Indications that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will have a stormy national convention emerged about a month ago when the party was preparing for the conduct of the convention and congresses.
Traditionally, the period prior to the congresses and national convention of the party is characterized by beehive of activities at the PDP national secretariat as prospective candidates for various position storm the national secretariat to purchase nomination and expression of interest forms for various offices.
This was not the case this year as the party’s national secretariat never witnessed the influx of candidates for various offices. This is not unconnected to the fact that the party printed only one set of nomination form for each of the offices that will be contested at the national convention. The import of this is that the party leadership is not throwing the contest open and have predetermined people they reserved the position for.
This is most unusual as the party usually prints thousand of nomination forms and every interested member of the party is at liberty to go into the race so long as the position they are vying for is in tandem with the zoning arrangement of the party.
Reacting to the allegation that the party produced only one nomination form for each for the offices to be contested during the congresses and convention, the party’s national secretary, Prof Wale Oladipo dismissed this allegation saying it is “absolutely wrong. Not true, we produced enough forms for all offices to be contested for.
He said s it the time he was speaking with the media sales of nomination forms was on-going and stressed that the national chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, being a system person, wanted all issues sorted with regards to accountability to the party which he considers as fair to all members of the party.
“Actually we started on Monday. We do not want to do things haphazardly; the new National Chairman is a system person. We really had this planned so that all departments that are relevant to this will get on board, the office of the Organising secretary, of course the national secretary office, the national chairman’s office, the national financial secretary office and the national auditor’s office.
“We only put a system in place that will ensure smooth running of the exercise and in particular, accountability to be fair to all and members of our great party.
“We want to be able to say this is the number of forms we sold, this is how much we generated and then the party will sit and decide on what to do with the funds for the advancement of the party, Professor Adewale Oladipo stated.
However, events that took place from the Ward congresses across the nation put a lie to the claims of Prof Oladipo that the national leadership of the party printed and distributed adequate nomination forms. Reports from the states showed that indeed only one form was sent out to the units of the party where congresses took place for various positions.
Members of the party that indicated interest in contesting for various offices at the Wards, local governments, States and Zonal level were left with no choice that to photocopy the single nomination forms before they were allowed to go into the race. The party faithful even paid the prescribed fees without getting the original nomination forms.
More disturbing development prior to the controversial convention was the fact that majority of the candidates for various positions in the National Working Committee, NWC, were unknown until 24 hours to the Port Harcourt convention.
The intrigues recorded few days to the Port Harcourt convention had the imprint of a drama script to abort the convention. About a week to the convention there were speculations that some chieftains of the party had already obtained High Court orders to stop the elections into some offices in the NWC. These PDP chieftains kept the court orders to themselves and waited until it will be too late to challenge it in and possibly lift the court order.
However, the during the National Executive Committee meeting that heralded the Port Harcourt convention, a high ranking member of the party purposely “leaked” copies of the injunction from Federal High Court, Lagos, to the media.
The court restrained the party from conducting elections into the offices of the national chairman of the party, the national secretary and the national auditor of the party.
The court has also restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from monitoring the conduct of any election into the offices.
The elections into the offices were scheduled to take place at the national convention of the party slated for Port Harcourt on Saturday.
The court document showed that the order to restrain the party from conducting the elections followed by a case brought before the court by the National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; the National Secretary, Prof. Olawale Oladipo and the National Auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adewale Adeyanju listed as 1st 2nd and 3rd plaintiffs.
In the case with suit number FHC/L/CS/61 3/2016, dated 6th of May, 2016, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and thePDP were listed as the 1st and 2nd defendants.
The plaintiffs prayed for the following: An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from conducting any election into the offices of the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor occupied by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd plaintiffs, respectively pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st Defendant/Respondent from monitoring and or recognizing the conduct of any election by the 2nd Defendant/Respondent into the offices of the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor occupied by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs, respectively pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
And for such further order(s) the court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, confirmed last Thursday that it was served the court orders, the PDP national chairman, said he was not served until 24 hours to the convention. He also claimed that there were three other court orders stopping elections into almost all the positions that were to be contested at the convention.
It was gathered that when the issue of the court orders came up in Port Harcourt, PDP national leaders and Governors went into marathon meeting when it became glaring that there are desperate plots to abort the convention. The governors eventually settled to respect the court orders and stop conduct of any election during the convention. Instead, they resolved to relieve the NWC of their positions since their tenure had already lapsed.
But the national chairman did not buy this and called off the convention at a press conference at the Le Meridian Hotel in Port Harcourt Sheriff, saying the decision to postpone the party’s national convention was in view of the various court orders.
“We are a responsible party. We have postponed the convention until the court cases are resolved,” he had said.
While Modu Sheriff departed Port Harcourt without venturing into the convention ground, the governors and other delegates went ahead with the convention with the deputy national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, presiding in conformity with the provisions of the party’s constitution that gave him powers to act in the absence of the convention.
Eventually the convention inaugurated a seven man Caretaker Committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi. But Modu Sheriff has since described the Caretaker Committee as unconstitutional contraption that is alien to the PDP constitution. He also insists he remains the national chairman of the party.
The two warring groups in PDP had already secured contradictory injunctions from Federal High Courts in Port Harcourt and Lagos legitimizing their positions.
However, political observers are of the view that the ongoing battle for the soul of PDP may sound the death knell for the party is not properly managed. The fear in the PDP is that if Modu Sheriff is allowed to continue, he will transmute into the presidential candidate of the party in 2019 against the wishes of majority of members of the party. His questionable role in the court process that affected the convention is also counting heavily against him as some of his supporters felt betrayed by his action.
While some are of the view that this is one battle that Ali Modu Sheriff cannot win because he appears to be a lone ranger on the battle front, others are of the view that the only way out for the party is to give the embattled chairman soft landing by promising him ticket for another position for 2019. The two contending parties must go back to the negotiation table unless there is a hidden agenda somewhere to finally bury PDP.