By Chibuzo Ukaibe, Osa Okhomina and Juliana Agbo, Abuja –
Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, yesterday dimmed hope on the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rebounding in the 2019 presidential election.
He expressed doubt that the party would emerge victorious during the forthcoming presidential poll, saying some forces within the major opposition party in the country are tearing it apart.
According to Governor Dickson, though the PDP is expected to form a strong opposition for a viral democracy, the anti-democratic forces within the PDP are against a cohesive and a strong party that would take over power at the centre.
Dickson who made this known during a media chat at the governor’s conference room in the Government House, Yenagoa, yesterday evening said the major problem of the forces within the party is selfishness and egoism.
He noted that if nothing is done to address the problems, the party would not bounce back.
The governor who was the chairman of PDP reconciliation committee said, ‘’I was very serious about rebuilding the party to take over power at the centre and everyone knows what I did. I did everything, built consensus but I think there are forces within the PDP that are against a cohesive and a strong PDP that will take power at the centre.
‘’I pray that the party overcomes or realises the need to overcome these forces within the PDP that are placing selfish ambition and ego above the need to build a strong party that can take power at the centre.
“I am very prayerful and let me say that at this point I am hopeful that these forces that are trying to tear the party have the capacity to take the party from one crisis to another and to generate another crisis”.
Praying that the party survives internal forces, Dickson said he had always believed that Nigeria needs two strong political parties.
He continued: “I have said that over and over again that we need a strong cohesive party in government, which incidentally, the All Progressives Congress is not. We should also pray for the APC to get their acts together.
‘’Ideally, Nigeria needs a strong party in opposition. I agree with what a former head of state, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd), said a few days ago. He said that the PDP had disappointed Nigerians by not truly living to be a strong party in opposition.
‘’That is very sad. As a person, I’m an opposition man and I am very comfortable being in the opposition. There are not many governors who can survive the kind of election I survived. I believe that my party has a lot of work to do and we should pray for it so that the country can have a real taste of two strong parties’’.
Governor Dickson expressed hope that the proposed convention of the party coming up in November would be able to address the internal problems of the PDP.
He said, ’’We are proposing to have a convention. Let us see how it goes. I think basically the PDP is suffering from a preponderance of people who have never tasted opposition politics.
‘’All their politics have always been with the party at the centre using everything for their election. They should learn from what we did here. I am the only governor who has won a governorship reelection in this state on the platform of a party that is different from the party at the centre; the only one so far.
‘’Of all the governors, I am the only one that has won a reelection when the centre is a different party. Now, I think later in November we shall see what happens in Anambra State. A number of people take this background for granted. So, I pray that the PDP survives. Nigeria needs PDP; Nigeria needs a strong party in opposition. I wish my party and the Nigeria democracy the best’’.
Northern Caucus Raises The Alarm Over Makarfi’s Presidential Ambition
Meanwhile, ahead of Tomorrow’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the PDP, some leaders of the party have expressed displeasure over the rumoured attempt by the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee of the party to extend its tenure till February 2018.
At a meeting of the PDP Arewa Northwest Leaders Forum, members of the group undertook an appraisal of the state of the PDP in the Zone and concluded that the party has great prospects in the 2019 general election.
Speaking on behalf of the group in Sokoto yesterday, Mallam Shehu Othman, commended the resilience of members of the Party in the zone, despite its current status as an opposition party.
According to him, although members were encouraged by the support of the people, they were worried that the Makarfi-led leadership may undermine all gains because of its desire to extend its tenure by a few months.
They argued that this may not be unconnected with the ambition of the caretaker committee chairman of the party who, according to sources, has concluded plans to run for the presidency in the 2019, with Senator Ben Obi, the current national secretary, as his running mate.
Mallam Othman said “a major cause of the party’s failure in the 2015 general election was impunity and lack of internal democracy,” adding that “the current leadership would sink the party finally if it achieves its nefarious plan”.
The group claimed to have commenced consultations with other zones with a view to resisting the undemocratic and unacceptable plan.
Othman contended that members of the party in the Northwest feel betrayed by someone they trusted, emphasising that betrayal is not a political attribute of the North.
He called on party leaders from the North to call Senator Ahmed Makarfi to order and prevent him from bringing the party to disrepute.
The group also called for vigilance on the part of members of the National Executive Committee of the Party who will be meeting on tomorrow.
He urged them to “reject any clandestine move by Senator Makarfi and his group to extend their tenure by a single day beyond the December 9 convention of the party”.
But Makarfi denied nursing presidential ambition for 2019, even as he dared anyone whom he has spoken to about it to come forward.
While dispelling claims that his alleged presidential ambition will hurt the party’s interest in light of the forthcoming convention, he told LEADERSHIP that he is focused on conducting a free and fair national convention, after which he will have ample time to think about his personal political interests.
He however added that the real problem behind the attacks he is facing is that the NCC, under his leadership, has refused to endorse any aspirant, insisting rather that the process for the emergence of chairman must take its natural democratic course.
While he dispelled claims that he was working for the interest of an aspirant in the race for the chairmanship of the party, the chairman also rubbished reports that there is a plan to shift a tentative date for the national convention.
He stressed that the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, scheduled for tomorrow was to formally fix a date for the convention.
December 9 is widely speculated to be the date for the national convention, in light of the expiration of the NCC’s tenure on December 12.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, Makarfi, while addressing claims that he has a presidential ambition said “Who have I spoken to or written to in respect of anything personal? Let such person come out and speak.
“Please let me concentrate on making sure we have a credible elective convention. I will have plenty of time to think about myself long after I successfully handover.”
Dispelling claims that his committee was backing a candidate he said “Compare what you asked with what some elements are spreading through social media that I am backing South South not South West.
“NEC meeting has been called for Tuesday 24/10 and it’s published to approve convention date. So I honestly don’t expect a question on alleged shift of date.”
Meanwhile, it was gathered that PDP has pegged the cost of nomination forms for chairmanship at N3m.
It was also gathered that moves to ensure that micro-zoning to the South-west is jettisoned has intensified following intense lobbying by a South-south governor of the party, who held meetings with some Northern PDP members recently.
It was gathered that the move was targeted at championing the candidature of former acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
It was however learnt that in the event that candidature of Secondus doesn’t sell, a former governor of Cross River State might be drafted into the contest.
Another party source, however, confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the party’s leadership has been under pressure to recognize micro-zoning ahead of the national convention.
“The NCC has been lobbied to weigh in support of micro-zoning but so far, they have maintained their ground that just as the Presidential ticket was zoned to the North, the Chairmanship of the party has been zoned to the South. It is up to the leaders from the regions to decide amongst themselves which zone should get the position. But as for the party leadership is concerned, it will not adopt micro-zoning”, the source said.
The leaders of the PDP in South-west have insisted that the zone ought to produce the chairman of the party, because it has never occupied that position in the history of the party.
The aspirants include, former minister of education, Prof Tunde Adeniran; former deputy national chairman of PDP, Chief Bode George; former minister of sports, Prof Taoheed Adedoja; media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dopkesi; former Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel; former acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; and former governorship candidate of the party in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje.
INEC Projects Over 80m Voter Register
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has projected that the voter register will probably be over 80 million by 2019.
The commission also disclosed that eight million permanent voter cards (PVCs) were yet to be collected by their respective owners.
The commission added that by next week it hopes to come up with a figure of what it will cost to conduct the 2019 general election.
Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this over the weekend in Abuja when the European Union Electoral Follow-up Mission to Nigeria, civil society organizations and other stakeholders compared notes with the commission at a well-attended roundtable organised by the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and West Africa.
The interaction centered around 30 recommendations handed to INEC by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) after the 2015 general election, which necessitated the EU to dispatch its Electoral Follow-Up Mission to Nigeria led by Mr Santiago Fisas to ascertain what happened since then.
Prof Yakubu had informed Mr Fisas and his teams when they visited the commission last week that only eight out of the 30 recommendations contained in the EU-EOM report were within the commission’s jurisdiction.
The INEC boss explained that the remaining 22 fell within the powers and responsibilities of other agencies and arms of government, especially the National Assembly.
On preparations for the 2019 general elections, Yakubu said, “The most important thing for us as we plan towards 2019 is the effectiveness of our plan. We have a strategic plan 2017 – 2021 and we have along with that, a strategic programme of action.
“We have just completed the draft Election Project Plan for 2019. Hopefully next week, we will come up with a figure of what it will cost this nation to conduct the 2019 general election.
“We have benefitted from the numerous elections that we have conducted. As at today, we have conducted elections into 172 constituencies since the 2015 general election. The last election was three weeks ago in Gombe; the next election is in eight days in Sokoto, followed by the Anambra governorship election. We have issued the timetable for Ekiti and Osun (governorship elections)”.
Yakubu who also spoke on the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise said, “The credibility of elections depends on the credibility of the voter register. We are now doing it continuously.
“We have seen some challenges and we are responding to them. We started in April and as at last week, we have registered 3.2 million (Nigerians) on top of the 70 million registered voters for the 2015 general elections that we had before. Our projection is that the Voter Register will probably be over 80 million by 2019”.
The INEC boss however revealed that about eight million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were yet to be collected by their respective owners.
“We haven’t made much progress in the last two years (but) we have made elaborate arrangements with the states to ensure that the cards are collected”, he said.
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