The intrigues that shadowed the campaign for a new national executive of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, reached an anti-climax, yesterday, when contestants for 18 of the 20 eligible positions on the convention ground withdrew in favour of the consensus candidates adopted by President Goodluck Jonathan and the party's governors.
The two positions contested for were those of National Secretary and National Auditor. All but two of the contestants for the position of National Secretary, some at the point of tears, withdrew in favour of the adopted candidate of the alliance between the president and the PDP 26 governors.
Against the background of the scheming for the 2015 presidential contest that shadowed the contest for the positions, Jonathan, at the end of the convention, last night, warned that party members should not allow the politics of the presidential succession to destroy the party.
Indications that the positions in the national executive would not be competitively contested emerged with the arrival of the president at about 11.35 a.m. when he took a lap of honour round the Eagle Square convention ground with Vice President Namadi Sambo, presiding officers of the National Assembly and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, his adopted candidate for the position of National Chairman in the procession.
The president's late arrival, which was about two and a half hours behind schedule, according to sources, followed efforts to concretise the agreement earlier reached with the PDP governors on the adoption of a consensus list for adoption on the convention ground.
While the governors agreed on the choice of Tukur as National Chairman, the governors were offered the positions of Deputy National Chairman and that of National Secretary. In the end, Jonathan had to sacrifice Chief Uche Secondus, the erstwhile National Organising Secretary, for the governor's choice of Chief Sam Sam Jaja.
Besides the positions of National Chairman, Deputy National Chairman and National Secretary respectively, no occupied by Tukur, Jaja and Oyinlola, the other positions filled were National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, South East; National Woman Leader, Kema Chikwe, South East; National Organising Secretary, Abubakar Mustapha, North West; National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwari, North Central; Deputy National Secretary, Solomon Onwe, South East; National Youth Leader, Garba Chiza, North Central; Deputy Woman Leader, Hanatu Ullam, North Central; Deputy Organising Secretary, Okey Nnaedozie, South East; National Treasurer, Bala Kaoje, North West; National Auditor, Bode Mustapha, South West; Deputy Publicity Secretary, Binta Kwoji, North East; Deputy National Treasurer, Claduis Enegesi; Deputy National Auditor, Senator Umar Ibrahim; Assistant Legal Adviser, Mohammed Magaji, North East; and Financial Secretary, Bolaji Anani, South South.
To avoid legal entrapment, delegates to the convention were made to endorse the nominations of the National Chairman and National Financial Secretary with a vote of yes or no, while the positions of National Secretary and National Auditor were put to vote. In the end, 3,105 delegates of the 3,248 of the accredited delegates voted yes to the endorsement of Tukur with 12 voting no and 51 registered as invalid.
In the contest for National Secretary, Oyinlola got 3,061 votes to beat Chief Dapo Sarumi, 8 votes, and Mr Salis Owolabi, who was credited with 1 vote. Bolaji Anani was endorsed for the position of National Financial Secretary with 2,975 votes with 90 invalid votes while Bode Mustapha was endorsed for the position of national auditor with 3,005 votes.
Yesterday's convention again demonstrated the powerful influence of the governors over the affairs of the party. Besides enthroning Oyinlola, the immediate past governor of Osun State whose nomination forms were shrouded in mystery, the governors also successfully enthroned the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Engr. Segun Oni, as the National Vice-Chairman (Southwest) of the party.
The governors sat among their state delegates in the pavilion which was decorated with the green, white and red colours of the party.
Two of the Northeast governors, Alhaji Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, and Alhaji Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, who had fought against the enthronement of Tukur as National Chairman were, however, reconciled to the new Chairman on the convention floor. Before the adoption of Tukur, Nyako took him round to some of the other state pavilions in a show of reconciliation.
To prepare the grounds for the election of a new national executive, Governor Ibrahim Shema had moved a motion for the dissolution of the National Working Committee as led, until yesterday, by Alhaji Kawa Baraje, the Acting National Chairman of the PDP. His motion was seconded by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. The motion was unanimously adopted.
Paving the way for the adoption of Tukur as National Chairman, Dr. Shetima Mustafa, one of the contestants for the party's top office, read a joint address on behalf of the nine other contestants indicating their readiness to cave in to the decision of the president and the governors.
Mustafa, a former Minister of Defence, announced the withdrawal of others after consultations with Jonathan, stakeholders and leaders of the PDP across the country.
Saying the decision was taken in the general interest of the party, he said, "Having discussed the issue and all aspirants having been invited by the leadership of the party and we were requested to cooperate, I wish to on behalf of the aspirants concede. I am mandated to concede this office to the candidate so chosen for the position."
The contestants who stepped down for Tukur besides Mustafa, were, former Minister of Commerce, Ambassador Adamu Idris Waziri from Taraba; Ex-Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba Aji, Borno; former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Adamu Bello, Adamawa; and the immediate past Acting National Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo.
Others were former National Chairman of Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM, Gambo Lawan from Borno State; immediate post National Publicity Secretary, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali from Gombe; ex Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Engr. Ibrahim Bunu, Borno; former governor of Bauchi State, Ahmed Adamu Mauzu, Bauchi and Ibrahim Shehu Birma from Borno State.
Oyinlola was voted in as National Secretary after nine of the contestants were compelled to step down. Only the duo of Sarunmi and Salis refused to step down, forcing the convention to go into a vote for the position which was zoned to the Southwest. Erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, who was a school classmate of Ebenezer Babatope, was mandated by the party hierarchy to go along with former governor of Ekiti State, Oni, to convince Babatope to step down, but Babatope was unwavering and it took the intervention of Sambo for him to step down.
TEARFUL WITHDRAWAL Babatope, at the point of tears in withdrawing, lamented that he was being forced to step down for a man who never purchased the nomination form and whose name was not published by the party as one of the contestants for the position.
"My friends and leaders have prevailed on me to withdraw. I didn't want to. I would have preferred to go for the election and score even one honourable vote, but, because of the respect I have for the vice president and my friends, I am withdrawing, not for any candidate, but for the party, the party is greater than anybody."
Former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, was the last among the nine to step down. His withdrawal from the race was especially bitter to some from his native Ekiti State who lamented that Adeniran was never consulted on the matter of withdrawal until he came to the convention ground. They were especially embittered by what they noted as the previous role of Adeniran in acting as chairman of the organising committee of the PDP presidential primary convention last year.
It, however, took the personal effort of Oyinola, who prostrated for Adeniran, for the former Minister of Education to step down.
Others who stepped down for Oyinola were the immediate past National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke from Ondo State; Fabiyi Anthony Oladimeji, Ogun; Akin-Deko Akintayo, Ondo; Adedoja Taoheed, Oyo; Olu-Ojo Bola, Ekiti; Pedro Olufemi Olusegun, Lagos; and Daramola Joseph Babatunde, Lagos.
Before he finally stepped down, Oke noted that he indicated interest to contest for the position of National Secretary a year ago but said that the decision to step down was borne out of his respect for the PDP as he said that doing otherwise would cause disunity in the party.
According to him, "after consultation with my family, my supporters, I have decided to step down from the position."
Some of the women who stepped down in line with the consensus arrangement, however, did not go down quietly.
Mrs Comfort Chinwe Chukwu, wife of a former National Vice-Chairman of the party, Southeast, Ozi Chukwu, said she was ignorant of any consensus arrangement and was prepared for the contest but was prevailed upon by her husband and supporters.
"There is a battle to be fought in Imo State; we have to start now; if it is my wish to step down for peace to reign, I am doing that," she said in reference to the party's battles against Governor Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA. Mrs Oluremi Adiukwu-Bakare, from Lagos State, while stepping down from the contest of National Auditor, said even while she agreed with the leadership of the party, she, nevertheless, expressed her reservations over what she noted as the poor recognition given to women in the party.
"Let me state here that our women are not represented well. This should be corrected next time."
Jonathan, who left midway into the voting on a trip to South Korea, in his speech read by the vice-President, warned that jostling for 2015 should not be allowed to destroy the party.
While calling for unity, the President said: "We are all winners. There are no losers. I urge all our members to remain united and place our party's interest above their personal interest. The PDP is the only party in the history of our country that has united Nigerians across all zones. "We must not allow the politics of succession in 2015 to lead to secession in our party." Djebah Hails Tukur
Meanwhile, Hon.Oma Djebah, the immediate past Delta State Information Commissioner and current Senior Special Adviser to the Delta State government on Foreign Relations, yesterday, described the conduct of the PDP national convention as fantastic, stressing that the emergence of Tukur as the PDP Chairman as the best thing to happen to the PDP.
Djebah said, having known Tukur for more than 20 years, he was confident that the former governor of defunct Gongola State and ex- Minister of Industry would use his vast international contacts and networks at the United Nations(UN) in particular and the international community in general to repackage the PDP as a foremost global political party in the entire world, not just in Africa.
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