GODWIN ENNA captures the intrigues surrounding the recent congresses in the wake of the crisis rocking the Katsina State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The recently conducted ward and local government congresses of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Katsina State left few in doubt as to the extent of the friction within the ranks of the opposition party in the state.
The exercise was marred with accusations and counter-accusation opposing party leaders and stakeholders in the state. The warring camps led by the incumbent chairman of the party, Yusuf Majigiri and Lawal Rufai Safana, respectively returned to the trenches.
Both camps have been on each other’s throat just as contestants eyeing the chairmanship position of the party in the state are not leaving anything to chance. Both camps, with no respite in sight to the tussle between them, are poised to ensure they have larger loyalists to pave way for who emerges winner at the state congress, political pundits in the state aver.
At the last congresses however, LEADERSHIP gathered that Majigiri’s camp was bent on maintaining firm grip of the party structures at the ward and local government levels, a move the Safana camp tried to stop.
Nevertheless, aspirants from Majigiri’s camp coasted to victory during the last congresses. While the Safana-led camp lost ground during the battle, some of the contestants are now said to have joined forces to ensure that the incumbent chairman does not return to office come after the congress which was earlier fixed for March 29 state congress.
But for fear of the coronavirus pandemic, the national leadership of PDP while shutting down activities at the party nation wide also suspend party congresses across the country.
The statement signed by the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodinyan, said “Sequel to the earlier decision of our party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to shutdown activities at our secretariats and offices across the country, the party has further resolved to suspend all activities bordering on congresses, rallies and other large gathering of members of our party across the federation, with effect from Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
“This decision has become imperative in respect to the need for continuous social distancing and other health safety measures against the spread of COVID-19 in our country,”PDP said.
While some pundits say the suspension of the congresses might buy some time for the opposing camps in the Katsina State chapter of the PDP, other believe that the way both camps had strategised in preparation for the suspended congress, the exercise would have witnessed lots of intrigues and political fireworks.
Checks by LEADERSHIP revealed that aggrieved aspirants saw the congress to elect party officials at the ward level as an opportunity to either capture the party machinery ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial election in the state and that if they allow the incubent to go away with outcome, definitely he would succeed in enforcing what they are afraid would happen to the party ahead of the 2023 election.
The development according to party sources made them raise the alarm on the conduct of the ongoing congresses in the state, alleging that the processes and procedures were marred with lot of irregularities that violated and abused the constitutional guidelines of the party and Electoral Act. As such they called on the National Working Committee(NWC) of the party to cancel all the congresses.
About 37 members, among aspirants, signed a petition which they submitted to the PDP chairman and the Working Committee on Monday 23, through, Alhaji Dauda Kurfi who is contesting for the office of state Public Relations Officer (PRO) stated their grievances thus:
“We are aggrieved members of PDP in Katsina state, we are a group of Aspirants and Contestant to the various offices who abstained forms and those who were denied their fundamental rights to contest during the congresses in the state.
“Some of us purchased forms with intention to participate in the vacant position within the wards and local government party election.
“There were fragrance abused of constitutional processes and procedures; there was no update of party register or displaced as stipulate by the guidelines of the party and there was no sale of nominal forms as we attached evidences in form of video and audio documents to collaborate this assertion.”
The spokesman further explained that there was subsising court order obtained on March 12, 2020 by one of the aspirant whom he refused to name. He said the aspirant was denied the purchase of form while some of them delebrately abstained due to the court order restricting conduct of the congress.
“Their decision was based on the pending court order that instructed both parties to maintain status quo ante. According to them, they are all listed as signatories to this petition; participation into the congress was a disobedience to the court order,” he said.
Kurfi further explained that they were at the party Secretariat to remind the committee about the consequences of disobeying court order which was recently seen as the cause of the party losing their executive seats.
He therefore called on the NWC of the party to cancel all congresses so far conducted in Katsina, requesting them not to conduct any Congresses because doing that will only amount to insubordination to the order of competent court of law.
This scenario, LEADERSHIP gathered has deepened the tussle for power among loyalists of both camps just as it nudges the party towards implosion the before the next election.
But the state chairman, Alhaji Yusuf Majigiri, expressed confidence that the party he the ability to overcome all its challenges. He described the situation facing the party as a trial moment that would solidify the party to contend with the ruling party APC in the state come 2023.
Responding to the allegations, Majigiri denied all the accusations being raised by the aggrieved aspirants and contestants, stressing that the exercise was conducted free and fair without hitch of confrontation.
“The local government and wards congresses were well conducted in Katsina State and are done in compliance with the rules and guidelines of the party and the electoral laws.
“The ward, local government and state congresses, including the national congress, is the sole responsibility of the National Working Committee, the NEC has approved the time tables for the conduct of those congresses’.
“As far as I know there is no item in the provision of our guidelines that has violated any law as far as the conduct of the wards and local government congresses are concerned,” he stated.
However, Magiri’s major opponent, Safana, disagrees. A former permanent secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Safana, in an interview alleged that there is no internal democracy in the party in light of what happened during the wards congresses. He warned that the party may become irrelevant before the 2023 general elections if care is not taking
He described the conduct of the recent ward congresses across the state as a sham, arguing that “there was nothing like election.
“We as party members are bitter about this because we do not only want the party to remain vibrant but we also want the PDP to win elections in the state. You do not win elections by merely selecting a few people among members and ignoring all the others as if they are not useful.
“We want to let the public know that many of us are not satisfied with the manner of the conduct of the last PDP ward congresses in Katsina State.
“The forms were given to select people free of charge and only a form each was provided for each office.
“Forms were not given to the people who were interested in vying for the various offices.
“There was supposed to be a review of party membership at the ward levels before the conduct of the so-called congresses but this was not done.
“The PDP is an opposition party in Katsina and we believe that the only way an opposition party can win elections is to be free and fair in its dealings with members.
“Every member should be given a sense of belonging and participation and that is the only way we can aspire to win elections in the state.
“We doubt whether the party leadership really wants the PDP to actually win elections.
“Apparently, they are satisfied in retaining the status of opposition so that they can go to other states controlled by the PDP and say they are PDP leaders from Katsina State.
“We made complaints to the leadership, but they were determined to prosecute the selfish programme they had in mind and that is exactly what they did.
“If things continue this way, then it will be very bad for the PDP in the state in 2023 because you don’t drive the people away and expect to win elections.”
Hamza Inusa Jibia, secretary of the coalition of PDP supporter in the state, also stated that the said allegation on the conduct of ward congresses are baseless, urging relevant stakeholders and the NWC to disregard the accusation.
On the court injunction that the aggrieved members of the party are holding against the ongoing congresses, Jibia said “the court judgement would by tomorrow 26th Thursday, 2020 (today) expire and by implementation, the Saturday congress can still hold.
“But for the sake of rising case of coronavirus in the country that led to the suspension of all large gathering in Nigeria, with the PDP congress inclusive, we believe nothing would have stop the congress from holding come this weekend.”
With the congresses postponed, both camps, still have their gun powders dry apparently ahead of its rescheduled date. For a party that was in control of the state from 1999 till 2015 and that even produced a president of the country, it is intriguing to see the party unravel the way it is, pundits aver.