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Issues as PDP holds NEC at last

tribuneonlineng.com 2024/4/12

Abuja Bureau Chief, LEON USIGBE, writes on the issues confronting the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting holding after more than a year.

Despite relentless entreaties from stakeholders, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had refrained from summoning the National Executive Committee (NEC) for over a year, contravening the fundamental tenets designed to ensure the party’s democratic functionality.

Former Ogun State gubernatorial aspirant, Segun Sowunmi, spurred by the egregious hiatus, sought legal recourse to compel the NWC to convene the NEC, highlighting the over 15-month lapse since the last assembly under the previous national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.

The urgency intensified with the recent intervention of the PDP Governors Forum, which emphatically urged the NWC to initiate the necessary procedural mechanisms for convening pivotal party organs. This directive underscored the criticality of restoring democratic engagement from the national caucus through the Board of Trustees (BoT) to the NEC. The NEC supervises all organs of the party to ensure that they function democratically and effectively.

In the wake of a prolonged absence, April 17 and 18 convening of the NEC is emblematic of underlying tensions and pressing issues within the party’s echelons. This session is a response to the prolonged reluctance of the NWC, under the stewardship of acting national chairman, Ambassador Iliya Damagun, to heed the PDP constitutional mandate stipulated in section 31(4) that “The National Executive Committee shall meet at least once in every quarter at the instance of the National Chairman or at the request of two-third of its membership…”

The NWC did not wait for the adjudication of the court on the Sowunmi matter because of the added pressure from the PDP governors.

Entangled in a suspension debacle, Ayu left the main opposition party in March 2023 but not before leading it into the general election divided and defeated though observers saw the exercise as a viable opportunity for it to recapture power at the centre after eight years out.

The former national chairman’s premature exit did not reduce the internal discord it is grappling with, particularly stemming from the fractious aftermath of the 2023 presidential primary between Atiku Abubakar and Nyesom Wike. This internal strife has seemingly influenced the NWC’s reluctance to call the NEC, as the committee remains ensnared in the conundrum of balancing loyalty amidst the factional divide.

Moreover, concerns loom regarding the potential influence wielded by the former Rivers State governor and now minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) whose allegiances and ambitions pose a spectre of uncertainty over the party’s trajectory.

Indeed, there were suggestions that having the NEC earlier could play into the hands of Wike, who, though is not a member of the committee having left office as a state governor, is believed to be keen to control its affairs despite working full time for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and bragging about it.

The FCT minister is perceived to still retain a measure of loyalty, not just among many members of the committee, but also the NWC where the national secretary of the party, Sam Anyanwu and the national vice chairman (South), Dan Orbih, are his key men. The NWC, as a national leadership had, therefore, maintained strategic ambiguity on the rivalry between Atiku and the FCT minister, apparently in an exercise of self-preservation.

Apart from Anyanwu and Orbih who openly hobnob with Wike, others are cautious not to be seen as taking side not to harm their personal interests. Observers cite this as the reason the NWC has been unable to act on the alleged blatant anti-party activities of the minister of the FCT and his followers.

Thursday’s NEC agenda is compounded by administrative exigencies, including the overdue reconstitution of caretaker committees and the pervasive specter of anti-party activities, particularly in Rivers State.

Only recently, the NWC approved the appointment of the executives whose tenures have expired in some state, local government and ward chapters to serve as caretaker committees in the affected areas. Though it is constitutionally a function of the NEC to appoint such committees, this is not out of place assuming that there is an emergency and the party is genuinely pressed for time and unable to immediately reconstitute new committees. But political watchers say the PDP national leadership has basically been idle and could have reconstituted new executives if only it had been able to summon the necessary will.

The problem is that doing so may have amounted to stepping on the toes of powerful stakeholders such as Wike whose executives in Rivers State might have been replaced with members that may not be loyal to him. What the NWC came up with instead was the condescending arrangement that allows all executives in 19 states to remain in their positions for three months but as caretaker members.

This will be one of the tougher challenges that this week’s NEC meeting will have to address to either ratify or jettison it.

It will also have to delve into the rampant anti-party activities particularly in Rivers State where 25 members of the house of assembly elected under the PDP have defected to the APC allegedly under the instruction of Wike. While the elected governor of the state, Siminalayi Fubara remains in the PDP, he is under the constant threat of impeachment by the new APC legislators. However, whatever the NEC may resolve here will have grave implications for the party going forward.

Another issue is that of the substantive chairman. Damagun, who has been the party boss in acting capacity since March last year, is angling to be confirmed. With more than a year to the end of the tenure of the present NWC, the NEC should take a decision on his status.

Addressing these challenges mandates decisive action and strategic foresight to safeguard the party’s cohesion and electoral viability, especially in the impending gubernatorial contests in Edo and Ondo states.

But amidst these trials, the NEC stands as a crucible for charting a course of renewal and resilience in the face of formidable adversities.

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