As ants swoop on sugar, a legion of politicians have indicated interest in leading the Nigeria’s ruling political party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
At the last count, not less than 25 members of the party including the serious, not so serious and the unserious are jostling for the post even after zoning arrangement of the party. The race has been limited to only contestants from the South-East.
The contestants are the former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, Ex-National Secretary of the party and former Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Ex-National Vice Chairman, Chief Fidelis Ozichukwu, the incumbent National Vice Chairman, Olisah Metu and Chief Engr Ezekiel-Izuogu.
Going by the list so far, it could be said that the five front runners are attracting the attention of stakeholders for different measures.
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prof Rufai Alkali says the South-East zone would still produce the next substantive chairman of the party. He said under the existing arrangement, the South-East produces the National Chairman of the party.
However, since Nwodo’s resignation, the party hierarchy has been polarised, some want Alhaji Bello Mohammed to be in charge till the next party convention, others want the South-East to complete their tenure, which expires in September 2011.
Quite interestingly, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo is among those calling for a candidate from the South-East for the replacement of Okwesilieze Nwodo in order to give the zone a sense of belonging. The former President is rooting for Chief Ojo Maduekwe, whom he believes is more qualified than any one else.
President Goodluck Jonathan wants leaders from the zone to decide. Hence, the leaders from the zone have set up a seven man-panel headed by the Imo State Governor, Ikedim Ohakim to screen eligible contestants from the zone.
From investigation, the battle is certainly going to be between Chief Ojo Maduekwe and former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim.
A new twist to the contest is a court order barring one of the contestants, Chief Olisa Metuh from contesting, an Anambra High Court had barred Chief Olisa Metuh from contesting following a court action by two aggrieved members of the party, Prince Emeka Eze and Hon. Tim Egboka.
The South-East therefore needs to put its house in order to achieve a common political front for the people of the zone to clinch the chairmanship position of the party.
The political question now is who wears the crown as the next National Chairman of PDP from the South-East geo-political zone?
Surprisingly, prominent Northern politicians are in support of North holding unto the party chairmanship position to counter-balance the power equation in the country between the North and the South.
But what is puzzling political observers is the impact of frequent changes of PDP chairmanship and stability of the party. Does the changes foster stability of the party and voters confidence in the party?
Chief Isaac Obele Eeh, former State Financial Secretary of the PDP in the State said that such changes of the party leadership would never foster the much needed stability within the party. He said “frequent changes will never ensure policy stability in the party,” stressing that a new chairman comes with a new vision, blue print and policy thrust for running the party either to reforms weaken or strengthen internal democracy within the party.
Chief Eeh advocated for internal conflict resolution mechanism to be adopted within the party to settle differences arising from the party’s leadership, rather than frequent removal.
However, the PDP leadership must ensure internal reconciliation within the party by reaching out to most aggrieved members in order to face the general elections as one united political party, as a house divided against itself cannot stand.
However, for failing to unite the home front and ensure cohesiveness within the party in the South-East, the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo was forced to resign his position prior to the party’s national convention.
The former Chairman was alleged to have played an undignified role between the camps of the two frontline presidential aspirants of the party, prior to the primary won by President Goodluck Jonathan.
However the last political straw that broke the camel’s back over Nwodo’s removal was his alleged disobedience to a lawful court order issued by an Enugu High court. Nwodo was alleged to have flouted the Court order and his appearance briefly at the convention angered the party leadership.
The PDP said “Nwodo flouted a court order restraining him from parading himself as the National Chairman. His presence at the special convention caused the party some embarrassment.
The Acting National Chairman, Alhaji Bello Mohammed also said,” the action of Dr. Nwodo dragged the party into disrepute contrary to the party’s Article 21 (1) (c) & (h) of the PDP Constitution.
Meanwhile, since 2007 when the position of the party’s National Chairman was zoned to the South-East, the zone had produced two National Chairmen within a period of three years, nine months. In 2007, Dr. Vincent Ogbulafor who was elected the party’s National Chairman as a neutral candidate between the contending forces in the party to keep the party united following the polarisation of support for either Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, the former Senate President or Dr. Sam Egwu, former Governor of Ebonyi State who were campaigning then for the chairmanship position of the party.
Three years into his tenure, Dr. Vincent Ogbulafor was forced to resign to pave way for Nwodo as his successor. Immediately, Nwodo took over, he declared the zoning principle within the party dead while he embarked on internal reforms within the party.
At inception on 24th September, 1998 as a political party, Dr. Alex Ekwueme became the founding and interim National Chairman who voluntarily resigned the position to contest the party presidential primary with General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. Chief Solomon Lar took over the mantle of leadership and led the party to victory by winning the presidential election in 1999 and majority governorship seats in the country.
Engineer Barnabas Gemade, now PDP senatorial candidate for Benue State took over the party chairmanship position from Chief Solomon Lar.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, a principled politician took over the mantle of the party leadership to restore confidence of the party members. Chief Ogbeh did his best to improve upon the image of the party.
Today, Chief Audu Ogbeh is a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Retired Army Colonel, Dr. Ahmadu Ali whose tenure was regarded as the “Garrison Command Period” took over from Chief Audu Ogbeh and successfully led the party to victory in the 2007 general elections.
Political watchers argue that for the South-East to produce a credible leader to move the party forward, that leader must have the political clout to lead the party to victory in the forthcoming elections.
The pitfalls of the past National Chairmen from the zone must be avoided by any incoming National Chairman. Only then can the party restore the confidence of Nigerians and in their party members.
Okowa Sends Names Of 18 Commissioner- Nominees To Assembly
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has forwarded the names of 18 nominees for appointment as commissioners to the state House of Assembly for screening and confirmation.
The names of the nominees were contained in a letter read by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, during plenary of the Assembly in Asaba, yesterday.
The Tide reports that Okowa on May 18, dissolved the State Executive Council.
The 11 former commissioners that have been re-appointed and their portfolios, incelude: Mr Charles Aniagwu, Information, Dr Barry Gbe, Economic Planning, Mr Julius Egbedi, Agriculture and Mr Lawrence Ejiofor, Culture and Tourism.
Others are: Mr Ifeanyi Egwuyenga, Youths Development, Chief Arthur Akpowowo, Urban Renewal and Chief Festus Ochonogor, Housing, Mrs Flora Alanta, Women Affairs, Mr Churchill Amagada, Lands, Chief Fidelis Tilije, Finance and Mr Chris Onogba, Environment.
The seven new nominees are: Mr Jonathan Ukodhiko, Mrs Evelyn Oboro, Mr Noel Omordon, Mrs Rose Esenwu, Princess Shola Ogbemi-Daibo, Mrs Kate Oniawan, and Mr Johnbull Edema.
The speaker directed the nominees to forward 35 copies each of their Curriculum Vitae to the office of the clerk of the assembly on or before June 21.
He called on the nominees to appear for screening and confirmation on June 22.
The Assembly, yesterday, also screened and confirmed the appointments of Justice Theresa Diai as the Chief Judge of Delta State as well as Justice Patience Elumeze as President of Customary Court, Delta State.
The confirmation of the nominees followed a motion moved by the Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Mr Oboro Preyor.
The motion supported by Mr Emeke Nwaobi, member representing Aniocha North Constituency in the state Assembly was unanimously adopted by the Assembly, when it was put to a voice vote by the speaker.
Anambra Guber: CLO Calls For Level Playing Ground
The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), an NGO, has urged political parties participating in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra to ensure free, fair, credible and generally acceptable primaries, devoid of acrimony and manipulations.
The Chairman of CLO, Anambra, Mr Vincent Ezekwueme, made the appeal while speaking with newsmen in Enugu, yesterday.
Ezekwueme urged political parties to adhere strictly to the principles of participatory and constitutional democracy; thus ensuring the tenets of internal democracy.
According to him, it is pertinent for party leaders to be honest, transparent and selfless in the conduct of their various primaries.
He urged political delegates to the various primaries to get it right by voting for the most credible, God-fearing, articulate and most qualified candidates that would render selfless service to the citizenry.
The CLO boss advised party delegates to vote with their conscience and conviction, devoid of monetary inducement or influence by political leaders and stakeholders.
“CLO decries with great disdain any attempt to impose candidates on the delegates or unjustifiably screen out or bar some candidates from contesting after collecting outrageous nomination and expression of interest fees, to pave way for emergence of anointed or favoured candidates.
“Significantly, it is only justice that will precipitate credible elections and guarantee peaceful atmosphere before, during and after the elections. This is the best and greatest yearnings and aspirations of all Anambrarians.
“Let all the stakeholders work harmonious with patriotism and selflessness for the conduct of free, fair and credible primaries and the November 6 governorship election,’’ he said.
Ezekwueme noted that any party that could not conduct free and fair primaries would be unable to guarantee and ensure a free election in the main gubernatorial contest.
The CLO boss, however, appealed to all the political parties to zone their governorship candidates to Anambra South Senatorial Zone.
“This appeal is in the spirit of justice, equity, morality and good conscience in tandem with the zoning formula propagated by former Gov. Peter Obi and which has helped douse political tension in the state.
“We commend the unique wisdom and political sagacity of Obi and we implore Anambra political gladiators and stakeholders to respect the zoning arrangement for the interest of peace and unity,’’ he said.
Ayade And The APC Albatross
Like Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State before him, Prof. Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, did not take many by surprise when he eventually broke camp with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pitched tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party at the centre on Thursday, May 20, 2021.
A pointer to the fact that Governor Ayade had long signaled his romance with the APC was evident in the statement of welcome by a party chieftain and one-time leader of the 7th Senate of the Federal Republic, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, when he noted that Ayade had “consciously navigated the ship of governance in sync with the APC-led Federal Government”.
Of course, for a long time, close watchers of the Cross River State Governor had noted how he had openly expressed admiration for the president and leader of the APC while overtly distancing himself from every criticism by the PDP, his party then, against the Federal Government and the ruling party. In fact, it was even obvious to casual observers that all was not well between Ayade and the PDP when he became consistently absent in the meetings of his fellow governors on the platform of the party and other high profile party engagements.
However, there has been some interesting political developments in Cross River State following the defection of the state Chief Executive, and leader of the PDP until that select group of APC governors and other top ranking party leaders stormed the Government House in Calabar to receive him into their fold. Buoyed by the gathering of members of his cabinet, members of the Cross Rivers State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, some National Assembly members from the state, Chairmen of local government councils and their councilors, and other stakeholders in the state including Dame Princess Florence Ita-Giwa and High Chief Asuquo Ekpeyong, Prof. Ayade boldly declared that by virtue of the event of his detection, Cross River State had become an APC state.
As if to prove the point that there could not be another party, particularly the PDP, without the government that he leads, the governor ordered the annexation of the PDP state secretariat and convert all its property into the use of the APC just two days after. Responding to the turn of event at the party secretariat, Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to the governor said the PDP could not claim to be the ones to continue to occupy the property as the rent was paid by the governor. He said the rent for the said property was only renewed recently by the same PDP that has now totally collapsed into the APC.
“The same officials of PDP who occupied the property when it was secretariat of the PDP still occupy it, having switched allegiance and moved to the APC with the governor”|, he said.
In a swift reaction, the PDP Federal Lawmakers and Stakeholders Forum in Cross River State dissociated themselves from the governor’s move. Addressing a press conference on Friday, May 21, 2021 in Abuja, the forum pledged to remain in the PDP and declared Cross River State as a stronghold of the party.
“As far as I know, till date, the National Assembly caucus remains intact. I don’t see any of us leaving. We are legacy members of the party who have been in this party for the past 15 to 20 years. So, we are not going anywhere”, Senator Geshan Bassey who spoke on behalf of the lawmakers said, accusing Ayade of not consulting them but insisting that even if he had “we will not follow him”.
On the same occasion, Senator Liyel Imoke, former governor of the state, on behalf of the PDP Stakeholders Forum in Cross River described Ayade’s defection as regrettable, even though not unexpected.
According to Imoke, an overwhelming number of Cross Riverians remains resolute with the PDP, emphasizing that “our key stakeholders, members of the national and state assemblies, and strategic grassroots mobilisers are still members of our great party. We, as a party, therefore, remain virile and strong. Our shell remains uncracked”.
Imoke said “We understand that the people of Cross River, who have stood firmly with the PDP since 1999 and other lovers of the state are deeply disappointed by this move made by a governor, who has won all his elections under the platform of the party. Given the overwhelming support which he enjoyed under the PDP and the fact that PDP has undeniable strong grassroots in the state, we affirm that Cross River remains a PDP state”.
As developments have shown, Governor Ayade may not have had the support of all his close functionaries in his voyage as he has had to offload not less than four of his commissioners and a number of aides believed to still be loyal to the PDP.
In a press statement signed by his CPS/Special Adviser Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, the governor, relieved the appointment of Mr Mike Usibe, Commissioner for New Cities Development; Rita Ayim, Commissioner in charge of Women Affairs, Mr Asu Okang, Commissioner for Information and Ntufam Donatus Etim, Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry.
On the part of the PDP, the regrouping of forces, especially the return of the likes of former governor Donald Duke, has not been without hitches.
Recently, the state caretaker committee chairman and secretary of the party were constrained to issue a warning to party stalwarts to restrain themselves from unguarded statements capable of causing division among their ranks. “The party will like to caution all stakeholders that this is a time for rebuilding, restoration and reconciliation. It is not a time for trading blames.
“The larger purpose of the development of Cross River State should remain our unwavering focus and should insulate party stakeholders from all other distractions”, the statement said in reaction to unauthenticated social media post by Ex-Governor Donald Duke accusing his successor in office, Senator Liyel Imoke of running a dictatorial administration.
The party, however, commended the courage of former governor Duke for returning to the party at such a time as this, hoping that his return would further strengthen the party to face the new threat posed by the APC and Governor Ben Ayade.
“We congratulate His Excellency Donald Duke for finding the courage to re-join the party on whose platform he twice contested and won elections as governor of Cross River State.
“It is our firm belief that his coming back to the party is not only indicative of the party’s strength in the state, but more importantly, will help in rebuilding a strong and virile party”, the statement said.
Prof Ben Ayade may have left the PDP but it is difficult to say if the PDP has left Cross River State. With the regrouping of battle-tested war horses in the state under the umbrella, the governor and his new party may have to work extra hard to dislodge the deep roots of the PDP in the state.
Asked how the governor’s move will affect the fortunes of the PDP in coming elections in the state, Senator Imoke said. “I think in the past, you would see that states that have that type of strength, irrespective of a defection, tend at all times to remain strong. There’s a reason for that. What you perceive as power will determine how you lead. If you perceive power to be a political party, then you will be moving from one political party to another, but if you understand that power ultimately is the people, and that it belongs to the people, you’ll appreciate that it’s not about the party.
“PDP in Cross River State has always been about the people and I think we still remain about the people; so the party has endeared itself to the people and as such a movement by the governor does not, of its own, translate to the people moving into another political party because they have already identified strongly with the party-the PDP. It is sort of like what you have in the United States and other countries where there are strongholds – a state like California, it is defined as a Democratic stronghold. Cross River State is a PDP stronghold”.
Even Ayade himself is without a doubt that Cross River State is a PDP stronghold but for how long this stronghold will hold is what is now being put to test as the governor has already made inroads into the traditional institution from whom he has extracted the same commitment and support they had always given to successive governors and their political agenda.
However, politics is about politicians and Victor Ndoma-Egba tells Ayade: “As you join us in the progressives fold, my expectation is that your coming will enrich our internal democracy and I enjoin you to be consultative, inclusive, democratic, transparent and accountable because these are the hallmarks of the All Progressives Congress family. I also expect that your presence in the APC will further strengthen the party and improve our electoral fortunes in Cross River State”.
Ndoma-Egba’s expectations are not just his expectation and those of the members of the APC in Cross River alone, they were the same expectations of the party faithful in Rivers State in 2015 and the ones in Edo State through the reign of Adams Aliu Oshiomohole. Whether the APC members in the Peoples Paradise will have a different experience remains to be seen.
What is certain is that the South-South region has not been a welcoming environment for the APC and it does not appear as it is ready to change that disposition just yet because of Prof. Ayade. He may just soon find out that what could flourish in the Southeast may require humongous effort to sprout on South-South soil.
By: Opaka Dokubo
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