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NIGERIA: Crisis Rocks C’River PDP over Caucus Leaders

 There are indications that the Cross River State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may soon suffer an implosion as crisis is brewing within it, following the appointment of some persons as the party’s caucus leaders in its 18 local government areas’.

Already, a group of the party’s members operating on the aegis of  PDP Conscience Group has kicked against the appointment of the caucus leaders, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional and, therefore, unacceptable.

At a press briefing addressed by the PDP Conscience Group, made up of professionals and stakeholders  in Calabar yesterday, it stated that the appointment of the caucus leaders contravened the constitution of the PDP 2012 as amended.

The members promised to fight against the policy to a logical conclusion.

The spokesperson of the group, Chief Oga Ndoma-Egodo, who addressed journalists on the matter, said: “If we make the constitution for ourselves, we are also bound by that constitution. If you begin to jettison your constitution and go outside it to do something different, however tiny the membership is, they have the right to say no, it is not correct.

“If we look at the most recent event that irked me and got me very upset, just that we are living in a community where people are not thinking; it is the issue of the establishment of composition of the caucuses across the 18 local governments areas.”

Ndoma Egodo, a former Chairman of Ikom Local Government Area, said the appointment of caucus leaders over and above the chairman of the local government area chapters of the party, who are constitutionally recognised as chairman of the caucuses, was a deliberate attempt at bringing in some people to take over the legal responsibilities of the chapter chairmen.

He read a section of the party’s constitution to support the group’s claim, saying: “17. (1) There shall be a local government area caucus of the party in each local council and area council of the federation which shall consist of the following members- “(a) The local government area chairman of the party, who shall be the chairman; (b) The local government party chairman, secretary, treasurer, woman and youth leader; (c) national, nonal, state and senatorial district executive members of the party from local government area; (d) National Assembly members from local government area; (e) Members of the BoT from the local government area; (f) Political office holders from the local government area; (g) All former National Assembly members from the senatorial district who are still in the party; (h) The chairman, vice chairman, secretary of the local government area and three supervisory councillors selected by the chairman, who are  members of the party; and (i) five elders of the party in the local government area, two of whom shall  be women chosen by the caucus.”

The group accused the party leadership in the state of using the caucuses to conduct screening of aspirants for various offices, stressing that as far as the PDP constitution was concerned, the caucuses of the party whose function is advisory, has no constitutional mandate to screen aspirants and determined those cleared or disqualified to contest elections.

“They were appointed without being inaugurated yet they are beginning to call aspirants to pay N300, 000 each. In one breathe, you say no campaigns in the same breathe you screen people. Who authorised it? This thing can snowball into crisis,” ENdoma-godo said.
He stated that the PDP caucus also lacked the constitutional role to zone elective positions ahead of the 2015 general elections.

A accusing the party leadership of manipulating the party caucuses to scheme out qualified members of the party from seeking elective offices, Egodo said: “ So, sitting down here as professionals and stakeholders in this party, I urge us to start this fight to stop this thing. Let the party correct this thing and do the proper thing to avert crisis and overheating the system.”

But, the leadership of the PDP in the state has defended its actions on the appointment of caucus leaders for the local government  areas’ chapters of the PDP in the state.

The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Joe Obi Bisong, who reacted to the protest launched by the PDP conscience group told journalists yesterday that: “The constitution of the PDP does not approve chairmen of the party to be leaders of caucus. The constitution says the chapter chairman of the party is the chairman of the caucus of that chapter, not the leader. There is a great difference between being the chairman of the caucus and being the leader of the caucus. Let me draw and example.

The governor is the leader of the party. The state chairman is state chairman. So we have drawn a distinction between a chapter chairman or chapter caucus chairman and the leader of the party in such an area….

“It is not intended to outsmart or scheme out anybody. So that is the position of the party.”

Bisong also spoke on the allegation made by the group that the caucuses were busy collecting monies from the various aspirants on the party’s platform.

Bisong said, “The party has not directed anybody to collect any money from anybody in Cross River State. If the northern senatorial caucus for instance decides to collect money from aspirants, the party is not aware and we want to dissociate ourselves from such an illegal collection.

“Perhaps, if they let us know why they are collecting that amount of money and the party approves of it, then at that level, we can take ownership, but for now, to the best of our knowledge, we are not aware of such a levy. We didn’t authorise it. It is unconstitutional. And it is unaccepted by the party.”

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