Kogi PDP: Outrage over automatic tickets for Melaye, others

Senator Dino Melaye. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/DINO MELAYE

Kogi Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may be set on the path of self-destruct, if reports of imposition of candidates are real. If primaries would hold, the hope that they would be transparent is fast fading. For the fact that governorship election will not hold in Kogi State next February, focus is on the National Assembly and state House of Assembly.

Already, the handwriting is on the wall and not even the national leadership of the party has the capacity and will to douse the fire it ignited. The root of the matter is the idea of automatic tickets planned for new comers from the rAPC and all current sitting members of the National Assembly who are PDP members. The idea emanated from the agreements reached by the party’s leadership with the rAPC. This is said to be responsible for planned defection by aggrieved PDP members. The PDP had gone into what the aggrieved members described as unwholesome agreement without inputs from stakeholders in the respective state chapters.

While it had been rumoured that such idea was in the offing, unsuspecting members did not expect the seriousness and magnitude of the crisis to come. For the national leadership, there was no going back on automatic tickets. Perhaps, so it seemed, with reports of pressure mounted by the national chairman, Uche Secondus on aspirants for Senate and House of Reps in Kogi West, for instance, to step down for Senator Dino Melaye in the spirit of the agreement with erstwhile rAPC members. The situation is compounded by the alleged extension of automatic tickets to other sitting senators and reps members who were not in rAPC but were elected on PDP platform.

Expectedly, the posture of the national leadership drew the ire of other aspirants most of whom had obtained the nomination and letter of intent forms, with the hope of participating in the primaries.

Reacting, penultimate Monday, a coalition of aspirants for the various seats in the two chambers of the national assembly expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of automatic tickets, while threatening to work against the party’s interest should the leadership allow imposition. In the statement signed by no less than 30 aspirants from the three senatorial districts who gathered at Ibro Hotel, Wuse, Abuja, the PDP leadership was reminded of the provisions of section 87 (1) and (3) of the electoral act 2010 (as amended), which provides that a political party shall only nominate candidates for elective offices via primary elections and all aspirants are given equal opportunity to voted for by members of the party. The group warned that; “should the party proceed with a predetermined and manipulated primary elections, an implosion within the party that might be inimical to the interest of the party might occur.”

It said it was for the reasons of imposition, impunity and lack of internal democracy that PDP became opposition party in 2015 both at federal and Kogi State levels, adding that it is regrettable that the new leadership has learned nothing from past mistakes.

Dr. Halima Alfa, a senatorial aspirant in Kogi East read the press statement on behalf of 29 others. The angry aspirants moved to the Asokoro home of former governor Idris where they were joined by Senator Melaye (Kogi West), Senator Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi Central), Senator Atai Idoko (Kogi East) and Senator Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti) who represented Secondus. Olujimi explained that the need to ensure that the PDP remained formidable in the legislative arm post 2019 polls informed the wisdom to encourage all sitting members to retain their seats in the two chambers.

The meeting presided over by the state PDP leader, Idris and state PDP chairman, Sam Uhuotu ended in a deadlock. It was reported that when moved to the Maitama home of the national chairman, the meeting not only suffered similar fate but had to come to an abrupt end following exchange of words between Melaye and a member of House of Reps and fellow Kogi West senatorial aspirant, Sunday Karimi. A current serving Rep and senatorial aspirant, also from Kogi West, Tajudeen Yusuf and Senator Idoko also engaged in a shouting match. Secondus was said to have pleaded that the party owed it on its honour and integrity to respect the agreement it signed with rAPC members. But Idris faulted the action of the party leadership for failure to carry stakeholders along by means of exhaustive consultation and education before signing the agreement, saying it amounts to barbing a man’s hair in his absence, hence the rancour.

Following the failure to reach a common ground after the Abuja meetings, the national chairman reached out to stakeholders in the three federal constituencies in Kogi West, namely Lokoja/Kotonkarfe, Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu and Yagba. The Guardian learned that the reports from the various meetings showed that the stakeholders rejected the idea of automatic tickets and instead demanded transparent primary elections or nothing.

Meanwhile, the situation varies from district to district, with Kogi west most volatile. Indications that the subtle moves to get other aspirants to step down for Melaye were yielding fruits emerged on Wednesday following the withdrawal from the senatorial race by Tajudeen Yusuf, who announced that he would now be vying for the House of reps for a third term. One of the carrots dangled before Yusuf and Karimi to give way to Melaye was to consider returning to their seats in the lower chamber.

But Karimi, on his part, was said to have told Secondus point-blank he had no intention of going back on his aspiration to represent Kogi West people in the red chamber come 2019. He challenged Melaye to be prepared to put to test his popularity in the primary. He said he found it very insulting to be asked to step down for Melaye having worked round the PDP structure, expended his resources criss-crossing the seven local governments and 85 electoral wards including funding the purchase of nomination forms for would-be executive members from the ward level to the local government level across Kogi West senatorial district. Besides, Karimi pointed out that based on the existing zoning arrangement in Kogi West the party had since last year October zoned its Senate ticket to Yagba federal constituency. He said Melaye hails from Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency, which has dominated the Kogi West Senate seat for 12 years running, saying another four years will mean 16 years for BIK alone, leaving Yagba and Lokoja/Kotonkarfe in the lurch. On the possibility of returning to his current seat in the House of Reps, Karimi pointed out that apart from his personal conviction that his next destination is the Senate and “nothing else,” the local arrangement in Yagba constituency, long concluded, forbids anyone from Yagba West local government, his basic constituency, from bidding for another term in the green Chambers, after 12 years.

A group sympathetic to Melaye’s ambition last week alleged that Karimi, through a proxy, obtained nomination forms from the state Secretariat of Action Democratic Congress (ADC) accusing him of betrayal and desperation. But Karimi, in a rejoinder dismissed the allegation as baseless. He said as a landlord in the PDP, he would not abandon the house he built for strangers.

Where consensus could not be reached, there are indications that the national leadership has settled for primary elections. But in a twist to the automatic ticket game in Kogi, camps opposed to automatic ticket have alleged doctoring of the lists of ad-hoc delegates.

Said a source: “ Faced with the fact that the party cannot afford not to conduct primaries, their game plan has changed. They know there is no way Melaye can win the primary election because he is not on ground in Kogi West PDP. So they want to skew the primary election in his favour by drawing a parallel lists of ad-hoc delegates, but again I tell you they will fail because even if they are able to achieve that, ad-hoc delegates account for only 35 percent of the total number of delegates; the excos and statutory delegates constitute 65 percent of eligible voters in the primary election. How they intend to do it, we don’t know, but we have said it and we make no pretense about it, that if the primary election is not transparent, any attempt to impose a candidate on the party will spell doom. We told the national chairman in Abuja that we will mobilize our supporters to work against the interest of the party in the general election.”

Ogembe

The situation in Kogi Central (PDP) appears calm. Incumbent senator Ahmed Ogembe is in safe hands with the automatic ticket rule. Unlike Melaye, Ogembe has remained in the PDP and is in firm control of party structures in the district.

Asked to situate Ogembe’s chances, a source in the PDP from the zone said, “Ogembe is the sole financier of PDP in the central. Beyond party factor, in terms of performance, acceptability, what he has done in Kogi Central in the current term, nobody has been able to do in terms of his empowerment programmes. Ogembe’s challengers are Alhaji AK Salihu, a one-time member of House of Reps, and Ashiru Ajanah. Asked to comment on the contentious issue of automatic ticket, Senator Ogembe, speaking to The Guardian on telephone downplayed the crisis.

He said: “Nothing like automatic tickets. What is happening is normal; we are in election time. Those who have remained in the party want relevance, the people coming into the party want relevance, I understand an agreement was reached and that is why you see us holding those meetings. As far as I am concerned there is no crisis, I believe absolutely that the PDP will come out stronger.”

The contest for the PDP ticket in Kogi East is no less volatile. Senator Aidoko is pitched against Victor Adoji, and the PDP hierarchy will have its hands full in resolving the issues thrown up by the idea of automatic ticket for the incumbent. Aidoko’s popularity is under scrutiny having lost the 2015 poll to the APC candidate, Abdulrahman Railway, who had his election voided by the Appeal Tribunal for failure by his party to hold a transparent primary election. Subsequently, Aidoko has fought the battle of his life in and out of court over the authenticity of the primary election that produced him in the first place.

Penultimate Thursday, in what has further fueled suspicions in the automatic ticket saga, Senators Melaye, Ogembe and Aidoko were conspicuously absent at the PDP secretariat in Lokoja, for the screening of aspirants for the National Assembly. It was later gathered that the trio were given “special” screening in Abuja ahead of other aspirants. The exercise in the state capital turned a beehive of activities as aspirants and party faithful thronged the party office with posters and placards of their candidates. Noticeable amongst them are supporters of Karimi and Victor Adoji vying for the Senate ticket in Kogi West and Kogi East, respectively; Hon. T.J. Yusuf, Hon. Omale, Hon. Ikani and others.

Fortunately for the PDP, its main rival, the APC is no less disorganized over issues of imposition. Despite repeated assurance’s by Governor Yahaya Bello to ensure a level playing field for everyone, the governor has come under scrutiny for allegedly endorsing two-time Senator Smart Adeyemi as official candidate of the APC in Kogi West. Similarly, Alhaji Jibrin Isah Echocho and Alhaji Yakubu Oseni are said to have been anointed in Kogi East and Kogi Central, respectively. The development fueled rumour that one of the major contenders for the APC Senate ticket in Kogi West, Dr. Toyin Akanle had gone shopping for an alternative platform to pursue his ambition. But, the former Director, State Security Service (DSS), has denied the rumour, insisting he is the candidate to beat in the APC and that he held the Governor to his words to provide a level playing ground for all aspirants.

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