As the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) watches carefully and perhaps nervously, the resurgent main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) holds its non-elective convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja, tomorrow, to tweak the tenure of Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee. LOUIS ACHI and SAMUEL OGIDAN look at the implications of this strategic political ritual and its associated intrigues
The venue for the event was curiously, grudgingly conceded by the ruling government. This was hardly helped by a sense of triumphant resurrection from near-death by chubby-cheeked, well-fed looking members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. Instead of a full-blown national convention to choose new leadership to pilot its affairs, on the initially scheduled August 16, 2017, the expiry of the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Care-taker Committee, the PDP settled for a non-elective convention coming up tomorrow, at the Eagle Square, Abuja. But the former ruling party apparently has good reason for this quirky deviation from which a mint-new leadership will not arise.
The decision to hold a non-elective special convention tomorrow was taken on July 18, at the party’s 74th National Executive Council meeting held at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja. PDP spokesperson Adedayo Adeyeye told newsmen at the end of the meeting that the National Convention could no longer hold on August 16 as previously scheduled, because of certain provisions the party needs to meet.
His words: “Practically, it is going to be impossible to have our national convention before August 16 because we need to give statutory notice to INEC. Our own constitution has some important provisions that we need to meet, and there is no time to meet all those provisions. So practically, it is impossible to hold an elective national convention before August 16.
“Therefore, NEC took a decision today that in view of all the circumstances, NEC invoking the power conferred on it under section 31, 2 Sub-section A today decided to convene a non-elective national convention on August 12 in Abuja.”
Further according to Adeyeye, it was “one of the most important decisions” taken at the large gathering of leaders of the party. Besides the NEC meeting, the National Caucus of the party also met.
The National Caucus meeting presided by the chairman of the party’s caretaker committee, Ahmed Makarfi, was attended by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; the party’s National Secretary, Ben Obi; Acting Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Aminu Wali; and some state governors led
by Ayodele Fayose, the Ekiti State Governor who is the Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum. Other governors at the meeting were Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe). Also in attendance were two deputy governors John Gboribiogha (Bayelsa) and Ude Chukwu (Abia).
Still others at the meeting include members of the National Caretaker Committee, National Vice Chairmen and State Chairmen, Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio, House Minority Leader Leo Ogor, and some principal officers of the National Assembly.
Significantly, the euphoria surrounding tomorrow’s event has a flip-side. Some PDP members see it as a continuation of PDP’s culture of impunity being expressed through imposition of candidates and party executives rather than the acceptable tradition of democratisation, a major burden of the party.
Along this line of thinking, some have argued that the essence of a non- elective convention is to clandestinely ease the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Care-taker Committee into a substantive National Working Committee (NWC). Proponents of this position believe this translates to impunity and lack of internal party democracy, an albatross that fed the protracted crisis which shook the party to its foundation and threatened to destroy it.
However, many party loyalists believe firmly in the wisdom of the non-elective convention and see the reasons adduced by the party leadership are very germane - a scenario that if undermined could trigger constitutional crisis and attract sanctions by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In effect, tomorrow’s non-elective convention is the best option for the party, against the background of the long period of litigation which terminated on the July 12 with the Supreme Court verdict. Perhaps, had the Supreme Court judgement come earlier than it did, the PDP would have been able to meet the long notice of 21 days requirement as prescribed by the Electoral Act for the conduct of an elective convention.
Tomorrow’s non-elective convention The AUTHORITY gleaned is to extend the tenure of the Makarfi-led committee in preparation for the main convention where members will be elected to oversee the affairs of the party.
It was also gathered that the number of months to be given to the caretaker committee is generating some controversy. While some members are agitating for three months, others are asking for six months. Those asking for six months, it was gathered, argued that the six months would enable the committee to make adequate preparation and to reconcile aggrieved members and other associated issues.
The party is not leaving any stone unturned and has during the inauguration of its committees on reconciliation, discipline and convention, extended its hands of fellowship to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Yakubu Dogara and others, who left the party, as result of one grievance or the other.
It could be recall that at the height of the crisis in PDP, prominent members of the party, in the person of Atiku and Saraki alongside five PDP governors, namely Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara); Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and now governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, had led members from the lower chamber into the APC.
Meanwhile, the convention committee led by Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa is already moving in full swing to ensure the success of the non-elective convention. Addressing newsmen on Wednesday at the party’s national secretariat, during the Committee’s first meeting, the governor boasted that the party would take over government in 2019.
He said: “PDP has come alive, will stay alive and has sent a strong message to make Nigerians to realise that we will take over power in 2019. There will be no failure on our part.”
The governor promised that the non-elective Convention Committee would deliver a convention that the people would be proud of. He pointed out that the days for preparation were short, adding that the convention committee did not see it as a challenge to deliver on its responsibilities and expectations to organised successful convention. According to Okowa, “We are confident because we are organised party, that we will definitely deliver a convention that we will be proud of as a party. I am trusting in the ability of our leaders, the chairmen and the secretaries of our sub-committees that we will do a good work.
“Also because we are organised party, before today, some level of work has been done by the National Working Committee. I must appreciate them for what they have done before today. We hope that by Saturday we will have a very good story to tell to the public. Our success will be that strong message that we will send out to the public.”
Against the background of perceived creeping dictatorship and some sense of uncertainty swirling around the ruling APC, many are relieved that a credible, strong opposition platform has resurrected at last. The emerging consensus is that the PDP is gaining significant political traction, notwithstanding its unsightly pimples, warts and all.