Intrigues to shift PDP convention from PH

Political intrigues now threaten the upcoming the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) assemblage to elect its presidential candidate in Port Harcourt, Rivers State next week.

Port Harcourt, which has in time past performed exquisitely in hosting the 2016 PDP national convention, is at the verge of losing the opportunity of hosting this high-profile national primary due to unresolved conflict within the party.

The city throughout the reign of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was selected by the PDP as the venue for its zonal presidential campaign rally due to its centrality to all the adjoining PDP controlled States in both the South-South and the South East State.

Logistically, Port Harcourt has an international airport on its outskirts and there is also Nigerian Air Force (NAF) base facilities used by some commercial airlines.

Although the PDP was yet to formally declare the venue for the convention, there are three stadiums namely: Sharks Stadium, also the civic center and Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia and the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium with the capacity to accommodate 38,000 persons. Apart from the Adokiye Amiesimaka stadium, the other two stadiums, which have host PDP national events, are situated within the city centre and could be easily accessed from Port Harcourt township, Government Reserved Area, phases 1—5, Elekahia, Rumuomasi, D-line, Elelenwo, Iboloji, Ogbunabali, Rumuola, Diobu, Amadi Flats, Umuchitta, Rumuokoro and Borokiri and Train Amadi industrial area.

There are over 300 hotels within the city of Port Harcourt and its adjoining suburbs to cater for accommodation of the 5000 delegates attending the convention.

Amid political intrigues to shift the venue of the convention to another state due to alleged vested interest trying to influence the outcome of the convention, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has alleged that some persons opposed to Port Harcourt hosting the convention deliberately want to undermine the state’s bid to promote tourism.

The governor on Wednesday accused unnamed desperate PDP presidential aspirant of attempting to sabotage the economy of the state by fighting the hosting of the party’s presidential primary in Port Harcourt.

“Let me warn the party, if you dare, Rivers State will teach the party a lesson. Those days have passed when they took Rivers State for granted. Nobody can use and dump Rivers State. No Presidential Aspirant can use and dump Rivers State. We never lobbied for it, we never asked for it, but it will boost the economy of the state.  People will make money. Those who are against Rivers people from making money to improve their businesses will not get our support,” he said.

There are visible police presence in Port Harcourt and its suburbs. The State government had in recent times often supported the police with communications equipment and vehicles. However, the relationship between the government and the police has been estranged due to what Governor Wike described as the police command’s partisan posture.

It will be recalled that the police, purportedly acting on an interim order of Justice Okon Abang in a suit where it was not a party, neither was it served with the order delivered on Tuesday, 16th August, 2016, a large contingent of security personnel personally led by then Rivers State Commissioner of Police and the State Director of the Department of State Security (DSS) had sealed off the venue of PDP national convention in Port Harcourt.

This action was described by the Governor as scandalous and undemocratic, saying that there was no explanation for what they did to the PDP because they were allegedly obeying orders from above.
Considering the frosty relationship between the State government and the security apparatus, it is difficult to determine if the security agents will discharge their statutory responsibility unbiased when it comes to policing the convention to elect flag bearer of the party for the 2019 election.

The choice of Port Harcourt has been threatened by a sharp disagreement between National Working Committee of the party its Board of Trustees.

Recently, at the inauguration the PDP National Convention Planning Committee in Abuja, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Yemi Akinwomi, a committee headed by Ambassador Ibrahim Kazaure, went round the South-South and South-East zones before coming out with the choice of Port Harcourt.

But the BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, was said to have sharply disagreed with him on the basis that Port Harcourt has not been agreed upon by all the parties.

“The issue of venue is still on and is not concluded because there are many suggestions on the issue of venue. We will look at all the suggestions and I want to assure you that the issue of venue will be resolved. “But for now, we are working round the clock to ensure that we have a very suitable venue accepted by everybody. I want to say that everyone of us should come together and ensure that we have a venue suitable to all of us.”

There has been misgiving about the choice of Port Harcourt for the convention because of alleged preference of Governor Wike for one of the presidential aspirants.

Those who are opposed to the convention holding in Port Harcourt, claim Wike wants to influence the outcome and eventually emerge as the party’s vice presidential candidate. Wike has meanwhile refuted the allegation.

“There are aspirants who have promised me the position of Vice President, but I said I will not seek the position. Not even in the dream will I seek that position at this point.  I am a first term governor and the National Chairman of PDP is from my State and the South-South. These are mere allegations. People can carry rumour, but everything I will do, will be in the interest of Rivers State.  Nobody can use Rivers State as a tool. They did that in the past, but not anymore,” said Wike.

The Governor has declared that the decision to host the October 5/6 2018 National Convention in Port Harcourt was initiated without his knowledge, adding that he eventually attended a meeting where Governors and presidential aspirants ratified the resolution.

To this end, Wike said he was surprised that a few presidential aspirants who were not opposed to the decision to host the Convention in Port Harcourt, have turned around to sponsor reports against the venue.

“I am shocked that a few presidential aspirants who never opposed Port Harcourt as a venue would begin the sponsorship of media attacks on the choice of Port Harcourt as venue for the convention, which was not initiated by us. When we say that there are moles amongst the presidential aspirants, this is one of the manifestations.  A decision that is collectively taken is being contested through clandestine sponsorship.

“But if they want, the National Convention can be held at Maiduguri, Yola, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kano or any other city. A presidential aspirant that would lose would lose. All the national delegates that will vote at the National Convention will emerge from the different local government areas of the country and from the statutory delegates’ list. None will be elected in Port Harcourt.  Therefore, it is uncharitable to attempt to create the impression that hosting it in Port Harcourt will influence the outcome,” he added.

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