Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson has dismissed claims that there is a vast conspiracy against the Yoruba at the ongoing national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“There’s no conspiracy against the southwest,” Mr. Dickson told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday afternoon.
The 2017 national convention of the PDP kicked of this morning in Abuja. The governor spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the sidelines of the event at Eagle Square.
Olabode George, a PDP chieftain who was in the race for the party’s chairmanship, had alleged conspiracy against the Yoruba when he withdrew his interest last night.
Mr. George, 72, said a gentleman’s agreement that was entered into by the party’s leaders for the next chairman to emerge from the South-west had been jettisoned, describing those responsible as men whose “sun would soon set”.
Seven out of the nine candidates for the chairmanship are Yoruba. But five of them have reportedly followed Mr. George to step down, leaving only Tunde Adeniran from the region.
Mr. Adeniran is expected to face an arduous challenge in the person of Uche Secondus, a former senator from Rivers State who once led the party in an acting capacity.
Although he clarified that he had not read Mr. George’s statement, Mr. Dickson said “the South-South and the South-west are not fighting.”
The governor said all the South-South governors had once rallied behind a Yoruba candidate in the past.
“Don’t forget that at the last convention, all the governors wanted an aspirant from the southwest,” Mr. Dickson said of the 2016 botched convention. “There was even an endorsement of Jimi Agbaje.”
Segun Adekoya, a PDP member of the House of Representatives, agreed with the governor, saying it’s “too bad” that Yoruba aspirants failed to reach a consensus early.
“We advised them to settle on one person for several weeks but they didn’t listen, this is politics at play, not conspiracy,” Mr. Adekoya said.
Moreover, Mr. Dickson said, the South-west still stand a better chance of clinching victory since their candidate will now go head-to-head with the South-South’s.
“If, based on what we’re hearing, six aspirants from the southwest have stepped down, then the remaining aspirant has a chance to be our chairman,” Mr. Dickson said.
He said the political calculation has changed since then.
“So if in the calculation of people, certain things have changed, then it’s a question of political calculation,” he said. “It’s not conspiracy.”
The governor declined to specifically tell PREMIUM TIMES his preferred candidate for the chairmanship, saying it is more prudent to wait for the outcome.
“The voting is yet to commence, so there’s no need to prejudge the outcome of the process,” he said.
The governor said he holds Mr. George “in highest esteem”, urging the Board of Trustees member to look beyond the leadership tussle and set his eye on the bigger price.
“I think that all lovers of our party, aspirants and lovers of democracy should rather place more emphasis on the work ahead, especially the next general election coming,” Mr. Dickson said. “We know that the election of the leadership of our party is important. But what is more important is the general election, which would kick-start from next year.”
He added that if there’s a need to set up a reconciliation committee like the last one he held in the wake of the disputed Port-Harcourt convention, then the party would explore such measures.
The Peoples Democratic Party has dissolved the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee.
This will now pave way for the election of substantive executive for the opposition party.
The committee was put in place in 2016.
Delegates have now commenced voting into 21 national positions.
Gabriel Suswam, a former governor of Benue State, is the chairman of the electoral committee and coordinator of the voting process.
For the record: Names of candidates who officially notified PDP of their withdrawal in writing.
Three candidates officially notified the PDP of their intentions to withdraw from the elections during the PDP national convention.
They are: Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State; Rashidi Ladoja, former governor of Oyo State; and Jimi Agbaje, a former gubernatorial candidate of PDP in Lagos State.
They all stepped down in the best interest and unity of the party, according to Patrick Okowa, chairman of the convention committee.
Sharafa Ishola also notified the party in writing that he had stepped down as candidate for the deputy national chairman, south.
T. Animashaun also wrote in that she had withdrawn as a candidate for deputy national women leader.