From Taiwo Amodu, Chris Anucha and Tony John, Port Harcourt
THE drama and intrigues in the main opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), continued yesterday, as a last minute decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) aborted the well-publicised national convention, after the police sealed off the venue.
With many court rulings and orders starring the party members in the face, governors and some high calibre members met early yesterday and came up with the idea of extending the tenure of Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee. There were also indications that the aborted convention would have further fractured the party had it held as scheduled in Port Harcout, Rivers state. Two governors were said to have lined up the delegates in their camp to ensure that their preferred candidate emerged as Chairman. But the delegates woke up on the convention morning to see that the police had sealed off the Sharks Stadium, venue of the convention. One of the contenders for the position of chairman of the party, Mr. Jimi Agbaje blamed the crisis on shenanigans by the ruling All People’s Congress (APC).
“PDP did everything to nourish democracy. But it is obvious that the ruling party does not want a viable opposition.
“APC must realise that without a thriving opposition, democracy cannot survive,” he said.
Caretaker committee chairman, Senator Markafi yesterday also noted that there was a great suspicion that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who went to court to scuttle the convention, is being used by the ruling party, noting that the incident that happened in Port Harcourt yesterday and all his previous actions till date have proved the allegation.
Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Nnamdi Ononi confirmed to reporters that the Stadium had been sealed off.
“Yes, we have (sealed off) the place,” Mr. Omoni said. “We are just obeying the court instruction.”
When reminded that there were two conflicting court judgments on the party convention, Mr. Omoni responded, “I don’t know what you are talking about”.Addressing journalists later on the development, the State Commissioner of Police, Francis Odesanya, said the venue was not sealed. He said the police was providing security in line with court order.
By 9pm on Tuesday, the Rivers State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, said that he had not got directives from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the convention.
Police Commissioner Odesanya, however, reiterated that the Police was discharging its constitutional responsibilities, by providing security for the people, adding that he could not speak for other institutions.
He said: “We are obeying court order, by providing security for the people. It is not my duty to interpret the court order. We just want to align with the court order. We are always everywhere; we are always providing security everywhere. That is our primary assignment, to make sure that everywhere within the state is secured. Police did not seal off anywhere. We are providing security,” he said.
The party officials quickly moved to the secretariat and decided to extend the tenure of the Senator Ahmed Markarfi led Caretaker Committee by one year. Extension of Makarfi’s tenure followed the suspension of elections of the national officers due to pending court cases.
The motion for the suspension of the election was moved by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Leo Ogor.
Similarly, motion for the extension of Makarfi’s tenure was moved by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu.
The Senator Makarfi committee was relying on the pronouncement of Justice Ibrahim Watila of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which had ruled on Tuesday that the party convention slated for yesterday should go on and ordered the INEC to supervise it and the Department of State Security and the police to provide security for delegates.
Daily Sun gathered that while ordinary party faithful were stupefied by the heavy police presence which aborted the convention, the development actually turned out to be a blessing for a gathering that was almost coming to an unsavoury end.
Daily Sun gathered that delegates from south-west who were miffed by the alleged hijack of the entire delegates list by officials of the Rivers state government, were set to boycott the convention. While Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, was chairman of the convention planning committee, the screening panel was led by the state Attorney General, Emmanuel Aguma, while former deputy speaker, House of Representatives, Austin Opara, was the head of the electoral panel.
Speaking yesterday, one of the contenders for the position of chairman, Chief Bode George expressed his displeasure over what he called the desperation of governor Wike to ensure that a particular candidate emerged as the chairman of the party.
Chief Bode George further argued that the injunction granted the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction by Justice Abang in Abuja was the saving grace for the party, as he threatened that the South-West and the North would have boycotted the convention.
The aspirant further noted that the extension of tenure of the Ahmed Makarfi committee by one year would go a long way in calming frayed nerves and instilling sanity ahead of new date yet to be announced. Daily Sun gathered that the trio of Bode George, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi and former Education Minister, Professor Tunde Adeniran, three chairmanship aspirants, had agreed to address a press briefing to announce boycott of the national convention before police cordoned the stadium. But Governor Nyesom Wike flatly denied the allegation that he wanted to hijack the party, saying that all his actions were geared towards making the party formidable. A member of the dissolved National Working Committee and aspirant for the office of deputy national chairman, Uche Secondus, equally endorsed the decision to extend the tenure of the Ahmed Makarfi committee.
“What we’ve done here is that the convention has extended the tenure of the caretaker committee and given it a one year tenure to tackle all the court cases, and hold another convention where the elected members of the National Working Committee will emerge.’’ The convention is the highest decision making body of the party. So, there is no issue of illegality or otherwise in this matter.’’