President Goodluck Jonathan and first-term governors in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will have to go through primaries ahead of the 2015 general elections as spelt out by the party's constitution, national publicity secretary Olisa Metuh has said.
He spoke yesterday to journalists in Abuja against the background of reports suggesting that some stakeholders and senior Presidency officials were pushing for an idea of giving Jonathan and the governors the right of first refusal for the party's election tickets.
Metuh described the reports as strange because "nobody in the executive; nobody in the legislature; nobody in the administration of this party has ever mentioned it in my presence...and nobody in the administration of the party said he has heard it."
He said such decision is beyond the powers of the national executive committee because the party's constitution provides that there should be primaries.
"Such an issue must come to the national convention," he said.
"Why is it important for us to talk about amendment of the constitution or none amendment? We have a constitution that we must follow to the latter. As long as this constitution is there, there will be primaries and people will be free to run primaries under the constitution. That is where we stand," he added. The denial by Metuh yesterday is consistent with previous assertions by the party ahead of all general elections since 1999 that no incumbents would be guaranteed automatic tickets.
But this flies in the face of the reality in the party's operations since then, as all incumbent presidents and all but two incumbent governors got their return tickets in primaries that are mostly tailored to favour them.
Then-President Olusegun Obasanjo got a return ticket in 2003 as did all PDP governors at the time except Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State.
President Jonathan also secured a presidential election primary in January 2011. The only other PDP governor denied a return ticket by the party was Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, who was disqualified ahead of the November 2012 governorship primaries in which he was standing for a second term.
'No plot against APC'
Metuh also denied the existence of a PDP-backed plot to sabotage the ongoing opposition merger plans to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
"As I am sitting here I read in the papers that Olisa Metuh is coordinating the registration of the new (rival) APC and I laugh. What's my business with what they are doing? I believe it is better to enable the opposition to merge and have a party; have whatever name they want without any problem," he said.
"We cannot come out and fight them on something they have a right in. We have no business with whatever name that they answer; it is not the name that wins election, so why should we be bothered? If we stop them from registering APC, they can register QRC or PJC. There is nothing about the name, it is about ideology.
"And I am worried that Nigerians are talking about the issue of registration of none registration of APC. They are not worried that a group of people have come together and they say their ideology, their vision and their manifesto is to take power from PDP. They don't have any single programme; there is nothing they have offered."
Metuh said he believed that those working to form the APC "will face the challenge of being a big party and they cannot manage it."
Speaking on reported moves to oust PDP national chairman Bamanga Tukur over his perceived problems with governors, Metuh said there is no attempt to remove anyone in the national working committee.
"Yes we have differences in ideas, approach but definitely we are united in being together to promote the ideals and the visions of our founding fathers," he said.
He said the Tukur-led NWC has had its biggest challenges from January to now, but that the members are working together.
He spoke of a particular instance when PDP governors had insisted on rallying round their fellow Adamawa state governor over crisis in the state chapter of the party.
But Metuh said "there is basically nothing wrong with that" stressing however that "our position is that due process and constitutionality must be followed."
He said the Sule Lamido committee set up by the president and the leadership of the National Assembly in January on the Adamawa issue will meet today in Abuja, and a decision will be announced publicly after being referred to a higher body.
The PDP spokesman also said contrary to reports that the reconciliation effort embarked upon by the chairman of the board of trustees Chief Tony Anenih was a result of the failure of the efforts of the NWC, multiple reconciliation efforts have been organised to achieve best result.
"The more the merrier; we are happy with the reconciliation effort of Chief Anenih. It is of a different nature with the one that we have undertaken," he said.
"The idea of the different reconciliatory bid is to ensure that every single angle, every single section of the country is visited and every individual is reconciled. We have our reconciliatory team, the BOT is already going on and the PDP governors' forum will have more activity to do two weeks from now. So it is an organised programme by the leadership of the party."
Responding to worries that the serving NWC has not called for NEC as required by the constitution, Metuh said it was actually a matter of concern, but that the party will hold NEC soon, even though he could not give a date. He said NWC was constrained by forces beyond its control.
"Before you hold NEC you must hold the national caucus and the BOT. We promised people that we will hold our NEC immediately after the BOT, now we have a BOT that is in office, and once the Easter break is over I can authoritatively tell you that there is going to be a national executive council meeting," he said.