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Can Saraki, Makinde, Mohammed Deliver In Bayelsa, Kogi?

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently inaugurated their campaign teams and a special reconciliation committee for Kogi and Bayelsa States ahead of the governorship polls. But can they salvage the dicey situation as they race against time? CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has a tough task uniting its members in Kogi and Bayelsa States ahead of the governorship elections in November 16.

This was the underlining feeling during the inauguration of the national campaign council and special reconciliation committee of the party for the elections two weeks ago.

While the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde leads the campaign for Kogi, his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed is in charge of the Bayelsa campaign. The immediate past Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, is the chairman of the reconciliation committee for both states.

At the inauguration of the campaign council by the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, the reality of how tasking it is to reconcile the camps within the party in both states was focal.

Secondus started by alluding to suspected machinations of the APC ahead of the polls.

He said “Ordinarily given the enviable achievements of our party in Bayelsa state in the area of delivering democracy dividend to the people in the last eight years under the leadership of our able Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Chief Seraike Dickson, and the very awful performance of APC government in Kogi state, the two states should be a smooth contest for us, but intelligence available to the party shows that the All Progressives Congress, APC is planning a charade elections in these states as was witnessed in Ekiti, Osun, Kano and Kaduna states.”

While he accused the APC, security agencies and even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of being poised to work against the PDP, he could not shy away from the reality that the party under his watch in both states has a lot of work today with regards to mending the cracks within its fold.

“Your Excellencies, against these backdrops, I urge you to see your assignment as a challenge to save our democracy, to save our country and to save these two states.

“I cannot end this address without letting you know that the party leadership is not unaware that there are some rough edges within our fold arising from party primaries in these two states, but I assure you that all hands are being put on deck to bring all members of the family back. Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki is heading a special reconciliatory committee also being inaugurated to address all grievances in the two states.”

Indeed, reconciling the major stakeholders in Bayelsa and Kogi chapters of PDP since after the primaries has been difficult, a situation which further questions the efficacy of the party’s conflict resolution and reconciliation mechanism, especially in light of the raging House minority leadership tussle.

The emergence of Engr Musa Wada and Senator Duoye Diri as PDP candidates in Kogi and Bayelsa respectively has left the PDP in a quandary; the backlash from the primaries in the two states resulted in a split within its ranks.

Wada and Diri’s victory were challenged by aggrieved aspirants. While Abubakar Ibrahim, son of the former governor of Kogi State, Ibrahim Idris faulted Wada’s candidacy, former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Timi Alaibe, believes Diri’s emergence as PDP’s flagbearer for the Bayelsa polls was fraught with irregularities.

But the party has since issued certificates of return to both Wada and Diri even though it charged them to ensure they reach out to all the aggrieved aspirants and get them into the fold.

The party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, had at the gathering in Abuja implored the candidates to lead the reconciliation process, hinting at a turbulent campaign ahead. The aspirant in turn assured that they had started the reconciliation process.

Secondus who maintained that the primaries in both states met all the criteria of a transparent process, however admitted that it was tough.

Although he declared that the party will setup reconciliation and campaign committees soon, he said “to our candidates it is not yet time to celebrate. Our country is in distress. It is time to pull out people together reconcile our people so that they can team up with and get the hope of the ordinary man. So the responsibility for you is not to be master but servant of the people. 

“As you move from here our party will set up committee for reconciliation and campaigns and so you must move from here and know that you have a lot of work to do. There is no Victor no vanquished. You are all winners,” he had said.

On their part, the candidates declared that they have started reconciling with the other aspirants.

Diri said “I have started calling all the aspirants pleading with them to join hands with me to deliver the party in Bayelsa State.

“The only way we can win is for our part to be united. We will be focused on achieving that goal,” he said.

He noted that Nigerians were worried that 21 aspirants were in the race for the party’s ticket in Bayelsa but that it turned out to be peaceful and calm.

On his part, Engr Musa Wada, also said the reconciliation process has began, noting that an aspirant, former governor, Capt Idris Wada, who is his brother was heading the process.

He said “We are not only reconciliating, we are visiting them in their homes.

Capt Idris Wada is leading the peace process.”

Referring to the former governor who was in the hall, Wada said “Politics is a different game, blood is thicker than water.”

At the time, while Alaibe was opposed to Douye, two aspirants in Kogi State, Senator Dino Melaye and Ibrahim, petitioned the PDP appeal panel over the emergence of Wada.

However, weeks after the handing of certificate of return, the reconciliation process remained strained and the much needed unity elusive.

For instance, in Kogi State Senator Dino Melaye made no pretenses about his angst with the party, despite personal visits by Secondus and the candidate, Wada, to appease him. His rejection to serve as the director general of Wada’s governorship campaign council gave insights into how entrenched the division had become within the party.

Interestingly, Melaye’s rejection of the position came on the same day some aspirants led by former governor Capt Idris Wada, pledged their loyalty to the candidate.

However, a clearer indication of how strained the reconciliation process had become was when another aspirant, Ibrahim, declared that he has gone to court to challenge his declaration as winner of the primaries.

Before then, a former acting governor and director general of the Ibrahim campaign, Hon Clarence Olafemi was said to have started reaching out to the Kogi State governor Yahaya Bello and the APC.

Declaring their decision to go to court, at a press conference in Abuja, the campaign spokesman of the Abubakar Ibrahim campaign organisation, Shaba Ibrahim, who was flanked by the aggrieved aspirant, Ibrahim and Olafemi, faulted the process that produced Wada as candidate of the party.

Noting that the process and conclusion of the committee on the primaries, falls short of the expectation of rational minds, the spokesman questioned why 247 votes which the committee initially ignored was later announced as belonging to Senator Dino Melaye.

Speaking on the reconcilation moves by PDP and Wada, the aggrieved aspirant, Ibrahim said “sadly,  not only has the candidate not approached me, but even the appeal committee has not even replied my petition. This is 14 days after, certificate of return has been given to the candidate and for what reason, I still want to know. But none of them, the party or Engr Musa, has addressed it.”

Reacting to claims of defection among his members, he said “I beg to disagree on that but you must agree with me that everybody has his or her choices to make. Being a leader I have to sit down and listen to my own people and find out what is best for all of us. It is not just about me. We unianimoulsy agreed that we need to seek legal redress and that is what is happening right now,” he said.

Still, as complex and perplexing as the issues are in Kogi PDP, they all evolve around the political architecture of former governor of the state, Ibrahim Idris, whose influence in the party looms large.

The PDP candidate is married to the former governor’s daughter, which makes him an in law to Ibrahim, an aggrieved aspirant. This peculiar scenario has left some pundits wondering why the reconciliation process would have to drag for a long time.

The situation in Kogi PDP appears to be escalating as some more PDP members are said to be defecting to the ruling APC.

In Bayelsa, the reconciliation process seems to be crashing as well.  Alaibe, the main opponent to Douye is also seeking legal action having faulted the primaries.

Alaibe dragged the PDP to court over alleged manipulation of the processes, noting that he was brazenly robbed.

Alaibe, who approached the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa in a suit numbered FHC/YNG/CS/99/2019 also included as defendants are PDP, Senator Douye Diri, INEC, and Embeleakpo Alale for himself and representing the elected local government chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors of the PDP allowed to be delegates at the elective State Congress of the PDP in Bayelsa State held on September 3, 2019.

Alaibe is seeking, with an application, for cancellation of the result of the primary election based on cited procedural flaws.

It would be recalled that the Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation had raised objections against what it described as crass disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines in the build-up to the conduct of the governorship primary election by the State Chapter of the PDP. The objection covered open disobedience to the party constitution and electoral guidelines and the manner in which Ward Congresses were conducted; among others.

Specifically, the Campaign Organisation had protested the inclusion of the newly elected council chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors in the delegates list contrary to the provisions of the PDP Constitution; the manner in which electoral and returning officers were picked to favour aspirants endorsed by the already biased leadership of the party in the state; the manner in which the 315 ad-hoc delegates were directed to vote contrary to already established judicial precedents; among other issues.

No date has yet been fixed for hearing in the case. It was gathered that Alaibe has since applied for the case to be moved to Abuja.

The governorship candidate, Diri, has continued to extend his hand of fellowship to Alaibe describing him as a political ally and brother despite the outcome of the primaries.

Diri had maintained that efforts were ongoing to reconcile all aspirants in the September 4 primary election of the party.

in a statement issued by his media campaign aides in Yenagoa, Diri said “For clarity, a lot of people saw me as a staff of NDDC but I wasn’t. I was a political ally and a close person to Chief Timi Alaibe, believing that we were going to enthrone a government in Bayelsa that would be more responsive to the people.

“I was with Chief Alaibe for about 10 years. One thing or the other happened in each election we attempted. Then he would return to NDDC. A few of us didn’t feel very comfortable with that.

“Just to let you know, we hail from the same local government area. So he is my brother. I see him as a brother and I believe that he too sees me as one.”

He however noted that they parted ways when he (Diri) accepted to join Governor Seriake Dickson’s campaign before the 2012 election.

With Alaibe’s return to PDP (in light of his ambition to run for governorship) many pundits had predicted that the party’s primaries would be intense and controversial in spite of the state being under the control of PDP.

For those in Alaibe’s camp, he was treated as an outcast from the outset by the Governor Seriake Dickson-led Restoration Team despite the fact that he was one of the foundation members of the team before he left the party some years ago. Alaibe however seems to be drawing support from some other political forces opposed to Dickson.

For Dickson and his team, on the other hand, the preservation of his political structure after he leaves office would require that he endures that Alaibe does not emerge the party’s candidate.

However, a fresh dimension to the crisis is the unfolding in the seeming unfavorable disposition of former President Goodluck Jonathan to the situation in the party in the state. Jonathan who hails from Bayelsa is reportedly not comfortable with the way Alaibe was treated during the primaries. Recall that Jonathan and other top PDP leaders were consciously absent at the flag off ceremony of the PDP campaign in the state.

The crisis further spread to the State Assembly where the speaker was impeached to accommodate the new zoning arrangement in the state barely days after failed moves to impeach the deputy governor, Gboribiogha John Jonah, a former aspirant who also fell out with the governor. A reconciliation team setup by the governor to address the crisis at the state level is yet to conclude its work.

Nevertheless, the national leadership of PDP has assured that it is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all its aggrieved members after the governorship primaries in Kogi and Bayelsa States are appeased.

The party also said it is poised for sweeping victory in the November 16 Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship elections, saying its grassroots structures have been activated in the two states ahead of the elections.

A statement from national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said its members and supporters have nothing to fear as reconciliatory efforts in the aftermath of the governorship primary elections in the two states are yielding immense results and further strengthening its structures and formation as one big, united and formidable family.

The Saraki Challenge

The enormity of the task was not lost on chairman of the reconciliation team, Saraki, and the two governors, Mohammed and Makinde, who are heading the PDP campaign in both states.

And they all expressed that much during the inauguration of their committees by Secondus.

In his remark, the  Bauchi State governor, Mohammed who chairs the campaign team for Bayelsa didn’t mince words when he noted his hesitance to take up the task in the face of the division within the party.

He however hinted that he eventually took on the job because he believed the former President Jonathan wouldn’t want to see the party fail.

Mohammed who is close to Jonathan (having served as minister of FCT during the tenure of the former president) however said he won’t stand by and watch Jonathan being relegated in the affairs of the party in the state, a clear indication, as some pundits opine, that all was not well.

Extolling the former President, the governor said, “Bayelsa is my second home.  As far as I am concerned after God is President Jonathan.”

Continuing he said “He (Jonathan) deepened democracy in Nigeria. I don’t think he will agree for what he has suffered for to be destroyed. We will go with our members to strategise on how to reconcile the people and retain the state for PDP.”

He however stressed, “The key to success in Bayelsa is unity.”

Mohammed will be hoping to use his closeness to the former first family to reach out to Alaibe and other aggrieved members of the PDP. Also as a governor it will be expected that he can convince his colleague to be more accommodating politically.

On his part, the Oyo State governor, Makinde, who heads the Kogi campaign team, also hinted at the division within the party in the state.

While he promised the party leadership that he would do them proud, he noted that the only way they can win the election is if they all unite.

Makinde who had earlier conducted a peaceful three man delegate election ahead of the PDP primaries in the state is quite conversant with the dynamics of the tussle.

In a clear reference to the major stakeholders in the state, the Oyo governor said “If they come together we shall win. Now we have one leg we shall go after the other leg, if they come together we shall win.”

The former Senate President Saraki, as chairman of the special reconciliation committee has the toughest task. His job will be instrumental to the success or failure of party at the election.  He is expected to leverage on his clout and his goodwill to rally the aggrieved members behind the party.

But speaking at the event, Saraki cautiously said the “two states are PDP states.  They are for us to loose.  It has to be about how we reconcile.”

In reference to one of the Kogi aspirants and former Governor, Capt Idris Wada, Saraki said, I am happy to see you here, you are a gentleman.  Seeing you here makes my job easy.  With your support and God’s guidance we will make progress.”

He added, “With our two governors we can get the states.”

While the political relationship between Saraki and former governor, Abubakar Idris seems cordial, the former senate President is seen as a political leader to Senator Dino Melaye, an aggrieved aspirant, whose woes were compounded by a court order for a rerun election after it voided his victory at the 2019 Kogi West senatorial polls.

Also, Saraki had publicly reconciled with Jonathan  ahead of PDP presidential primaries last year, salvaging what would have been an awkward situation in that Saraki was one of the arrow heads in the nPDP which fused into APC and contributed to the defeat of the former President in 2015.

Besides getting all the stakeholders, Dickson, Alaibe, Diri in the case of Bayelsa, and Abubakar Idris Wada in Kogi, to a round table, his ability to not just convince but guarantee all stakeholders that whatever political deal that is reached will be upheld is key, pundits opine.

However, his biggest challenge seems to be time.

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