Agbo Paul: Convention: As PDP bids farewell to Secondus-led NWC in December

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In spite of what some political watchers may describe as internal contestations within the ranks of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the centrifugal and centripetal forces in Africa’s largest opposition political party appear to be moving towards steering the ship to stability.

The PDP has strived to remain democratic in its operations, and not a few persons are anxious of what the future holds for a party that has enjoyed political dominance in Nigeria for 16 years as she prepares to enter a new phase in its struggle towards wrestling power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

With an Elective National Convention in sight probably in November or early December in Abuja, the coast may have been cleared. Analysts learnt that it is an elective National Convention that will usher in a new crop of leaders for Nigeria’s main opposition party regardless of the colours that may have tainted it in recent times.

Forces within the party, it was learnt, objected to the idea of a Caretaker Committee to run the party should the tenure of the current leadership come to an end in December.

They draw their argument from the position of the PDP constitution which stated in Chapter 1 Section 7 (3)(c ): “The Party shall pursue its aims and objectives by adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of Party and Public elective offices in pursuance of the principles of equity, justice and fairness.”

Therefore, as the tenure of the current National Working Committee (NWC) of the party draws to an end, it is fit and proper for the party to organise a national convention to pick its new leaders according to the dictates of the constitution of the party.

“We don’t want what the APC has found itself to befall us; a caretaker committee is an invitation to disaster, and PDP is a democratic party where people ascend to leadership positions through popular vote and not someone setting up a caretaker committee. It is not in our genes,” said a chieftain of the party who craved anonymity.

To avoid the ripples created by the continued use of caretaker committee in the governing APC which many have described as an aberration, the PDP is trying to avoid any situation that will warrant any form of ad hoc management system of the party ahead of the 2023 general elections considered crucial for the party.

In preparations for the convention, the PDP is said to have planned to set up two important committees: the Zoning committee and the Constitutional Amendment Committee. The two committees are to streamline its preparations towards a rancour free convention at the end of the year.

This is slated for April at its first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.

It was gathered that the zoning of positions in the NWC has been the root of the seemingly power struggle between the gladiators of the party, especially at the regional and state levels.

It is believed that the general opinion of the party members is that the zoning committee will zone all the 13 positions of the NWC to the six geopolitical zones in the country that is: North West, North East, North Central, South East, South South and South West.

In the last convention, the PDP did not zone its NWC positions to the six geopolitical zones; it rather zoned the positions to north and south, a situation, it was gathered, the party wants to change in the next convention. The PDP is not known for zoning its leadership positions to north and south of the country, going by its record.

It is believed that the bulk of the work in the preparations leading to the convention lies in the zoning committee which will have a micro-zoning formula in sharing of positions among the states of the federation.

Political pundits have it that gladiators in the various regions and states will try to exert their political shrewdness in grabbing perceived juicy posts for themselves and their cronies. Of course, a clash of interests cannot be ruled out.

The constitutional amendment committee is expected to amend some sections of the constitution of the party, but details of the clauses in the constitution to be amended were not given. However, whatever the tumult, the PDP is known to put its acts together seven to eight months before its national convention.

As members jostle for positions ahead of the convention, many expect the national chairman, Prince Secondus, having served the party meritoriously for 12 years at the national headquarters, to bow out at the end of December. Feelers, however, reveal that he may opt for another role within the PDP.

A Rivers State citizen, Secondus was the National Organising Secretary for four years from 2007-2011 and Deputy National Chairman from 2012-2016 (he acted as National Chairman for some months after the then-National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu resigned). From 2016-2017, the party was practically comatose until he emerged as national chairman of the party at the National Convention of December 9-10, 2017). This makes it 12 years he has been in the PDP, NWC. Bayelsa State remains the only state in the South South that has never produced a national officer of the party.

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The South-South Geopolitical zone have a sharing formula in which all the six states in the zone are grouped into division, such that, Division A comprise of Rivers and Bayelsa; Division B have Cross River and Akwa Ibom; while Division C have Edo and Delta. Political watchers have opined that the zoning committee of the party may consider for Balyesa State any position zoned to Division A, this is; Rivers and Bayelsa states to ensure equity and a sense of belonging for party faithful in the state. Rivers State is not the only state in the region; there are five other states in the south south zone.

The South-West Geopolitical Zone also have a sharing formula where all the six states in the zone are grouped into Division, the Lagos/Ogun Division is one, the Osun/Oyo Division is another while the third is Ondo/Ekiti. The current positions in the zone are being occupied by Ekiti which holds the office of the National Treasurer, while Ogun occupies the office of the Deputy National Chairman. It is also expected that whatever position given to the zone will be zoned to Lagos and possibly Ondo.

In the same vein, the North-West Zone have its states grouped into Kaduna and Katsina as group A, Jigawa and Kano as group B, while Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara is group C. The current holders of the office in the Zone are Katsina holding the office of the National Secretary, while Kebbi occupies the office of the National Women’s Leader. This is also expected to be rotated in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness.

Also, the North-East is divided into Gombe and Bauchi as one Zone, Taraba and Adamawa and Zone two, while Borno and Yobe is Zone three. Current holders are Bauchi for the office of the Deputy National Chairman, North and Yobe for the office of the National Auditor. Also, it is expected that whatever position given to the North-East Zone will be rotated to Borno and Gombe.

In the case of North Central, the zone equally has three sections with Plateau and Benue as Section A, Nasarawa, FCT and Kogi and Section B while Niger and Kwara is Section C. The zone currently have three positions share by, Niger for the National Financial Secretary, Kogi holds the office of the National Publicity Secretary while Benue occupies the office of the Deputy National Secretary.

And lastly, the South-East have a totally different arrangement mainly because it has five states in the Zone and they shared position between the states in amicable manner. The current office holders in the zone are Abia holding the office of the National Organising Secretary, and Enugu holding the office of the National Youth Leader. Currently, Imo State and Anambra does not have any national position zoned to it.

More so, after the first NEC meeting next month, the party plans to call another NEC meeting in July which is to approve the zoning arrangement as recommended by the zoning committee. The second NEC meeting is also expected to announce the National Convention Planning Committee and subcommittees as well.

The NEC is expected to adopt the report of the zoning committees or amend it and adopt it as the standard procedure for electing its party officers.

Also some sources within the PDP have hinted that former President Goodluck Jonathan is among the party heavyweights pencilled down to chair the national convention. But the party is not foreclosing the idea of picking another party heavyweight to chair the convention should Jonathan turn down the request or is engaged with other things.

Meanwhile, only recently the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP added its voice to assuring a peaceful transition in the party. It said it would ensure that the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and members of the NWC serve out their tenure.

In a communiqué signed by its Secretary, Senator Adolphus Wabara, the BoT said that the party would do everything necessary to take over power from the APC in 2023.

“The Board of Trustees will ensure that a fluent and uninterrupted operation of all the organs of the party, particularly the National Working Committee (NWC), remains in place leading up to a successful convention in December 2021,” the BoT said.

The convention is elective where people will campaign and be voted for as they did in the last convention. The PDP is known for its democratic tendency of choosing its leaders without minimal rancour.

The choice of Abuja as the venue of the convention is a plus for the local economy of the capital city that has endured an economic meltdown caused by the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

Nigeria’s capital city Abuja is one of the most impacted cities from the pandemic with the hospitality industry having cut down on staff size due to low patronage.

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