PDP Convention: Wike, Fintiri, Saraki, Okowa, Bala Emerge Power Brokers

Pdp

The constitution of the incoming National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be a test of strength by governors and elders of the party, according to indications in Abuja last night.

The NWC will emerge at the National Convention which gets underway later today in the federal capital after the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt yesterday gave the green light for the meeting to proceed.

It turned down an application by the suspended National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus to stop the convention.

Party members, including Secondus’ estranged chief supporter, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and the Southwest zonal hierarchy of the PDP hailed the party’s victory at the court and assailed the suspended chairman for the litigation.

“Anybody who crosses our way to stop this rescue of Nigeria, the person is an enemy of this country,” Wike said in Port Harcourt moments after the court ruling, adding that Secondus’ action was aimed at sabotaging the party.

The Southwest PDP wondered why “a man who has benefited so much from the party seeks to destroy it.”

Secondus was dissatisfied with the ruling and vowed to take his grievances to the Supreme Court “as no abuse of the constitution of our dear party should be allowed to stand.”

Investigation by The Nation revealed that governors and elders of the party are locked in a battle of wits to put their loyalists in the new National Working Committee (NWC).

Horse-trading in the last few days shows that old forces in the party are losing grounds to new ones.

The emerging power brokers are governors, especially Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Ifeanyi Uguwanyi (Enugu) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta).

Some of the old forces still pulling some weight are a former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State and a former Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri.

The governors and other stakeholders launched into a crucial meeting last night in Abuja on the fate of ex-Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a trusted ally of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, and Inna Ciroma (the wife of a founding father of PDP, the late Adamu Ciroma).

It was gathered that Inna Ciroma has been under intense pressure in the last 48 hours to step down.

Oyinlola who is seeking to be the Deputy National Chairman (South) is locked in a battle with Taofeek Arapaja, who is the anointed candidate of Governor Seyi Makinde.

The meeting was meant to find a common ground on who between Oyinlola and Arapaja should get the position.

Those at the enlarged stakeholders meeting held at the Akwa Ibom Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, included the 13 governors elected on the platform of the party.

Others were NEC members, Board of Trustees (BoT) members, National Working Committee members, National Assembly members, former governors and former cabinet ministers, among others.

At the meeting were the immediate past Vice President, Namadi Sambo, who was attending the party’s function for the first time since he left office in 2015; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate Presidents David Mark, Adolphus Wabara and Pius Anyim; and former PDP national chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo.

Also present were former Governors Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Ibrahim Shema (Katsina); Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Peter Obi (Anambra); and Emeka Ihedioha (Imo).

Efforts by party leaders to pick one of the contestants as a consensus candidate have failed to yield positive results.

Governor Makinde of Oyo State, backing Arapaja for the position, is said to have secured the buy-in of his 12 other colleagues on the choice.

But some elders and leaders are rooting for Oyinlola. Their position is premised on the need for the party to beef up its support base in states where the PDP does not have a sitting governor. They claim that while Makinde is on ground in Oyo to lead the party’s mobilisation drive toward the 2023 general elections, Oyinlola should be empowered to strengthen the party structure in Osun and be a rallying point for the party.

It was on the basis of this calculation that the PDP deliberately zoned its critical elective positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) to states where the party does not have governors.

A source said: “It was for this reason that the National Secretary was micro-zoned to Imo State and the Deputy National Chairman (North) micro-zoned to Yobe State where the PDP does not have sitting governors.

“The argument of some of our leaders who expressed a presence for Arapaja was that Oyinlola defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014.

“These leaders have chosen to forget that Arapaja also defected to the APC about the same time. What about some of our high ranking chieftains who defected to the APC in 2014 and who worked hard to ensure that the PDP lost the 2015 presidential elections.

Some of these leaders are occupying prominent elective positions in government on the platform of the PDP today with some of them aspiring to get the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 election.

Also present were former Governors Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Ibrahim Shema (Katsina); Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Peter Obi (Anambra); and Emeka Ihedioha (Imo).

Efforts by party leaders to pick one of the contestants as a consensus candidate have failed to yield positive results.

Governor Makinde of Oyo State, backing Arapaja for the position, is said to have secured the buy-in of his 12 other colleagues on the choice.

But some elders and leaders are rooting for Oyinlola. Their position is premised on the need for the party to beef up its support base in states where the PDP does not have a sitting governor. They claim that while Makinde is on ground in Oyo to lead the party’s mobilisation drive toward the 2023 general elections, Oyinlola should be empowered to strengthen the party structure in Osun and be a rallying point for the party.

It was on the basis of this calculation that the PDP deliberately zoned its critical elective positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) to states where the party does not have governors.

A source said: “It was for this reason that the National Secretary was micro-zoned to Imo State and the Deputy National Chairman (North) micro-zoned to Yobe State where the PDP does not have sitting governors.

“The argument of some of our leaders who expressed a presence for Arapaja was that Oyinlola defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014.

“These leaders have chosen to forget that Arapaja also defected to the APC about the same time. What about some of our high ranking chieftains who defected to the APC in 2014 and who worked hard to ensure that the PDP lost the 2015 presidential elections.

“Some of these leaders are occupying prominent elective positions in government on the platform of the PDP today with some of them aspiring to get the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 election.

“To some of us, this is double standard which may not help the party in the long run.”

The meeting was also expected to take a final position on the Deputy National Chairman (North), which is being contested by Alhaji Umar Damagum and Mrs. Inna Ciroma. The party had yet to take a final position on who to consider for the position between the two contestants from Yobe State.

Answering a question on the party’s position on the matter, the chairman of the Convention Organising Committee, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State, said during a briefing earlier yesterday that the matter was still being resolved.

Fintiri said: “We are still deliberating on who to go for the office between the two contestants. But we have resolved that the two will not contest at the convention. One of them must step down for the other.”

Meanwhile, last minute preparations for the convention continued in earnest up to yesterday’s judgment.

There was a flurry of activities at the expansive Eagle Square, Abuja, designated venue for the convention as party members and hired hands were observed performing one task or the other.

Canopies have been erected and the main podium and brightly decorated in the red, green, white signature colours of the PDP.

Also, posters of contestants in varying sizes adorned strategic locations at the venue.

Investigation revealed that all the key actors have been trying to outwit each other in their battle for the soul of PDP.

About 27 aspirants have got the clearance to contest for 21 offices at the National Convention. The offices are National Chairman, National Deputy Chairman (North), Deputy National Chairman (South), National Secretary, Deputy National Secretary, National Treasurer, Deputy National Treasurer, National Financial Secretary, Deputy National Financial Secretary, National Organising Secretary and Deputy National Organising Secretary.

The remaining posts are those of National Publicity Secretary, Deputy National Publicity Secretary, National Legal Adviser, Deputy National Legal Adviser, National Auditor, Deputy National Auditor, National Women’s Leader and Deputy National Leader and National Youth Leader and Deputy National Youth Leader.

Investigation shows that while the Wike-Ortom/governors alliance is producing the new National Chairman of PDP, Iyorchia Ayu (who will be adopted today), the deal with the governors led to the ceding of the office of the National Secretary to Wike.

It was learnt that to the discomfiture of all the stakeholders in the Southeast, Wike has succeeded in anointing Senator Samuel Anyanwu as the National Secretary of PDP.

“In the power-sharing arrangement, all the PDP governors have been accommodated in one way or the other under the Consensus Option which was adopted by them,” a well placed party source said.

“They also agreed that where some aspirants have chosen to defy consensus to contest, all the governors will direct their delegates to vote for the mutually agreed ones.

“So far, the pact by the governors has led to Wike, Ortom, Fintiri, Okowa, Bala, Saraki, Tambuwal Makinde, Ugwuanyi, Ikpeazu leading the new generation of power brokers in PDP.

“It was a smart and strategic move by Saraki which made his camp to secure the post of National Legal Adviser, which is the soul of the party.”

Responding to a question, the source said: “I think the offices yet to be resolved through consensus are Deputy National Chairman (North), Deputy National Chairman (South) and National Auditor.

“Governors and party leaders have been trying to prevail on Inna Ciroma to withdraw for Iliya Damagum, who has been adopted as the consensus candidate for the office of Deputy National Chairman (North). But she is yet to do so.

“For the Deputy National Chairman (South), Governor Seyi Makinde has insisted on Taofeek Arapaja but ex-Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola is adamant that he will slug it out at the convention. We expect a royal battle at the convention ground.

“The founding fathers of PDP and the military elements in the party have decided to rally round Oyinlola.

“Concerning the office of National Auditor, the governors have mutually conceded the slot to Sir Obi Okechukwu from Anambra State, but Sam Ben Nwosu, a close associate of a former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, said he will contest.”

I am heading for Supreme Court, says Secondus

Dissatisfied with yesterday’s ruling of the Court of Appeal which gave the green light for the holding of the PDP National Convention, Prince Uche Secondus said he is heading for the Supreme Court.

He said no abuse of the constitution of PDP should be allowed to stand.

He said the case in court was not about himself but about the sanctity of PDP’s constitution and core democratic principles of justice and rule of law.

He said he did not at any time take PDP to court and would not have done that.

Secondus made the clarifications in a statement through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Ike Abonyi.

He said: “I have just been briefed of the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt dismissing my motion to halt the National Convention of the party. I respect the position of the court even though I disagree totally with it.

“Even as the substantive case is still pending at the Court of Appeal I have instructed my lawyers to study the ruling with a view to appealing it immediately as no abuse of the constitution of our dear party should be allowed to stand.

The issue is not about Prince Uche Secondus but about the sanctity of our party constitution and core democratic principles of justice and rule of law not only in PDP but in our democracy. No impunity must be condoned.”

Secondus said he did not at any time sue the PDP because of the harm litigations had done to the party in the past.

He added: “I will therefore wish to emphasise the fact that I did not take the party to court and would not have done that.

“As a foundation member of this party, who has served at various levels, State Chairman, Chairman of state Chairmen, National Organizing Secretary, Deputy National Chairman, Acting National Chairman and now National Chairman, I am very much abreast with the workings of the party.

“I have been a witness to how much harm litigations have done to our party in the past and as a result I have been a strong advocate against settling issues in courts.

“This was why I resisted and rejected entreaties of those who wanted me to go to court to halt these forces when it was obvious that they were determined to disrupt my leadership and truncate my tenure in office with the sole objective of hijacking the party for their selfish ulterior motives.

“To allow this travesty to stand is to reduce our beloved party to a level where anybody can wake up overnight and remove officers against the proscribed constitutional process and the National Chairman for that matter, and purporting to use the judiciary through an ex parte order to legitimize same.

“As a major practitioner in our democracy, I am duty bound to protect and defend the sanctity of the provisions of our constitution of which I’m the custodian.”

He said the PDP descended to this level because those who orchestrated the crisis ignored party elders’ calls to withdraw the case.

He said: “I wish to therefore at this juncture thank and appreciate leaders and other stakeholders of our party who have called in to express their concerns on this matter and appeal for the understanding of all.

“If those who orchestrated and fostered this avoidable crisis had listened to wise counsel of party leaders and elders who advised the withdrawal of cases, this situation would have been avoidable. I wish the party well as always.”

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