IT was a theatre of the absurd yesterday at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, venue of the meeting between members of the National Working Committee(NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its Anambra State stakeholders as they engaged in counter accusations which later developed into a free for all fight by the Anambra PDP members.
At least one person was injured during the fracas with the two screening machines at the main entrance to the hall pulled off.
At the end of the fracas, immediate past Central Bank Governor,CBN, Chukuma Soludo emerged candidate of the PDP for the February 6, 2010 Anambra State governorship election.
There were strong indications that the national leadership of the party was bent on forwarding his name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in time to beat yesterday’s deadline for the submission of candidates by political parties contesting the election.
According to a source at the party, his choice was said to have been endorsed by members of the National working Committee(NWC) led by the party’s National Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, along with that of Senator Emma Anosike as his running mate.
Their emergence followed a meeting of the NWC which was held for the purpose of picking the candidate as a result of the inability of the party to successfully conduct its state primaries having been scuttled by a court injunction restraining it from going ahead with the process.
The incident occurred when irate party members from the state, many of who did not fall into the list of invited delegates, stormed the venue and resisted attempts by security details to stop them from entering, just as they were apparently suspicious of the intention of the national leadership of the party.
The forceful removal of the doors by one of the delegates led to the National Legal Adviser of the party, Chief Olusola Oke sustaining injuries. He was was struck in the head with an empty bottle of water by another angry delegate who shouted abuses on him as he emerged from the venue of the meeting.
The meeting which first started at the National Secretariat of the Party in Wuse Zone 5 was later, due to security reasons, moved to Yar’Adua Centre where the PDP National Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, said there was adequate security arrangement for them.
True to his words, the place could be mistaken for a war zone with heavily armed policemen, two Armoured Personel Carrier vehicles with registration numbers PF 5225LA and NPF 1206 C respectively and stationed at the entrance of the venue.
The policemen were led by the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Ivy Okoronkwo and the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, John Haruna.
But Ogbulafor’s last minute rush to get a candidate for the Anambra State election ended in a deadlock, just as it was gathered at the time of this report that the leadership of the party had to relocate to a secret venue to meet and finally come out with a name of its candidate since the delegates could not the party a candidate as its flagbearer.
The party attempted to encourage the 47 aspirants to agree on a consensus candidate among themselves but this move also hit the rocks at the meeting.
It was also gathered that they left the venue of the meeting to brief President Yar’Adua before submitting a name to INEC.
The deadlock occurred as gathered because there were conflicting interests, while the people of Anambra insisted on producing a candidate, the leadership of the party said it would hand_pick a candidate to contest the election, even as it was said that the grouse of the Anambra politicians is that they feel the party wants to impose a candidate on them and they said they will not accept such imposition.
Olisa Metu National Vice Chairman, South East said at the gathering before Ogbulafor led other members of the NWC to the hall,“what we the people of Anambra is saying is that no outsider can choose a candidate for us. We the people of Anambra know what we want.”
It was also gathered that during the closed door meeting, those who spoke were alleged to have hurled insults at members of the National Working Committee, but the NWC members were said to have kept mute through the period as they really exhibited high level of maturity.
Those who spoke were Senators Annie Okonkwo, Joy Emodi, Onyiabo Obi, Chief J.A. Okonkwo, the founding Chairman of the party in the state, Chief Dan Chuke, former Minister, Hon. C.I.D. Maduagbo, Professor Ilochi Okafor, former Vice chancellor , Nnamdi azikiwe University, among others.
Before the commencement of the meeting proper, all former Chairmen of the Party met with Chief Dan Ulasi presenting their position that former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme’s name be submitted to INEC pending when a proper primaries would be conducted at least in the next one month or six weeks and against the backdrop that there were two court injunctions stopping the conduct of state congress and with a letter from INEC that the state has no Executive in place.
According to them, Ekwueme’s name would then be substituted before the real election and to meet the December 12 deadline for INEC for substitution. But Ekwueme however is said to be out of the country at the moment.
Others proposed that a mini_delegate election be conducted here in Abuja and such a name presented to INEC before it closes its gate and some others insisted that Andy Uba be given the party ticket.
While the three groups stuck to their position, the National Working Committee [NWC] was said to be appealing to those at the meeting to allow it pick a candidate to carry its flag.
The tone of the meeting was set earlier on at national headquarters of the party when the National Chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor announced the party’s decision to switch the venue to YarÁdua Centre instead of the Wadata Plaza headquarters of the party as earlier advertised.
Many of the delegates who had already gathered at the main hall of the secretariat resisted the attempt as they shouted down the announcement from Prince Ogbulafor.
Undaunted, the National Chairman and members of the NWC left the hall and all the delegates eventually relocated to the new venue.
Speaking, Ogbulafor who lamented over the crisis in the party in the state, however stressed that several attempts to select a candidate for the party had been made but they have proved abortive saying therefore that the meeting was summoned to deal with the problem once and for all.
“We have invited you here today to share a moment of seriousness to see how we can jointly come up with a candidate to represent our party. That is exactly why we have invited you. Therefore, it is a meeting with stakeholders of Anambra State and please, we want it to be as quiet and smooth as possible. We don’t want any disturbance, any misunderstanding; any fracas.”
At the YarÁdua Centre, h e pleaded with them not to disgrace him as one of them who hails from Ibo land saying “my dear brothers and sisters, I am one of you. Don’t let me down and please, don’t disgrace me.”
The National Chairman who warned that other political parties were mocking the PDP, said he has never be at the negative side of history and not prepared to start with the case of Anambra, wondered whether some of the people causing the confusion were working for opposition, just as he was confident that the candidate of the party would emerge from among the aspirants gathered for the meeting and therefore requested for their cooperation.
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