Barely one week to the make or mar national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its lean finances could throw spanner in its works, especially in the face of major funders plotting to have their way.
In addition to that, with the rancour and deep suspicion that currently exists among contestants, particularly national chairmanship candidates, the party’s leadership has been drawn into a brewing crisis, which if not quelled could have dire consequences.
But despite the arm-twisting tactics of moneybags in the party, and allegations of bias levelled against its leadership, a top-ranking leader of the party claims the leadership is still very much in charge, and would not allow its independence to be eroded.
“I can tell you that this caretaker committee is very strict and protects the independence of the party very well,” he declared.
He, however, admitted that, “It is natural to seek to assist the party financially, but the problem that has always been there is that there are no free will donations from anywhere, as those who bring in money would like to exercise one form of influence or the other. In the face of this, the ability of the leadership to stay independent and neutral is the deciding factor.”
Bringing The Guardian up to speed with preparations for the convention, Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said, “Well, as far as I am concerned, we are on course. Of course, we have funding gaps, but I believe relevant party men and women should be able to contribute in good time for the convention to go ahead. We have already served the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with notice, letters are being written to relevant agencies on issues of security and other things, and essential documents have been printed.”
He continued: “The key ingredients required for a convention to take place have been established. Elected delegates have emerged all over the country. I am not aware at the moment that there is an appeal from anywhere in respect of election of the national delegates. Even if there is any, I am sure we would be able to deal with that within a week. So, we are basically on course. A total of 774 delegates have been elected, the rest of over 2, 000 are statutory delegates. So, I just have to say that I believe we are fully on course and there is no reason that can lead to the postponement of the convention. The venue has been secured and has been paid for. So, what again remains?”
Later on when budget estimates for the convention were sought, there was no clear response from Makarfi, even though he reiterated that the party leadership had invited members to make financial contributions towards funding the convention.
In a text message, Makarfi said: “We will do with whatever little funding comes in. That’s why we are asking people to sacrifice and make personal contributions.”
One of the nine chairmanship aspirants and former deputy national chairman, Chief Olabode George, while reviewing issues and challenges facing the convention, concluded that the party’s leadership goofed by throwing the contest for the national chairman open to the entire three zones in the South.
According to him, the failure to restrict the contest to just a zone within the southern region led to the proliferation of aspirants and the attendant rancour and suspicion among key stakeholders.
He urged the party to be prepared to manage the possible crisis that may ensue during and after the convention.
On the threat of a parallel convention, he dissociated himself from such, pointing out that as a pioneer leader of the party, he had never considered such an option, and that it could only worsen the chances of conflict resolution.
Former Women Affairs Minister, who is in the race to become Deputy National Chairman (North), Hajia Inna Ciroma, has cautioned against politics of bitterness and desperation among aspirants.
She told The Guardian at the party’s national secretariat that she was not in the race as a matter of life and death, and therefore advised contestants to reduce the desperation, and reserve more energy for the battle that would ensue between the PDP and other parties, ahead of the 2019 general election.
The immediate past PDP National Women Leader tasked the party to come up with robust programmes that would appeal to the yearnings of Nigerians across the country.
“We must start to come up with programmes on what we want to do for Nigerians. The PDP must be united and ensure that there is no acrimony.
Whether you are a Christian or Muslim, you must realise that power comes from God. In whatever we do, the party must come first,” she advised.
The Guardian reliably learnt that a serious issue fuelling suspicion, particularly against the Makarfi-led caretaker committee is the alleged plan to manipulate the list of delegates to the convention.
The director of the campaign team of one of the chairmanship aspirants had claimed that there exists a plan to ‘doctor’ the delegates’ list in favour of a particular aspirant few days to the convention.
To solve the problem, he challenged the caretaker committee to publish the delegates’ list.
But Makarfi, who dismissed all the allegations, informed party leaders during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party that because the lists of delegates were generated from the state chapters, he had invited all state chairmen to Abuja and presented the lists to them for confirmation.