National Working Committee (NWC) should call a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) or even expand it where everybody will air his or her view and then they will rectify; they are not small boys. They are there as the umpire.
“Fortunately, for the first time in the history of the party, all the aspirants are going round the entire country campaigning and that is good for democracy. If at the end of your moving around, the delegates refuse to vote for you, and your agents will be there to witness the process of voting and counting of votes, why should you complain?”
It could be recalled that in a bid to ensure that the party remains united after the convention, the national chairmanship aspirants signed a peace agreement earlier this month. Part of the agreement stated that “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.” Whether the aspirants would honour the agreement would be seen in the coming days.