IBB, Jonathan wade into South West PDP discord

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Former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida

• Atiku visits Babangida
• Court dismisses suit challenging party’s campaign funding
• Don’t vote for aspirants with graft cases, uphold equity, Kashamu tells delegates

Ahead of tomorrow’s national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), two former Heads of State General Ibrahim Babangida and President Goodluck Jonathan, have begun prevailing on the leadership to concede the position of national chairman to the South-West, based on the political grouping’s Port Harcourt agreement and zoning principle.

The South-South, until yesterday, was yet to show any sign it would compromise. The former acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who is also in the race and believed to have the backing of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and others, is still canvassing support.

A meeting by South-West stakeholders on Wednesday, which continued till yesterday, indicated the zone could reach a truce and prune down its six national chairmanship aspirants to two.

A source privy to the meeting disclosed that erstwhile military president, Babangida, and Jonathan intervened at the Wednesday session where two of the aspirants, Jimi Agbaje and Prof. Taoheed Ladoja, were said to have agreed to stand down, while former governors of Ogun and Oyo states, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Alhaji Rasheed Ladoja, were yet to decide.

The insinuation was that former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, had also reached out to former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, expressing his solidarity and support for the latter, if the calculation does not favour him (George).

In another twist, a group within the PDP, Yoruba Youth Vanguard, appealed to Adeniran and other Southwest contestants to stand down for George, to boost the chance of the zone in getting the position.

In a statement yesterday, the group’s chairman, Comrade Segun Adigun, said the appeal became necessary following alleged withdrawal by Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, leaving Secondus as the only aspirant from the South-South.

It said with this development, the battle for the chairmanship of the PDP was a straight fight between Secondus and George.

According to the group, “other aspirants from the Southwest should not spoil the chance of George but should step down for him to emerge as the national chairman, a position that has not been occupied by any Yoruba man since 1999.”

As the horse-trading continues, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar held a closed-door meeting with Babangida in Minna, Niger State yesterday.

The visit is coming barely a week after Atiku formally defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP.

Atiku who is eyeing the presidential ticket of the PDP arrived at Babangida’s residence about 12.35 p.m. and was led to the upper chamber of the house by Niger State deputy governor, Ahmed Mohammad Ketso.

Sources within the Atiku camp disclosed that his visit to Babangida, who is a chieftain of the PDP, was part of his continuous engagement with critical stakeholders ahead of the 2019 presidential elections.

IBB is believed to be strongly backing the ambition of Atiku and the meeting may not be unconnected with concretising their strategies.

Although Atiku will not be voting in tomorrow’s convention, he will be interested in whoever emerges as national chairman.

In another development, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory’s, Apo Division, has dismissed a suit seeking to challenge the campaign funding of the PDP in the 2015 presidential election.

Justice Olukayode Adeniyi threw out the suit filed by one Chief Akinmoju Jero, who is plaintiff in the matter.

A businessman, Mr. Benedict ‎Peters, and Northern Belt Oil and Gas Company of Nigeria Limited were joined as defendants in the matter.

The plaintiff had alleged that Peters, who is the 1st defendant in the matter, paid a bribe of $115 million to electoral officers to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, Mr. Buruji Kashamu, has drawn the attention of delegates, leaders and stakeholders of the party to media reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was planning to re-arrest some aspirants accused of corruption cases in the past.

He appealed to delegates not to vote for any aspirant who still has a corruption case to answer. “It is a no-brainer that if a national chairman with a corruption case is elected, the party will literally be put on trial with him. This is one avoidable risk that is too much to take. You can be sure that a corruption trial of the national chairman of an opposition party will come with a lot of bad publicity that will sound the death knell the party,” he said.

Kashamu’s words may not be unconnected with warning by PDP spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, on Wednesday that some top government officials were trying to disrupt the convention.

Yesterday, aggrieved party members including erstwhile spokesman, Olisa Metuh, besieged the party’s secretariat protesting against alleged irregularities.

Metuh, who arrived with some PDP stakeholders in Anambra, alleged that the list of delegates sent from the state had been fraudulently altered.

They accused a national officer of the party of being the brain behind the action and urged the leadership of the party to be wary of the list.

Another group of protesters also submitted a petition to the national caretaker committee, asking it to disqualify one of the aspirants for the position of national organising secretary.

The petition, signed by the leader of the aggrieved persons, Onyebuchi Nwosu, alleged that the aspirant had engaged in misconduct in running the party’s affairs

“There is first-hand and highly classified information that the candidate contesting for the position of the national organising secretary flouted the party’s constitution during his regime as national chairman, south east zone,” the petition stated.

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