The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may hold parallel conventions in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Port-Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, today, following the inability of the two groups in the party to resolve its zoning crisis.
The Acting Chairman, Senator Modu Sheriff, who is at the centre of the imbroglio, was making last minute efforts yesterday to pacify the factional group, led by former Information Minister Senator Jerry Gana, who has threatened to hold the parallel convention in Abuja, if Sheriff insisted on running for the national chairmanship.
Crisis erupted in the opposition party when Sheriff, who became the chairman when his predecessor, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, stepped aside, unfolded his ambition. Although the Northeast caucus, to which the position was zoned, has endorsed Sheriff, some pioneer members opposed his aspiration, saying that it was wrong to field a northerner as chairman when the party has also decided that the next presidential flag bearer should come from the North.
Besides, the aggrieved chieftains believed that Sheriff was unfit for the role because he defected to the party, barely a year ago, after losing the chairmanship battle in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
When the Gana’s group advised the NEC to postpone the convention to enable the respective state chapters resolve the crisis arising from the recent congresses, the suggestion was turned down.
The former minister lamented that the acting chairman, who had promised to handover at the convention, had perfected plans to succeed himself, contrary to earlier agreement.
A party elder, AlhajiInua Jibril, said Sheriff’s ambition is in bad faith, stressing that it will alter the balance between the North and South, in terms of the distribution of party offices.
But, plans for the factional convention billed for Abuja were sketchy as there have not been details about the delegates expected, the venue and the agenda. The Concerned PDP Stakeholders, which is coordinating chieftains opposed to Sheriff’s ambition, is silent on the details. Members of the group include former Governors Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Mahmound Skinkafi (Zamfara), Abulkadir Kure (Niger), Mohammed Makarfi (Kaduna), Achike Udenwa (Imo), Okwesilieze Nwodo (Enugu), Bonnie Haruna (Adamawa), Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) and Donald Duke (Cross River). Others are Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Taminu Turaki, Mrs. Zainab Maina, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Chief Duben Onyia, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Mrs. Remi Adikwu-Bakare, Dr. Doyin Okupe, Joseph Akaagerger, and Adamu Waziri.
Party sources said, if reconciliation hits the rock in the PDP, the aggrieved group may transform into a new party, with grave consequences for the two factions.
However, the stage is set for the Port-Harcourt convention, where pro-Sheriff forces are expected to elect him as the national chairman. The former Borno State governor is the sole chairmanship aspirant at the convention. He has the support of 11 governors, the National Executive Committee (NEC), a faction of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and majority members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
His support base widened yesterday, following the resolution of the Lagos PDP chapter to attend the Port-Harcourt convention. A Lagos PDP chieftain said: “Our chapter under the leadership of Hon. Goke Salvador will attend the Port-Harcourt convention. It is true that some of our leaders-Chief Bode George, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, Capt.Tunji Shelle and others are opposed to the zoning of the chairmanship to the North. But, we are for the peace of the party.”
Also attending the convention are the members of the disputed Southwest PDP Zonal Executive, led by Chief Eddy Olafeso, who is locked in battle with the out-going executive, led by Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe. Following the court order restraining Olafeso from parading himself as the zonal leader, it is doubtful if the convention will ratify his election at the recent congress.
Yesterday, delegates for the Port-Harcourt convention begun to arrive the Southsouth state. The delegates are from the 36 states. Although a court order had purportedly restrained the NEC from proceeding with the convention arrangements, sources said the national leadership has resolved to hold the convention, following advice from the party’s legal department.
Few days ago, the host governor, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, said the convention will hold as scheduled, adding that preparations have been concluded. He said: “The group opposing the convention is not known to the party.”