The waiver granted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to its new members to enable them contest elections on the platform of the party is creating bad blood among its members, though the party says loyalty pays, writes ONYEKACHI EZE
do State Governor, Godwin Obaseki who joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) June 19 after his disqualification by the All Progressives Congress (APC) screening committee, last Thursday, emerged the candidate of the PDP for the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.
Obaseki joined the PDP governorship race that same day. He qualified to run for the office following a waiver granted him by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC). His running mate, Philip Shuiabu, also enjoyed the same privilege.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said the waiver granted Governor Obaseki and his deputy to contest the Edo governorship election primary was in pursuant to section 29(2)(b) of the party’s “constitution and in exercise of the powers of the National Executive Committee (NEC) under Section (50)(3)(b) of the PDP constitution.”
Ordinarily, Obaseki was not qualified to run for the PDP governorship now because he has not yet spent a mandatory minimum of nine months as a member of the party, as provided for in the PDP constitution.
Ironically, before his defection, three other aspirants had bought the PDP nomination form, for the party’s primary. They include a member of the House of Representatives, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, an educationist, Chief Kenneth Imasuagbon and Gideon Ikhime.
Now Obaseki who had enjoyed his good time in APC over the years has beaten them to the party’s ticket. And if he wins the September 19 governorship, he will enjoy another four years as Edo governor over and above PDP members who had laboured to build and sustain the party while he was having good times in APC.
PDP has also granted waiver to Agboola Ajayi, the Ondo State governor who joined the party from APC last week. Ajayi is among the nine aspirants seeking to fly the PDP flag in the October 10 Ondo State governorship poll.
Though the PDP in the state has said that no aspirant would be given preferential treatment, there are indications that the defection is creating bad blood among frontline aspirants like Dr. Eddy Olafeso and Mr. Eyitayo Jegede who have consistently remained in the party.
Some PDP leaders see the defection of the deputy governor as a big boost to the party in the state, where won the presidential election in 2019, along with two senatorial seats and memberships of the House of Representatives. It was even rumored that arrangement were in progress to ensure that Jegede becomes Agboola’s runningmate.
Usually, application for waiver passes through stages. A member seeking for waiver will first apply through his ward executive, which will in turn send it to the local government and state executives of the party. If such is approved at these three levels, the application will be send to the NEC meeting for ratification. But where it was not expedient to convene NEC meeting, (as in the case of Governor Obaseki) the NWC can give temporary approval subject to ratification by NEC.
Oftentimes, bad blood is created and could lead to electoral loss if not well managed. Anambra State is typical example.
PDP has not been able to recover Anambra State since it lost it to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2006.
In 2013, the party stood a good chance but the emergence of former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as PDP candidate robbed the party of the opportunity. Soludo was regarded as a stranger in PDP, and his choice was greeted with protests by party members from the state.
Chuma Nwafo who led a group of 23 governorship aspirants to the PDP headquarters in Abuja said “people have invested in Anambra State PDP since 1999, why must we give it (the governorship ticket) to someone who came yesterday.”
The same scenario played out in the 2017 governorship election in the state when Mr. Oseloka Obaze emerged as candidate. Other aspirants ganged up against him, and PDP came second in the election behind the ruling party in the state, APGA.
Obaze came with former governor, Peter Obi to PDP from APGA. Obi who had served eight years as governor on APGA platform was given preference over PDP members, to produce the party’s governorship candidate.
PDP faced the same challenge in 2018 when a group of 13 governorship aspirants in Benue State kicked against the defection of the state governor, Samuel Ortom from APC. The group at a press conference objected to the decision of dissolving the party’s executive committees at all levels to accommodate those joining the party with the governor.
Chairman of the forum, Prof. David Ker, said free and fair primaries would assuage their feelings.
“We reiterate that a level playing field for a free, fair and transparent primary election which has been promised us by the Benue State leadership of the PDP remains the only option by which the party could credibly and successfully nominate a governorship candidate in the 2019 governorship election, if indeed the party is serious at recapturing power from the present APC-controlled government in the state,” Ker demanded.
PDP was able to retain the state after working out harmonious and agreeable sharing formula between the old and new members.
The party was not however, successful in Kwara State after the return of former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and former Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed, to PDP. The return engineered massive movement of members from the party to the APC.
There was a mass defection of PDP members to APC immediately Saraki and the governor defected to the party.
Apart from the governor, Saraki returned to PDP with two serving senators, six members of the House of Representatives and members of the Kwara State House of Assembly. He was favoured in the sharing of party structure by party leadership over old members who had rebuilt it after Saraki and others left in 2014.
Chairman of PDP in Kwara State, Iyiola Oyedepo, said in a radio programme, “we inherited nothing and so whatever you see in the PDP today is the product of our efforts.”
Oyedepo was not happy that the PDP national leadership arrived at 60:40 sharing formula, 60 percent for a state defecting with the governor and 40 percent for the existing PDP members.
“They have not met with us but our national body said they have set up a committee to meet with the two sides … and when that meeting comes up, we are going to tell the national body that we cannot accept the formula they have put down,” the aggrieved party chairman stated.
Former PDP National Legal Adviser, Oluaole Oke, left the party to APC in 2015 in protest over the seizure of the party structure by former Governor Olusegun Mimiko when he defected to PDP from Labour Party. Oke and other PDP members, including Olu Agonloye, were sidelined while former Labour Party members who joined the party with Mimiko were given PDP tickets in the 2015 general elections.
The party was not free of the crisis during the campaign ahead of the presidential primary. Four front runners to the presidential ticket – Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Senator Saraki and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, were returnees to PDP. The four had joined forces with APC in 2015, which led to the PDP’s defeat.
And while members of the party, the likes of former Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC), Alhaji Mohammed Makarfi, former President of the Senate, David Mark, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, among others, were having sleepless nights during the over a year leadership crisis in 2016/17, Atiku and co were enjoying their peace in the APC. The old members alleged preferential treatment by the party leadership to the returnees.
At the party’s National Convention in Port Harcourt in 2018, the returnees came first, second and third, to the chagrin of the old members who had nursed the party after it was abandoned.
During the campaign for the 2019 presidential ticket, Lamido advised the party delegates to look in the direction of faithful and loyal party members while deciding on the flag bearers.
“I am a foundation member of the party and has never left the fold since its formation in 1999. I have served the party and the country in various capacities which has prepared me for the challenges of governing Nigeria,” Lamido said.
Makarfi had at the December 2017 electives PDP national convention, assured party members loyalty to the party would be rewarded. While assuring returning and new members of accommodation in the party, Makarfi assured “members that loyalty to the party does, indeed pay and is rewarded …the loyalty, sacrifices, commitment and dedication of those who stuck with the party through thick and thin were not denigrated in any way.”