Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The cold war brewing in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abia State, assumed a dangerous twist, Wednesday, as majority of the governorship aspirants united to resist imposition in the party.
The aggrieved aspirants who addressed a press conference in Abuja, warned the state leadership of the party not to take them for granted.
The aspirants also warned that the party might be headed for implosion if the Asiforo Okere-led leadership fails to allow internal democracy and due process in the process of choosing the party’s flag bearers in the 2023 general election.
This is coming on the heels of the controversy over the conduct of the three-man delegate congress.
The aspirants accused “a segment of the party leadership” of an attempt to manipulate the congress in favour of ‘an anointed governorship aspirant.’
Some of the aspirants at the briefing were: Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (governorship aspirant); Deputy Governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu (governorship aspirant); former Chairman of PDP, Senator Emma Nwaka (governorship aspirant); and Member representing Ukwa East and South Federal Constituency, Hon. Uzoma Nkem Abonta (House of Representatives aspirant).
Others were son of former Deputy Governor, and governorship aspirant, Enyinna Nwafor; former Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Dr. Sampson Orji (governorship aspirant); Chief Ncheta Omerekpe (governorship aspirant); Dr Chima Anyaso (gubernatorial aspirant); and Secretary of PDP in the state, David Iro.
They said that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had in a letter marked: INEC/DEPM/CWO/041/III, dated May 13, and signed by Secretary to the Commission, Rose Oriaran-Anthony, confirmed that there was no three-man delegate election anywhere in Abia.
But the state leadership of the party, has disagreed with the aggrieved aspirants, insisting that contrary to their claims, the party has successfully concluded its delegates congress in the state.
The text of the press conference by the aggrieved aspirants made available to Ikengaonline read in part:” It is no longer news that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abia State Chapter, has been grappling with self-inflicted problems that could lead to a major destructive implosion.
“At the centre of the vexed issues is the obvious manipulation by a tiny segment of the State Executive Committee of the party to yield to plots at subverting the democratic process, which is geared towards achieving a predetermined goal of imposition at all levels.
“We are therefore, here in our party’s Abuja National headquarters to alert the party and the Nigerian public of this ugly development, which if not stopped could spell doom for the party ahead of the 2023 general election not only in Abia State but in the South-East as a whole.
“Taking our people for granted by subverting their wish and aspiration with a blatant concoctment of what never happened is the height of impunity that we all must resist, particularly the National Working Committee (NWC) of our great party.”
The aspirants insisted that contrary to lies and claims by a segment of the party’s leadership, no three-man delegates election held in the state.
“There was not and has never been any Ward Congress to elect the 3-man Ad hoc delegates in Abia State. The congress, earlier scheduled to hold on 30th April 2022, due to a court order could not hold and was re-scheduled to hold on May 4th, 2022.
“It also failed to hold on that date because of a public holiday declared in Abia State and since then none has been held, neither has there been any communication for another congress by PDP National Headquarters.
“This can be verified vide an official letter from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that confirmed the last official communication between it and PDP to the effect that no congresses to elect the 3-man Ad-hoc delegates for the party primary elections has held up till today.
“We heard via rumours that there is a list of delegates flying around and in the custody of the NWC purporting it to have been a product of a congress held on 6th May 2022.
It is preposterous that what is being bandied as a list emanated from an imaginary congress conducted vide a letter of notice to the Abia State Resident Electoral Commissioner signed by the Abia State Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Allwell Asiforo Okere.
“The implication being that the functions of NEC and NWC were performed by a State Chairman of the party and NOT the National Chairman and Secretary.
“Our great party should therefore disregard any of such list especially now that INEC has come forward to clarify that it neither received any communication from the PDP National Chairman and the National Secretary to participate nor did it monitor any such exercise as required by both the INEC Guidelines for Political Parties Section 1.2 which stipulates a mandatory 7-day notice to INEC and Section 82(5) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“The National Legal adviser, we believe, knows the implications of going ahead to use such legally unknown delegates in the primary elections and should advise the NWC accordingly, unless the party wants to enjoy the unenviable luxury of walking towards self destruction.
“Note: that Mr. Asiforo Okere in writing and sending such notice, clearly overreached himself and by doing so flagrantly ran foul of the extant laws both that of the PDP and the Electoral Act. The Act provides for the channels of communication between the political parties and the INEC.
“The commission as the Electoral Act provides, relates only with the National Executives of political parties. Therefore, communications for the purposes of congresses and convention must be through the National Chairman and the National Secretary. Assuming without conceding that a congress held on the 6th of May 2022, where did the Abia State Chairman of PDP derive his powers to solely conduct a party congress and even write to invite the State Resident Electoral Commissioner for the same purposes?
“It will be imprudent for the NWC to be seen to have allowed its powers to be so usurped knowing the dire consequences of such action on the electoral process and the quest to enhance the fortunes of the party in the 2023 general election.
On the way forward, the aspirants, urged the national leadership of the party to jettison three-man delegates and use only statutory delegates in conducting its primaries in Abia.
“We therefore urge the NWC of our great party to use ONLY STATUTORY (AUTOMATIC) delegates for the forthcoming primaries to avoid a looming disaster for all our aspirants at all levels in Abia State.
“While doing this we also wish to let the NWC know that we have also heard of plans to doctor the authentic Statutory Delegate list.
“We know who the statutory delegates are and have therefore as a matter of urgency applied for the Certified True Copy of the list from the National Organizing Secretary of the party and from INEC.”
But in a swift reaction, the state leadership of the party told the aggrieved aspirants to stop blackmailing the party, insisting that the three-man delegate congress actually held.
The party said the lists of delegates for the forthcoming primaries had equally been transmitted to the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
Vice Chairman of the party, Abia North, cum the Acting Publicity Secretary of the party, Elder Abraham Amah, accused the aggrieved aspirants of misinterpreting the INEC letter.
Amah in a statement said: “The enquiry which is being misinterpreted only said in the second paragraph that the last correspondence it received from the PDP National Headquarters was the one that scheduled the Abia State Ward Congresses to May 4, 2022.
“The INEC did not say that the Abia State Ward Congress did not hold as being insinuated and it is mischievous to attach such interpretations to a very clear and simple response.”
He insisted that contrary to counter claims by aggrieved persons, Abia PDP has concluded its three-man delegate congress.
“To confirm that the Congresses held on May 6, 2022, as communicated to the State INEC office by the State PDP, a letter from the State Chairman of the PDP, Rt. Hon Alwell Asiforo dated May 4, 2022, stated that the National Working Committee, NWC of the PDP has appointed members of the Abia Ward Congresses Electoral Committee. The said letter detailed the composition of the Abia State Ward Congresses Electoral Committee and is available as proof that the election actually held.
“Abia State INEC has since acknowledged receipt of the letter with a duly stamped copy dated May 5, 2022 and returned to the Abia State Party Secretariat.
“In the said letter, the following were named as Chairman and members of the Electoral Committee: Rt. Hon. Kenneth Okon (Chairman); Hon. Nsikak Udoh C; Chief Gaius Anyanwu; Hon. Damian Ozurumba (members); and Mr Remmanuel Okure, Secretary.
“To be very clear, there is no law that says that all communications between the Party and the election umpire, INEC, must come from the national level.
“The National Headquarters of the Party communicates with the National Headquarters of INEC while the State Party office communicates with the State INEC office. The State Chairman by writing to the Abia State Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC did not in any way usurp the powers of the National Working Committee, NWC of the Party.
“In times like this when well meaning Nigerians are making best efforts to ensure we practice true federalism through the devolution of powers, it is surprising that the very people that should uphold the principle of true federalism are the ones kicking against it for selfish ends.
“The Party is using this medium to inform the good people of Abia State that the members of the Abia State Ward Congresses Electoral Committee conducted the free and fair elections peacefully under the supervision of INEC officials in the 184 Wards in Abia State and have since returned the results to the Party Headquarters in Abuja.
“We ask the general public to discountenance the incorrect and false information making the rounds that the Ward Congresses did not hold.
“We ask all Party faithful to trust the ability of the State leadership to steer our party’s affairs and maintain its lead in the state, especially as it concerns the 2023 general election.”