PDP chairmanship race: Dokpesi battles southern caucus over micro-zoning

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  •  As police seal convention venue
By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
The battle line has been drawn between High Chief Raymond Dokpesi and the southern caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the contest for the National Chairman of the Party as the Wednesday, August 17 National Convention begins in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. 
Dokpesi had during the campaign deployed the resources at his behest, including the famous television station, African Independent Television (AIT) and the allied radio stations, on a nationwide campaign that generated high momentum for the PDP. His campaign spread with the impetus comparative to a presidential campaign; this seemingly became intimidating to some other aspirants.
Suddenly, the southern caucus of the PDP came up with a political calculus that zoned the National Chairman to the South West after a national committee of the party had zoned it to the entire south within the framework of open competition.
Governors, members of the National Assembly and former ministers from the South had convened a meeting on Thursday, August 4, 2016, where they shared the various party offices to the respective micro-zones in the region. 
The highly competitive national chairman was zoned to the south west sub-region. That decision was, however, taken without the conventional mechanism of consensus building among stakeholders. Invariably, it was not an all-inclusive meeting.
Subsequently, Dokpesi protested that the micro-zoning of the national chairman to the South-West was unfortunate. ”Leaders of the South met and decided to micro-zone to the South-West. These are the same things we did that brought the party to its knees,” he was cited to have said during his campaign in Kano.
Dokpesi insisted on continuing with the race. “I have come here pleading and begging that if I become National chairman it is me and you that would be chairman,” he had appealed to Kano delegates. He had cautioned that PDP must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Dokpesi had insisted on continuing with the race, admonishing the southern caucus to align with the current reform regime towards ensuring internal democracy in the party within the framework of open competition. He also warned the southern leaders to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
The Chairman Emeritus of Daar Communications plc. deepened his campaign into the North where he appears to have developed high political capital. He was Chief of Staff to a former Governor of Gongola State about four decades ago. Several states in the north which include Kano, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Benue and Kogi endorsed Dokpesi for the national chairman of the PDP.
Dokpesi relies preponderantly on northern delegates for votes to offset the southern caucus who he perceived to have plotted a democratic coup to frustrate his ambition. This poses a great challenge for the southern caucus and the candidate they intend to sponsor.
Dokpesi is running the race with Chief Olabode George, Jimi Agbaje and Professor Tunde Adeniran from the South West.
Dokpesi is not acting alone, though he has no formal alliance with PDP leaders.
However, former President of the Senate, David Mark, had a fortnight ago, warned PDP leaders to avoid imposition of candidates in elections; both internal and broader external elections.   
More so, Awwal Tukur, a PDP chieftain from Adamawa State, son of a former PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, had declared that the PDP National Chairman is zoned to the south, not to a particular micro geo-political zone. He insisted that any qualified candidate from the South West, South-South and South East, is free to contest for the office.
Awwal Tukur, thereafter, admonished that PDP leaders must ensure that the same pattern prevail in the nomination of the presidential candidate zoned to the North, saying that aspirants from the North East, North West and North Central must be free to compete for the 2019 presidential ticket. Tukur warned that anything to the contrary, will destroy the party beyond redemption.
The southern PDP leaders had at the August 4 meeting further zoned the positions of national treasurer and deputy national publicity secretary to the South West. They also zoned first deputy national chairman, national legal adviser, deputy national woman leader, and deputy national auditor to the South-South.
The national organising secretary, national youth leader, and deputy national financial secretary were zoned to the South East.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, was gathered to have, however, remarked   that in spite of the zoning or power sharing among the respective micro-zones, any party member willing to contest any position is free to do so. Ekweremadu had further appealed to PDP members from the South to respect the zoning formula.
Many stakeholders in the PDP are, however, worried why Ekweremadu who have been in the vanguard of change in the party since 2015 be involved in reinventing the disastrous practices of yore that plagued the party. This led the PDP stakeholders to suspect the deputy senate president of having a hidden agenda, most likely positioning himself for vice president in 2019.
Meanwhile, the reformists group in the PDP has insisted on compelling PDP leaders to provide level playing field for all members in any election.  They maintain their stance on enthroning deep culture of horse trading, consensus building and open competition in the party.
In as much as the PDP leaders are working hard to reposition the party, embattled national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, remains a torn in the flesh of the leaders. He has remained an undaunted source of conflicts to the PDP as the party prepares for national convention.
Currently, the Police has sealed up the national convention venue in Port Harcourt. This is consequent upon orders and counter-orders from different Federal High Courts on either side of the power tussle. The Police had explained that they sealed the venue based on court order from Abuja in favour of Sheriff.

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