- State Assembly, House Of Reps Primaries May Hold Tomorrow
• Crises Fester In Anambra, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Cross River Chapters
• Aspirants Warn Against Imposition
• Imo SWC Orders N160,000 Compulsory Stipend For Delegates
• Ayu Expresses Worry Over Rising Insecurity, Insists Exercise Will Be Transparent
There is confusion, uncertainty and tension in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it has again postponed the dates for its primaries for the 2023 general election.
The Guardian learnt yesterday that the primaries, which were earlier scheduled to begin today with the election of State Houses of Assembly flag bearers, have been shifted. Accordingly, all other primary elections for other positions have been affected by the postponement.
Although no date has been announced for the commencement of the primaries, there were feelers last night that the exercise may hold on Sunday.
An official of the party who spoke in confidence disclosed that a meeting had been fixed for 9:00 pm (yesterday) after which a formal announcement on the new dates would be made.
Despite the development, feelers from across the states indicated that aspirants have been engaged in last minute manoeuverings towards getting a favourable outcome. This was even as the party yesterday expressed fears that the rising wave of insecurity across the country might have been orchestrated to provide opportunity for tenure elongation for the current administration.
Findings from many states indicated that many aspirants were not convinced that the party would conduct free and fair primaries and have been mounting pressure on the leadership to ensure a level playing ground.
Last Thursday, for instance, several women groups under the auspices of Women Support Women (WSW) marched to the Government House, Enugu, demanding that more women should be accommodated into elective offices in the state through the 2023 general election.
The women, who included some aspirants to the various elective positions in the PDP, told Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi that they were no longer comfortable that the 35 per cent affirmative action had not been fully implemented, insisting that at least 10 slots should be reserved for them in the 24-member State House of Assembly.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that no fewer than 20 women were vying for the State and National Assembly offices under the PDP. This is aside from the 19 aspirants that presented themselves for the governorship position seat in the state.
Out of the 19 governorship aspirants that procured forms, only the member representing Enugu North and South Federal Constituency, Offor Chukwuegbo, has withdrawn from the contest.
Chukwuegbo, who had traversed the nooks and crannies of the state to canvass for delegates’ votes, announced his withdrawal from the race at the weekend, but stated that he would like to retain his current seat at the House of Representatives.
Sources said he decided to quit the governorship race following pressure from constituents and the need to reduce the tension that was already building up in the constituency between his supporters and that of Josef Onoh, another governorship aspirant from the area.
While many pundits saw the move as a right step, the situation is Nkanu East local council was to the contrary, as eight aspirants from the council have insisted on going into the primary election. This was even as two factions emerged from the state chapter of the party after the ward and national delegates congresses, which produced parallel lists that are now before the courts for adjudication.
One of the suits filed at the Enugu High Court was said to have emanated from a group loyal to the state government, while a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who is a governorship aspirant, was said to be behind the other filed at the Federal High Court Abuja.
While the court in Enugu has given an order asking the national leadership of the party not to accept any other lists from the state except the one tendered by the faction loyal to the state government, the court in Abuja was yet to make a declaration on the matter.
The development has been creating tension in the state within the PDP camp and the contention would likely come into play when the party goes into primaries.
Amid the crisis, a former governor of Enugu State and senator representing Enugu East senatorial zone, Senator Chimaroke Nnanani, yesterday, described as untrue reports that he or his aides attacked anyone at a meeting with party delegates in Enugu.
The lawmaker said the meeting with the delegates from two local councils of the state was held at the open arena in the council secretariat of Enugu North Local Council under a convivial atmosphere.
The meeting with delegates was to seek their support for his re-election to the Senate in 2023.
He explained that on getting to the pavilion where many delegates were seated, he noticed that there was an altercation between a group of suspected thugs and security operatives over an attempt to break into the security ring around him.
In Imo State, aspirants were at loggerheads with the State Working Committee (SWC) over a directive asking them to pay each of the 900 delegates N160,000 as stipend.
A letter signed by the state Secretary of the party, Nze Ray Emeana, dated May 19, 2022, titled ‘Stipend to Delegates’ and addressed to all the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senatorial aspirants read in part: “In view of the need to minimise cost of party primaries and conserve funds for the general election, the SWC directs all aspirants to provide stipends only to enable delegates transport themselves to the venue of the primaries.
“The following stipends are hereby approved: House of Assembly, N30,000; House of Representatives, N50,000; Senate N80,000.
“The party will seriously frown at any aspirant or delegate who violates this directive and attempt to convert the primaries into commercial venture.
“All State Vice Chairmen of the Senatorial Districts are directed to appoint monitoring committees to ensure compliance and report any breach to the state party.”
However, many aspirants who spoke with The Guardian kicked against the directive, describing it as undemocratic. They castigated the party leadership for imposing stipend on them, saying they (SWC) should rather ensure a free and fair contest.
In Plateau State, a stalwart of the party, who preferred anonymity, told The Guardian that the primaries would be rowdy, because the aspirants were too many and have failed to reach a consensus.
He stated that over 50 aspirants were vying for the 24 state House of Assembly seats in the state, 15 aspirants for the eight House of Representatives seats and seven aspirants for three senatorial seats.
“The primaries will be rowdy, because PDP aspirants are about 20 for the governorship and none is ready to step down for the other. The intrigues here are that they are lobbying the delegates,” he said.
However, the state Publicity Secretary of the party, John Akans, said the party was ready for the conduct of the primaries, adding that they were praying for a peaceful exercise.
“We don’t have any problem at all, as everything is in place. As of now, we are waiting for the national leadership of the party to give us a go ahead on what to do next. Everything, including preparation is in order and we pray for a peaceful exercise,” Akans stated.
Similarly, the leadership of the party in Kebbi State has declared that all was ready for the conduct of the primary elections following the failure of the aspirants to arrive at a consensus.
The Guardian gathered that the party leadership held a meeting with all the governorship aspirants last Thursday at the state headquarters in Birnin Kebbi. It was further learnt that the meeting lasted for over five hours, but ended in deadlock.
A party official who spoke in confidence said: “You see, we held a secret meeting where we thought we could agree on a single candidate but our people failed to agree with each other. So, they should go and slug it out and see who will win.”
However, the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Bello Suru, said that all the necessary arrangements had been concluded for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the primary.
Fearing that there were plots to impose some candidates on the people, youths numbering over 500 have warned leadership of the party in Gombe State against the alleged move, threatening to withdraw their support for the party should the will of the majority be subverted.
Speaking yesterday at a seminar to sensitise youths on the 2023 general election, two PDP aspirants for the State House of Assembly, Mr. Benjamin Dangoma and Moses Doro advised the party to learn from past mistakes in 2019.
“The bottleneck in the party now is that you suddenly realise that the delegates are no longer in possession of their votes. If you go to lobby or campaign to a delegate in Gombe here or Abuja, they will say ‘go and meet the person that put me here’.
“So the primaries is not about the delegates who are going to vote, but about somebody who is sitting at the comfort of his home in Gombe or Abuja that you have to go and seek his support for vote when he is not even the person who is going to vote,” said Dangoma, who is aspiring for Biliri West Constituency.
The aspirant, who said he had information about plans to impose certain aspirants, declared, “I am not going to accept any form of manipulation.”
Similarly, Doro, who is aspiring to represent Biliri East constituency, encouraged youths in the state to participate actively in party politics since they form the majority of voting populace.
He said: “The place of youths is no longer appreciated; youths are not given the mandate to lead. So, we are trying to see how our elders and political fathers can look into this and make sure that youths are given quality representation.”
Speaking with The Guardian, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Murhtala Usman, debunked the alleged plan by the party to impose candidates during the primaries.
He called for calm, assuring youths of fairness and a level playing ground.
In Osun State, it was gathered that no less than 115 members of party were vying for the 26 seats in the House of Assembly.
The aspirants have been canvassing for the votes and support of delegates and party leaders ahead of the primaries.
Meanwhile, The Guardian learnt that some leaders of the party had been trying to hijack the process by preventing aspirants from reaching out to the delegates directly.
With the internal bickering plaguing the major opposition party in the state, the exercise might not hold without rancour, as the peace move by the national leadership was yet to bear the desired result.
Sources revealed that money would play a major role in the emergence of candidates.
Reacting, one of the aspirants who pleaded for anonymity, said: “I can confirm to you that the primary will hold on Sunday and I heard that about 115 members of the party have obtained forms to contest the primary election. Whether the exercise will be free and fair will depend on the party leadership, because some leaders of the party were already having issues with delegates. Some leaders feel that delegates should ordinarily queue behind them as to the choice of their aspirants. Meanwhile, most delegates would like to access the aspirants directly. It’s about money now because everyone wants to be settled.”
In the South South zone, the party was also seriously enmeshed in the delegates’ crisis, as the PDP chapters in Akwa-Ibom and Cross River States have not been able to resolve their disputes.
Although the party is desperate to take back power from the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State, the issue of consensus and zoning, especially regarding the post of governorship, was threatening its unity.
While members from the Southern Senatorial District have insisted on a consensus arrangement, some of the aspirants and stakeholders have refused to tag along. They warned the leadership of possible mass defection if they decide to toe the path of consensus or zoning.
The State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prince Mike Ojisi, however, said the party would give all aspirants a level playing ground at the primaries. He explained that as an opposition party, they would not limit themselves.
“We are ensuring a level playing ground for all the aspirants. For now there are no issues of zoning. This is because as an opposition party, we need our best hands in different positions and not limit ourselves,” he stated.
In Anambra State, there was anxiety among aspirants and chieftains of the party across the 21 local councils of the state, as the party has been terribly split into antagonistic parts over the control of delegates. As at the time of filing this report, it was not certain who made the list of delegates from the state.
In another development, The Guardian learnt that the delay by President Muhammadu Buhari in signing the latest amendment made by the National Assembly on the Electoral Act was attracting serious concerns from party leaders. If the president fails to sign the amendment, no statutory delegate would vote in the primaries.
The amendment was effected recently to include statutory delegates in the categories of persons that could vote during the primaries.
The National Assembly had omitted statutory delegates from the list of delegates to vote at the primaries.
Those identified as ‘statutory delegates’ include the President, Vice President, Members of the National Assembly, Governors and their deputies, Members of the State Houses of Assembly, Chairmen of Councils, Councillors, National Working Committee of political parties, amongst others.
Amid worries by party faithful over the forthcoming primaries, the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, has raised the alarm that the rising wave of insecurity in the country as the 2023 elections draw closer might be a ploy to extend the tenure of the current administration.
Ayu, who spoke while receiving the European Union (EU) ambassador to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, said: “Today, insecurity is at its peak and extending beyond the rural areas and even coming to the urban centers. We worry about post elections as a political party. We have demonstrated that democracy is best when you transit smoothly from one electoral cycle to the other.
“And they shouldn’t hang in there and create an atmosphere of instability in the country. So, the current escalation of violence in the country we hope, and we pray, that it is not deliberately being orchestrated to extend the tenure of this administration, which has failed the country.”
He appealed to the EU to provide some technical aides to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to achieve better results in voters’ registration.
The party lamented that the number of registered voters was too small compared to what it ought to be.
According to him, the electoral umpire required more assistance to be more credible.
“It is true our INEC may be doing its best, but we still think they can do better. Registration of voters in Nigeria is very low. It is not just the mobilisation by the political parties, but it is also about the technical capacity of INEC to go out there and register Nigerians. In a population of almost 200 million people, we expect that 40 per cent of the population should be captured on the electoral register and that is not the case. I think what we have today is less than five per cent and it’s not good enough.
“Therefore, we want to call on EU and all our friends that can help in that direction to make sure that more people are captured on the on the electoral register,” he pleaded.
On the need to ensure free and fair elections in 2023, the PDP national chairman said: “And then thirdly, I would want to draw the attention of the EU and all our friends to the fact that we want free and fair elections in the country. The signals that we are getting are not very encouraging.”
He expressed confidence that whoever emerges as the presidential candidate of the party would become the next president of Nigeria.
“As a political party, we are having our convention in the next eight days. And in the tradition of this party we want our convention to be very transparent. We will provide a fair and open view to everybody for all 15 presidential aspirants.
“We know that in the next eight days, we will know the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, because once the delegates in our political party, cast their vote, and the pronouncement is made on who is the candidate of the PDP, we will not be calling him candidate of the PDP, we will be calling him the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
CULLED FROM THE GUARDIAN