Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Following the crack in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over alleged fears of hijack of delegates by aspirants for the governorship primaries election scheduled for September 3, the Balyesa State Chapter of the party has directed that delegates be placed in designated hotels in Yenagoa, the state capital, to forestall such plan.
It also directed also that all aspirants and their campaign directors be made to have easy access to them. Announcing this in Yenagoa, yesterday, the state chairman, Chief Moses Cleopas and, secretary, Godspower Keku said that this arrangement is to make for a level-playing field for the 21 aspirants angling to pick the party’s ticket.
There are appropriately 1400 statutory and ad-hoc delegates drawn from the eight local government areas and expected to vote in the crucial election to elect the flag-bearer of the PDP for the November 16 governorship election.
According to investigations, some stakeholders in the party are said not to be comfortable with the body language of key officials of the party and close political associates of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, which they said indicated that the promise for a level playing ground for all aspirants is a ruse as moves have been perfected to install the preferred choice of Dickson as the party’s standard-bearer.
A recorded audio tape which Dickson had claimed was doctored to blackmail him to support the political aspiration of former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ndutimi Alaibe, had surfaced where decisions were allegedly taken to order delegates to fall in line with Governor Dickson’s choice or face sanctions including total alienation from the party.
Findings indicated that some of the aspirants have expressed fears that with the alleged threats issued to local government and ward delegates coupled with marching orders given to council chairmen, the hijack of delegates is now a possibility.
Some of the aspirants have concluded plans to petition the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party over the latest development to call for the suspension of the Chairman and Secretary and investigation of Dickson so as to ensure a level playing ground for all aspirants to avoid crisis in the party which might cost it the governorship ticket.
Already a group, the Integrity Group led by Mr. Tony Ile has said it has Intelligence Report, which indicated that Moses and Keku who have since relocated to the VIP lodge of the Bayelsa State Government House instead of displaying neutrality in the forthcoming primaries have chosen to take sides.
“It is an indecorous act for a chief executive of a state, and by the rules of the party, the leader of the party at the state level to be issuing such threats to party men and women whom he leads simply because they have been perceived not to be in accordance with his unpopular choice of aspirant,” the group noted. “The members of the PDP Integrity Group are once again calling on the national leadership of the party to quickly investigate this nefarious act of the governor and possibly call him to order in the interest of the generality of our members as it is capable of affecting the chances of the party at the November 16th polls.”
But in the statement signed by Moses and Keku and aimed at countering the allegations against them, they warned against hijack of delegates by aspirants disclosing that delegates would be kept in designated places in Yenagoa. The party leadership, which kicked against moving the delegates outside the state for security reasons said it would not condone “hijacking or kidnapping of delegates and taking them outside the state”. The duo urged the delegates from the ward, local government and state levels to resist any blackmail, inducement and intimidation from any aspirant.
Chief Cleopas and Keku said that the decision was taken in line with the exemplary conduct of the national leadership of the party concerning the management of delegates in the last presidential primaries in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. They added that the PDP had notified all members of caucus and the 21 aspirants that the accommodation of aspirants was the responsibility of state chapter of the party rather than any of the aspirants. The duo stated further that it was the policy of the party to grant unimpeded access to all the aspirants and their campaign directors to the hotels where the delegates will be quartered.
The statement read in part: “Drawing from the experience and example offered by the national leadership of the PDP in the presidential election concerning the management of delegates in the primaries, the State Working Committee of the Bayelsa State Chapter of the party, has duly communicated to all the caucus members, and aspirants that the accommodation of delegates especially officials of the party who are delegates shall be the responsibility of the chapter of the party and not that of any aspirant.
“The party would not condone any hijacking or kidnapping of delegates and taking them outside the state. The party considers that unacceptable in view of the security situation in the country. Our own delegates should be kept within the state capital, and the party has made it as a policy for all aspirants and their campaign directors to have access to all delegates.
“The party shall notify the aspirants of the location of the delegates and then grant access to them against the old policy where aspirants would hijack delegates and take advantage of them, take them to destinations unknown to them, dispossess them of their phones, and threaten them to act against their wish. This party wants order and decency.”
They thanked the state governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, who said that the state government would have no hand in the accommodation of the delegates as it was strictly the responsibility of the party.
Cleopas and Keku who stated the preparedness of the party to provide a level playing ground for all the aspirants said that the “party seeks the support of all aspirants in a manner agreed to by them.”