In the post-Peoples Democratic Party zonal congresses, the choices of the respective zones will play a part in how they stand within the 2023 equation, writes Chuks Okocha.
The tenure of office of the present National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is expected to come to an end towards November or December this year. And in preparation for a national convention to elect new national officers to run the affairs of the party, it approved the conduct of its zonal congresses in the six geo-political zones commencing March 6, 2021.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party slated the submission of nomination forms, including aspirants for National Ex-Officio on or before February 25, 2021.
The forms for the various offices were to be submitted to the directorate of mobilisation and Organising. With this brief announcement, the stage was set for the elections of zonal offices in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The elections of zonal officers are important, because it would foretell two things: the way the wind will blow in the emergence of national officers at the National convention and also the emergence of the presidential candidate of the party later in 2022.
So, all hands are usually on deck and it usually comes with pomp and celebration as well as political manuovering. This explained why in some of the geopolitical zone, it is like the winner takes all or a do or die affair.
The Southwest Zonal Congress
The Southwest was where real elections took place. The election was a true test of supremacy between the Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde and a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose. Both chieftains of the party supported different candidates. Fayose and Makinde had been at loggerheads over the leadership of the party in the zone.
While Makinde supported and sponsored Mr. Taofeek Arapaja, a former Oyo State deputy governor, Fayose backed Mr. Eddy Olafeso, a former governorship aspirant in Ondo State and the immediate past chairman of the party in the zone. The feud between Makinde and Fayose prevented the party from reaching a consensus on the zonal congress. The PDP NWC also intervened several times to ensure a consensus candidate for the chairmanship position, but to no avail.
At last, the party had to move the congress from Ibadan to Osogbo, where a total of 743 delegates elected officials of the Southwest zonal congress election to elect officials to run the affairs of the party in the zone for the next four years. Due to the intensity of the acrimony, the party set several machineries in motion to ensure a free and fair zonal congress.
Each state had its delegate portion with Oyo State having total of 171 delegates, while Ogun had 114 delegates, Osun had 130 delegates, Ekiti had 115 delegates and Lagos, 101 delegates.
The party also named the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom as the chairman of the Southwest PDP zonal congress. Other members were Senator Sandy Onoh, Ogun Ofome Otemabore and Ireruoke Edward who served as members, while Senator Samuel Anyanwu was secretary of the committee.
The party equally appointed an election appeal committee headed by Chief Okey Ezenwa, who wouldserve as Chairman, while Clement Okaredir would serve as member. Roland Najomoh would serve as secretary of the committee. Altogether, 743 delegates voted in the election and Aparaja defeated Olafeso, amidst controversy of rigging and malpractices.
The outcome of the election was strategic for the PDP as it stopped a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu from hijacking the PDP machinery for his presidential ambition through proxies.
How It Played Out in North West
The North West zonal congress took place on April 10, 2021.The zonal congress was crucial for the two known presidential aspirants from the zone: the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambawul and a former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso. Anyone that has control of the zonal executive definitely inches towards realising his presidential ambition, if the ticket is zoned that way.
But the congress was disturbed by hoodlums, allegedly from the camp of one of the presidential aspirants. Delegates were already casting their ballots in the zonal congress held at the International Trade Fair Complex, n Kaduna State before the hoodlums stuck.
The Congress ended abruptly. Scores of party faithful had stormed the venue of the exercise, which was attended by some PDP chieftains. Tambuwal, and a former National Caretaker Chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, were among those present while Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, was absent.
The congress was disrupted by thugs midway into the voting process. While the violence lasted, ballot papers and other voting materials were destroyed – a situation that forced most of the party chieftains to hurriedly leave the venue for fear of being caught in the attack.
Fingers were later pointed to delegates from Kano over who would emerge as the PDP chairman in the zone.
However, to avoid vacuum, the PDP NWC, last week, announced the constitution of a Northwest Caretaker Committee. This was as a result of the inability of the zone to elect its leaders.
The party, in a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary, said the NWC acted on behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and pursuant to Section 29(2)(b) of the PDP constitution (2017 as amended) constituted the North West Zonal Caretaker Committee to pilot the affairs of the party in the zone.
The North West Caretaker Committee has Dr. Aminu Abdullahi as Chairman, while Alhaji Sani Baba, Hon. Ali Madaki, Hon. Ibrahim Lawal Dankaba, Hon. Umaru Maye, Alhaji Akibu Dalhatu aremembers.
Others are A’isha Ibrahim Madina, who will serve as member and Women Leader; Hamza Yunusa,member and youth Leader and Alhaji Baba Kasim Ibrahim is to serve as secretary.
The party said the Caretaker Committee would be charged with the responsibility of running the affairs of the party in the zone, as stipulated in Section 21(2)(a-b) of the Party Constitution, until a new Executive Committee is elected. The appointment is for a period not exceeding 40 days, the statement stated.
Before the disruption of the congress, Gwarzo was said to enjoy the support of a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, who is the leader of a faction of the PDP in Kano. On the other hand, Yusuf is said to be fronted by Kwankwaso, who leads another faction of the party in the state.
Some of the delegates from both factions in Kano, Aminu Abdulsalam, Hamza Safiyanu, and Yusuf Bello, described the disruption of the congress as shameful and undemocratic.
From the North Central
The PDP has elected 23 officials to run the affairs of the party in the North Central zone for the next four years. It was by consensus Announcing the outcome of the election on Saturday in Makurdi, Benue State, the Electoral Committee Chairman, Dr Cletus Tyokaa, said all the outgone zonal officials were returned unopposed.He noted that a total of 906 delegates were expected at the congress but only 820 were accredited and voted.
He named those who returned unopposed as: Zonal Chairman, Mr Theophilus Shan, Zonal Secretary, Mr Maurice Tsav, Zonal Treasurer, Emmanuel Ibrahim, Publicity Secretary, Mr Mohamed Suleiman and 21 others.
The congress was attended by all the leaders from the zone including a former senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his predecessor for eight years, David Mark. The only governor from the zone, Samuel Ortom tasked the new officials on fairness, justice and equity in the discharge of their mandate.
Ortom also disclosed that the party in the zone had resolved to end ‘godfatherism’, imposition of candidates and avoid the mistakes of 2015 and 2019 that gave APC victory. He commended stakeholders within the zone for exhibiting a high-level of maturity throughout the processes that led to the election.
In his speech, Mark said Nigerians and indeed the people of North Central had learnt their lessons by voting the APC, saying at a time, all the six sovernors and senators in the zone were elected under the platform of the PDP. He therefore urged the people to do more to reclaim their lost positions.
Saraki, who is also the Chairman, PDP Reconciliatory Committee said, it was time for the North Central to recover its mandates in the remaining five states and that it was time for the zone to provide the much-needed leadership that Nigerians yearned for by winning back all six states in the zone.
He further appealed to the APC to stop disturbing their governors and allow them to concentrate on the good works that they were doing across their states.
Former governor of Niger State, Mr. Babangida Aliyu, said the party must create a peaceful atmosphere to endear it to Nigerians ahead of the 2023 general election.
In his acceptance speech, PDP North Central Zonal Chairman, Shan, commended the party faithful, especially, their leaders, for finding them worthy to serve another term and pledged not to disappoint the trust reposed in them.
All the elected officials were sworn in by the Benue State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr Michael Gusa.
South-south Embraces Consensus
It was a consensus affair. The zonal vice chairman, Dan Orbih was re-elected He emerged as the PDP national vice chairman, South-south. Orbih was returned unopposed at the congress held at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre, Port Harcourt, after polling 960 votes out of the 964 votes cast.
Though the election was by consensus, only delegates from Cross River State boycotted the zonal congress. This was due to crisis the state governor, Ben Ayade is facing in the party, which had factionalised the party in the state.
In his acceptance speech, Orbih pledged to reposition the party and make it stronger ahead of 2023. He assured the members that the new executive would not betray the trust and faith reposed in them by the delegates.
The Peculiar Southeast Zone
It was also a consensus affair in the Southeast. The leader of the PDP in the zone and Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, led party delegates to the zonal congress to elect Chief Ali Odefa as the National Vice Chairman (South East) of the PDP, who was returned unopposed.
The PDP zonal congress also elected 14 other members of the Zonal Executive Committee of the party through a peaceful and transparent election that was conducted by the Electoral Committee from the National Leadership of the PDP, led by Dr. Ibrahim Umar.
The electoral process was monitored and thereafter endorsed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as orderly, peaceful and credible.
The other elected Zonal Working Committee members, who were sworn in alongside the new National Vice Chairman, Chief Odefa, are Chief Ugwu James (Zonal Secretary), Hon Emeka Okeke (Zonal Treasurer), Hon. Casmir Ugwu (Zonal Financial Secretary), Hon. Mike Ahumibe (Zonal Organizing Secretary), Ukpai Ukairo (Zonal Legal Adviser), Augustine Okeke (Zonal Publicity Secretary), Hon. Lazarus Ogbe (Zonal Auditor), Hon. Mrs. Mary Omile (Zonal Woman Leader) and Comrade Chidiebere Egwu (Zonal Youth Leader).
Five others elected as Zonal Ex-officio members are Chief Damian Ozurumba (Abia), Hon. Mrs. Anthonia Nwankwu (Anambra), Francis Kalu (Ebonyi), Hon. Chief Romanus Edeh (Enugu) and Sir Stanley Ekezie (Imo).
The zonal congress, which was attended by the Deputy Governor of Abia State, Rt. Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu, the PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, the National Youth Leader, Rt. Hon. Sunday Udeh-Okoye, former Governors of Ebonyi, Anambra and Imo states, Senator Sam Egwu, Peter Obi and Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha respectively, National and State Assembly members from the zone, Olisa Metu, Chief Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Chief Chris Ubah, and other esteemed leaders of the party in the zone, including the new returnee in Anambra State, Hon. Tony Nwoye, also elected six National Ex-officio members of the party from the Southeast.
The newly elected National Ex-officio members are Chief Ibe Nwadioha (Abia), Chief Okey Muo-Aroh (Anambra), Lady Nonye Nwangwu (Anambra), Hon. Harrison Onwe (Ebonyi), Edith Okoro N. (Enugu) and Hon. Chinemerem Madu (Imo). Chairman of the Electoral Committee, Umar, declaredOdefa as the winner.
Endorsing the PDP zonal congress, the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Emeka Ononamadu stated: “We have observed the process and it was orderly; it was peaceful and the voting went successfully and we are satisfied with the outcome. So, thank you for this peaceful congress”.
Authenticating the exercise, PDP Southeast leaders, including Chukwu, Obi, Egwu and the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi, unanimously described the electoral process as peaceful, free, fair and credible, declaring that it was the best election in the Southeast in recent time.
North East Votes Also Consensus
In the northeast, it was another consensus affair as the three governors of the party in the zone were unanimous in the election of the executive officers. As evidence of their unanimity, all the three governors attended the zonal congress that took place in Bauchi town.
Present at the congress were Governor of Bauchi, Senator Bala Mohammed; his Adamawa State counterpart, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, while their Taraba State counterpart, Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku, was represented by a high profile delegation led by his Deputy, Haruna Manu.
A former National Chairman of the PDP and former Governor of Bauchi State Alhaji Adamu Muazu was also present at the Party’s congress.
Source: This Day