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PDP: Big guns head to battle

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  • Presidency in last minute move to save Bamanga Tukur as governors rally support for Babayo

By Richard Ihediwa, Lawrence Olaoye and Ahmed Kaigama, Bauchi

After weeks of horse trading, intricks and power play, the big guns contesting for leadership position in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will know their fates today as delegates vote at the National Convention of the party at Eagle Square, Abuja.

Despite the efforts by the Presidency and other very powerful lobbies to get the party to adopt a consensus candidate for the position of the National Chairman, those on the other camp including certain state governors had put a wedge to that move resulting in the decision of the party’s Convention Planning Committee party to allow for balloting for every position regardless of any consensus arrangement made by any zone.

However, it was gathered that despite the decision of the committee, the Presidency was still making last minute consultation last night to get all the PDP governors to support Bamanga Tukur.

Though Tukur was said to have emerged the consensus candidate after a meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan, state governors and National Assembly leadership on Thursday night, it later became a rough ride as some governors were later learnt to have decided to dump Tukur for Dr. Musa Babayo, who defeated Tukur to emerge the consensus candidate of the North East on Wednesday.

Chairman of the 75-man Planning Committee, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who addressed newsmen on the activities of the committee yesterday, said there will be elections despite other arrangements adding that none of the aspirants that have met the guidelines for the election would be excluded.

Maduekwe, who assured that his committee would ensure the conduct of a free, fair and transparent convention that would be the reference point for several elections not only in the country but in the continent also stated that nobody would be disenfranchised based on any zoning arrangement.

He said “Those to be elected at the congress are national officers, the entire party machineries must ensure that whoever emerges does not make it just because his zone has presented him as consensus candidate. Delegates at the convention would have to decide who the eventual winners are.”

The Committee chairman hinted that about 5000 delegates are expected to cast their votes for the aspiring PDP national officers today at the convention.

He also assured that all grievances expected to emanate from the screening of the candidates would be handled maturedly in order to ensure that nobody willing to participate in the election was schemed out.

Maduekwe commended the leadership of the outgoing National Working Committee of the party chaired by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje for assembling men of proven integrity as members of the planning committee just as he assured that the guidelines for the convention would be strictly followed.

He added that the committee was aware of the prevailing security situation in the country but assured that the party was working in concert with the party to provide a fool-proof security for the participants at the congress.

The chairman said the party was determined to ensure that internal democracy was entrenched just as he commended President Goodluck Jonathan for trailing the blaze by initiating an electoral reform that ensure a free and fair election in 2011.

According to him, the PDP has not only the responsibility to win elections at all levels but also saddled with the challenge of entrenching democracy in the country. According to him, it is only in the PDP that democracy is at work explaining why those who left for another parties always find their ways back into the party.

Those contesting for the party’s National Chairmanship from the North East where the seat had been zoned include Alhaji Bamanga Tukur; Dr. Musa Babayo; Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali; Arc. Ibrahim Bunu; Amb. Idris Waziri; Hon. Adamu Bello; Dr. Mohammed Abba-Aji; H.E. Adamu Muazu; Alhaji Gambo Lawan; Barr. Ibrahinm Shehu Birma and Dr. Shettima Mustapha.

For the position of the party’s National Secretary zoned to the South West, it is going to be a straight fight between the quartet of Chief Ebenezer Babatope; Chief Olusola Oke, the immediate past Legal Adviser of the party; Professor Tunde Adeniran and Professor Taoheed Adedoja.

Meanwhile, more facts have emerged on why delegates from the North East rejected Tukur. Sources from the zone have it that delegates dumped him following their perception that at 81, he was too old for the job. He was also accused of anti-party activity for not participated in the last ward congress in his state.

Ahead of the convention, delegates started arriving Abuja since Thursday even as security have been beefed up in the city especially around the Eagle Square venue of the event. Last night, security personnel including riot policemen and anti-bomb squads were seen around the venue to ensure the safety of the delegates.

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