Vanguard (Lagos)

8 January 2013

Nigeria: Intrigues As Members Go for Election Today

AFTER months of political intrigues, campaigns and nocturnal meetings, the D-Day has finally come for the election of leaders of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

BOT members of the self acclaimed largest political party in Africa will converge on Aso Rock, the presidential villa to elect a new chairman today.

The 98-member board, constitutionally, is the conscience of the party having being saddled with the responsibility of ensuring highest standards of morality in all the activities of the party and with power to call to order any officer of the Party whose conduct falls below the norms among others.

The highest decision-making body of the party according to the constitution comprises of men and women of integrity who have contributed critically to the conception and nurturing of the party, and who have sacrificed much for it, and as contained in Section 12.76.

Will consensus give way to election?

The emergence of a new BOT chairman had in the last couple of months become interesting and an issue of discourse because for the first time the PDP BoT will get a new chairman through election as against the hitherto consensus arrangement that produced the previous ones since the inception of PDP in 1998 if the party goes ahead with the election.

It is on record that former Vice President Alex Ekwueme who hails from Anambra State emerged as the first BoT Chairman through consensus in 1999. After him was former governor of old Plateau State, Chief Solomon Lar who was National Chairman of PDP in 1999 and became BoT chairman in 2003 also through consensus when Ekwueme went to contest for the Presidential election.

Chief Lar was replaced through consensus when Chief Tony Anenih from Edo State emerged. Still through a consensus arrangement and to pave way for his emergence as Chairman of BoT, former President Olusegun Obasanjo amended the party's constitution.

Section 12.77(b) of the 2006 constitution read, "without prejudice to the provision of this constitution, ensure that an elected Chairman is either a former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria produced by the party or in the absence of such, a former National Chairman of the party who has distinguished himself in the service of the party."

The constitution was signed by the then National Chairman and Secretary, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Chief Ojo Maduekwe respectively. The clause was later changed in 2009. Chief Obasanjo replaced Chief Anenih in June, 2007 at the Kano Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

The intrigues that produced Obasanjo

When Obasanjo emerged in a manner that looked like a coup against Anenih, it then became the first time in the existence of the party that the board of trustees meeting was held in the morning as against its usual nocturnal meeting. But Chief Tony Anenih did not attend the meeting.

Though all is now history, it was gathered that prior to the meeting, Anenih had fixed the meeting for 8pm, but the time was changed without his consent. According to the source, Anenih had kicked against the choice of the time and venue of the meeting.

11 candidates scramble for BOT chair

The fight for the BoT chairmanship opened up following the resignation of Chief Obasanjo on April 3 2012. In his letter of resignation to the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the former President had said: "I have formally sent in my letter of resignation as the Chairman of BOT of PDP to the National Chairman of the party as prescribed in the party's constitution. I have formally requested the President to allow my bowing out and to issue a short statement to that effect.

"By relieving myself of the responsibility for chairmanship of BOT of PDP, I will have a bit more time to devote to the international demand on me."

Ahead of today's election, it was gathered that the number of candidates that will need the votes of other members have been trimmed from the initial 20 to 11.

The candidates

As gathered, South-East has former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; former Senate President Ken Nnamani; Publisher of Champion Newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and Senator Onyeabo Obi. South-South has the Chairman, board of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Chief Tony Anenih; and Chief Don Etiebet.

North Central has the former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Amadu Ali. South-West has Chief Richard Akinjide; former Deputy National Chairman, Shuaibu Oyedokun and Yekini Adeojo.

Aspirants like former Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT of All Nigeria People's Party, ANPP, Chief Harry Ayaode Akande; Senator Bode Olajumoke and others failed to make the list, just as the former Acting National Chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje who showed interest in the position did not make the final list.

Ekwueme, Anenih, Nnamani, Ali, Oyedokun emerge as front runners

The top contenders for the position as it stands now are Chiefs Anenih and Ekwueme; Senator Ken Nnamani; Amadu Ali and Chief Oyedokun. If Ali who is from Kogi State emerges, it means the North-Central will be most favoured in the board against the backdrop that the Secretary, Senator Walid Jubrin who hails from Nasarawa State is also from North Central.

Factors that will shape polls

As members go into election to get a new chairman from these candidates especially when ego came into play and the candidates refused to step down for one another and President Goodluck Jonathan not achieving his drive to have a consensus candidate emerge before now, age has become an interesting aspect of the race as the candidates are between the ages of 60 and 80.

Former Vice President Ekwueme from Anambra State is 80; Chief Tony Anenih who hails from Edo State, a former Minister of Works and ex- National Chairman of Defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP is 79; former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Amadu Ali, Kogi state is 76; former Senate President Ken Nnamani from Enugu State is 64; Publisher of Champion Newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu from Imo State is 70; former Minister of Petroleum, Don Etiebet from Akwa Ibom State is 68; former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Shuiabu Oyedokun from Osun State is above 70 years.

The 2015 presidential election, putting the party in its right and firm situation as well as creating equity will also crop up today.

Equity and distribution of positions both at the party and government level would also feature. As it is at the moment, President Jonathan is from Bayelsa, South South; Vice President Namadi Sambo, Kaduna, North West; Senate President David Mark, Benue, North-Central; Speaker Aminu Waziri is from North West; the PDP National Chairman, Tukur is from Adamawa State, North East; National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola hails from Osun State, South-West; the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja hails from Rivers State -South same zone with the President.

The South -East has the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh.

Major stakeholders of the party like President Jonathan, former President Obasanjo, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Chief Olabode George; the PDP governors and Senator Jubril Aminu; the PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, among others will also dictate and determine the shape, form and pattern of the election. They are expected to play the role of political godfathers especially to butter their political interests.

Politically, the wounds of yesterday must rear their heads as political gladiators try to sell their candidates; the wounds of third term and who did what and who was affected, the wounds of political bickering as the ghost of third term may be visited on aspirants.

As events unfold, former President Obasanjo will play a key role today, but he will be cut between the web of either dropping Ali (who had helped him in 2007 to become the BoT chairman) for a South West candidate against the backdrop that he is being rumoured to be supporting Oyedokun for the position.

Atiku Abubakar will also play his role in this regard, though he is said to be out of the country and may not attend the meeting but he cannot be underrated as he can play what he knows best, which is politics, from anywhere.

Barring any last-minute change and if the events of March 24, 2012 where all the chairmanship aspirants were coerced and wooed to step down for Bamanga Tukur did not come to play, the election will take place in line with the one agenda meeting which is election. We watch as events unfold in the family of the PDP.

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