…Showdown at Eagles Square
…Dokpesi faults de-marketing campaign
…Jonathan, Atiku say they do not have favoured candidates
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor and Dirisu Yakubu
Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were last night bracing themselves for fallouts from the most competitive elective convention in the party’s 18-year history with about 92 persons jostling for 21 positions.
Despite assurances from party leaders, including Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee, rancour was breaking out in the camps of some candidates following alleged de-marketing techniques adopted by some interest groups to force out some candidates.
The media mogul, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, who with Prof. Tunde Adeniran were providing the toughest challenge for the leading national chairmanship candidate, Prince Uche Secondus, was forced into a late Friday press conference to dismiss claims he had withdrawn from the race.
Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan, a candidate for the position of National Publicity Secretary, was also forced to dismiss reports that he had also withdrawn from the race.
Chief Bode George, erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of the party, at a late night press conference withdrew from the contest fuming that Governor Nyesom Wike who is believed to be a major force behind Secondus had insulted the South-West as he demanded an apology from the governor.
Nonetheless, party chieftains yesterday were full of assurances that today’s convention would be an exemplary democratic process in which the will of the majority of 2,800 delegates would prevail.
The delegates are expected to vote for officers to fill 21 vacant positions. Reports that four positions would be uncontested could not be confirmed as at press time last night.
The most competitive contest was that for the office of national chairman in which nine candidates, namely, Secondus, Dokpesi, Adeniran, Taoheed Adedoja, Senator Rasheed Ladoja, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and Aderemi Olusegun are vying.
Secondus’ position as the leading candidate was further reiterated yesterday after the South-East caucus of the party endorsed him.
However, other forces within the party were still fighting back with the South-West caucus and Dr. Dokpesi mobilizing to stop him.
Saturday Vanguard learnt yesterday that at least two of the candidates from the South-West had agreed to step down, but those two were unwilling to go through with their plans until they knew who they would step down for. Saturday Vanguard could not confirm how the late withdrawal of Chief Bode George from the contest would affect them as at least one of them had indicated he would not withdraw for George.
A final decision by the South-West caucus is not expected to be made until this morning and may be circulated on the convention ground. One source privy to the consultations said that the South-West could enter the election with two chairmanship candidates.
As part of the efforts to ensure a credible election, Saturday Vanguard gathered that delegates would be expected to vote in batches of three states at a time for all the 21 positions available including the four positions not being contested for.
Voting is not expected to start until after the process of amendments of some provisions of the constitution of the party including an amendment to allow former governors and former deputy governors as statutory delegates.
As a way of reducing the bad blood among the camps of some of the leading chairmanship candidates, the Okowa Committee had made them to sign undertakings to abide by the process and accept the results.
All eight candidates still in the race as at yesterday it was learnt, signed the undertaking, albeit on the provision that the process went according to laid down provisions.
Earlier yesterday morning, Chairman of the Screening Committee, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu lauded the conduct of the chairmanship hopeful, stating that with their clearance, the party was hopeful of a credible convention devoid of rancour.
Dr. Okowa also pledged the readiness of his committee to conduct a credible and transparent convention.
“We are very much aware of the security alert about Abuja. The security committee is working very closely with the security agencies to ensure a smooth convention,” said Okowa who added that security sub-committee is working very closely with the police and relevant security agencies to ensure a smooth exercise.
He added that only properly accredited journalists would be allowed in to the convention venue.
On his part, Chairman, Post-Convention Planning Committee and Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson tasked all aspirants to demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship before, during and after the contest, adding that only one of them is fated to win the election.
He thanked Okowa for his work rate, describing him and the Convention Planning Committee as “People we have confidence in.”
Governor Dickson also urged the aspirants to be at liberty to approach his committee to seek clarification on any issue pertaining to convention.
The endorsement of Secondus for the position of national chairman by the South-East
Stakeholders Caucus of the party was conveyed in a communiqué delivered by Austin Umahi, PDP National Vice Chairman (South- East) at a media conference held at the Chelsea Hotel in Abuja.
He said the caucus had mandated its delegates to the convention to vote for Secondus, saying the decision was taken after a careful consideration of his “Content and character.”
“We are very conscious of the personality of who becomes the national chairman of our great party for the next four years. Based on the foregoing, we have unanimously in our today’s stakeholders’ meeting, decided that we will back an aspirant that has character and content.
“In this circumstance, and without prejudice to the right of other aspirants to this national chairmanship position, credible and transparent election, we have decided to back and vote for Prince Uche Secondus for the position of national chairman of our great party.”
The stakeholders also endorsed Colonel Austin Akobundu (retd), Udeh Okoye and Alphonsus Gerard for the positions of National Organising Secretary, National Youth Leader, and
Deputy Financial Secretary respectively.
The meeting was attended by South-East PDP bigwigs including Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, former Imo State governor, Sam Egwu, erstwhile Senate President, Adolphus Wabara and ex-Abia State governor, Senator Theodore Orji.
Others included former PDP national chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, a one-time Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha and the PDP governorship candidate in the November 18 Anambra guber poll, Oseloka Obaze among others.
Meanwhile, the Raymond Dokpesi for National Chairman Campaign Organisation also last night rebuffed claims that Dokpesi had withdrawn from the contest saying that its candidate would take the battle to the convention ground.
The campaign at a late evening press conference addressed by Engr. Baba Kachallah, Director General of the campaign organization said: “It is now very clear that some PDP members masquerading as leaders are hell-bent on sabotaging and inflicting several damages on the well organised and victory bound aspiration of High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi.
“The position of this campaign organisation is that only delegates to the Convention can and will decide the fate of all aspirants on the floor of the Eagle Square and Convention grounds on Saturday, 9 December 2017.
“We make bold to challenge the masquerades long known for their penchant for taking unpopular decisions that have brought defeat and humiliation for the PDP in the past.
“High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi has campaigned throughout the length and breadth of this country and will finish the race at the Convention grounds.
“Raymond Dokpesi has not and will not withdraw from the race for any reasons whatsoever.
This Campaign Organisation will like to ask a very simple question in the direction of those behind this wicked rumours:- “If the leaders and some Governors hell-bent on ensuring victory for their aspirants are very sure of themselves, why ask Dokpesi to drop out of the race and resort to blackmail?
“Dokpesi is not afraid to be defeated on the Convention floor if the elections are free, fair and adjudged credible.”
Faulting a newspaper publication issued by the Edo State chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih on the position of the South-South, he said: “Those who were present at the meeting can testify that what was agreed was that delegates from the South-South are free to vote for the aspirant of their choice from the South-South.
“The PDP elective Convention will remain what it is designed to achieve, elect new national officers for our great Party. “No amount of blackmail and intimidation will force Dokpesi to capitulate to the dark forces of imposition and impunity.” Ologbodinyan also affirming his readiness to become the party’s National Publicity Secretary said:
“I am psychologically prepared for the assignment ahead. I have consulted and campaigned widely among party faithful across the length and breadth of Nigeria. I have received overwhelming support. I am convinced that delegates will make a right choice in me”.
Answering questions from newsmen after consultations with various stake holders and delegates to the PDP Convention, Ologbondiyan said, “I believe my opponents have given up”.
He reiterated that “my experience as a newspaper Editor and image manager to the former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark from 2007 to 2015 will put me in a better stead ahead of my opponents in the management of the party affairs”.
Meanwhile, there were good wishes for the party ahead of today’s convention from former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
President Jonathan in a statement issued by his media adviser, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze said he had no preferred candidate for any of the positions even as he said he was convinced that the convention would reposition the party for the battle of reclaiming power in Abuja.
“As the father of the party, ex-President Jonathan has no preferred candidates for any of the positions and is prepared to work with all those that will emerge as members of the new National Working Committee to ensure that the party regains its pride of place in the affairs of the nation. The former President is pleased with the dedication and enthusiasm of all party members towards building a strong PDP and wishes all participants successful deliberations, as they seek to freely elect members of the National Working Committee, that will lead the party for the next four years.
“Dr. Jonathan is impressed with the level of preparations for the convention, especially with the number of the candidates and the spread and vibrancy of the campaigns, which has established a new paradigm for intra-party elections, in the country,” the statement read in part. It further noted that “Contrary to speculations and permutations by some interest groups,
Dr. Jonathan has never discussed or plotted with others against the ambition of any of the candidates, as is being falsely reported by those who are adept at spreading negative stories against the immediate past President.
“The former President is therefore optimistic that the convention will produce a positive outcome that will help the PDP consolidate its position as the party with the best democratic ideals in the country.”
Atiku also denied having a favoured candidate saying he was for a virile PDP. He also denied having a preferred candidate for any of positions being contested in today’s delegates election.
The ex-Vice President who last week resigned his membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to rejoin the PDP also called on delegates to the convention to vote for persons of integrity in accordance with the dictates of their conscience.
In a press statement signed by his media office in Abuja yesterday, Atiku urged delegates and the various aspirants to put PDP first as the party elects officers that will pilot its affairs for the next four years.
The statement reads: “As our great political party sets forth to elect new set of national officers for the party today, we must put the interest of the party first and I urge our delegates to vote for people they believe will better promote the interest of the party.
“I am an advocate of democracy, and it is my belief that the best way to strengthen a political party is to promote the principle of internal democracy in the workings of the party. I believe that all of the aspirants for respective positions are eminently qualified and the task is before our delegates to pick people who will make PDP even a stronger party after the Convention. “I do not have any preferred candidate, all I ask of our delegates and members of the organizing committee is that they should give us a national convention that is transparent, free and credible – one that will establish a standard for how intra-party elections are to be held in the country.
George withdraws from contest
George who said his decision to bow out of the race was informed by the flagrant abuse of the micro zoning arrangement by the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee (NCC) noted that the party would sooner than later self-destruct.
“I entered the contest on the micro-zoning principle, which has been thrashed by little men who have compromised. It appears the PDP is bent on self-destruction. I can’t be part of this. The chairmanship position has been sold to the highest bidder,” George stated while briefing newsmen at his campaign office in Abuja.
“I entered the race due to the micro zoning arrangement. This micro zoning has been trashed, dumped on the dust bin for personal reason. It appears that PDP is bent on self destruction. It has lost its soul.
“I cannot be part of this criminal allegation. The PDP is now mangled. I hereby withdraw from the fraud. As a Yoruba patriot, I will stand for our people.
“Governor Wike must tender an unreserved apology to the Yoruba people for his unguarded utterances against the Yoruba race. I listened to my younger brother and I see it as an insult. I consider it as an insult.
“I Olabode George did not step down for anybody. My measure of experience is too heavy. What I am stepping down for is the process. The issue of micro zoning has been destroyed. Every position is micro zoned. I am withdrawing purely on principle. You can know the way the party use to bubble and we see it as a brotherly union. From what happened before I thought we could manage it but it is obvious that the system has been bastardized,” he added.
Source: Vanguard News