Splinter group: Can PDP survive renewed face-off?

The Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) has just come out of a protracted leadership tussle, which seemingly ended when it held its national convention, where members of its National Working Committee(NWC) were elected. However, the convention kicked up a lot of dust instead of ushering an era of peace and stability. Last Tuesday, a new group which calls itself Fresh Peoples Democratic Party(FPDP) opened its secretariat in Abuja. Will PDP return to the recent past where both Senator Ali Modu Sherrif and Senator Ahmed Makarfi claimed leadership of the party? In this report, ABUDLRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU examines the issues at stake.

From all indications, the peace and reconciliation drive, following the contentious national convention, did not yield much result as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has split into two. Last Wednesday, a faction of the party, which calls itself Fresh Peoples Democratic Party (FPDP), has set up a parallel national secretariat at Asokoro, Abuja. The group, according to reports, is made up of “concerned stakeholders” and some candidates who lost out at the last party’s convention.

At a press briefing, Prince Emmanuel Obi-Nwosu, the Director-General of FPDP, said that their action is “part of the resolve to ensure that PDP sweeps polls in the 2019 elections.’’ Prince Obi-Nwosu promised that FPDP will inaugurate what he referred to as “authentic National Working Committee (NWC) after the yuletide.

Specifically, the FPDP’s Director-General was flanked by Comrade Franklin Edede, who contested and lost the position of the National Youth Leader as well as Chief Godwin Chinedu Durun a failed National Organizing Secretary contestant.

According to the group, FPDP will start electronic membership registration and afterwards, primaries will be conducted electronically after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released its time-table.

According to FPDP, the long wait for a new PDP is over as their faction will provide a robust opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)

Why FPDP was formed

Significantly, the faction alleged the bastardisation of PDP ideas as one of the reasons why FPDP was formed. The faction, which itemised some of their grievances, lamented that “over the years, the high ideals of our founding fathers which heralded the formation of PDP have been eroded by new entrants into the party who introduced very corrupt and anti-democratic practices that eventually led to the colossal loss which the party suffered in 2015.”

In addition, the faction alleged that “the overbearing negative influence of some governors in the party has worsened the future of the PDP since after the 2015 elections.”

In this regard, the faction recalled, “that we held our National Convention on the 9th and 10th of December, 2017, at Eagle Square here in Abuja. It was supposed to be an elective convention where a new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party will be elected. Most tragically, there was no election on that day, but a selection of pre-determined persons who were eventually announced as the new NWC members”.

According to FPDP, “As concerned candidates and stakeholders of our party, we deem this perfidy that took place at Eagles Square a charade, orchestrated by the former National Caretaker Committee, led by the former governor of Kaduna state, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and perfected by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led National Convention Planning Committee.’’

The group accused the NCC of “deliberately refusing to release the delegates list as was agreed upon by all aspirants barely 24 hours to the convention, which is contrary to our party’s constitution. This was a complete aberration as it made it impossible for aspirants to crosscheck the authenticity of the list.”

In addition, they accused the Makarfi-led caretaker committee of disregarding the petition against chairman and secretary of the electoral committee, former governor of Benue state, Chief Gabriel Suswam, and Dr Sunday Onor, respectively.

“The entire process of selecting the purported Uche Secondus-led NWC was concluded days before the convention, and a list of those selected was published which eventually was circulated at the Eagles Square long before voting commenced. Evidence is available to show that some names in the fraudulent unity list collected nomination forms after the official closing date and some others were not even screened as required by the party’s electoral guidelines,” they further alleged.

Continuing, the faction said, “The most despicable part of the entire moonlight play was that the so-called unity list was printed on the letterhead paper of our great party, suggesting that it was authorised by the leadership of the party and the national executive committee.

The fraudulent unity list was openly circulated to the delegates without restraint and the Electoral Committee Chairman, Chief Gabriel Suswam, who supervised the entire charade. He even confiscated the telephone handset of an agent to a candidate who dared to challenge the fraud and captured the event with his camera phone. ”

We won’t be distracted–Secondus

The National Chairman of PDP, Prince Secondus has described the members of the factional group as elements of distraction who should be sent to jail.

He said “we are focused; we know the enemies are at work, we know several things have been going on, with some wanting to prevent our convention. But since we have had a peaceful convention they are not happy. We know these people, even those from outside and we will name them when the time comes”.
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FPDP’s claims childish, laughable—PDP spokesman

Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, has described the latest development within the party as “laughable and childish.’’

In a statement last Wednesday, Ologbodiyan said ‘’PDP is completely unperturbed by the comical act of some individuals who make outlandish claims in the media regarding our party. ‘’

According to him, the party is happy with the efforts of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led Reconciliation Committee, as well as the responses from all the respectable and responsible leaders of our party in that regard. ‘’We will, however, not be responsible or respond to any person or groups of individuals who decide to allow themselves to be used by forces from another political party in a laughable and childish attempt to distract us”, the spokesman said.

FPDP are charlatans, should be arrested – Fayose

The Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose also lambasted the splinter group, according to a press statement by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Idowu Adelusi, “In a civilised society, those parading themselves as fresh PDP should have been clamped into jail. They are simply charlatans.

I won’t be surprised and we are doing investigations to know those who are behind them. In a society like Nigeria, where we need a virile opposition, we need to continually put the government of the day on its toes for them to know that Nigeria is greater than all of us, some miscreants would just make press statement and say they are splinter group or whatever they call themselves.

“In a proper democracy, they are supposed to have been arrested and detained for breaching the peace of the society as their action is unwarranted and uncalled for. But we are not going to celebrate such by making an issue out of it. Nigeria needs peace at all times. We are not going to go back to the days of Sherif and co, by giving attentions to those idiots making noise all over the place. This party will remain focused and move on. I urge Nigerians to ignore them. When I saw them on the Internet, they were faceless people I cannot recognise so they remains a set of jobless and miscreants. What is important about the convention is for the party to be transparent and we have done that.

Lawyers disagree

Lawyers who spoke with Blueprint Weekend have divergent opinions on the emergence of FPDP. While some argued that arresting them, as Fayose suggested, will amount to infringing on their freedom of association, others said that it is wrong to say that they are a splinter group of PDP.

Speaking to our correspondent, Barrister James Kanyip argued that ‘’for an association to be recognised under our Constitution and other extant laws by its name, it must first be registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).’’

According to him, section 222 of the 1999 constitution provides that ‘’no association by whatever name called shall function as a party, unless – “(a) the names and addresses of its national officers are registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission;(b) the membership of the association is open to every citizen of Nigeria irrespective of his place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or ethnic grouping; (c) a copy of its constitution is registered in the principal office of the Independent National Electoral Commission in such form as may be prescribed by the Independent National Electoral Commission; (d) any alteration in its registered constitution is also registered in the principal office of the Independent National Electoral Commission within thirty days of the making of such alteration(e) the name of the association, its symbol or logo does not contain any ethnic or religious connotation or give the appearance that the activities of the association are confined to a part only of the geographical area of Nigeria; and (f) the headquarters of the association is situated in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

For this reason, Kanyip argued that the “People’s Democratic Party” (PDP) is the only constitutionally and statutorily registered and recognized political party by that name. It is the only political party registered and recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by that name or nomenclature. It is the only juristic personality known to law with the power, inter alia, to sue and be sued in that name”.

The “Fresh PDP” or “Fresh Peoples Democratic Party”, as the case may be, is not the same thing in law as the “PDP” or “People’s Democratic Party” known to law. The addition of the prefix “Fresh” to the name makes the new association fundamentally and radically different from “PDP”. Therefore, “Fresh PDP” and “PDP” are not the same in law. They are different. The fundamental difference between the two is that while “PDP” is a duly registered political party by INEC, “Fresh PDP” is not. And, since it is not so registered, it is an illegal and unlawful association or group. Based on the provision of section 222 of the Constitution.

Adedoja sues PDP

Apart from factionalisation, Profesor Taoheed Adedoja, one of the candidates that vied for the national chairmanship, has taken PDP to court, seeking the nullification of the election result
Prince Secondus, who polled 2,000 votes in the election, had defeated Adedoja who got no vote at all.

Last Monday, claimed that he was excluded from the chairmanship race, arguing that the zero score credited to him had embarrassed and maligned him. According to the former Minister of Youths and Sports, the election result has brought great ridicule to his political career which he has built over 14 years.

Specifically, the ex minister said that he went to court to contest an error in his name on the ballot paper which was used at the convention. He pointed out that the name on the ballot paper was “Taoheed Oladoja” while his name is “Taoheed Adedoja.”

In the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1225/2017 filed on his behalf at an Abuja Federal High Court by Messrs Rickey Tarfa & Co, Adedoja is seeking four prayers. First, he wants the ‘’ court to declare the election of the national chairman of the PDP held at the Eagle Square in Abuja on December 9, 2017, null and void.’’ Second, to declare as null and void ‘’ any document submitted by the PDP or by the purported occupier of the position of the national chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission.’’

In addition, Adedoja wants the court to cancel ‘’the national chairmanship election held on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at the Eagle Square Abuja.’’

Similarly, the former candidate wants ‘’the court to order the conduct of another elective national convention for the election of the national chairman within 30 days of nullification of the elective national convention held on December 9, 2017.’’

Accordingly, the plaintif wants the court to restrain INEC ‘’ from recognising Uche Secondus as the national chairman of the PDP on the grounds that the election where Uche Secondus was declared national chairman of the PDP, where I was unlawfully excluded from the list of the contestants for the position of national chairman of PDP, is a flagrant violation of the Electoral Act, the constitution of the PDP, the guidelines for the conduct of the PDP National Convention and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

History repeating itself?

In 2013, during its mini convention on August 30, some PDP chieftains led by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje staged a walk out in protest of happenings at the venue. Significantly, six governors that were elected on the party’s platform, broke ranks with the PDP , in protest to Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s dictatorial tendencies. Governor Babangida Aliyu, the then Chief Servant of Niger state, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, the then governor of Kano state and Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa state, including Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako, the Sokoto state governor, as well as Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state and Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, the governor of Kwara state, walked out of the convention venue.

Similarly, Governor Rotimi Ameachi of Rivers state followed his colleagues, so did Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, former vice president as well as several state and federal legislators and delegates. In protest, the governors went to Shehu Musa Yarádua Centre where Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje emerged national chairman while Dr Sam Sam Jaja became his deputy.

Also, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was the national secretary. Specifically, that was how New PDP was formed and the inability of the Jonathan administration to manage that crisis, led them to defect to APC and the rest, as they say, is now history. Its hoped that PDP will learn from history or else its dream of reclaiming the presidency will remain a mirage.

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