9 March 2008

Nigeria: As Ogbulafor Emerges PDP Chairman Obasanjo Loses Grip

Abuja — Prince Vincent Ogbulafor yesterday emerged as the fifth National Chairman of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) after weeks of horse-trading and intrigues.

Ogbulafor, formerly national secretary of the party, emerged in a consensus arrangement which saw 26 other contestants stepping down for him at the party's National Convention in Abuja.

Also elected in the same manner is the National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, from Kwara state as well as all the other national executive officers.

Ogbulafor and Baraje's emergence signalled loosening of the grip on the party hitherto maintained by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had spent months campaigning for former Ebonyi Governor Sam Egwu and Senator Tunde Ogbeha.

Ogbulafor was National Secretary of the PDP between 2001 and 2005, after serving as Minister of Economic Matters and Special Projects in the Presidency during Obasanjo's first term.

His emergence as the consensus chairman was said to be the collective decision of the PDP governors who sought to avert a sharp division within the party as a result of the bitter rivalry between two foremost contenders for the position-Egwu and former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim.

A number of party leaders lauded the emergence of Ogbulafor. Leader of the Integrity Group of the House of Representatives, Hon. Farouk Lawal, told Sunday Trust that Ogbulafor's emergence was a good development for the party.

Before Ogbulafor's emergence at yesterday's convention, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu moved a motion for the dissolution of the Ahmadu Ali-led National Executive Committee.

The chairman of the electoral panel Alhaji Adamu Ciroma told the convention that all the chairmanship aspirants met and resolved to withdraw from the race for Ogbulafor and the panel has no choice than to accept their decision. But Ciroma said the contenders must publicly indicate their willingness to withdraw from the race before Ogbulafor is declared winner.

Soon after, one of the chairmanship aspirants, Chyna Iwuanyanwu, climbed the rostrum to announce that all the other 25 chairmanship aspirants were stepping down for Ogbulafor, who had already been adopted by the PDP governors. Some other aspirants also did the same as Iwuanyanwu.

But the situation was not the same with the aspirants to the position of the national secretary where some level of resistance was displayed publicly. Senator Tunde Ogbeha through Senator Smart Adeyemi had stated his agreement to step down for Baraje. Other contestants also followed suit except Mr. John Dara who insisted for an election.

However, Dara had to yield to a last-minute pressure after a brief meeting with the former governor of Nasarawa state, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, Governor Bukola Saraki and other top party leaders.

In his acceptance speech, Ogbulafor promised to re-unite the party.

He said he would ensure that there is peace and harmony in the party as soon as he begins work. "Those offended should forget and forgive," he told the gathering. "All founding fathers of the party are to return with immediate effect."

He described the job of reuniting the party as a 'big challenge.'

Ogbulafor pledged to work with federal lawmakers to work hard.

President Umaru Yar'Adua, who left the convention venue before the process fully took off, described the consensus as another milestone in the nation's democracy.

Yar'Adua had to rush out of the venue to attend the funeral of the late emir of Katsina.

Represented by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan at the end of the convention, Yar'Adua said the convention was a manifestation of probity in democracy, transparency and in accordance with the rule of law.

"We have gone a long way to enshrine democracy and transformation of the Economy," he said.

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