AHEAD OF 2019 | PDP opens merger talks with LP, SDP, five other parties

The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that it has commenced talks with some politicians and the leadership of the Labour Party (LP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and five other political parties in the country on modalities for aligning forces to wrest power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 general election.

The meeting with friendly political parties and associations, which was at the instance of the PDP, was billed to take place yesterday evening in Abuja.

The Chairman of the PDP Strategy Review and Inter-party Affairs Committee and former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana who gave some insight on the merger talks yesterday, when he submitted the report of the committee, said it had nothing to do with the “rumoured mega party”.

“We are pleased to report that our initial contacts have yielded positive responses from seven people-focused and social democratic parties. In fact, later this evening, key leaders and selected delegates from the seven parties will be meeting on the invitation of the PDP.

“This has nothing to do with the rumoured mega party, but a separate and highly principled initiative of the PDP. Our desire is to have all genuine democrats and friends of the party to flow together and provide a fresh and trustworthy leadership to promote and ensure a people-friendly process of national development.” he said.

He said the committee seriously considered how best to put in place a robust mechanism for inter-party relations, so as to encourage the coming together of all genuine and people-oriented democrats on the basis of shared principles and core programmes on national transformation.

Gana, who described the PDP as a strong sleeping lion that is now rising, explained that one of the key recommendations of the committee was the restoration of the youth and women’s wings of the party.
The committee also recommended new initiatives like the adoption of direct primaries, as well as other means of conducting credible congresses and conventions, and to do away with such practices that encourage impunity, he said.

The committee, Gana added, also recommended the use of direct primaries in the conduct of elections into elective positions.
To this effect, the committee recommended guidelines for direct primaries. It, however, recommended instances where the option of indirect primaries could be adopted when direct primaries are not deemed feasible.

Gana further disclosed that the committee recommended strategies for the proper funding of the party, stating that funding under the rebranded PDP would no longer be left in the hands of a few individuals but should be spread to all members under a funding system that would work.

In a bid to strengthen the party and put it in a position to win elections going forward, the committee said that it analysed the activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and came up with measures to respond to issues relating to the conduct of elections.

This would include the need for the party to adopt a rapid response mechanism and a situation room where elections are monitored and necessary actions taken to protect the interest of the party.

Also, the committee recommended the convocation of a national conference of democrats to create a powerful network for the defence of democracy in the country, which will place the PDP in a position to act as a strong advocate of democracy in Africa.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Senator Walid Jibril said the report of the committee aptly captured the minds and views of a majority of its members.

He, however, decried what he described as an unprecedented animosity and wicked plot by a few members to destroy the PDP, stressing that there were no factions in the PDP.

According to him, the contents of the report provided him relief, as they contained the aspirations of most of the members to revamp the PDP and not to let it die or be “subsumed in the supposed mega party”.

One of the high points of yesterday’s event was the surprise appearance of one of the founding fathers of the PDP, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and former Minister of Finance, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma.
Going down memory lane on how the PDP was formed, Ciroma said the party was formed in order to cater for the interest of all Nigerians.

He said the party would have stayed longer in power but for some mistakes.
Ciroma said: “I feel very proud of being in the PDP and of being one of the members that played a critical role in its formation. I am proud to say that the party is still alive today.”

Speaking on the difficult position the PDP has found itself as an opposition party, Ciroma advised the leadership and members to join hands in working on ways to rediscover the past glory of the party.
“We must be very proud that we were able to maintain the position we are in now, but if we want to help the ordinary Nigerians, we must give them a government that respects their feelings and one that shares their pains as well as understands what their aspirations are,” he added.

Another founding member of the PDP, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu described the event as a great milestone.
“Frankly speaking, this is my happiest day, because in the life of every person or organisation there comes a time for change. This is the stage that the PDP is in now.
“I am telling the PDP members gathered here to trust in God, we are going to recover power in 2019,” he observed.
He said the PDP was a gathering of very illustrious personalities in Nigeria.
Iwuanyanwu, whose speech interrupted by applause from the gathering, counselled that one of the key decisions that should have been taken at yesterday’s meeting was on the reopening of the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.

He said the party’s leadership must start the process of reclaiming its office, which according, to him, was illegally locked up.
He also insisted that he was still in the PDP, describing the suggestion of the governor of Imo State Chief Rochas Okorocha that some of the PDP leading members, including governors, were itching to join the All Progressives Congress (APC), as a fallacy.
He demanded that all the seats of legislators who recently defected to APC be made to vacate and others should be invited to contest for the seats.

The Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said the party would subject the report of the Gana-led panel to critical analysis by stakeholders before it is adopted.
Makarfi pointed out an area that was apparently being overlooked by the committee, which was the manifesto that the party should be offering the Nigerian people ahead of the 2019 elections.

He said one of the ways the APC has distracted the PDP and was attempting to prevent it from mobilising to take power back in 2019 was to create a series of crises in the PDP fold and a prolonged legal tussle over its leadership.
Makarfi said that the leadership of the PDP was aware of the antics of the APC and has decided to move ahead with its activities without any hindrance.

The former Kaduna State governor also apologised for some past actions of the party that may not have gone down well with regards to the enforcement of internal democracy, adding jokingly that even he and members of his committee may have been the products of imposition, which must be stopped going forward.

Also commenting on the report of the police investigative panel on the Rivers State rerun polls held last December, Markafi condemned what he described as the attempt by the APC-led government to drag the security agencies into partisan politics.
He said from all indications, there was no credible evidence in the police report indicting anyone for electoral malpractice.
His condemnation was reiterated by the PDP spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, who warned the police to stop the unwarranted harassment of the Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike.

Makarfi also used the occasion to call for prayers for the quick recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari, “so that he can return home to continue with his job of addressing the challenges in the country”.
A former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, who anchored the event, described the PDP as the party that brought democracy to Nigeria and sustained it, adding that the party was poised to return power back to ordinary Nigerians in 2019 by defeating the APC.

Among the large gathering of PDP stakeholders that thronged the Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, venue of the meeting, were party leaders, including the party’s founding fathers, governors, lawmakers, former governors and ministers, and chieftains of the party from across the country.

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