ANALYSIS: Political implication of hosting PDP national convention in Port Harcourt

Wadata-plaza PDP Headquarters
PDP Headquarters (Photo Credit: TVC News)

After the initial disagreement among its leaders, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finally settled for Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for its forthcoming National Convention.

The convention, scheduled for this weekend, is expected to produce the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 election.

The PDP was apologised to by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who had earlier threatened to deal with the party if they dared to take the convention away from Port Harcourt.

But was the controversy around Port Harcourt necessary at all, in the first place?

“There was no controversy,” the national spokesperson of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr Ologbondiyan said a committee set up by the National Working Committee (NWC) recommended Port Harcourt for the convention.

“Certain people” at the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) afterward expressed fears on the choice of the city,” he said.

The fear associated with Port Harcourt, this newspaper learnt, is because of the suspicion that Mr Wike was backing the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, who is one of the PDP presidential aspirants.

The governor has repeatedly denied backing Mr Tambuwal.

The Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Emma Okah, justified Mr Wike’s outburst against the PDP as being “normal”.

“The outburst is a normal emotional reaction, it has no pattern, it has no colour; it depends on the circumstances,” Mr Okah told PREMIUM TIMES, Saturday morning.

“It is like somebody saying, ‘I want to come to your house, and when I come I will like you to host me’. And you say, ‘Oh, great, we’ll host you, we’ll be glad to welcome you’.

“Then without any justifiable reason, your son now tells you ‘daddy, I’m not going to go to that man’s house-o. The man too dey do!’ Meanwhile, that man wey too do, na him dey help your papa to support your education one way or the other,” the commissioner said, using a mixture of English and Pidgin.

He added, “I am sure the governor saw it from the point of view of undue sentiment and that strange elements are being imported into the politics of the convention.

“What the governor thought was that what should concern anybody today is, are we going to have a free and fair convention, irrespective of where it is held?

“What some people were now facing was that the Governor of Rivers State, in their views, should not have the right to prefer anybody. In other words, he should disqualify himself from even voting during the convention because the convention is going to hold in Port Harcourt.”

Now that PDP is prepared and ready to elect its presidential candidate, all the ‘noise’ associated with the choice of Port Harcourt may have, after all, served as a good herald for the convention.

Beyond that, the turnout of things has confirmed governor Wike’s leadership position and influence within the opposition party.

Mr Okah, somehow agreed to this when he spoke with PREMIUM TIMES.

“Well, you cannot rule that out because truly he has done so much for the party,” Mr Okah said.

“Whether it is held in Akwa Ibom, Maiduguri, or Lagos, nobody can throw the fact away that governor Wike has been clearly a true leader of a sort and has been one of the backbones of the party.

“The story of the survival of the PDP cannot be complete without mentioning Governor Wike,” he said.

More so, having the convention in Port Harcourt strengthens Rivers image as a core PDP state. This could further inspire people, both within and outside Nigeria, to pay attention to the state during the 2019 general elections.

If the PDP had taken the convention away from Port Harcourt, the commissioner admitted too that the governor’s image would have been bruised.

“It would have put a dent on the governor as being incapable or on the state as being unsafe or unserious to host the convention,” he said.

The overall benefit for the choice of Port Harcourt is that the PDP is going to the convention as one united party.

On the other hand, Mr Wike’s little victory here may lend credence to the belief that the governor is having an overbearing influence on the party (he played a major role in helping his kinsman, Uche Secondus, elected national chairman of the PDP).

This is somehow risky, politically, because it could prompt conspiracy and gang-up within the party against the governor.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) saw an opening here and decided to mock the PDP for it.

“The PDP to all intents and purposes has become the theatre of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike,” APC’s spokesperson, Yekini Nabena, said on Sunday.

“Since assuming office after the disputed 2015 Rivers Governorship election, Wike has assumed the role of de facto PDP national chairman, sole administration, spokesman, organising secretary and BoT chairman.

“It is surprising that the PDP, with its supposed seasoned politicians, will sit by and allow governor Wike use the PDP as his personal property, to determine who gets what, when and how, and where party conventions must be held. What happened to internal party democracy? Of course, this is an alien concept to the PDP,” Mr Nabena said.

When PREMIUM TIMES, in a recent interview with Mr Wike, told the governor how some of his party chieftains were uncomfortable with his grip on the PDP, he responded: “Those who are complaining about me are those who are afraid because they are the agents of APC.”

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