By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Kingsley Omonibi, Jimitota Onoyume, Dapo Akinrefon & Gbenga Oke
PORT-HARCOURT—The tenure of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was extended by 12 months, yesterday, after security operatives stopped the party from proceeding with its convention in Port Harcourt. The convention was to produce a new leadership for the party.
The decision of the Police and the Department of State Services, DSS, to heed the court order by a Federal High Court in Abuja, stopping the convention and discarding the judgment of a Port-Harcourt-based Federal High Court that directed the police and DSS to monitor the convention, immediately raised strong condemnation from PDP leaders.
Even before the threats from the security agencies were fully manifested in the sealing off of the Sharks Stadium, discord within the party had also risen to put the prospects of a peaceful convention at bay.
Multiple sources confirmed that three of the frontline chairmanship candidates, including media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi; former Education Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran, and erstwhile deputy national chairman, Chief Bode George, had agreed to walkout of the convention on account of alleged mutilation of the delegates list by the governors who were allegedly backing the aspiration of Mr. Jimi Agbaje for the top post.
Plans by the trio to announce their withdrawal at a joint press conference scheduled for, yesterday morning, at the Presidential Hotel were immediately aborted, following indications that the convention would not hold.
Dokpesi, who had got the backing of the Northern chapters, following the truncation of the convention, immediately left Port-Harcourt for Abuja as the face-off with the security men unfolded.
Following the lifting of the siege, the governor fumed at the APC administration, accusing it of being intolerant and willing to use state power to crush the opposition.
Indications of something untoward first emerged sometime around 2:30 a.m. yesterday, when heavily armed policemen, in conjunction with plain clothed security men, suspected to be operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, fenced off the venue of the convention.
Explaining the police action, the Police Commissioner, Mr Francis Odesanya, told newsmen that he merely complied with a court order to provide security around the venue, stressing that his men did not seal up the place.
“We did not seal up the place, we are only providing security,” he said.
Asked whether he was obeying the Abuja or the Port Harcourt court ruling, the commissioner rebuffed the questions as he quipped, “it is not my duty to interpret court order,” and directed further enquiries on the development to Force Headquarters.
Police patrol vehicles were used to block all roads leading to the stadium. Motorists were politely told to turn away from all roads leading to the stadium.
Some of the food vendors who bought spaces around the Sharks stadium, lamented their loss, noting that they had acquired spaces at the venue for N7,000 each.
With the situation still in a flux, the National Executive Committee, NEC, arising from the past congresses conducted, was inaugurated in an emergency meeting inside the premises of Government House, Port-Harcourt.
While inside the Government House, several options before the party were considered. Among the options were that the Makarfi committee should be dissolved and the running of the party handed over to the Board of Trustees, BoT or the relocation to another venue to hold the national convention and conduct the elections.
A third option was to hold a mini convention without election inside an alternative venue.
In the end, the party apparently in a bid not to turn the BoT into a party in the several conflicts, opted the third option partly to avoid the possibility of the police coming to break up the convention.
The convention inside the premises of the PDP state secretariat was opened by the national chairman, Makarfi, who poured out unusually hard words on the federal government, with the assertion that democracy in the country was under threat.
“Democracy is under threat and we should be careful. We have enough problems in this country and we should be careful,” he said, asserting that the party had resolved to go ahead with the convention.
The chairman of the Convention Planning Committee, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, subsequently invited dignitaries present among whom were the chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibrin, and the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to give their remarks.
Jibrin in his remarks, affirmed that the PDP would outlive all the machinations set against it by its adversaries as he said the party resolved to hold the convention in adherence to the wishes of party members.
Senator Ekweremadu, the party’s highest elected public officials in his remarks, said time was coming when Nigerians would demand that the PDP be given the reins of power again.
He encouraged party members to keep hope alive, saying “we are going to survive this tyranny as we have survived it before.”
Ekweremadu subsequently moved a four part motion that led to the resolutions that were adopted by the convention, to wit: Postponement of election of officers to various national offices of the party; extension of the tenure of the National Caretaker Committee till another National Convention which is to be convened within the next 12 months and approval of the expansion of membership of the National Caretaker
Committee from 7 to 13 members;
Also include in the motion was the resolution that at the Repeat National Convention, all members of the National Caretaker Committee shall not contest or aspire for any national office.
Briefing newsmen on the developments yesterday, party spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, lamented the selective application of the judgements and orders of the court.
He said security operatives ignored an interlocutory order from a High Court in Port Harcourt to provide security for the convention, choosing to respect the Abuja High court order.
Adeyeye said security operatives should also have complied with another High Court judgement in Abuja that said Sheriff was never chairman of the party.