2017 Convention: PDP elects new leaders (LIVE UPDATES)

The Peoples Democratic Party is holding its national convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja, today.

Unlike the last convention in Port Harcourt which was doomed by lawsuits that went up to the Supreme Court, today’s event appears less controversial.

Delegates and other party faithful from across the country have been arriving at the nation’s capital for the big event since last week.

About 3,000 delegates — elected and statutory— are expected to vote to fill the positions of the national chairman and several other national offices.

An official list of all the candidates and their targeted offices is expected to be released later today.

The party has been under the supervision of different interim national executives since May 2015 when Adamu Mu’azu resigned as part of the fallout from the 2015 election woes.

Mr. Mu’azu, a former governor of Bauchi State, was confirmed as the party’s national chairman in January 2014.

Nine people were cleared to run in the race for the chairmanship, but some of them have started standing down since last night, amidst controversy over the party’s internal arrangements.

Taoheed Adedoja, Tunde Adeniran, Raymond Dokpesi, Jimi Agbaje, Gbenga Daniel, Olabode George, Uche Secondus, Rasheed Ladoja and Segun Aderemi have spent the last few weeks traveling the country to canvass support.

But Mr. George, a former vice-chairman of the PDP and serving member of its Board of Trustees, stepped down around 8:00 p.m. Friday, citing alleged injustice and disregard for gentlemen agreement amongst the party’s divergent blocs.

It is not immediately clear if he has urged his potential delegates to support a specific contender, but his anger was directed at Governor Nyesom Wike, who has been pushing for Mr. Secondus’ victory.

The PDP reserved the chairmanship for the south after resolving to let the presidential ticket go to the north.

There are indications that more candidates from the Southwest are on the verge of announcing their withdrawal to settle on a consensus from the zone.

Whoever the region picks would slug it out with either Mr. Secondus or Mr. Dokpesi or both at the convention ground.

Reporters from our correspondence are at the Eagle Square and will be providing live updates of happenings there:

PREMIUM TIMES denied accreditation to cover PDP convention

PREMIUM TIMES has been denied accreditation to cover Saturday’s national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party holding at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

The newspaper was advised on Thursday to submit a written request with names of reporters who would attend the event.

The letter was submitted and the party’s publicity unit promised to get accreditation tags ready for collection by Friday evening.

While awaiting the delivery of tags, reporters continued to communicate with the party, and were later told tags would be ready for collection by Saturday morning, after which designated buses would convey all accredited personnel to the venue of the convention.

However, when PREMIUM TIMES reporters arrived the party’s Wadata Plaza office Saturday morning as advised, they were told the tags had finished.

Many other newspapers, especially those from outside Abuja, were also not accredited for the event.

Jimi Agbaje withdraws from PDP chairmanship election

Another aspirant to the office of the national chairman of PDP, Jimi Agbaje, has withdrawn from the race.

The withdrawal was announced on his verified Twitter handle, @Jimiagbaje, on Saturday, few hours before the commencement of the national convention to elect new leaders for the PDP.

In a letter addressed to the PDP National Convention Planning Committee, Mr. Agbaje said the PDP had from inception adopted the principle of zoning offices among the country’s geo-political zones.

“In line with such zoning and other parameters I have at different fora, expressed my strong belief that the next National Chairman of our great party should come from the South West,” he said.

He also said he was however, convinced that “with 7 out of all 9 aspirants coming from the South West, this multiplicity of co tenders will work to the detriment of our zone when it comes to voting”.

Mr. Agbaje said delegates’ votes split seven ways will not produce a chairman from the South West, adding, “ it therefore becomes necessary to prune our members down to no more than two”.

He also urged other aspirants from the zone to follow him by stepping down so that the zone “ can have a fighting chance of clinching the National Chairmanship of the PDP”.

Another stalwart of the party from the South West, Bode George, had also announced his withdrawal from the race on Friday evening.

11.34: Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar arrives Eagles Square.

11.39: Governors Fayose of Ekiti State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, habe also arrived the convention ground.

11.47: Arrivals of DSP, Ekweremadu and Raymond Dokpesi to Eagles Square

PDP Convention formally begins with a National Anthem.

Some 2,800 delegates will later vote for new NWC members.

Tight security in and around Eagles Square venue of the convention.

A member of the National Convention Planning Committee and former Governor of Niger state, Babangida Aliyu, earlier told members of the press that the security measures were taken because of the recent information of likely terror attack in Abuja.

All delegates and other accredited officials are conveyed to the venue in specially arranged buses from various pick up points in the city.

Delta state Governor and Chairman of Convention Planning Committee, Ifeanyi Okowa, in his speech assures of a credible convention.

He also asked for cooperation from all delegates and expressed the determination of the committee to “deliver the best elective process”.

He also said some aspirants from various positions have withdrawn from the race.

The national chairman will speak on that.

Party caretaker chairman Makarfi begins with a tribute to the founding fathers of the PDP.

He calls for a one-minute of silence in honour of one of the founding fathers of the party, former Vice president Alex Ekwueme.

He says after 2015, there is need for introspect to make amends and know how to move forward.

He thanks the party for appointing him to lead the caretaker committee.

Mr. Makarfi says end of litigation does not mean end of challenges for the PDP.

“We took difficult decisions with a better PDP in mind.

“We have laid a good foundation for the rebirth of the PDP. Hence those who left are either coming back or knocking on our doors.

“Our doors remain wide open for both returnees and new members,” he says.

He says all will be treated equally.

“In words and action we must continue to reassure members that loyalty to the party pays.

“Our women have been blazing the trail in several endeavors.

“Youth must be factored in everything because sooner or later they will be taking over. They should be prepared for the task ahead by exposing them to leadership and its vagaries.

“Part of it is to ensure that they receive quality education.

“Party should amend its constitution to make provision for students bursary loans.”

Mr. Makarfi says PDP has refused to play the kind of opposition APC played before 2015 because “we love the country”.

“We are proud to bequeath a legacy of responsible opposition.

“We must continue to show that opposition is not madness.

“We continue to remind the government that Nigerians are hungry.

“Insecurity in the north east is coming back. So is kidnapping and other criminalities.

“Government must up its game.

Joblessness has never been this bad,” he says.

Mr. Makarfi says all decisions taken were in the best interest of the PDP.

He says despite the hiccups, PDP will bounce back.

The next to speak is the National Secretary of the caretaker committee, Ben Obi, who will present the State of the Party address.

Next is the amendment of the constitution of the PDP.

Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa moves the motion for the amendment of the preamble of the constitution to reflect contemporary realities.

Section 8 is to be amended to change the procedure for rejoining the party by members who left and want to return.

Section 50 is to be amended to relax the minimum time requirements before members can seek for election to offices of the party.

Section 29 is to be amended to make the six national vice chairmen members of the NEC of the PDP constitution.

Section 41 (1) is amended to strengthen the powers of the national auditor.

Section 31(1) d is amended to give chairman and BOT members voting rights in NEC.

Section 32 which deals with composition and membership of BOT is to be amended.

All amendments should take effect on January 1, 2018.

A frontline contender for the PDP national chairmanship position, Gbenga Daniel, has stepped down from the race.

Mr. Daniel, a former Ogun State governor, is the third candidate to quit after Bode George and Jimi Agbaje.

Read Mr. Daniel’s letter to the party on Saturday:

The Chairman,
Peoples Democratic Party Convention Planning Committee, Abuja.
9th Dec 2017

Re; Withdrawal from The Chairmanship Contest:

As you are aware, in the last three months when I took the decision to contest for the post of the National Chairman of our great party, I have done what has been described in many quarters as most unprecedented. I traversed the length and breadth of our great country, in all the 36 states and the FCT, meeting with various stakeholders, leadership and party members, and setting up structures not just for my personal aspiration, but also to feel the pulse of Nigerians and test the strength and popularity of our party among the citizens.

It was another learning curve for me because I discovered that in spite of our widely publicized pockets of internal challenges, many Nigerians are sincerely and justifiably looking for a credible alternative to the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and most happily, the Peoples Democratic Party is still being looked upon as that credible and acceptable alternative.

It was a great opportunity for me to spread the message of hope, renewing the confidence of not only our party members but also Nigerian citizens about our great party. I believe that I did what is expected of a loyal and committed party member to inject a new life into the party, refresh and reenergise it for optimum acceptance by the electorate.

We are a political party, and a democratic one at that. Contest for for offices are expected to be competitive and this is what we have demonstrated sufficiently with the good number of very credible aspirants who have shown interests in all the various offices of our National Executive Committee to steer the ship of our party to victory in 2019. No doubt, we have suffered huge losses, from the control of some 25 States into only 11 states, capped with the loss of the Presidency in 2015. This, to me is the greatest challenge before our party, and regaining this lost glory is more important to me than any aspiration for offices.

In order to sustain the new found peace and renewed confidence of Nigerians in our party and reduce the veiled but potential line of frictions, I consider it in the best interest the party to voluntarily withdraw from the Chairmanship race so that we can collectively look for and elect good leaders for the purpose of winning elections in 2019.

Kindly accept assurances of my esteemed regards.

Otunba (Engr.) Gbenga Daniel FNSE, FAEng.

cc; PDP BOT Chairman

The Chairman of BoT, Walid Jibrin, in a remark said PDP is on the move again.

“We are ready to take over power in 2019,” he says.

“After 16 years in power, we lost an election and we showed the whole world how we can move to a seamless transition to opposition.

“The BoT congratulates all contestants to all positions.

“I welcome back Atiku Abubakar back home and call on others who left early to also come back.
All delegates will be given free hand to vote in this convention.”

Former Niger governor, Babangida Aliyu, is now speaking on behalf of former governors. He said PDP will leave the convention more united and stronger.

“Nigerians now know that PDP has done beautifully well. They now realise that there is no alternative to PDP in Nigeria.

“After 2019 we will ensure qualitative and functional education.

“We will keep to all agreements reached.

“The government of PDP will create employment for the millions of graduates that have no place to work now.

“We will ensure that Agriculture is transformed
The laws of corruption will be addressed. We will fight corruption by fighting poverty and marginalisation.

“We will fight corruption by being our brothers’ keepers.”

Next to speak is the Minority leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio.

Mr. Akpabio says the PDP is committed to sustaining Nigeria.

He says party members have been contributing positively in the National Assembly to help the APC administration for the good of Nigeria, so that the PDP will take over a healthy country in 2019.

“We will ensure there is level playing field for the election of new party leaders,” he says.

Mr. Akpabio: “If the government in power does well, it’ll bequeath a better Nigeria for the future generations.

“We supported the government in order to get our country out of recession.

“This is to enable the ruling party hand over an economy that is not in recession to us.

“We appreciate contenders, our joy is in your participation.

“We as elected representatives will never let Nigeria down. We will work to ensure that whoever emerges as chairman enjoys our support. We will work with all the new executives and we’re not going to say we want to leave because we didn’t have our way.”

Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, speaks.

“There is nothing wrong in a man falling, but the ability to rise again is all that matters.

“To the delegates, the interest of the PDP is paramount.

“I urge everyone to put the interest of the PDP first.

“When PDP regains power, the bag of rice selling for N20,000 will go back to N7,000.”

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, speaks.

“The people of the north east were liberated from Boko Haram but they are now being afflicted.

“There will be peace in the north east when PDP returns to power.

“I am proud to be a member of PDP and I am proud of the 16 years that the party was in power.

“We got debt forgiveness under PDP, but today we are heading into more serious debts.

“We had 16 years of life and are having two years of darkness; Nigerians want to see the light again.”

Former Vice President Atiku speaks:

“It is great to be home. I believe in Nigeria.

“I believe in one Nigeria where all our people have equal opportunities.

“This belief inspired me and other compatriots to establish the PDP on the ideals of one united nations built on the principles of justice and equity.
I fought to prevent tenure elongation.

“I fought for our party’s constitution even at the risk of being forced out of the party.

“Today, I am proud to say I have returned home to our party.

“I am proud that the PDP is the party that successfully took over power from the military in 1999.

“I am proud that the PDP is the first to give Nigeria a transition from one party to another.

“In 2015, the PDP was not united and Nigerians voted for change.

“We must unite because under the APC, Nigeria is not working.

“The APC promised to give Nigerians 3 million jobs a year, instead 3 million jobs lost.

“APC promised restructuring, now it is denying.”

“We made mistakes in the past, we are human beings, but we put our nation first.

“APC continues to blame previous governments rather than solving the problems.

“PDP is the only truly national party in Nigeria.
The PDP must be the party that is the hope of the common man for the common good of the commonwealth of Nigeria.

“Let us elect the very best leaders for our party. Leaders who truly understand what it means to provide an alternative to the PDP.

“Those who understands what it means to devolve power to our states.”

Former Vice President Namadi Sambo:

Glad to God for seeing a great day in which the PDP will elect new set of officials.
I pray for a peaceful, free elections.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan speaks:

“Let me note with sadness the kidnap of our Plateau state PDP Chairman, Sango, who was abducted alongside two others on his way to attend this convention.

“Many who left are returning, like a loving father PDP is welcoming them all with open arms.

“Ours is a party with enviable history and records.
PDP is a party that continues to promise and has never failed.

“We have never deceived Nigerians, we only promise what we can deliver.

“Those who win today must carry everybody along. Everyone is a winner.

“As you leave here today take the message of unity back to your respective states, local governments, wards and pilling unit.

“Tell everyone that PDP is back and ready to take back power.

“Ongoing persecution will come to pass. Members should remain strong.”

Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson has dismissed claims that there is a vast conspiracy against the Yoruba at the ongoing national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party.

“There’s no conspiracy against the southwest,” Mr. Dickson told our correspondence Saturday afternoon.

The 2017 national convention of the PDP kicked of this morning in Abuja. The governor spoke with our correspondence on the sidelines of the event at Eagle Square.

Olabode George, a PDP chieftain who was in the race for the party’s chairmanship, had alleged conspiracy against the Yoruba when he withdrew his interest last night.

Mr. George, 72, said a gentleman’s agreement that was entered into by the party’s leaders for the next chairman to emerge from the South-west had been jettisoned, describing those responsible as men whose “sun would soon set”.

Seven out of the nine candidates for the chairmanship are Yoruba. But five of them have reportedly followed Mr. George to step down, leaving only Tunde Adeniran from the region.

Mr. Adeniran is expected to face an arduous challenge in the person of Uche Secondus, a former senator from Rivers State who once led the party in an acting capacity.

Although he clarified that he had not read Mr. George’s statement, Mr. Dickson said “the South-South and the South-west are not fighting.”

The governor said all the South-South governors had once rallied behind a Yoruba candidate in the past.

“Don’t forget that at the last convention, all the governors wanted an aspirant from the southwest,” Mr. Dickson said of the 2016 botched convention. “There was even an endorsement of Jimi Agbaje.”

Segun Adekoya, a PDP member of the House of Representatives, agreed with the governor, saying it’s “too bad” that Yoruba aspirants failed to reach a consensus early.

“We advised them to settle on one person for several weeks but they didn’t listen, this is politics at play, not conspiracy,” Mr. Adekoya said.

Moreover, Mr. Dickson said, the South-west still stand a better chance of clinching victory since their candidate will now go head-to-head with the South-South’s.

“If, based on what we’re hearing, six aspirants from the southwest have stepped down, then the remaining aspirant has a chance to be our chairman,” Mr. Dickson said.

He said the political calculation has changed since then.

“So if in the calculation of people, certain things have changed, then it’s a question of political calculation,” he said. “It’s not conspiracy.”

The governor declined to specifically tell our correspondence his preferred candidate for the chairmanship, saying it is more prudent to wait for the outcome.

“The voting is yet to commence, so there’s no need to prejudge the outcome of the process,” he said.

The governor said he holds Mr. George “in highest esteem”, urging the Board of Trustees member to look beyond the leadership tussle and set his eye on the bigger price.

“I think that all lovers of our party, aspirants and lovers of democracy should rather place more emphasis on the work ahead, especially the next general election coming,” Mr. Dickson said. “We know that the election of the leadership of our party is important. But what is more important is the general election, which would kick-start from next year.”

He added that if there’s a need to set up a reconciliation committee like the last one he held in the wake of the disputed Port-Harcourt convention, then the party would explore such measures.

The Peoples Democratic Party has dissolved the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee.

This will now pave way for the election of substantive executive for the opposition party.

The committee was put in place in 2016.

Delegates have now commenced voting into 21 national positions.

Gabriel Suswam, a former governor of Benue State, is the chairman of the electoral committee and coordinator of the voting process.

For the record: Names of candidates who officially notified PDP of their withdrawal in writing.

Three candidates officially notified the PDP of their intentions to withdraw from the elections during the PDP national convention.

They are: Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State; Rashidi Ladoja, former governor of Oyo State; and Jimi Agbaje, a former gubernatorial candidate of PDP in Lagos State.

They all stepped down in the best interest and unity of the party, according to Patrick Okowa, chairman of the convention committee.

Sharafa Ishola also notified the party in writing that he had stepped down as candidate for the deputy national chairman, south.

T. Animashaun also wrote in that she had withdrawn as a candidate for deputy national women leader.

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