BusinessDay

PDP in a make or mar National Convention

The stage is set for the much-awaited National Convention of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). According to the chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee and Governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Fintiri, about 3600 delegates are expected at the convention this weekend.

The opposition party is going into the convention to right so many wrongs that led some high profile individuals, including some sitting governors, to decamp to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

In fact, since the defection of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, the party has been wobbling.

Some aggrieved party members believed that the manner in which Uche Secondus had been running the party was largely responsible for the party’s misfortune.

One of such persons is Kassim Afegbua, who was the spokesman of the PDP Campaign Organisation in 2019 election. In April 2021, Afegbua submitted a petition to the EFCC and ICPC in Abuja seeking serious investigation of the management of the party’s finances.

Read Also: 3600 delegates in Abuja for PDP National Convention

In the petition, Afegbua asked the anti-graft agencies to scrutinise the N10 billion that allegedly accrued to PDP from 2017 till date, especially the money that accrued from sale of nomination forms for presidential, gubernatorial, House of Assembly and senatorial elections.

But in a swift reaction, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, described Afegbua’s allegation as spurious and irresponsible. He added that the party did not raise “Afegbua’s fictitious sum of N10 billion” as alleged by him.

“For avoidance of doubt, PDP generated N4.6 billion and raised a budget for its expenditure, in line with all known financial regulations of our party.

“This budget passed through the organs of our party and received the approvals from the NWC, Governors’ Forum, Board of Trustees as well as other organs of the party.

“As a law-abiding political party that respects the doctrine of rule of law and transparency, the budget was presented to the National Executive Committee (NEC) where it also received a final approval,” Ologbondiyan explained.

“Having said that, as a political party, under whose administration the EFCC and the ICPC were formulated and established, our party strictly adheres to best practices of transparency, accountability and probity in all issues, including our financial administration,” he had stressed.

Not taking the allegation lightly, Secondus went further to sue Afegbua at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory for alleged libellous publications against his person.

In the writ of summons which was filed by Emeka Etiaba (SAN), Secondus alleged that Afegbua made allegations claiming that he misappropriated money to the tune of N10bn which belonged to the PDP. Secondus prayed that the court for a declaration that Afegbua had failed to prove that the N10bn was proceeds of sale of nomination forms and that the claim was false and malicious and therefore demanded N5bn “being general damages for the humiliation, castigation, vilification, attack of the claimant’s integrity and person by the defamatory publications.”

The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was his fallout with some governors elected on the party platform. Though some of the governors had wanted him to complete his tenure by December 9, 2021, but sadly that was never the case as some of the governors, especially Nyesom Wike of Rivers State had wanted Secondus out by all means.

A High Court of Rivers State in August 2021 issued an order of interim injunction, restraining Uche Secondus from carrying on as chairman of the party, pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging his continued stay in office.
According to the ruling, Secondus has been ordered to stop parading himself as a member of the PDP on grounds of his suspension from the party.

In a dramatic twist, the Kebbi State High Court in Birnin-Kebbi restored Secondus as the national chairman in less than 24 hours. Three applicants – Yahaya Usman, Abubakar Muhammad, and Bashar Suleman – filed an ex parte application dated August 25, 2021 at the Kebbi State High Court for an order for stay of execution of the suspension order issued by the Rivers State High Court.

Ahead of its National Convention today, three aspirants have been disqualified for dragging the party to court and trying to stop its convention. The disqualified aspirants were: Olafeso Eniola (Osun), Abiodun Oladipo (Ondo) and Okey Muo-Aroh (Anambra).

Fintiri noted that Section 51 (1L) of the party’s constitution clearly spelt out that you must exhaust all the internal mechanism of settling whatever grievances you have.
“I want to tell you that the three that could not meet the standard of the screening committee. Dr. Olafeso Eniola, who initially has put his interest to contest for Office of the National Publicity Secretary, and the other persons are Prof. Adewale Abiodun Oladepo and Barr Okey Muo-Aroh.

“All these people have been disqualified for reason that they took the party to the court. Their intention also was to stop the national convention. So if you have taken the party to court without exhausting the internal mechanism of settling whatever grievances you have and you try to stop the convention. The committee felt you can also enjoy from the convention.

“More so, the provision of Section 51 (1L) in our party constitution has clearly spells out that you must exhaust all the internal mechanism in the party.

“The same constitution of our great party has also made a provision that if you have not exhausted Section, 58 (1L), you can be punished under Section 59 (1e). So you can see that the steering committee has done what is needful of them.

“You must be disciplined in the party for us to survive and I think we have to move away from the past as we are trying to open a new chapter for the party,” Fintiri emphasised.

Former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu finally emerged the consensus candidate from the North after the chairmanship position of the party was thrown to the zone. Initially, he was up against former Governor of Katsina State Ibrahim Shema (North West) and Abdul Ningi (North East).

Reacting to the Appeal Court ruling, Secondus said he respects the position of the court even though he disagrees totally with it.

“Even as the substantive case is still pending at the Court of Appeal I have instructed my lawyers to study the ruling with a view to appealing it immediately as no abuse of the constitution of our dear party should be allowed to stand.

“The issue is not about Prince Uche Secondus but about the sanctity of our party constitution and core democratic principles of justice and rule of law not only in PDP but in our democracy. No impunity must be condoned,” Secondus said.

Now that the coast is clear with the Appeal Court’s in ruling in favour of the party, are Nigerians going to see a free and transparent election that will bring on board competent men and women that will restore the past glory of the party before the 2023 general elections?

All eyes, therefore, are on the umbrella party. What it does at the Convention this weekend, will make or mar its future.

In the words of Olisa Agbakoba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), “PDP has had a panorama of crises that will probably be resolved today one way or the other.”

 

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