PDP Ward Congresses in chaos!

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 In-fighting, rancor and dirty politics at the PDP ward congresses exposes the Party’s weaknesses, writes Ohia Israel

As the 2015 election year approaches, political parties in the country are in top gear preparing for their primaries to elect its flag bearers for different elective positions. The PDP has on November 1st, held its ward congresses. However, the PDP’s ward congresses were not without crises, as there were confusions, chaos, rancour, fighting and killing in different parts of the wards where the congresses were held.

The nationwide congresses of the party saw many aggrieved aspirants for various offices in the 2015 general elections on the platform of the party laying siege on the national secretariat of the party in Abuja in protest over the poor conduct of the congresses.

For instance, in Abia, three senators and governorship aspirants were reported to have dismissed the congress, which they described as “a caricature and charade of democracy.”

Also the 16 governorship aspirants on the platform of the party in Rivers State have rejected the outcome of the congresses. The aggrieved aspirants also shunned the appeal of the party, which began sitting in Port Harcourt, the state’s capital.

According to them, they boycotted the congresses, as they accused the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan,  of interfering in the affairs of the PDP in the state.

The aspirants, who spoke through Mr Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo, called for the postponement of the congresses, saying Mrs Jonathan had endorsed one of the aspirants.

As learnt they said; “We want to put it on record that the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, has publicity (not in her house but in the house of one of the aspirants) endorsed an aspirant.

The First Lady has also approached some of the aspirants to step down and even invited them to a dinner/meeting in the Presidential Villa,” Ijaye-Dagogo said.

The governorship aspirants said the leadership of the party in the state had failed to exhaust the processes that should lead to a credible ward congress, adding that they include “open registration of members, authentication of the party registers at ward levels and display of party register as enshrined in the party’s constitution.

 

“We note that the process leading up to the ward delegate elections, which is the foundation of all subsequent primaries, is clearly convoluted and flawed and cannot therefore produce an acceptable outcome.”

Meanwhile, in Benue, the faceoff between Governor Suswam and Senator Gemade got to a head when the governor alleged that Gemade had procured fake delegates forms which he distributed to his candidates for the delegates’ election.

Gemade, speaking in a Radio Nigeria Makurdi live phone-in programme, “Democracy and the People”, also accused Suswam of purchasing all the Benue PDP delegates forms for his personal advantage.

Even as the Governor in a statement issued on his behalf by his Director of Media Affairs, Mr. James Uloko, described Gemade’s allegation as baseless and unfounded.

In Ogun State, there was also crisis as there were plans to hijack the ward congresses by some party chieftains. The PDP Chairman in the state, Bayo Dayo, raised the alarm that some chieftains who just returned to the PDP wanted to hijack the party. Dayo raised the alarm while speaking with journalists to review the congresses across the state’s 236 wards.

But the Jubril Martins-Kuye group, led by Chief Kola Bajomo, alleged deliberate refusal by the party leadership to collect delegate forms as a ploy to deny them relevance in the scheme of things.

In Kwara a group known as Democratic Assembly said it uncovered a conspiracy to hijack the congresses, saying “We are worried that by this action, some people in Abuja and Ilorin have deliberately compromised the entire congress in Kwara State. It is more worrisome because this similar trend preceded the gubernatorial primaries in Osun State which laid the foundation for the failure of PDP at the polls. We reject this portion in Kwara, hence this alert,” a statement by the group said.

“It is clear to us that there is a grand plan to manipulate the outcome of the delegates’ congress in all the 193 wards in Kwara in favour of this aspirant.

“Unless the National Working Committee intervenes immediately, we are afraid that there is no way Kwarans can have a fair deal with a committee that is clearly partisan.

However, in Imo a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member and Senator representing Owerri East, Senator Chris Anyanwu, has urged the national leadership of the party to reprimand the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, for allegedly manipulating and hijacking the election in her ward, Enyiongugu, at the just concluded congress.

In a petition she issued Monday, Anyanwu said Ihedioha’s action was capable of triggering breakdown of law and order and hampering the congress of the party in the state.

Requesting for the cancellation of any figure of the results submitted from her ward, she said “Emeka Ihedioha introduced a brazen twist to party congress.

“He moved people from Mbutu, Uvuru, Umuhu, Nguru and all other wards in Aboh Mbaise, brought them to Enyiogugu ward and directed them to queue up to be filmed.

“He left after doing that with the 35 vehicles including three truck loads of policemen.”

Responding through his campaign Director General, Chris Okewulonu, Ihedioha denied the allegation.

“Senator Chris Anyanwu’s allegation, no doubt, is only aimed at smearing the reputation of the Deputy Speaker as there is no iota of truth whatsoever in this unfortunate and brazen falsehood”, he said.

Also in some local government areas of President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa, it was gathered that serving members of the Senate and the House of Representatives from the state disagreed vehemently with the state government over its insistence that they would not return to the green and red chambers in the 2015 elections.

Impeccable party sources revealed that they held parallel congresses in their wards to counter the state government’s move to deny them return tickets to their seats.

It was also gathered that Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, representing Governor Seriake Dickson’s Bayelsa West Senatorial District in the Senate, conducted a parallel congress in his ward headquarters in Ekeremor Local Government Area.

Senator Emmanuel Paulker, who represents Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, was said to have also organised a separate congress in his ward headquarters at Opolo, Yenagoa.

Paulker, a close associate of President Jonathan, allegedly got all the materials for the congress from Abuja and conducted the exercise differently from the one held by Dickson’s political camp.

But at Ogbia, Dickson’s foot soldiers were said to have succeeded in shutting out the Senator representing the Bayelsa East Senatorial District, Clever Ikisikpo.

The people of Okordia, Biseni and Zarama communities in Yenagoa Constituency 3, Bayelsa Central, were said to have protested the conduct of the congresses in their areas. Taraba State was also filled with complaints from party members who felt aggrieved.

In  a statement issued by Taraba Democratic Vanguard and signed by Joshua Jibo the Public Relation Officer of the group, noted that the last Saturday’s Congress in the state was as shameful as it was criminal.

The statement which stated that the congress was meant to disgrace General Theophilus Danjuma and the Southern Taraba, added ; “We were not surprised that the ward congresses held last Saturday, 1st November, 2014 went the way they did. A desperate Garba Umar was bound to become childish, despotic and primitive. He didn’t disappoint. Apart from the old school tradition of using the police and soldiers to intimidate voters, he was rapacious in his acquisitive mission.

Returning officers were “returned” empty having been captured Boko Haram style and forced to convert to UTIciyya’s ideology. Handpicked delegates were imposed with relish. In some of the local governments, elections never held. There were beatings, kidnapping and ballot boxes snatching. Suddenly, the old ways returned and the already sad situation in our once peaceful state became even sadder. All this happened as Mr Aliyu Indabawa, having been heavily paid by Umar, looked the other way. The Abuja committee clearly came to make money and they made tons of it. In fact, they were brought to Jalingo by UTC and they were here to do his bidding. The beatings, kidnapping and violence all happened under their watch.”

According to the statement; “The ward congresses were simply a tip of the iceberg and a sign of things to come. It is a pointer to the turbulent politics coming in the next few weeks. Specifically, the election showed that Garba Umar is bent on ensuring that power does not shift to the southern part of the state. Umar wantonly rigged the election as he planted delegates of his choice who, as he hopes, would swing the election his way. Gangsterism was introduced into the exercise as returning officers were threatened, commanded to drop their own result and forced to accept other handwritten list as brought in by Umar’s thugs.”

Accusing the Acting Governor, it said; “While there were pure tyrannies in the hinterlands, the collation center at Jalingo Motel was nothing but a theater of war as angry gunmen on Umar’s pay roll manned the gate and openly harass any perceived enemy. A member of the House of Representatives, Isiaka Bawa, was beaten up. An assistant Returning Officer from Donga was equally beaten to a state of comma. His boss, Barrister Tukura, out of fear even reported that his assistant has been killed. Thank God the man survived.”

The group also said that above all, the state chairman of the PDP, Victor Bala, was threatened and had to run from Jalingo since his life was clearly in danger; “Then the results themselves were split among the politicians. The result from Donga was divided by the committee. There was no election in Karim Lamido were Umar comes from. But the committee from Abuja accepted Umar’s list. Wukari’s result was forcefully seized and destroyed at the collation center by none other than the Speaker, Hon. Josiah Kente. He also detained the returning officer. There are issues everywhere. Zing and Yorro’s results were alright initially but we learn that too is getting upturned.”

Speaking further it said: “The dangers of Saturday’s exercise are glaring. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Taraba is endangered. A situation where the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party can unanimously look the other way as Umar decimates the southern part of the state is disheartening. Overnight, we in the south have become orphans with no one showing us any forms of concern or care. It has also shown that it is not interested in the power shift arrangement of the party in spite of all the sound-proof reasons for the demand. We are amazed that the power shift arrangement in Akwa Ibom and Adamawa States were permitted with relish but in Taraba, no one cared. The cases of both states are not even as convincing as that of southern Taraba. Yet they have been granted their zoning request. Everyone in southern Taraba is starting to wonder what we have done that the national body of our party is treating us like this.”

“This, for us, is an affront to our collective sense of decency. It is challenging our loyalty to the PDP and daring us to jump ship. But above all, this is an insult to the person of General TY Danjuma who is passionate about the power shift project. The peoples of the southern zone are also dismayed as they helplessly watch the PDP abandon them to be treated like an outcast and slaughtered. This is the same southern zone that has given this party its biggest wins since the inception of party politics in the state,” the group believes.

Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirants in Delta State last Saturday night advised Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to desist from foisting any opportunist on the party.

Rising from a meeting in Asaba, the aspirants said they forbid any imposition, stating that PDP members in the state must be allowed their rights of choice.

“Ward congress did not hold throughout the state on Saturday. The governor called a meeting of all aspirants and announced his proposal to distribute delegate positions among them,” spokesperson of the group, Dr. Tuoyo Unokesan, said.

“We do not agree to the governor’s proposal. The process of producing candidates for the party in 2015 general elections must be transparent. Governor Uduaghan must follow the rules,” the aspirants said.

Alleging that Governor Uduaghan wants majority of the delegates to be his loyalists, the aspirants said “Delegates must be elected from all the wards in the state to affirm the party’s candidates.

“The governor is already in control of the super delegates (elected officials) in the state. His proposal is to distribute four slots each to governorship aspirants, thereby ensuring that majority of the delegates are his loyalists and would support his anointed candidates.”

Describing the proposal is a scam; the aspirants urged President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Adamu Mu’azu, to intervene in the matter.

They also urged Mr. President to advise Dr. Uduaghan and the Delta State PDP Chairman, Chief Peter Nwaoboshi, to conduct congresses at ward levels.

“Many of us have the political kudos, influence and patronage to win elections in the state,” the aspirants said.

“Promising that the coming days will be critical for Deltans, the aspirants added: “It is therefore our demand that the congress must be held in the 25 local government areas.”

Meanwhile, following the protest of senators against ward congresses held nationwide on Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the Senate met with President Goodluck Jonathan, the national chairman of the party, Adamu Muazu and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party last Tuesday night in Abuja.

This was sequel to a closed door meeting held by the caucus in the National Assembly last Wednesday after the senate adjourned plenary for one week.

It was also gathered that the lawmakers had on Tuesday threatened to stop all legislative activities and withdraw support for the president if last Saturday’s ward congresses were not cancelled and fresh ones conducted.

They also alleged that the governors of their respective states manipulated ward congresses to set the stage for their favoured candidates to take over their seats.

While the leadership of the party may not be easily disposed to cancelling the ward congresses, the legislators have insisted on an outright cancellation of the ward congresses, and conduct of fresh ones, failure of which they will carry out their threats of sabotaging all legislative business, including the consideration of the 2015 budget and plenary.

Leader of the Senate, Sen Victor Ndoma-Egba, who spoke shortly after the legislators finished the closed door meeting in the National Assembly said: “I’m sure you are aware that PDP caucus met yesterday and today (Tuesday and Wednesday) on fundamental issues affecting democracy in Nigeria arising from the ward congress of our party last Saturday.

“The issues need to be addressed very urgently by relevant PDP stakeholders in the interest of our democracy. You will all surely be briefed when the issues are addressed.”

When asked if they weighed the implication of shutting down legislative business in the senate and how the public would perceive the act, he replied that their fight was in the interest of democracy, saying, “If we do not have our democracy, we won’t have the Senate. Our democracy is bigger than the Senate,” even as he noted that issues that require urgent attention like insurgency in the north-east is being handled by the military.

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