How Okowa Delivered Pdp

BY FIDELIS EGUGBO
SUSTAINING Nigeria’s democracy is a task every well- meaning Nigerian, including non-Nigerians, strives for. The successful conduct of the Peoples Democratic
Party (PDP) convention on Saturday, December 9, 2017, which was an elective convention that ushered in a new executive committee for the party, signalled the fact that democracy has come to stay in the country.
PDP seems to be the only party in the country that believes
in democratic tenets. That is why, most often, they are embroiled in internal squabbles, which, in the end, strengthens the party as lessons are learnt from such developments.
PDP can be said to be one of the oldest political parties in Nigeria, since the birth of the current democratic atmosphere
mid-wifed by the General Abdusalami Abubakar administration in 1999. Actually, the party was formed in 1998. The party can be described as the mother of most political parties in the country as most of the political
parties were founded by members of the PDP who, most times, after forming such political parties, would return
to the PDP when they noticed that the PDP refused to go into extinction.
So, it was with great anticipation, that Nigerians and the international community watched as the PDP had its first elective convention since the All Progressives Congress
(APC) took over power from the party in 2015.
Saddled with the responsibility of conducting the make- or- mar convention was the Governor of Delta State, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa. He was inaugurated as the Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the convention on Monday, December 4, 2017, less than one week to the event. As someone who was aware of where the PDP got it wrong in the past, Governor Okowa, in an acceptance speech on behalf of members of the organising
committee and the sub-committees for the convention,
stated, “I am confident that we are going to carry out our assignment in such a manner that our people will be happy; we will ensure that the election process is transparent,
a convention that is peaceful, reconciliatory and blameless.”
To a very large extent, Governor Okowa’s committee achieved the desired result, bearing in mind that, while most Nigerians were praying for a successful convention for Nigeria not to be thrown into a one-party state, the ruling APC was also allegedly working committed for the PDP to fail because, the success of the convention could signal a formidable opposition.
In short, by whatever design, that Monday when the PDP inaugurated the committee for the convention, long lines of vehicles returned to the petrol stations, especially
Abuja. Though, the Federal Government tried to douse tension, linking the scarcity of petroleum products to panic-buying, one could not also explain the fear of terrorist attack at Abuja few days to the convention. So, apart from internal challenges which required Governor Okowa re-assuring contenders for different positions in the party that the convention will really, transparent and blameless, the governor had to also contend with outside threats.
A day before the convention- Friday, December 8- nine persons were cleared to contest for the chairmanship
position of the PDP, giving credence to the fact that there was going to be level play field for all candidates. However, on that day, one of the elders of the party from the South- West, Chief Olabode George, in an interview, complained that the party ought to have micro-zone the position of Chairman to the South-West, a statement another
contender from the South- South, Chief Uche Secondus
faulted, saying since the party did not micro-zone where the Presidential candidate of the party will come from, but, rather, zoned it to the entire North, the PDP also zoned the chairmanship position of the party to the entire southern part of the country.
While those statements played out in the morning after the candidates were cleared to contest for the Chairmanship
position, in the evening of that Friday, news filtered that some persons had declined to continue in the contest,
a situation most of us viewed as good for the party as it reduced the number of persons the delegates were to choose from.
On Saturday, as early as 9 am, Governor Okowa was at the Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of the convention. Prior to that day, he had made it clear that only accredited delegates
and journalists would be allowed into the venue. To him, such measure was important to avoid security breach, but, on that day, security operatives were almost overwhelmed by the crowd of PDP supporters who came out to cheer their candidates, or in solidarity with the party. At a stage, the gate collapsed, prompting Governor Okowa to personally move to the gate to give directives on how to curb the surge.
In all, due process was followed as the convention lasted,
and the voting process was transparently done to the satisfaction of the delegates and observers , including officials
of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who supervised the process.
Shortly after the voting ended, Governor Okowa at exactly
2.47 am of Sunday, December 10, 2017, just before the results were announced by the Chairman of the Election
Sub-Committee of the convention, Mr Gabriel Suswan,
former Governor of Benue State, said, “PDP has had a very credible election”.
He thanked leaders of the party, the Governors’ forum, the INEC, security agencies, candidates that contested for different positions, the press and all those who contributed
in different ways to make the convention a success, while Mr Gabriel Suswam, described Governor Okowa as a workaholic whose drive made it possible for the PDP to have the best convention since the formation of the party in 1998.
“This is the first ever very transparent election convention
that the PDP has ever had; it took Governor Okowa a lot of military tact for us to have what we have today,” Suswam said. Announcing the result, Mr Suswam declared
former interim Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, as the new chairman of the party, after polling 2,000 votes cast at the election to beat his closest rival, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, who got 230 votes. Dr. Raymond Dokpesi came third with 66 votes followed
by Prof. Taoheed Adedoja who did not score any vote, while 55 votes were voided.
Chief Secondus, who was sworn in immediately after he was proclaimed winner in his acceptance speech, assured
members of the PDP that the party will not repeat the mistakes of the past but will ensure that “internal democracy will be strictly adhered to with a deliberate policy to return ‘real’ power to the people. No more imposition,
no more impunity.”
“Every member of this party can, from this moment, consider him or herself, an equal shareholder in our common
destiny. My campaign pillars for this election are to rebuild, re-position and regain and by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, the brief tenancy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Aso Rock Villa expires on May 28, 2019,” he said.
Many Nigerians who followed the process of the convention
are praising the administrative acumen of Governor
Okowa which made the convention to be transparent and hitch-free. Though, one has heard about “unity list” which was an allegation that those who won have been tipped for victory long before the election, it is a fact that in every election, people are bound to make permutations
about likely winners. Those who voted did so freely that was why there were void votes and the saying that the PDP Governors’ Forum had a favoured candidate was clarified by Governor Okowa when he said the members of the convention committee were denied the opportunity
of voting to avoid bias, adding that it was impossible for the PDP Governors to also tell delegates who to vote for as most of the states of the country are not controlled by the PDP but, the candidates were at liberty to shop for votes from any state of the country.
One cannot forget the roles played by the Chief Press Secretary to the Delta State Governor, Mr Charles Aniagwu,
who ensured that there was effective publicity to douse tension, clear the air on what the convention organizing
committee was doing and reassuredNigerians that democracy is on course.
Governor Okowa, through the instrumentality of Mr Aniagwu who was an Abuja-based journalist before his appointment, was a regular guest of different programmes
at Channels Television, AIT, NTA, and several media houses which, in no small measure, contributed to the success story of the convention.
It is also, worth saying that commercial activities witnessed
a boom in Abuja and its suburbs during the convention
period as all the hotels were booked and hawkers of different wares, including food vendors, had a field day and most of those who were interviewed said, “the PDP days is back again and we pray that it continues.”
As at the time of writing this piece, most of those who contested for different positions during the convention had accepted to work with the winners, giving credence to the fact that Governor Okowa has delivered the PDP and repositioned it for future challenges. For more than two years, there is no other political party among the more than 50 political parties in the country that has held its elective convention. This shows that the PDP remains the pace-setter and other political parties are also, bound to learn lessons from it, for their own good.