Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were last night bracing themselves for fallouts from the most competitive elective convention in the party’s 18-year history with about 92 persons jostling for 21 positions.
The media mogul, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, who with Prof. Tunde Adeniran were providing the toughest challenge for the leading national chairmanship candidate, Prince Uche Secondus, was forced into a late Friday press conference to dismiss claims he had withdrawn from the race.
Nonetheless, party chieftains yesterday were full of assurances that today’s convention would be an exemplary democratic process in which the will of the majority of 2,800 delegates would prevail.
Secondus’ position as the leading candidate was further reiterated yesterday after the South-East caucus of the party endorsed him.
However, other forces within the party were still fighting back with the South-West caucus and Dr. Dokpesi mobilizing to stop him.
Saturday Vanguard learnt yesterday that at least two of the candidates from the South-West had agreed to step down, but those two were unwilling to go through with their plans until they knew who they would step down for. Saturday Vanguard could not confirm how the late withdrawal of Chief Bode George from the contest would affect them as at least one of them had indicated he would not withdraw for George.
A final decision by the South-West caucus is not expected to be made until this morning and may be circulated on the convention ground. One source privy to the consultations said that the South-West could enter the election with two chairmanship candidates.
As a way of reducing the bad blood among the camps of some of the leading chairmanship candidates, the Okowa Committee had made them to sign undertakings to abide by the process and accept the results.
All eight candidates still in the race as at yesterday it was learnt, signed the undertaking, albeit on the provision that the process went according to laid down provisions.
“We are very much aware of the security alert about Abuja. The security committee is working very closely with the security agencies to ensure a smooth convention,” said Okowa who added that security sub-committee is working very closely with the police and relevant security agencies to ensure a smooth exercise.
He added that only properly accredited journalists would be allowed in to the convention venue.
On his part, Chairman, Post-Convention Planning Committee and Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson tasked all aspirants to demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship before, during and after the contest, adding that only one of them is fated to win the election.
He thanked Okowa for his work rate, describing him and the Convention Planning Committee as “People we have confidence in.”
Governor Dickson also urged the aspirants to be at liberty to approach his committee to seek clarification on any issue pertaining to convention.
He said the caucus had mandated its delegates to the convention to vote for Secondus, saying the decision was taken after a careful consideration of his “Content and character.”
“We are very conscious of the personality of who becomes the national chairman of our great party for the next four years. Based on the foregoing, we have unanimously in our today’s stakeholders’ meeting, decided that we will back an aspirant that has character and content.
“In this circumstance, and without prejudice to the right of other aspirants to this national chairmanship position, credible and transparent election, we have decided to back and vote for Prince Uche Secondus for the position of national chairman of our great party.”
The meeting was attended by South-East PDP bigwigs including Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, former Imo State governor, Sam Egwu, erstwhile Senate President, Adolphus Wabara and ex-Abia State governor, Senator Theodore Orji.