Still a stormy reawakening



PDP Governors Consider Sheriff, Secondus For Chairman
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ‎has just experienced being opposition for 11 months after 16 years in power between 1999 and 2015. But the push within the party to seek a come back to the corridor of power, particularly in the 2019 general elections, seem to create impressions of a people that have been kept out of power for decades.

However, even as the PDP makes desperate moves to recapture the nation’s number one office, there are teething problems threatening the remains of the Umbrella. The May 21 convention being convened by the party in P‎ort Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, would decide the fate of the party.‎

By the constitution of the party, the convention is the most powerful organ, which has the final say in on any issue. Zoning, which will play serious role in deciding the chairmanship ‎of the party, as well as who becomes the presidential candidate in 2019, is the key issue to be addressed.

Already, the stage is saturated with serious controversy on whether or not the incumbent national chairman would succeed himself at the convention. While many party stakeholders are canvassing the retention of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as chairman, others believe that such a step could jeopardise the rebuilding efforts in progress to revive the party.

The powerful forces that brought Sheriff into office, as national chairman have been busy of late, working on several calculations. Governors Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, and a host of other governors are the current kingmakers in the party.

When no one ever suspected, they influenced the National Executive Committee (NEC) and other organs of the party to enthrone Sheriff as chairman. They are now focused on anointing anybody they believe will best serve the party’s interest. That includes Sheriff too.

The Deputy National Chairman, Uche Secondus, is the next person that could emerge as national chairman should those opposed to Sheriff’s continued stay as chairman beyond May 21 have their way. However, the Secondus option had generated some problems on account of the bad blood generated by the outgoing National Working Committee (NWC), particularly during the last primary election that preceded the 2015 general elections.

However, one of the kingmakers, Wike, is believed to be there for Secondus on condition that Sheriff is removed. A very competent source in the PDP national secretariat hinted that what the governors did by bringing Sheriff was to stabilise the party and that role was needed that time.

To him, what may play out during the convention, particularly, on the issue of electing the next chairman would depend on ‎whether the governors are satisfied that Sheriff has concluded his job of stabilising the party.

“If they (PDP governors) believe that the exercise of stabilising the party is yet to be completed and that Sheriff is still the person to complete the job, the May 21 convention will be a formal forum to ask Sheriff to continue. But if that is not the case, you can be sure that Secondus would step in as the next chairman.

It was also gathered that should Sheriff be re-elected at the convention, he might not stay till 2019. This school of thought believes that the party leaders would want to remove the problem of North-South dichotomy in relation to the leadership of the party.

“Look, these people (PDP governors and key party leaders) have been working and strategising. This issue of whether the North or South should produce the next chairman is sensitive enough to tear the party apart. So, if you see that Sheriff is re-elected as chairman, it means they have decided to allow him complete the job till sometime in the near future when he would be replaced.

Prince-Uche-SecondusSince overwhelming opinions favour the zoning of the Presidential candidate for the 2019 election to the North, it might not be quite in order to also put the national chairman there. However, there is nothing wrong right now if a person from the North is put as national chairman since it is not yet time to pick the Presidential candidate,” the source said

Meanwhile, all political structures put in place before the advent of Sheriff for the purpose of conducting congresses and conventions have already been put in abeyance.

In their place, Sheriff has set up four committees to handle specific assignments with respect to the convention and the rebuilding process in the party. The committees are the National Convention Committee, Reconciliation Committee, Zoning Committee and the Finance Committee. Wike is heading the national convention committee as Chairman, while the Taraba State Governor, Dairus Ishiaku, is Deputy Chairman and the Governor of Ebonyi State, Governor Dave Umahi, is Secretary.

Similarly, the Reconciliation Committee has Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, as Chairman and Senator Ibrahim Mantu as Deputy Chairman, while the Finance Committee has Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, as Chairman and Senator Godswill Akpabio as Deputy Chairman.

In the same vein, the Zoning Committee has Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom, as Chairman and Barr. Kelechi Igwe as Secretary.

Dickson was quick to caution on the issues facing the party, which demanded new approach. He cautioned party members to be conscious of the fact that the PDP is no more in the national government.‎”‎That calls for a new thinking, that calls for a new approach to politicking, and most importantly, that calls for consensus building, that calls for inclusiveness,” he noted.‎

Udom, also speaking at the inauguration of the committees, last week, told the gathering of party stakeholders that the job of his committee was the most crucial.

“‎This is a very critical time for our party. This is a time to redefine what we stand for as a party. This is a time we must reappraise what would take us to where we are going to, and with that we need the support of everybody,” he said.

Perhaps, Sheriff has no ambition to succeed himself after his tenure expires on May 21 this year at the proposed PDP National Convention. He was elected National Chairman in February, to serve out the tenure of the North East, which began in March 2012.

PDP Southwest And Geopolitical Balancing
BUT if there is any intention to seek tenure extension by the National Chairman, it was activated by the PDP South West. The group led by Senator representing Ogun East in the National Assembly, Buruji Kashamu, while on a courtesy visit to Sheriff, canvassed for the north to retain the National Chairmanship position of the party.

PDP South West argued that for the Chairmanship to go to the South would make the party look like a regional party.
“In the Southeast, the PDP has three governors; we have five governors out of the six states in the South-South; in the South West, we have two governors. In the whole of the North, we have only two governors. We need to strengthen the North. If not, the PDP will be branded as a regional party if we go ahead to pick the National Chairman from the South,” the group noted in its position paper presented to Senator Sheriff.‎

PDP South West is perhaps, pre-empting the special committee set up by the National Working Committee (NWC) to decide the zoning formula of the national officers. The committee was inaugurated on Tuesday, April 5, and is yet to submit its report.

Some had argued that should the North be allowed to retain the Chairmanship, the principle of zoning might be threatened since the same region will produce the presidential candidate in 2019. However, the issue at place is not region but zoning. So, the President could come from a particular zone, while the chairman could come from another zone. There are three zones in the North.

Beyond the power of manipulation of key stalwarts of the party, which appeared to favor the elongation of Sheriff‎’s tenure, the Southwest caucus of the party is, however, one of the six geopolitical zones that have so far adopted this stand, although within the zone there are some dissenting voices.

Former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George, ‎is among the dissenting voices. George, former chairman of the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), who is allegedly nursing chairmanship ambition, described those who visited the National Chairman as political upstarts who did not know the history of PDP.

“The PDP is about justice, fairness and equity. Of all the zones in Nigeria, it is only the South West ‎that has not produced the chairman of the party since 1999,” he said.

George described those who led the group as ‘overnight leaders’, and wondered whom they consulted from the Southwest before embarking on the visit.

“When we were running around in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003 and even 2007 when the PDP was untouchable in the Southwest, where were they?‎ We built the party to an Iroko such that we swept the zone in 2003, where were they then?

“If there was no yesterday, there won’t be today and tomorrow. Have they checked the history of the party and vision of the founding fathers?



“When Sheriff was coming and we had to calm nerves in Borno and Northeast, where were these characters?” Bode George asked.
Also, the PDP Board of Trustee (BoT) kicked against any plan for the National Chairman to succeed himself. Acting Chairman, Senator Walid Jubrin, said those asking Sheriff to stay in office beyond the three months approved by various organs of the party did not mean well for the PDP.

“The recent courtesy calls to the national chairman and the presentations being made especially calling him to continue beyond the stipulated three months tenure is an invitation to trouble, anarchy and the return of impunity in PDP,” Senator Jubrin stated.

According to him, the various organs of the party‎ unanimously approved that the tenure of the National Chairman and other National Working Committee (NWC) members would terminate on May 21.

“The present NWC received an overwhelming ovation and admiration at the meeting of the national caucus, BoT and NEC by overlooking their 2017 tenure in support of the three months approval of the respected organs of the party, which should strictly be complied with.

“Instead of listening to the praise singers, Modu Sherif should follow the path of honour and integrity by simply taking a bow in May 2016, after the national convention,” Jubrin added.

Rebuilding The Party
PDP is rebuilding since it lost the 2015 general elections. It based its rebuilding process on the recommendations of the Post-Election Committee‎ headed by Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

The committee recommended among other things, that there should be no imposition of candidates for any election.‎ It also recommended that next presidential candidate of the party should come from the north.

The BoT warned of the dangers of not adhering to the committee’s recommendations that the party.According to the BoT Acting Chairman, “anyone who tries to reverse this position by changing it with another position will ever remain an enemy to the north, a mercenary and killer of PDP.

“The BoT strongly advises Modu Sherif to respect his oath and acceptance of the powerful organs of the PDP that he will stay for only three months, and allow his name to be written in gold by honourably leaving the scene in May after the convention.”

Southwest leaders, after their meeting in Ibadan, Oyo State three weeks ago, maintained their stand that the North should retain the chairmanship. They, however, said the call did not necessarily mean that Sheriff should elongate his tenure.

PDP National Vice Chairman, South West, Makanjuola Ogundipe, explained that the region shared the fears of some northern elders that PDP is losing its national appeal.

According to him, ‎ the party controls 10 of the 17 states in the South, with 10 governors, 32 senators and 96 Members of the House of Representatives, while in the North, it has only two governors, 15 senators and about 30 members of the House of Representatives.

“It is unfair to the masses of the Southwest for anyone to insinuate that our position in canvassing that the National Chairman of our great party should come from the North amounts to pushing away good things coming to the region,” he said.

The Southwest has an eye on the National Chairmanship, but Ogundipe said the region should make concession for the interest of the party.

“It should be noted that the Southwest had the Presidency for eight years as well as Speaker of the House of Representatives for four years; these positions are more influential than the chairmanship of the party, which some now argue must be given to the Southwest because no one from the region has ever served as National Chairman,” he added.

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