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PDP Presidential Primaries: The Die Is Cast

This  Thursday, at  the  Eagle  square  in  Abuja,  the  Peoples’  Democratic  Party (PDP)  delegates  will  at  its  special  national  convention,  elect  the  party’s  presidential  flag-bearer  for  this  year’s  presidential election  in  April.  Barring  any  last minute  developments,  Thursday’s  contest  will  be  between  incumbent  President  Goodluck  Jonathan  and  former  Vice-President  Atiku  Abubakar.

Since  the  registration  of  PDP  as  a  political  platform  in  1998,  this  presidential  primary  contest  will  go down  in  history  as  the  fiercest.  It  is  a  contest  that  has  pushed  the  party  to  the  brinks.  Because  of  the  murk  that  has  been  racked  up  so  far,  there  are  fears  over  what  will  become  of  the  party  in  the  aftermath  of  the  presidential  primary.

With  the  two aspirants  running  neck  and  neck,  eyeball  to  eyeball,  with  all  the  long  knives  out  and  sentiments  running  high,  the  question  is :  Between  Jonathan  and  Atiku,  who  blinks  first?
The Build Up

With  the  death  of  former  President  Umaru  Musa  Yar’Adua  in  May  last  year,  the  party  was  thrown  into  a  dilemma  of  what  happens  to  its  zoning  arrangement,  when  the  tenure  of  the  late  president  expires.  Expectedly,  given  the provisions  of  the  1999  Constitution,  the  then  vice-president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan,  succeeded  the  late  president.  The  President  in  the  exercise  of  his  constitutional  right  indicated  his  interest  to  contest  the party’s  presidential primaries.

However,  given the  fact  that  his  predecessor  was  from  the  geo-political  North  and  was  unable  to  serve  out  the  two  terms  the  PDP  constitution  stipulates,  interest  groups  from  the  zone,  are  insisting  that  the  zone  would  serve  out  the  Yar’Adua  years.

For  now,  the  contest  in  the  party  for  its  presidential  ticket  is  on  the  North-South  divide.  The  Northern  Political  Leaders  Forum (NPLF),  championed  by  elder  statesman,  Malam  Adamu  Ciroma,  have  succeeded  in  presenting  former  vice-president  Atiku  Abubakar  as  the  zone’s  flag-bearer.  President  Jonathan  is  the  only  aspirant  from  the geo-political  south  in  the  race.
The Party’s NWC

The  National  Working  Committee  of  the  party  have  its  hands  full,  in  so  far  as,  the  forthcoming  presidential  primary  is  concerned. The  Dr  Okwesilieze  Nwodo –led  NWC  falls  short  of  exhibiting  the  qualities  that  will  convince  party  faithful  that  they  are in  control  of  what  is  happening.  The  crises  in  the  party  is  spreading  like  wide  fire.  This  development  has  given  room  to  concerns  of  what  would  become  of  the  party  after  the  primaries  elections.

With  a  few days  to  the  conduct  of  the  all  important  presidential  primaries,  the  NWC  is  yet  to  set  up  both  the  National  Convention  Organising  Committee  and  the  Presidential  Aspirants  Screening  Panel.  A  source  in  the  party  told  LEADERSHIP  SUNDAY  that  the  delay  in the  setting  up of  the  committees,  “is  to  prevent  a  situation  where  any  of  the  aspirants  lobbies  the  members”.

But,  our  findings  showed  that  this  is  far  from  the  truth.  It  was  learnt  that  the  NWC  had  met  severally,  but  was  unable  to  agree  on  who  would  chair  these  august  committees  and  their  composition.  The  NWC  had  met  thrice  over  the  matter  and  on  each occasion,  failed  to  reach  a  consensus.

For  instance,  the NWC  had  rejected  the  proposal  for  former  vice-president,  Dr  Alex Ekwueme to head the national convention organizing committee.  Some  members  of  the  Committee,  were  said  to  have  doubted  his  impartiality,  given  the fact  that  he  had  been  kinked  with  the  Atiku  presidential campaign  organisation.

Next,  was  the  name  of  former  Secretary  of  Commonwealth,  Chief  Emeka  Anyaoku.  Those  that  proposed  his  name  argued  that  he is  very  credible  and  “unaligned”,  in  so  far  as  the  interest  groups  are  involved.  This  proposal  was  dumped  on  the  fact  that  the  retired  diplomat  is  not  a  card  carrying  member  of  the  party.  Further  arguments  for  him  to  be  drafted  did  not  impress  the  majority.

The  last  was  one-time  national  chairman  of  the  party,  Dr.  Ahmadu  Alli.  His nomination was dead on arrival.

It  was  learnt  that  the  NWC  members  are  divided  down  the  line  over  this  matter,  hence  their  inability  to  agree  on   consensus  candidates  for  the  offices.  There  are  fears  that  the  alleged  political  interests  of  the  respective  NWC  members  is  making it  difficult  for  them  to make any  head  way.  The  real fear  is  that  already,  the  party  is  behind  time  in  its  preparations  for  the  special  national  convention.
Cut -Throat Campaigns

The  campaign  organizations  of  the  two  aspirants  have  regaled  the public  with  an  over  dose  of  mudslinging.  An  appraisal  of  their  performances  so  far,  showed  that  little  time   was  devoted  to  issue-oriented  campaigns.  Either  organizations  waited  for  slips  to  cash in,  often  times  resorting  to  banalities  and  name-calling.

Beyond  that,  as  the  countdown  to  the  presidential  primary  reaches  feverish  heights,  the  Atiku  Campaign  Organisation  has  accused  the  NWC  of  conducting  the  preparations  for  the  exercise  in  secrecy.  The  campaign  organization  was  short  of  accusing  the  Nwodo-led  NWC  of  manipulating  the process  to  favour  President  Goodluck  Jonathan.

Senator  Ben  Obi,  the  Director-General  of  the  Atiku  campaign  organization  had  last  week  raised  an  alarm  over  what  the  organization  called  ‘troubling  signals’  from  the  party  over  the  conduct  of  the  presidential primary  election.

The Director-General enumerated as follows; “Precisely one week to the conduct of the primary election which comes up on 13 January, 2011, the National Convention Committee, which has the overall mandate of planning and executing the primary election programme is yet to be composed. If one has been composed, is not yet been made public. I do not need to over stress the complex nature of the presidential primary election of a huge party like the PDP and the scope of work involved in implementing a high degree of interlocking activities for the successful delivery of set objectives.

“ Relatedly, less than five days to the screening of the presidential aspirants, an exercise that is slated for 11 January, 2011, the presidential screening panel is yet to be constituted. I leave it to the imagination of the Nigerian public the implication of this to the proper, result-oriented, fair and equitable screening of the aspirants.

“In spite, of our unrelenting efforts and considerable pressure on the party leadership to convene a meeting between it and all the presidential campaign organisations, no date, to the best of our knowledge, has been chosen for this dialogue to take place. The implication of this is that one week to the presidential primary election, our Campaign Organisation is completely in the dark about issues and processes that affect us, and in which we have expended and are still expending enormous amount of time, energy and resources.

“Specifically, we are yet to receive any official communication from the party on the guidelines and ground rules that will govern the conduct of the primary election; about the time, location and method of screening delegates; the issuance of passes to accredited officials; the security arrangements for such a major political undertaking; a published list of all delegates who will participate in the voting exercise; voting method and procedures; counting and announcement of results; and a thousand and one other details that must be clearly set out weeks before the conduct of the election.

“The conduct of the primary election held so far in many States is extremely troubling. In many States, authentic delegates to the primary elections have been disenfranchised leading what appears to be an unfortunate disintegration of the party in the States concerned. We have credibly information that in Plateau, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ogun, Yobe, and a host of others, a significant membership of the party are either pulling out its fold or treating to do so. This unfortunate trend must not be allowed to be carried over to the special National Convention of the Party, for this we certainly have grave consequences for the contrive existence of the Party as we know it.

“I have also drawn the attention of the National Chairman to the unacceptable situation in some States were delegates were barred from meeting our aspirant on the directive of the governors. States such as Jigawa, Ebonyi, Abia, Kaduna and Sokoto readily come to mind. Even if a number of the governors are under intense pressure not to allow Atiku Abubakar to meet the delegates from their State, we condemn such undemocratic practice and call on the Leadership of the party to take a firm and decisive stand on this troubling issues failure to arrest this situation will be indicative that the presidential primary is on the verge of being manipulation.

“Preparations for the conduct of the PDP Presidential primary election appear to be going on in extreme secrecy, which makes the entire process suspect and places it under grave threat, going by the omissions noted above. We owe it a duty to our teeming supporters, party delegates and the Nigerian public to alert them about this situation and the troubling circumstance surrounding the conduct of the primary election.

“Finally, if the well-thought out and sincere measures we want put in place are ignored and not put in place as quickly as possible, it will then become very obvious that an attempt is being made to manipulate the primary election process to favour a particular aspirant against the wishes of the generality of party members and delegates. We want to assure Nigerians that we will resist this attempt to manipulate the primary election to produce an unfair and unjust result with all the legal and political will we can muster.”

The Goodluck/Sambo campaign organization has been reactionary on issues.  The  few  exceptions  are  when  the  “de  facto”  Director-General  of  the  campaign  organization,  Chief  Tony  Anenih  bared  his  mind  on  some  issues.  For  instance,  when  he  said  in  Benin,  the  capital  of  Edo  state,  that  there  is  no  vacancy  in  Aso  Rock.  The  former  Board  of  Trustees (BoT)  chairman  of  the  party  did  not  stop  there.  He  was  reported  to  have  threatened  party  delegates  from  the  south-south  zone  that  any  of  them that  voted  for  Atiku  Abubakar  would  be  traced  and  sanctioned.
Gale Of Endorsements

Expectedly,  there  is  a  gale of endorsement  of  the  aspirants  by  interest  groups  and  sundry  organizations.  The  most  outstanding  of  all  however,  is  that  by  the  governors  for  the  candidature  of  President  Jonathan.  Given  the  influence  the  governors  weld  in  the party  set  up,  if  they  abide  by  that  resolution,  the  President  can  be  said to  be  coasting  home  in  the primaries.

Beside  the  governors  endorsement,  other  stakeholders  in the  party  that  have  done  so  did  that  for  convenience  sake.  Available records showed that the same groups endorsed both aspirants.
The Fate Of PDP After The Presidential Primaries

The  exodus  of members  from the  party,  observers  say,  is  a  cause  for  worry.  Though,  it  is  not  unexpected.  A  school  of  thought believes  that  if  the  party  eventually  wins  the  presidential  election,  that  most  of  these  decampees  would  find  their  way  back  to  the  party.

The  above  scenario  will  only  be  possibly,  another  school  of  thought  believes,  depending  on  how  the  presidential  primaries  election  is  conducted.  If  the  election  is  transparent,  as  the  national  chairman  of  the  party  has  promised,  the  umbrella  will  be  large  enough  to  accommodate  both  the  winners  and  the  losers.  Anything  to  the  contrary,  will  see  composite  forces  returning  to  the  trenches  for  the  shredding  of  the  umbrella.

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