A long list of names tagged “Unity List” which was purportedly used by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors in favour of Prince Uche Secondus last night upstaged the last minute realignment by the party’s chieftains from the South West to have Professor Tunde Adeniran as national chairman of the party. Our correspondents look at the intrigues.
The Unity List, which had names of 21 candidates drawn from across the states was carefully concealed by the PDP governors up till Friday evening when it was given to delegates.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that it was on the eve of the election that some “loyalists” of the PDP governors were commissioned to move from one hotel to the other, where the delegates that came from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT had been camped ahead of Election Day.
Credible sources said considering the fact that it was the PDP governors that foot the bill and other logistics of the delegates, it was easier for the “messengers” to convince the delegates who to vote for.
It was learnt that the essence of the unity list is to have a “comprehensive team” of loyalists that would work for certain interests ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Sources said few months ago, the PDP governors, led by Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, had decided to have absolute control of the party ahead of 2019.
To this effect, they allegedly agreed to work assiduously for the emergence of the chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi as their presidential candidate.
This is despite the fact that there are other presidential aspirants from the North, notably ex-governors Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Shekarau and lately ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
The Unity List is said to be the governors “main instrument” of taming the increasing influence of ex-military President Ibrahim Babangida and former President Goodluck Jonathan, who are all working to see that Atiku has a leeway at the party’s presidential primaries next year.
They hinged their argument on the grounds that Atiku already had an elaborate template and the financial means to give the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, probably President Muhammadu Buhari, a ride for their money.
It was further learnt that the return of Atiku to the PDP lately did not help matters yesterday; at a time when the PDP governors had gone far in influencing the delegates.
With what transpired last night, sources said if the election stands, the governors have accomplished this stage of their mission.
The Unity list has Prince Uche Secondus from Rivers State in the South South as National Chairman while the Deputy National Chairman (South) has been earmarked for Elder Yemi Akinwonmi from Ogun State in the South West.
The position of the Deputy National Chairman (North) has been set aside for Sen. Gamawa Babawo Garba, Bauchi in the North East while that of National Secretary was prepared for Sen. Ibrahim Taushi, Katsina in the North West. The seat of Deputy National Secretary has been earmarked for Dr. Agbo Emmanuel from Benue State in the North Central while that of National Treasurer is reportedly reserved for Hon. Aribisala Adewale, Ekiti in the South West while the position of Deputy National Treasurer has been set aside for Alh. Wada Musa, Kano in the North.Names of some leading aspirant from the across the country were missing on the unity list.
For instance, a contender for the office of Deputy National Chairman (North), Hajiya Inna Maryam Ciroma from Yobe State is missing just as that of a leading Deputy National Chairman (South) contender Sterling Ayebaemi Ellis from Bayelsa State.
The name of Women Leader aspirantý, Hajiya Baraka Sani, from Kano State and that of ý leading contender for the office of National Publicity Secretary, Barr. Kabiru Usman from Kogi State are both missing.
It was learnt that some of these aspirants only got to know of the unity list from their trusted allies within the delegates.
However, when the purported ‘Unity List’ leaked last night amidst vote casting by the 2,233 delegates, protests and grumblings took over the centre stage at the Eagle Square with many aspirants for the 21 available positions calling for a cancellation of the elections.
They heaped the blame on PDP governors and their cohorts, who allegedly made the shortlist and thereafter allegedly induced the delegates from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
The protesters alleged that besides inducing the delegates, a lot was done by the powers that be within the PDP, including lodging the delegates in some choice hotels in Abuja since Wednesday, as well as making them incommunicado, all in an effort to ensure that Secondus clinches the highest office in the party while other offices would be occupied by preferred candidates.
Belated overtures from South West
“Despite the fact that most of the delegates have accepted mouth-watering offers from the PDP governors, they resisted appeals and went ahead and told their preferred candidates that there is something called unity list,” a source said.
This was at the time when some of the South West contenders were submitting their letter of withdrawal from the race in piecemeal in order to present a united front. By that time it had become clear that the PDP governors had succeeded in having their way.
Former governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja; former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George; former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje and Aderemi Olusegun had all withdrawn from the race in less than 24-hours.
Their withdrawal from the scene left Prof. Adeniran Prof. Adedoja from the South West, as well as Raymond Dokpesi and Uche Secondus from the South West as the candidates for chairman.
After it dawned on the South West leadership of the party that they “erred” by not producing a consensus candidate for the chairmanship.
Serious efforts by PDP leaders from the South West, including the last minute support from the likes of ex-presidents Jonathan and Babangida, as well as Atiku did not yield fruits in tackling the scheming of the governors, credible sources at the convention venue said.
Even at that, aside Bode George who pulled out around 8pm on Friday and Jimi Agbaje in the late hours of yesterday, the remaining six contenders from the zone remained resolute several hours into the convention.
This was amidst fears within the ranks of the PDP that the party might come out weaker in the aftermath of the convention as Nigeria inches towards 2019 general elections.
Protest by contenders
Indications are that though the emergence of Secondus might embolden the PDP in the South South and the neighbouring South East, its fortunes in the South West might likely nosedive. The fate of the party in the North would only be determined in the coming months.
Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who is one of the chairmanship contenders, last night described the convention ýas a charade.
Dokpesi fervently told newsmen at the convention ground that ýthe party was heading for another crisis, claiming that there was a ‘Unity List’ in which governors had planted names of those they wanted as the next crop of the National Working Committee (NWC).
He said the process of voting had been rigged, following the distribution of the list; adding that he would explore internal mechanism on the issue before thinking of going to court.
“I lodged a complaint to chairman of the PDP electoral committee, Gabriel Suswam, who confirmed that he had also seen the list with some delegates,” he said.
Dokpesi said it was unfortunate that a party which had just emerged from a major leadership crisis would be involved in acts of impunity and election malpractice.
The media magnate, however, urged the party leadership to urgently rectify what he called an anomaly before it becomes another major challenge in the party.
Also, a contestant for the office of PDP National Youth Leader, Franklyn Edede,ý also told newsmen at the convention ground that the elections were marred with irregularities and should be cancelled.
“I am calling for the cancellation of this process because it has been marred by the existence of the ‘Unity List’,” he said.
Plausible excuses by South West aspirants
Efforts of the South West leaders’ and their supporters in the last 24 hours could not march the sustained onslaught of the governors, who also have on their side a section of the Board of Trustees and other powerful forces within the party.
While justifying why he left the contest, Agbaje on his twitter handle @jimiagbaje said he stepped down in order to reduce the number of aspirants from the South West and give way for the region to have a good shot at the coveted office.
“With less than 24 hours to the convention, I have painfully decided to withdraw from the race hoping that others will join me in bringing down the number such that the South West can have a fighting chance of clinching the seat.
“The support from serving and past governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, women, youth and opinion leaders has been tremendous. While sincerely thanking them for their unflinching loyalty, I empathize with the great disappointment they must feel at this decision.
“I plead that we all put the overall interest of PDP first. I pledge my support to whoever emerges as the national chairman as determined at the national convention.
“I am however, convinced that with seven out of nine aspirants coming from the South West, this multiplicity of contenders will work to the detriment of our zone when it comes to voting. Delegates’ votes split 7 ways will not produce a chairman from the South West,” he said.
On his part, Ladoja announced his resignation from the contest in a letter to the Chairman of the National Convention Committee and Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
The letter, dated December 8, 2017, became public yesterday when the convention was ongoing.
Sources said he kept the letter close to his chest to see what would transpire at the convention venue first before deciding what to do with it.
Ladoja also said he was withdrawing to brighten the chances of the South West in the race.
How Wike “hoodwinked” PDP govs to do the magic for Secondus
Sources said PDP governors, after “intensive persuasion” by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, agreed to support Secondus by asking delegates from their states to back him.
A source said up until Friday, few of the governors were reluctant but had to “cave into the arrangement made by Wike.”
The PDP governors include Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Udom Gabriel Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Henry Dickson (Bayelsa), Benedict Ayade (Cross River), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta State), and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi).
Others are Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe), Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Darius Ishaku (Taraba).
Sources said Wike had spent a fortune in the last few months to prepare grounds for the emergence of Secondus.
One of the sources said Wike spent this much because initially, some of the PDP governors were not in support of Secondus but he convinced them that he only needed their verbal approval.
“He said he will foot the bill,” the source said.
“And some of the governors wanted someone from the South West to get the chairmanship but Wike was relentless until he succeed,” the source added.
In a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, on the eve of the convention, Gov. Wike said Mr Secondus is the only candidate from a state governed by the PDP.
Though Adeniran is from Ekiti State which is also under the PDP, credible sources said Governor Fayose, whose tenure ends in 2018, wants to become the party’s vice presidential candidate and would therefore not support a chairmanship candidate from his state.
“The fact is Fayose is also at cross-purpose with Wike because the two of them want to become vice president,” another source said.
And besides “convincing” PDP governors to do his bidding, Wike in his statement derogatorily showed that the South West will not take their party to the Promised Land even if they got the chairmanship position because of PDP’s weakness in the region.
“I have analysed the scenario. I have analysed the delegates spread of each state. There is no way that Prince Uche Secondus will not coast to victory by over 90 per cent of delegates votes.
“I am talking because I am in the campaign team of Prince Uche Secondus and I am a delegate,” the governor said.
“Secondus has never said anything negative against any other candidate. He has remained focused on his campaign. He has no existing problems with the EFCC contrary to petitions against him.
“Somebody who believes that he will win will not resort to writing petitions before the convention. All reports in the media against Secondus are planted and false,” Wike said.
Gov. Wike equally noted the party’s failure in the South West as a factor in his decision to back Secondus.
“National Chairmanship in the South West will not change the fortunes of the PDP; even when the President [Obasanjo] hailed from the South West, the fortunes of the party did not improve in terms of votes in that zone.
“The zone is prone to incessant crises as can be seen. Any candidate who emerges from the South-west will lead to further crisis from other factions from that zone,” he said.
The PDP will come out weaker – Ex legal adviser
A former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Barr. Bashir Maidugu said with what transpired in the build up to the convention, he is afraid the party will hardly make any headway ahead of 2019.
“The PDP is always the architect of its electoral misfortunes and has not learnt any lesson since the mighty loss of the 2015 elections,” Maidugu, who is from the North East, said.
“Impunity is the party’s other name. The South South suddenly developed interest in the national chairmanship of the party even though its leadership had previously zoned that position to the South West which has never produced a national chairman.
“They may very well get the position but Nigerians will not have confidence in such dishonest leadership. The party may even become smaller than it currently is,” he said.
Will South West remain in PDP?
If what Bode George said is anything to go by, the PDP will lost its steam in the South West. This is without recourse to the fact that there are other notable leaders in the zone even though they are keeping mum for now.
But many have in both the conventional and social media aligned themselves with Bode George in expressing their anger.
According to Bode George, “The zoning principle, which was publicly reinforced last year at Port Harcourt, had specifically and rightly affirmed the South West as the zone to produce the National Chairman. This binding proclamation was based on equity, fairness and natural balance that hold any organisation together.
“But this old, legitimate and morally sound micro zoning principle has now been trashed, dumped in the waste bin, flung into the gutter by very little men who have compromised the pivotal moral anchor of civilised engagement for temporary selfish gains.
“Everywhere you look, the Yoruba people are now being brazenly insulted. The very traditional fibre of our founding fathers are now being trampled upon, debased and soiled by external forces and mercenary traitors within.
“It appears the PDP is now bent on self -destruction. It has obviously allowed money moguls to dictate its thematic largeness. The party has lost its soul. It has lost its principled beginning and the predications of righteousness. It has traded the finer principles of democratic guidance and equity for the squalid, dirty and shameful resort to mercenary agenda where nothing matters save the putrid, oafish gains of the moment.
“I cannot be part of this screaming aberration. And as the Atona of Yoruba land, I do not expect any well- meaning, well disciplined, forthright, sincere Omoluabi of Yoruba land to continue with this deceit and shameful theatre,” he said.
He also demanded an apology from Gov. Wike for his “unguarded utterances” against the Yorubas on national television yesterday.
Who will laugh last among presidential aspirants?
With Secondus as national chairman, sources said Makarfi’s presidential ticket is now a sealed deal.
While the roles played by Lamido and Shekarau at yesterday’s convention could not be ascertained easily, that of Atiku seemed to be secretive.
Sources said he would have love to see Adeniran emerge as the chairman of the party considering that no matter what, Secondus would not worship two idols. And for the fact that Wike is with Makarfi, the argument is that Secondus would work in that direction.
What is not clear is whether Jonathan and Babangida, who were initially reported to have endorsed Atiku, would nonetheless go with the new leadership of the PDP in the coming days.