The emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) on Sunday at the end of the party’s national convention in Abuja is the outcome of serious political game plan, strategy, intrigues and horse-trading among prominent and relevant party stakeholders.
From the beginning, the open field was accommodating and very attractive to all who nursed various political aspirations. However, as the battle began a few weeks ago with its scheming, it became a matter of survival of not only the fittest but that of those who get the acceptance of the real owners of the political field in the party.
The struggle to secure votes from 2,800 delegates majority of who are statutory delegates by aspirants went beyond mere campaigns and lobbying. Those who really own the delegates must also be reached.
So, the scramble for the position of national chairman became the most attractive and most keenly contested, a situation, which made those involved in the contest to deploy and apply different tactics.
First, the issue of zoning and micro zoning took center stage as most aspirants particularly from the South West consistently asked that the zone be given the opportunity to produce the national chairman. They were strongly supported by some northern key stakeholders too.
However, critics of the clamour to reserve the chairmanship seat for the South West drew attention to the decision of the August 12, 2017 national convention, which reserved the seat for all three zones in the South.
The Makarfi-led caretaker committee had always pointed out that only a consensus by all PDP stakeholders in the Southern part of the country could decide on which particular zone the seat should go to. He said the party having already taken its decision at the August 12 convention could not reverse itself.
That was how the zones and aspirants were left with no choice but to settle their political differences at the convention.
However, on the eve of the convention, one of chairmanship aspirants, Olabode George, addressed the media announcing his withdrawal from the race.
George, a former deputy national chairman of the party, expressed displeasure over what he described as failure of the party and its leaders to uphold the arrangement, which micro zoned the chairmanship to the Southwest. He also accused Governor Wike of insulting the South West by saying the zone had not contributed much to the PDP to warrant their insistence on occupying the national chairmanship position.
Following the withdrawal of George from the race, other five aspirants from the zone followed suit by pulling out of the race as well. Although not stated, many believed that these aspirants might have been aggrieved by what they perceived as unfair treatment of the zone and decided to pull out and also to boost the chances of former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran who is also from the zone.
A total of nine persons engaged one another in battle. Most of them went round the country begging for votes. The election was a special one and so also were campaign methods adopted.
Although delegates are spread around the country, they are not evenly distributed among states. Those who gain acceptance by delegates in PDP controlled states stood better chances because those states have higher number of delegates.
Details of the delegates’ distribution in all the states show that Abia has 90; Adamawa 56; Akwa Ibom 140; Anambra 20; Bauchi 53; Benue 69; Borno 63; Cross River 86; Delta 105; and Ebonyi 80.
Others are Edo 61; Ekiti 92; Enugu 101; Gombe 64; Imo 79; Jigawa 65; Kaduna 70; Kano 100; Katsina 76; Kebbi 48; Kogi 63; Kwara 22; Lagos 55; Nasarawa 42; Niger 63; Ogun 61 and Ondo 56.
The rest are Osun 11; Oyo 71; Plateau 56; Rivers 93; Sokoto 51; Taraba 77; Yobe 44; Zamfara 34 and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja 24.
The battle, which later became a straight fight between Secondus and Professor Tunde Adeniran showed that while Adeniran relied on delegates from the North, Secondus had the whole of the South and was able to snatch a larger number of northern delegates from Adeniran. How did this happen?
Secondus received strong backing of the 11 governors elected on the platform of the party, as they stood in solidarity with him throughout the exercise.
Governors of Rivers and Ekiti states, Nyesom Wike and Ayodele Fayose, actively mobilised support openly for the new party chair.
The unflinching support by the governors was said to have boosted Secondus’ chance in the North where Adeniran had initial support.
A member of the party from the North said that: “the northern caucus apart from Prof. Jerry Gana and Senator Ibrahim Mantu, decided to support Secondus because he was the toast of the governors and the majority members of the party.”
Those who contested against him but lost were Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, Prof. Adeniran and Prof. Taoheed Adedoja.
Other contestants, apart from Chief George, announced their withdrawal from the race shortly before the commencement of the exercise.
George said on Friday at a press briefing that he was withdrawing due to the refusal of the party to micro-zone the office of the national chairman to the Southwest.
The party had zoned the office to the entire South, while it also ceded the presidential ticket to the northern region.
However, while there were seven aspirants from the South-West Zone, only two showed interest from the South-South.
Others from the Southwest included Senator Rashidi Ladoja, former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and Mr. Aderemi Olusegun.
The result as announced at the end of the convention at about 4 am on Sunday showed that
Secondus, who acted as National Chairman of the party shortly after PDP was ousted from power in 2015, polled 2000 votes to beat his closest rival former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, who got 230 votes.
Chief Dokpesi scored 66 votes while Prof. Adedoja got no vote.
Also Senator Umar Tsauri was elected the National Secretary of the party with 1,549 votes. He defeated Abubakar Mustapha who got 371 votes. Former Minister of State for Finance, Nanadi Usman, came third with 287 votes.
In other results, Senator Garba scored 1,316 to emerge the Deputy National Chairman (North). He defeated the wife of former Minister of Finance, Inna Ciroma who got 350 votes. The second runner up was Abdulmalik Mahmood who scored 325 votes while Senator Umar Kumo came a distant fourth with 89 votes.
David Mark’s former Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan, emerged the National Publicity Secretary of the party.
The convention was the party’s first elective convention since PDP suffered a devastating defeat in the 2015 general election and it had hoped to use the exercise to reposition itself ahead of the 2019 general election.
Dokpesi, who remained in the race till the end was involved in a mild drama just when the game was up. When rumour was rife that he was set to step down from the race, he called a press conference in his Asokoro residence in Abuja insisting that he was still very much in. That happened around 8 pm on Friday.
He followed it up with another press briefing around 9am right at the convention ground on Saturday with the same message that his chairmanship ambition was still alive. That second press conference left reporters wondering why he had to be repeating himself that much.
But Dokpesi was not done yet; when voting was in progress later in the night of Saturday, the Daar Communication chairman abandoned his Edo State stand and walked to Rivers State stand to sit with Secondus, as the results of the election were being awaited.
Shortly after that, he left Secondus and called another press conference to protest against what he called the imposition of ‘Unity List’ on delegates at the convention.
He also faulted the elections, describing it as a charade that may destroy the party.
He told newsmen at the convention ground that the process of voting has been rigged, following the distribution of what he called a ‘Unity list’ containing names of candidates, which delegates were to vote for.
He explained that the 21 names of candidates contained in the list appeared on the ballot papers as number one and in the voting boots as number one.
And shockingly, Dokpesi became the first to congratulate Secondus when the results were finally announced on Sunday.
Dokpesi’s letter, which was addressed to all delegates and party stakeholders read: “I write to thank you most wholeheartedly for voting at the just concluded Elective National Convention in Abuja. The delegates have spoken. I congratulate the newly elected Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC). You will recall that I said that the PDP must be the ultimate winner at the end of the contest. God bless the Peoples Democratic Party. Congratulations PDP as I wish all our members the best of luck.”
Aggrieved Adeniran’s protest
Meanwhile, Adeniran, who walked out of the venue of the convention in anger along with his supporters to protest the outcome of the convention, called on the national leadership to hand over the PDP affairs to the Board of Trustees (BoT).
The Director of Media and Publicity of the Adeniran Campaign Organisation, Taiwo Akeju, who spoke on behalf of the former minister, rejected the entire electoral process.
He urged the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee (NCC) to hand over the party to the BoT for a fresh and credible election.
Akeju said, “We reject the entire electoral process of December 9, 2017. The election was grossly compromised to achieve a predetermined end in line with the illegal ‘Unity List’ prepared by Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayodele Fayose and foisted on the entire delegates.
“Consequently, we submit that this election is a sham and its result is unacceptable. We reject it in its entirety.
“We consider this so-called election as a travesty of democracy and due process, which further entrenches the culture of impunity that has done a great damage to the party in the past.”
Fayose’s preaches peace
But Fayose, has asked those who contested the election but lost to Secondus, to accept defeat in good faith. The Ekiti State governor also said he did not regret, canvassing support for aspirants on the list.
He insisted that some people kicked against the list because they did not win the election.
He warned that anyone who will contest the result of the election at the court of law is an enemy of the party “It is not good to be a bad loser. If you did not win, just take it in good faith and support the winner.”
How Kashamu, Adeyanju became victims of the battle
The intrigues that trailed the PDP convention left a sour taste in the mouth of Senator Buruji Kashamu, who represents Ogun East Senatorial district on the platform of the party. The Ogun federal lawmaker, who has been in serious political warfare with the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee, was suspended 24 hours to the convention.
The suspension on Friday put him in precarious condition because apart from the fact that he could no longer vote, entering the venue of the convention to lobby for his preferred candidate, Adeniran, became uphill task
However, just to the surprise of many, he showed up in the afternoon of Saturday when the convention had gathered momentum.
But the Ogun lawmaker did not get a handshake from the Ogun pavilion, where he had gone to secure seat. He was rather booed “go away.” To respect himself, he left with his supporters.
He went to the next stand, which was Ondo, but the delegates there also drove him away. He finally got accommodated by the Osun State delegates, where he sat in between the former National Secretary of PDP, Professor Wale Oladipo and Senator Felix Ogunwale.
Earlier in the day, there was a similar scenario at the Ekiti Stand, when delegates shouted at another delegate who was already seated to stand up and leave the stand.
The Ekiti delegates, who are apparently loyal to Fayose went to a serving member, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Oni Olamide, Ijero/ Ekin / Efon Constituency who was already seated, tried to drag him out, but he resisted.
Similarly, a former National Auditor of the party, Fatai Adeyanju was disqualified from running for the office of the national treasurer.
Adeyanju was also prevented from accessing the venue of the convention. He was disqualified from the race because of his alleged inability to present his tax clearance.
Adeyanju, who was a close ally of a former factional National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, remained outside the venue, hours into the exercise.
He later told journalists that the committee set up by the party for the convention deliberately screened him out.
He alleged that Fayose was responsible for the treatment meted out to him.
He said, “The party’s screening committee rejected my tax clearance certificate even though the document remained valid until December 2017.
“The party also said that I didn’t have a voter card, but I tendered my valid voter card before the committee.
“You can see the original copy of my valid tax certificate and my voter card. All efforts to make the screening committee see reason proved abortive.”
Apart from being close to Sheriff, former National Auditor and Oladipo, were also alleged to be allies of Senator Kashamu.
Both Sheriff and Kashamu are considered as enemies of the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee.
“When there are divisions in the leadership, people follow different groups or individuals. But when the crisis gets resolved, we should all be allowed to join the winning group without victimisation,” Adeyanju said.
Apart from the election, the party also effected serious amendments to its constitution at the convention.
Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Sireka Dickson, moved the motion for the amendments, which was seconded by Senator Mohammed Hassan from Yobe State.
The amendments include Section 8, to change the procedure for rejoining the party by members who left and seek to return; Section 50, to relax the minimum time requirements before members can seek for election to offices of the party; Section 29, to make the six national vice chairmen members of the NEC of the PDP constitution; Section 41 (1), to strengthen the powers of the national auditor; Section 31(1) d, to give chairman and BOT members voting rights in NEC; and Section 32, relating to the composition and membership of BoT.
All the amendments were proposed to take effect from January 1, 2018.