Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is holding a non-elective national convention today in Abuja. Our correspondent chronicles the issues that will shape the meeting.
Today’s convention will be the largest gathering of PDP faithful since the party’s 14-month leadership tussle between Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff was nipped in the bud by the Supreme Court on July 12, 2017.
All PDP bigwigs and power brokers are expected to once again come together under one umbrella to discuss and make key decisions on pertinent issues that will shape the party.
Analysts say such decisions are necessary considering that the party was hit by a gale of defections and lost Edo and Ondo governorship elections during the crisis.
Ex-President, Goodluck Jonathan, ex-Vice President, Namadi Sambo, serving and ex-governors, ex-ministers, PDP members in both chambers of the National Assembly and Board of Trustees (BoT) members are expected at the convention.
Similarly, founding fathers of the party, ex-principal officers of the National Assembly, state chairmen, local government chairmen, party elders and all members nationwide, are also expected to attend.
Consequently, the convention, disciplinary and reconciliation committees have been meeting in order to ensure a successful outing.
Chairman, Convention Planning Committee, and Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, said though the convention was non-elective it would send a strong signal to the APC and Nigerians that the PDP was set to reclaim power in 2019.
Credible sources within the party told our correspondent that key decisions would be reached at the convention.
One of the sources, a former minister, said the convention would extend the tenure of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee by few months.
The ex-minister who spoke extensively on the issue said the tenure of the NCC must be extended to enable them have time to organise an elective convention where new national officers of the party would emerge.
“The tenure of the current caretaker committee is ending next Wednesday. So in order to avoid any legal issues the non-elective convention will extend the tenure of the committee.
“Don’t forget, the leadership of PDP is supposed to communicate INEC on convention date not less than one month before the day of the convention. So more needs to be done,” he said.
This will be the second time the tenure of the committee would be extended.
The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had on August 17, 2016, extended the tenure of the caretaker committee by 12 months.
The decision was reached hours after police authorities implemented an Abuja Federal High Court order barring the Makarfi caretaker committee from holding its convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, following the intense leadership crisis in the party then.
Going by that decision, the tenure of the committee would end on August 16, 2017.
However, informed sources say the elective convention is likely to hold this November when reconciliation and proper planning would have been done.
It was also gathered that the party would amend its constitution to conform with current political realities and dynamics.
A chieftain of the party from the North said a section of the amended document indicated that the power of the national chairman be reduced, especially in the area of financial control.
According to him, where the chairman was a mandatory signatory to the party’s bank accounts with either the secretary or the treasurer, the amended document provided that the treasurer should be a mandatory signatory with either the national secretary or financial secretary.
“The document, if adopted, the next PDP chairman will not be a signatory to the party’s bank accounts as was mandatory in the past,” he said.
He added that the document provided soft landing for returnees in terms of getting automatic re-admission into the party.
He, however, noted that the returnees would not be given special privileges in terms of contesting elective offices except if granted waiver by the party.
This is unlike in the extant constitution where returnees were placed on probation for a period of not less than 12 months.
Also the party proposed the election of two national chairmen, one each from the North and South, while the position of national chairman still stood with the person in charge, wielding his power across boards.
It was also learnt that the amended document was recently passed to PDP bigwigs and stakeholders to read and make their input in order for the document to be adopted and enforced.
Informed sources revealed that the issues were discussed at PDP’s 74th NEC meeting recently held in Abuja.
Makarfi had at one of the PDP stakeholders meetings he presided over, said many party chieftains who left were ready to return but declined mentioning their names.
However, even though the party’s crisis has ended, some of those who left were willing to see who would emerge as the party’s national chairman before considering the possibility of returning.
With this development, analysts say PDP will truly be seen as a party ready to reclaim power only when it organises an elective national convention where delegates will elect a credible national chairman and trusted members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
A chieftain of the party from the North said some of the potential returnees were jittery and perturbed over Makarfi’s declaration that there would be no “special privileges for nomadic politicians.”
Makarfi, a former Governor of Kaduna State, said when he received in audience PDP Rescue Group led by a former Governor of the defunct Gongola State, Amb. Wilberforce Juta, in Abuja, that the party would not give “special privileges to nomadic politicians.”
He insisted that PDP must evolve mechanisms for dedicated and loyal party men and women and must learn from the “mistakes” of the ruling APC.
He said, “Nigerian politicians are nomadic politicians who migrate from one political party to another to seek greener pastures.”
However, analysts say Makarfi’s position would spark off a furore considering that some political bigwigs who left would return to PDP to seek elective offices.
With PDP’s non-elective convention holding today, all eyes are on the leading opposition party to make decisions that will culminate into an elective convention.
Pundits say Nigeria require a vibrant opposition party that will put the ruling party in check in order to deepen democracy and good governance in the country.