Twenty four hours to the national convention of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), intrigues, scheming and power-play have become the defining features of engagements by different political camps, in a last-minute bid to sway victory to their respective sides at tomorrow’s national convention of the PDP, taking place at Eagles Square, Abuja.
LEADERSHIP observes that the Federal Capital City, Abuja is a beehive of activities with the arrival of most of the state governors under the control of the PDP, all of who are variously engaged in different meetings at mostly-secret locations in Abuja obviously to stratagise towards the Saturday's event.
A dependable presidency source at the Presidential Villa told LEADERSHIP that President Jonathan, upon his return from Birnin Kebbi, where he attended the governorship campaign, went straight into a meeting with four PDP governors from the North East: Adamawa (Murtala Nyako), Taraba (Danbaba Suntai), Bauchi (Isah Yuguda) and Gombe (Ibrahim Dankwambo).
At the meeting, which took place in House 7 at the Presidential Villa, Jonathan sought to know the true state of affairs in respect of the circumstances that led to Bamanga Tukur's (Jonathan's preferred candidate) humiliating defeat at the zonal congress that took place on Wednesday.
He also sought to know how a repeat of the ugly defeat can be avoided at the tomorrow's national convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
The governors reportedly assured the president of their continued loyalty, promising to ensure no discordant tunes at the convention.
Also yesterday in Abuja, a group of aspirants to the office of the national chairmanship from the North East Zone rose from a meeting and issued a statement condemning the outcome of the party's zonal congress which saw the emergence of the immediate-past national secretary of the party, Dr Musa Babayo as the zone's candidate for the office of the national chairman of the PDP.
The communiqué issued at the meeting was signed by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Dr. Shettima Mustapha, Arc. Ibrahim Bunu, Amb. Idris Waziri and Hon. Adamu Bello. Others are Dr Mohammed Abba-Aji, Alh. Adamu Mu’azu, Dr. Gambo Lawan and Barr. Ibrahim Shehu Birma.
The aspirants said what transpired in Bauchi was an outright abuse of the constitution of the party as those that conducted the exercise lacked the powers to do so, more so that the 21 member caucus who voted lacked the power to elect the national chairman of the party on behalf of the national convention.
“We therefore reject this fraudulent adoption as we state that the constitution of our great party does not confer on the North-East stakeholders caucus nor any zonal or regional caucus for that matter, much less this clique of twenty-one persons the right and power to elect the national chairman on behalf of the national convention members.
‘’We were neither contacted nor were we privy to the process (if any) that led to the mysterious emergence of Dr. Musa Babayo as purported candidate adopted by the North-East. We were neither consulted nor witnessed the process that led to this adoption,’’ the aspirants said.
Similarly, more facts emerged yesterday in Abuja as to how a frontline candidate for the chairmanship post of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, lost to his rival, Dr. Babayo Shehu, at the North-East congress on Wednesday.
According to a notable politician from the zone, Mr. Daniel Richards, the insistence by the delegates that strict democratic principles must be followed rather than the imposition of a particular candidate led to some sort of "revolution through the ballot box."
He said: "What happened in Bauchi on Wednesday is demonstration of the principle of one man, one vote which, I believe, the leadership of the PDP seems to be scared of. But as far as the National Convention is concerned, we must give President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan the benefit of the doubt because he has said he has no candidate and that he will allow due process to thrive.
"We heard that some governors stayed back in Abuja, trying to negotiate on behalf of the North-East. That cannot work and we will see how things play out at the convention proper on Saturday. How can any governor negotiate any position on behalf of the people of the North-East zone?"
"The North-East is 100 percent behind Babayo. We have made up our mind and he has addressed us. We voted, we agreed, the National Vice Chairman of our party, Senator Paul Wampana took census of all the votes that were cast and the candidates for whom the votes were cast in Bauchi and we all agreed that we would be going to Abuja with just one candidate. We will definitely queue up behind him,’’ Richards said.
Another party chieftain, Mr Sani Usman told LEADERSHIP that on convention day, the North-East delegates are going to queue up behind Alhaji Bamanga Tukur “to ensure he becomes the next substantive chairman of the PDP.”
In another twist, A chieftain of the PDP, Chief Okey Uzoho yesterday asked a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja to stop the national convention slated for tomorrow on the grounds that his name has been excluded as a candidate for the National Publicity Secretary contest.
Uzoho, an Abuja based legal practitioner has asked the court to defer the party’s national convention for two weeks to enable him get adequate time to campaign.
He is also asking the court for an order of mandatory injunction restraining the PDP from proceeding with any further arrangement, process or preparations for the holding of the said national convention proper slated for March 24, 2012 or any other date unless and until his name is included as a candidate for the post of National Publicity Secretary.
Uzoho also asked for an order of injunction compelling the PDP to include his name as a candidate for the post of the National Publicity Secretary at its National Convention fixed for Saturday or any other subsequent date.
He asked the court to order the party to pay him the sum of N50 million as compensation for the anxiety, anguish, inconveniences, loss of valuable campaign time and mental agony his unlawful purported exclusion has caused him.
In a related development, a group comprising human rights activists, professionals, lawyers and eminent citizens have accused the PDP of not providing the enabling environment for women in line with the 35 per cent affirmative action.
A statement issued yesterday in Abuja by Dr Otive Igbuzor, Senator Josephine Anenih, Maryam Muhammad Lawal Uwais, Carol Ajie, Ayo Obe, Jibrin Ibrahim among other fifty signatories reminded the PDP that the women of Nigeria together with other well-meaning and progressive Nigerians, who believe in the worthy cause of women’s active participation in all aspects of governance, expect nothing less than 35% of all positions to be contested for during the national convention holding on the 24th March 2012 to be reserved for women and contested by women only.
"Nigerians and Nigerian women in particular hold the PDP in high esteem as evident by the overwhelming turn-out of women voters and supporters in successive elections. It is time for the PDP to reciprocate this goodwill by keeping promises made. We are all watching." The statement added.
They urged the PDP to respect the party's constitution by applying section 1(6)(7) which states that “in nomination for party offices, not less than 35 percent shall be reserved for women”.
Meanwhile, the police authorities in Abuja have said that as part of measures to avert any breach of the peace during the Saturday’s, the FCT Police Command has concluded arrangements to send 10,000 of its personnel to the Eagle Square venue of the convention.
Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the FCT Command, AIG Michael Zuokumor, made the disclosure yesterday, when he said that a combined team of police personnel made up of Police Mobile Force, PMF, Police Anti-Terrorist Squad, ATS, Conventional Police Detachments, Police Bomb Disposal Squad, Force Intelligence Bureau, FIB, Police Dog section, the mounted troop, and the Police Medical and Emergency Ambulance Department would ensure that the event ends hitch-free.
The AIG who also said specially trained horses, dogs, high definition cameras and other modern equipment would be deployed to boost security during the convention further noted that there would be diversion of traffic from all routes leading to the Eagle Square to ensure that traffic gridlock does not mar the convention.
The traffic diversion, which he said begins from 4pm today would affect a total of seven major traffic points and would last for the duration of the convention.