The fight for the soul of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is set to get messier as the party chairman, Ali Modu-Sheriff, moves to tighten his grip on the jugular of the party structure.
A dependable source within the party disclosed to Independent on Monday that the National Chairman, Ali Modu-Sheriff may be perfecting plans to move the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the first of its kind since the creation of the party in 1998.
The move, it was gathered was to enable him and the rest members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) have a smooth sail in their bid to retain their seat through an express adoption by the NEC members.
The source said further that barring any unforeseen circumstances, the zoning committee headed by the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel will submit its report to the NWC of the party today (Tuesday).
The brouhaha within the party, it was said, is bound to escalate as some loyalists of the National Chairman are said to have emboldened him not to allow the Board of Trustees (BoT), or the National Caucus, have any discussion on the final report of the zoning committee before it is presented to the NEC.
The new zoning arrangements leaked to Independent from the workings of the committee has it that the position of National Chairman goes to the North-East, National Secretary to South West, Auditor to the South West, Deputy National Chairman to the South-south and the National Organizing Secretary to the South East.
All the current occupants of the seats, it was gathered, are scheming to be returned with the exception of Olisa Metuh, who though touted to be seeking the seat of the National Organizing Secretary, has announced his withdrawal from race into any office at the NWC.
Though, the rule has always been that the National caucus and the BoT meet before any NEC, however, the powers of NEC supersede that of National caucus or BoT.
Aside from the National Convention, the NEC is the next most powerful organ of the party, whose decision can only be reversed by the Convention.
Almost all members of the NEC are said to be in support of the decision and plans of Modu-Sheriff to retain his seat as the party’s National Chairman come May 21.
The source further told this newspaper in confidence that the decision taken by some South West stakeholders to cede the chairmanship seat to the north has caused a big rift within the ranks of party leaders from the zone.
Some party chieftains like Chief Bode George, Ebenezer Babatope, Yekini Adeojo, Gbenga Daniels among others were not consulted before the decision to trade off the chairmanship was taken by the team led by Senator Buruji Kashamu, which visited Modu-Sheriff at the party’s secretariat some few weeks ago.
The meeting of the South West stakeholders was held last Thursday with almost all party chieftains from the zone in attendance.
It was gathered that some of the party stakeholders who were part of the South West team that donated the chairmanship slot to the national chairman then alleged that they were tricked into believing that it was a mere courtesy visit on the party chairman, but were jolted when the decision to wave away the chairmanship was read out.
Sensing a clear opportunity to wrestle against the chairman, a governor (name withheld) from the North East zone has capitalised on the division to enlist the support of some of the dissatisfied South West leaders in demanding the zoning of the chairmanship to the South West, taking it away from the North East zone.
The governor it was said, is nursing the ambition to become the presidential candidate of the PDP come 2019.
His arguement, it was learnt, was that the rest of the north will not allow the northeast have the chairmanship seat as well as the presidential ticket come 2019.
The PDP has announced an irrevocable zoning of the presidency to the north come 2019.
Speaking on the planned hosting of the NEC in Uyo, our source which claimed anonymity, said the party members were already spoiling for war should such an announcement be made by the NWC.
“We are aware of the meeting between the G84 and the National Chairman Sunday night. All they discussed we also heard. Will it interest you to note that some of those who attended the meeting reported to their leaders in the zone, and even some confessed that they got a gift of N200,000 each from the chairman for attending the meeting.
We were also told that he footed the hotel bills of everyone who came for the meeting but not resident in Abuja.
“We also got a report through those who attended that the report of the zoning committee will likely be made available to the NWC on Tuesday (today).
“It is also not a secret that the National is planning to move the NEC meeting to Uyo, which is supposed to hold on Thursday. How he wishes to achieve this I can’t say, because such has never happened before.
“The registered office of PDP is in Abuja, and the NEC is expected to be held here in Abuja. Any decision of NEC taken outside Abuja can be easily challenged in the court by any aggrieved party member, and the court might nullify all that was done at such an illegal NEC.
“I think in all honesty, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff will be a good party chairman for us, but the news of his own presidential ambition come 2019 is also worrying. If he wishes to actually contest the Presidency in 2019, the best he can do is to drop the ambition to be chairman and face the Presidency project squarely.
“Sule Lamido has shown what he wants, and we are told that the chairman is supporting him. The whole issue is just confusing. I sincerely pray that this party is not killed finally because of personal interest of some persons” the source said.
Asked on the implications of the zoning arrangements, the source said that what’s currently playing out in the party is not zoning but mere planned retention of office by current occupants.
“There is no zoning at all. I say this because what has always happen in our party is that all offices occupied by a region is exchanged for the other at the end of the tenure.
“For instance, the north has just had the chairmanship seat, so if zoning is to be followed it should naturally go to the South. All offices occupied by the north go to the south and vice versa, that has been the policy of zoning in PDP in respect of the NWC. So in this case, there is no zoning, what they are doing is just mere ratification of continuity”.