Presidential aspirants, delegates, party officials, independent observers, journalists and other accredited participants have gathered in Port Harcourt for the Peoples Democratic Party 2018 National Convention.
The event, officially scheduled for 6-7 October in the major commercial hub, would end in the emergence of a presidential candidate for Nigeria’s main opposition party.
The PDP governed Africa’s largest economy and most-populated entity under three successive presidents between 1999 when the country returned to civil rule and 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari emerged the first opposition politician to be elected president.
The PDP has come a long way since March 2015 when Nigerians denied it a fifth presidential election victory. In that general election, the party did not only lose the centre but also saw its grip on over a dozen states successfully wrestled by the All Progressives Congress, which was only established in mid-2013.
Shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan handed over to Mr Buhari at the end of May 2015, the PDP was plunged into a series of protracted internal wranglings that became so critical at some point political observers were predicting its demise.
The crises, which bordered largely on the leadership complexities, were eventually resolved at the Supreme Court in mid-2017, and the party seemed to have steadily regained its posture ever since.
The first sign that the party may enter the 2019 as a strong contender came a few months after the Supreme Court victory in December 2015 when Uche Secondus emerged national chairman at a competitive convention.
Although the outcome was heavily criticised by Mr Secondus’ challengers, especially those from the South-west who believed the new chairman was helped in by Governor Nyesom Wike to spite the Yoruba and relegate them to the fringes in party affairs, the frayed nerves were soon pacified by a reconciliation committee the party set in motion.
Also, within a few months after the PDP victory, and with the opening of 2019 election season looming on the horizon, political heavyweights began joining the party’s folds, and their number built as the election proper approached.
Now months to the general election in February 2019, the party is arguing that but for its top stalwarts who broke away in a major revolt between 2013 when APC was formed and well into the last weeks of the 2015 election, it would not have lost the centre.
The party also said since Mr Buhari’s performance has been underwhelming beyond belief, Nigerians would not be reluctant in relieving him of power at the polls next year.
But the Buhari administration and the APC have shot back at the oppostion party’s talking points, saying the current government had been preoccupied with reversing the disastrous policies of the past and accused the PDP of trying to return to power to continue looting the treasury.
The opposition party, however, apologised to Nigerians for its breach of citizens’s mandate during its 16-year reign, promising a new dawn in its conduct going forward.
With former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and a host of other famed politicians who were part of the pre-2015 renegades now back in the PDP and even seeking presidential nomination, the opposition party is now more confident of its standing than at any time since its 2015 shellacking.
The need for aspirants to remain in the PDP and form a united front against Mr Buhari next February has been amongst the top concerns of the PDP in recent days. Last week, the party reportedly demanded that all aspirants must commit to remain in the party and work together after the convention, its outcome notwithstanding.
Party insiders also said the convention was deliberately scheduled to end on October 7 so as to prevent aspirants from decamping to other parties to participate in their convention upon the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for primaries.
Most aspirants have openly expressed willingness to work with whoever emerges the candidate amongst them, and none of them has openly indicated interest in defecting after the primaries this weekend. Instead, they have been largely busy canvassing delegates.
At least half of the 12 aspirants met with delegates at different levels throughout the night between Friday and Saturday.
At least 4,000 delegates, comprising automatic, statutory and ad-hoc members, are expected to vote. Politicking amongst the aspirants for the highest number of delegates score is expected to continue until the last minute.
Organisers estimate voting would start by late evening, and continue well into Sunday at Adokiye Amiesiemeka Stadium.
The 12 candidates are: Atiku Abubakar, Ahmed Makarfi, Aminu Tambuwal, Datti Baba-Ahmed, Attahiru Bafarawa, Sule Lamido, Bukola Saraki, Sule Lamido, David Mark, Jonah Jang, KabiruTuraki and Rabi Kwankwaso. They have all expressed confidence in their individual abilities to clinch the ticket and face President Muhammadu Buhari as the main challenger in the general election next February.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Samuel Ogundipe, Cletus Ukpong and Nasir Ayitogo are on ground for a real-time coverage of the historic event, whose aftermath would herald the 2019 election campaign proper. Refresh your browser for the latest in our live updates:
2:11pm: Delegates from various states are still being accredited. There is no sign the event will commence in the next one hour. The entire venue is still disorganised.
As at 2:49pm, Rivers State delegates are the first to arrive the venue.
3:28pm: The stadium bowl, main venue of the event is near empty. A few felegates are coming in.
PDP Convention: ‘Bidding’ opens as Saraki doles out $1,000 per delegate
Senate President Bukola Saraki has reportedly started paying money to delegates at the Peoples Democratic Party’s national convention, marking perhaps the first move in an expected flurry of payouts which aspirants are keen on raining on delegates to win support for the presidential nomination.
Mr Saraki paid out $1,000 per delegate at about noon on Saturday, hours before voting opens in the convention, PREMIUM TIMES learnt from delegates, including those who received the largesse.
“We have received our first goodwill from the Senate President Bukola Saraki,” a delegate from Nasarawa State told PREMIUM TIMES. “It is our first dollars here, but we know more would still come from other aspirants, they have been calling us since yesterday.”
A spokesperson for the Saraki campaign did not immediately return calls for comments. But two sources in his campaign who were amongst those who coordinated the payout stashed in campaign paraphernalia have corroborated the claim to PREMIUM TIMES.
The top lawmaker is perhaps the first to pay out cash to influence the choice of delegates. At least 4,000 delegates are expected to vote for 12 aspirants when the exercise commences at this stadium in a few hours’ time.
It is still early in the day, as politician insiders tell PREMIUM TIMES that the payout would rise as voting kick off.
“Do not be surprised if they hike the rate to $4,000, this is not your average convention,” a source attached with the campaign of one of the top-four contenders told PREMIUM TIMES.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara discharging his duties as the chairman, accreditation sub-committee.
As at 4:07 pm, accreditation of delegates is still ongoing as less than 30 percent of delegates are seated in the main bowl.
A fracas almost occurred at the entrance of the stadium when a handful of youth accompanying music star, Davido, tried to storm through the security check-point. They were fiercely pushed back by security officers who tired teargas. A former senator from Akwa Ibom, Effiong Bob, was seen walking away from the scene, covering his nose, apparently affected by the teargas. Davido was seen walking away angrily from the scene.
Delegates are still walking in droves into the stadium while introduction of dignitaries is going on. Accreditation is also going on outside the stadium.
Delegates are asked to assemble before the Electoral Committee of the National Convention Committee for final accreditation before the commencement of the voting.
6.45pm: Although, none of the presidential aspirants seems to be present at the venue of the convention, there is an announcement that the aspirants should be ready by 7 pm to address the convention on why the delegates should vote for them.
7.23 pm Nigerian music star, Davido, is performing. Many people are leaving their seats and moving towards the stage to watch him perform.
8.21pm The National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, arrives convention venue.
8.39 pm Convention begins with the national anthem followed by Muslim and Christian opening prayers.
8.50pm Ucge Secondus reads his welcome address, surrounded by party chieftains, including the chairman of the convention committee, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State,.
Mr Secondus said the convention is a step towards the party’s march to regaining power.
He said the convention will be organised in most orderly and credible manner..
he said the APC has shown that it lacks the wherewithal to manage this country.
The national chairman faulted the corruption fight of the APC He said under the APC administration corruption has become monumental. He said Nigeria has never been divided as it is today. He said the economy has been stagnated under the administration.
Mr Secondus said PDP has helped entrenched democracy in Nigeria since it took over power from the military in 1999.
He said the reform of the electoral process by the PDP led to the defeat of the PDP by the APC in the 2015 presidential election
Mr Secondus lambasted the APC over the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections. He said on Friday he led a protest to INEC and police headquarters over the Osun election. He assured Ekiti and Osun States that PDP is not a violent party and that it will use legitimate means to recover its mandate in the two states.
He asked the delegates to note that the choice they make will go a long way in rescuing the nation from the APC.
He told the aspirants that the primary will be conducted in the most transparent manner. “The whole world is watching us and we must deliver.” he said.
He said, “President Buhari. it is time to go home. Let’s take back our nation.”
The Chairman of the National Convention Committee, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, delivers his address.
Mr Okowa said a lot of people will be wondering why we are starting late. he said most of our delegates had to travel by road. Glad that the delegates have finally arrived. He thanked God for journey mercies. He thanked God for the confidence reposed in the committee. He said the committee has bee able to put up a process that they are all proud of. he said the committee had finished accreditation and that the process will be free ,fair, transparent and credible. He said they are proud of he various organs of the party as well as the aspirants. he welcome the delegates to the convention. “We will do what is necessary to ensure that the process is credible as earlier stated.”
The National Secretary of the PDP gives report.. He welcome the delegates. At the end of the exercise the party will have a presidential candidate who will save Nigeria.
The national secretary, Senator Ibrahim Umar Tsauri thanked the party’s governors for standing by the party. He said PDP remains the hope of Nigeria and Nigerians. He end his address..
A former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, is addressing the convention.
Mr Wabara said PDP has waited for four years for this moment. He said he speaking on behalf of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees He said the ear of impunity and imposition is gone in the party. He said the 12 aspirants are all qualified. He said all the aspirants visited the Board of Trustees. He appealed to them to know that power comes from God and that at the end of the day, the 11 aspirants who will not emerge will rally round the winner. He praised from the convention committee chairman, Ifeanyi Okowa for the wonderful job he has been doing..
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, is about to address the convention.
Mr Ekweremadu is not available. Now the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has been called upon to address the convention. Mr Dogara is also the Chairman of the Accreditation Committee of the convention.
Mr Dogara said said he bring the delegates greetings from the National Assembly. He reminded the delegates of the importance of the event. He said the problem of Nigeria is leadership, not the challenge of infrastructure and the blood letting in some parts of the country. He said “we are living in a country with decay infrastructure.” He said if there is right leadership education and others will not be a problem. He said with the right leadership Nigeria will not only be the pride of the black man but the entire world. The Speaker said the convention should not joke with today’s event in order to pick the right person from the group of “eminently qualified” aspirants’
“Today is the beginning of this great journey.”
9.55pm The MC welcomes Senator Ademola Adeleke to the convention.
The presidential aspirants are going to speak for three minutes and will do so in alphabetical order, using their surnames,
The MC read out the names of the aspirants. Atiku Abubakar about to address the delegates.
Atiku says delegates have the most important decision to make tonight. He said 2019 elections is going to be the most significant in the history of Nigeria.
To Get Nigeria Working Again, We Must Defeat the APC
Being a Speech by Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the Opening Ceremony of the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, at the Adokiye Amasiemeka Stadium, Port Harcourt
Saturday, October 6, 2018.
My Dear Delegates,
On this day, you have a most important decision in your hands. You must decide who will represent the PDP as our candidate for the President of Nigeria.
This election is one of the most important in the history of our Republic. Four years ago, the people of Nigeria voted for Change, today they are not happy with the change they received.
The economy has slowed bringing hardship across Nigeria, increasing hunger and poverty, farmers struggle, businesses close, and jobs are lost. All the while, our government has become less transparent and deaf to the voices of Nigerians.
It is time we get Nigeria working again. We need jobs, wealth creation for farmers and across the agriculture sector, along with security for every Nigerian so they may prosper.
This is why I ask for your support in seeking the PDP ticket. You are aware of my government service and just as importantly my long work in business helping develop the economy, creating jobs in agriculture, healthcare, and education.
Upon election, I will work with you the delegates of the PDP and every Nigerian in each state to restructure and build the local infrastructures needed to grow the economy, create jobs and bring wealth to every Nigerian.
With your support, together, we can truly get Nigeria working again.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
God bless the PDP.
Atiku Abubakar, GCON
Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999-2007.
Another aspirant, Attahiru Bafarawa, is addressing the convention. He said he joined politics in 1976, He said he knows the game of politics He served as governor for eight years.
Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, is currently addressing the convention.
Mr Dankwambo reeled out his credentials. He said when others ran away from the party in 2014, “I stayed and ran for an election under the party and won. At the age of 56 today, I’m not too young to run and not too old to retire. If the people of our party find me worthy to fly the party’s ticket, I will accept. However, if they find someone else I am ready to accept.”
Datti-Ahmed is currently addressing the convention.
He said “the choice you are about to make here will make the difference between war and peace, unity and disunity, progress and retrogression. In me you will find the widest gap netween PDP and the nearest runner up.”
Another aspirant. A former governor of Plateau state, Jonah Jang is now addressing the convention.
“As a military officer, I participated in the civil war to keep Nigeria one.
Many left the PDP and returned, I have stayed to restore the party to what it is today. I cannot stay in the background and watch opportunities given to returnees.
The ticket should be given to one of us who stayed in the party
I am here to make the change and change the change
I will push for restructuring, in fact you can call me Mr. Restructuring – Jang
Mr Jang says he stood with other pro-democracy elements to fight for democracy in Nigeria during the military era.
Kwankwaso is now on the podium to address the convention.
He began by apologising to the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Any day you want to give an award in Nigeria, give it to Buhari because he has made PDP the strongest political party.
I will like to apologize to the former administration that we thought was the worst government. Today we know better
Try as much as possible to vote for a candidate that will ensure the success of our party- Kwankwaso
I want to assure Nigerians that I will do appropriate restructuring to ensure that the economy improves- Kwankwaso
Sule Lamido taking the podium
Former Governor of Kaduna state, Ahmed Makarfi while addressing the delegates says he is glad the PDP is alive and kicking.
He also says he won’t leave the party even if he fails to win the primary.
“ I will remain in the party, I will remain loyal and committed to the party,” he said
Now on the podium is former Senate President David Mark.
Speaking earlier, one of the aspirants, former Governor of Jigawa state Sule Lamido said
Sule Lamido said “We have been able to re-arranged and re-brand the PDP to make it a wonderful damsel.”
He said delegates should vote their conscience. “If you do the wrong thing, we are in trouble,” Mr Lamido said.
“I’m the only one amongst the aspirants who have apointed a female as a campaign DG, that’ shows I am gender friendly – David Mark
“We have a blueprint that can revamp the economy of this country in 730 days, I want you to mark my words. It is doable – David Mark
Mr Mark says if elected president his focus will be to end insecurity and unite the country.
“I can be trusted because you’ve trusted me over the years.
I will support whoever becomes the candidate of the party – Mark
Senate President Bukola Saraki now on the podium.
“I have the courage, I have the honour to keep the promise I have made,” Mr Mark said, promising not to leave the party if he fails to win the primary.
Mr Saraki says he stands humbled and determined as he look at the faces of the delegates.
Mr Saraki says Nigerians are now more divided, but that poverty does not discriminate.
We cannot vote based on sentiments, we must vote based on competence
If you are looking for a 21st century leader, you will vote for me in the next few hours – -Saraki
I promise to work hard to unite this country
I will have a youth driven government – Saraki
Speaking now is the Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal. He is one of the aspirants.
Mr Tambuwal says having been a federal lawmaker and a state governor, he has the required experience to run Nigeria.
He promise to promote science and technology, and use it to fight insecurity and crime in Nigeria, if elected president.
He also promised to focus attention on agriculture.
Mr Tambuwal, like most other aspirants, promise to support whoever emerges as PDP candidate if he fails to win the primary.
Now on the Podium is former Minister for Special Duties and one of the aspirants, Tanimu Turaki
Mr Turaki says Nigeria has been plagued by insecurity, decayed infrastructure and hardship.
He says all the 12 presidential aspirants are qualified to be elected as the party’s candidate and that he is the most honest and credible of all the aspirants.
All the aspirants have finished addressing the convention.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, is now addressing the convention.
Mr Ekweremadu says PDP started the fight against corruption and also brought the GSM communication to Nigeria.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is now addressing the convention. Mr Jonathan gets an ovation as he was introduced.
Mr Jonathan says all the aspirants are qualified to be the party’s candidate.
He said the delegates must elect one person who would unite Nigeria.
He also says he is glad to hear the aspirants pledge to remain in the PDP and help the party win the 2019 presidential election even if they fail to win the primary.
With speeches over. The voting process is about to commence. The electoral committee, accompanied by agents of the aspirants, is going around the delegates’ stands to do final verification.
Voting is going to be by open-secret. No voting by proxy. Phone not allowed into the cubicle that will be used for the voting. No two delegates will be allowed to enter one cubicle together, the convention organizers tell delegates.
Chairman of the convention committee, Governor Okowa is currently explaining voting procedures to the delegates.
He appeals to them to cooperate with the orgarnisers for a free and transparent voting.
Mr Okowa, informed the convention that after his committee took delivery of the ballot papers, they went a step further to put a seal on each of the papers to forestall a situation where ballot papers are smuggled in from outside.
“Any ballot paper without our seal on it will not be counted as a valid vote,” he said.
Voting has finally began.
Jigawa and Abia states are voting concurrently. Henceforth, it will be two states at a time.
The next states to vote are Adamawa with 76 delegates and Katsina with 100 delegates
Now voting are delegates from Akwa-Ibom State. They are made up of 151 delegates.
Voting shortly after Akwa-Ibom are delegates from Kebbi State. They are made up of 66 delegates.
Kogi state delegates now voting. They have a total of 94 accredited delegates.
Kogi is closely followed by Anambra which has a total number of 54 accredited delegates.
Bauchi State with 76 accredited delegates are now voting. They will be voting concurrently with Kwara state which has a total of 102 accredited delegates.
Bayelsa with 74 delegates are now voting together with Lagos with 64 accredited delegates.
Benue State with 121 accredited delegates are now voting. Nasarawa State is voting alongside with 62 accredited delegates.
Borno state with a total of 57 accredited voters are now voting.
Niger State and Cross River state are voting concurrently. They both have a total of 83 and 94 accredited voters respectively.
Delta state with a total of 150 accredited delegates are now voting. They will be followed by Ogun with 21 delegates.
Ondo state has 64 accredited delegates and are about casting their votes
Ebonyi state has 101 accredited delegates and are currently voting. Osun has 89. Voting in a short while
79 accredited delegates from Edo state are now voting. Oyo state accredited delegates are 88 also voting.
Enugu has a total number of 136 accredited delegates who are currently voting. Plateau state delegates with a total number of 76 are also voting
109 Ekiti delegates as well as the host state, Rivers with 131 delegates are now voting
Wike displays ballot paper, votes Tambuwal
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has shown to the world that he voted Sokoto State Governor and Presidential aspirant, Aminu Tambuwal.
Prior to the convention, he was believed to be backing Tambuwal for the party ticket.
Apart from Wike, 90 percent of the rRivers state delegates also displayed their ballot papers, apparently to show the world where they belong.
Voting is ongoing,
129 accredited voters from Kano are now casting their votes
5.53am 93 accredited voters from Taraba are now voting. 104 Imo delegates are following concurrently
Voting almost concluded as delegates from Zamfara state and the FCT are now casting their votes. Sorting of the ballot papers will soon start
Voting ends. “We have just completed the process of voting. We thank all our delegates. Now we are going to proceed to the process of sorting. – Okowa
Atiku Abubakar appears to be in an early lead at the convention, according to PREMIUM TIMES’ observation of ongoing sorting of ballots.
The former vice president appears to be trailed closely by Mr Tambuwal, with Mr Saraki holding a third place.
PREMIUM TIMES observation shows that Mr Abubakar’s sorting box has been replaced at least once by party electoral officers, after being filled, while his closest rivals have their boxed filled but not yet changed.
Dubem Onyia, Mr Abubakar’s agent, could also be seen clearly receiving more ballots than other agents within the last hour. Mr Tambuwal’s agent was formerly receiving more, but that dwindled later.
A ballot has approximately 800 ballots, according to party officers.