National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor Murtala Nyako of his home state-Adamawa-have taken their battle for the soul of the party in the state to the PDP special national convention opening in Abuja today.
Each side wants only its own supporters accredited for the convention.
The dispute was the major challenge facing the party last night ahead of the convention opening.
But Tukur appeared to have an edge with the party leadership insisting on accrediting delegates identified by Chief Joel Madaki-led faction of the party, which is loyal to the national chairman.
A member of the interim National Working Committee (INWC) said: “We have made our position known that we will only recognise delegates presented by Joel Madaki Executive Council in Adamawa State .
“We will not allow any delegate from Minjiyawa Umar Kugama faction to be part of the National Convention.
“The party is not going to stop statutory delegates from the convention. But other purportedly elected delegates by Kugama faction should forget coming.”
The national chairman is also said to be insisting on picking those who will work with him in the national executive committee.
On this, he has the support of the Presidency, although other interests in the party are also insisting on having their elected candidates.
The most contentious is the position of the National Publicity Secretary which was vacated by Chief Olisa Metuh in June. Metuh is still in the race.
While the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, is backing Metuh for the job, Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State is supporting Obi Madueke for the position.
Madueke is a brother-in-law to the Minister of Petroleum, Dieziani Allison Madueke. Also in contention is Longers Anyanwu, who is being backed by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha.
Other contestants for the position include Chide Ofodile, whose chief backer is billionaire businessman, Sir Emeka Ofor, while another Igbo businessman, Arthur Eze, has thrown his weight behind another aspirant, Mr. Okey Muo Aroh.
It is also believed that some power brokers in the Presidency are supporting a neutral aspirant, Dr. Katch Ononuju, who is perceived to be free of any influence of the power brokers. Forces in the Presidency are said to be aligned with Tukur on the choice of Ononuju who is highly respected for his intellect and grasp of political issues.
About 6,000 policemen, security agents, members of the Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) have been deployed in and around the Eagle’s Square venue of the convention to ensure a trouble-free gathering.
No fewer than 3,500 delegates are expected to vote at the convention where 17 national officers will stand for election.
Delegates will also vote to fill the vacant positions in the National Working Committee (NWC). Occupants of the positions were eased out courtesy of a report by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which voided the process through which they emerged in the 2012 convention.
The Square was swept by security men ahead of the convention.
It was also learnt that those arrested in connection with alleged plot to disrupt the convention had been asked to sign an undertaking by security agencies.
A security source said: “The screening of the venue will continue throughout the night. We are not taking anything for granted at all.
“I can assure you that with inter-agency cooperation, we will provide tight security for the convention.
“We are talking of more than 6,000 policemen, security agents, civil defence corps and FRSC for the convention.”
On alleged plot to disrupt the convention, the source said: “Having identified those behind the threat posters, we have quizzed them and asked them to write undertaking to ensure peace at the convention. We are also keeping them under watch.”
Delegates are to vote for the vacant positions in the National Working Committee (NWC). Occupants of the positions were eased out courtesy of a report by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which voided the process through which they emerged in the 2012 convention.
Highlight of the convention is the election of officials to fill certain positions in the national executive committee. he National Caucus of the party on Thursday night recommended that all the six geopolitical zones should come up with consensus candidates to make the poll a formality. However, moves to stop some members of the National Working Committee failed at press time yesterday. Only eight out of the affected 17 officers had been endorsed last night. Those adopted by their geopolitical National Caucus include Prince Uche Secondus (Deputy National Chairman); the Deputy National Secretary, Onwe O. Onwe; the National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; Buhari Bala (National Treasurer); Abubakar Mustapha (National Organising Secretary); Abdullahi Husseini Maibafira (Youth Leader).
A source in the Interim National Working Committee said: “I am aware horse-trading is going on, but our leaders are trying to plead with some contestants to step down for the returnee NWC members. “We have mandated all the six geopolitical caucuses to try to harmonise and adopt consensus candidates for election at the convention. “One of the arguments of the National Caucus was that it is not that these NWC returnees had done anything wrong before we asked them to resign. They were elected for a four-year mandate; the leaders believe they should complete their tenure. “The party merely asked them to resign in compliance with INEC’s demand to ensure a proper conduct of election into some offices. “If these NWC returnees are stopped from coming back to office, we will be laying a bad precedent because PDP members might not obey party’s directive in future if we fall into a similar circumstance.” Responding to a question, the source said: “We are trying to make the election a mere formality. But if some aspirants refuse to step down, we may conduct election into one or two offices at the convention.
“So far, it is still a matter of horse-trading.” Screening of the aspirants was ongoing at press time. Chairman of the committee, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba pledged that the committee would ensure fairness in the discharge of its assignment. It was feared last night that the late commencement of the screening might not give enough room for aggrieved aspirants to seek redress. But Ndoma-Egba said the committee would work round the clock before the commencement of voting. Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of the Convention Planning Committee and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, said adequate preparations had been made to ensure a hitch-free congress. “There are 146 voting points where delegates will be voting at a time. This is meant to fasten the process of voting. Voting would be concluded on time because it will commence as soon as the President arrives.
It is expected to be concluded within three hours, after which sorting would commence.” Ihedioha added that there will be voting to fill every vacant position, to avoid the pitfall of the past where those who won by affirmation in the 2012 convention had heir elections voided by the INEC. The expulsion of former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, by the Rivers PDP was reversed by the national leadership of the party. Jaja described his purported expulsion as an embarrassment to the leadership of the party. “As as a member of National Executive Committee, NEC, National Caucus and Board of Trustees of the party it is beyond the state executive of the party to expel me”, he said, adding: ”I think I should be the one inviting them as a state to come and give account, and not them inviting me to come and give account. It is like the African adage where the leg is now tying the hand. “Come to think of it, I resigned in June, over two months now, so what are you inviting me for; for someone who has resigned his position to come and give account? That is assuming they have a right to invite me.”