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PDP did not bring ballot papers to Eagle Square

Posted by By JACOB EDI, Abuja on 2008/03/18 | Views: 446 |

PDP did not bring ballot papers to Eagle Square

The last may not have be heard yet about the just concluded national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] as Prince Benjamin B. Apugo, one of the major actors and a one time member of the party’s board of trustees, has dismissed whatever transpired at the March 8 convention as a charade.

The last may not have be heard yet about the just concluded national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] as Prince Benjamin B. Apugo, one of the major actors and a one time member of the party’s board of trustees, has dismissed whatever transpired at the March 8 convention as a charade.

According to him, what happened that day was the mere appointment of some individuals to man the party and run its affairs.

Apugo, a chairmanship candidate, in a chat with Saturday Sun, revealed that ballot papers were not actually brought to the Eagle Square venue of the convention, as those pulling the strings in the party already knew that no voting was going to take place.

He said, this was even as they had yet to get the consent of all the aspirants for the various positions to step down for the anointed ones, adding that it was partly for this reason of absence of voting materials that the party apparatchik was desperate to throw up a consensus candidate that would make voting meaningless.

Worse still, according to him is the fact that he was neither contacted nor his opinion sought, before the announcement by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu that all the 26 chairmanship aspirants in the race had stepped down for Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, now crowned the chairman of the party.

To underscore this situation, Apugo pointed out that some of the aspirants like him were still canvassing for votes either directly or indirectly through their agents on the convention ground when Iwuanyanwu mounted the podium to announce that all the candidates had agreed to step down for Ogbulafor.

According to him, it would have been a huge scandal, if the bid to choose the national executive committee members by consensus had failed and the need to vote became inevitable. ‘Everyone would have been thoroughly embarrassed’.

But in spite of his reservations, Apugo said “we must give Ogbulafor a chance.”
Although Apugo said he feels bad at the turn of events that saw him out of a race he was convinced he would win, he said for whatever it is worth, he feels happy “since my state Abia was not even included in the South East zoning plans by the so called PDP zonal caucus.”

Outcome of convention and the future of party democracy
“Like I said earlier, there was no election and we cannot continue to talk about democracy that way. Even though, I have expressed my happiness that the position has finally come to my state, I would not like things like that to happen again in our democracy.
“This is democracy and things must be seen to be done according to the laid down rules and regulations of the game. What happened is condemnable but we have accepted it in the interest of peace and general good of the party and democracy at large.”

Ogbulafor was not OBJ’s Plan B.
Former President Obasanjo had vigorously rooted for former governor Sam Egwu to be chairman of PDP. And with the emergence of Ogbulafor, it is believed he was OBJ’s Plan B, but Apugo sees this differently.
“I do not see it that way. Obasanjo is still the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party, and so has a voice in the party. As for Ogbulafor been Obasanjo’s plan B, I wouldn’t know. But all I can say is that Obasanjo is still in the party and Ogbulafor is the new national chairman.
How did you people withdraw from contesting? Were you blackmailed, convinced or confused? What actually happened?

“I was not blackmailed to pull out. Nobody came to me and we were prepared to go for elections. At least three of us: Anyim, Egwu and I campaigned vigorously across the country. But when election was to take place there was no ballot paper.”

You are expressing happiness over the emergence of Ogbulafor. If you so much like him why did you come out to contest against him?
“When I came out, he was not there. I came out to contest but Ogbulafor was appointed because there was no election. Although he is the chairman, this is not an exception because all other people who have served before him, including the immediate past chairman, Ahmadu Ali, were all appointed.”
Are you saying even Ogbulafor did not reach out to you?”
“He could not have talked to me because he did not campaign anywhere and therefore there was no basis for any talks.”

When did you know that the game was over for you? Was it at the Eagle Square or before then?
Before we went to the Eagle Square, we knew that there would be no election. The planning committee of the convention planned it that way. Others talk about the Governors Forum. When they said let’s start to vote with Katsina to enable the delegates go for the burial rites of their departed Emir, there were no ballot papers. But the boxes were there alright.

But what is happening to PDP is a curse; because the founding fathers no longer exist. Adamu Ciroma is a founding member but he only came there to do a job. If the founding fathers were there things would have gone differently.

Return of the PDP founding fathers possible?
In his acceptance speech, one major thing Ogbulafor stressed was to immediately put machineries in motion to recall all the PDP founding fathers who left the party in protest.
Even though Apugo does not dismiss Ogbulafor’s capacity to achieve this feat, he gives him little chance of success.

“I believe, with contacts, this is possible but I don’t think Ogbulafor even knows the founding fathers. Among all the contestants, I was the only founding father, so it is only somebody like me that can identify the founding fathers,” Apugo stated, adding that he is willing to help the new PDP helmsman fish out the founding fathers “because it is better to support him to succeed instead of allowing the chairmanship to remain in Kogi state for life.”
What would you say may have informed the decision of the governors or party hierarchy to settle for Ogbulafor?
I don’t know.

Does the new chairman have the capacity to transform PDP?
Yes, with the right contacts he can do it. I know him very well. He is from my village. He is my brother.
Now, with the convention over, what hope do you think the aftermath portends for PDP? Is it possible to see a new PDP?

The only hope for PDP is to bring back the founding fathers. What is happening to the PDP now is like a curse because of the way the founding fathers that fought for the party have been ill treated. They have been offended.
People like Obasanjo and Ali were not there when the party was founded but now they are reaping where they did not sow So, until the founding fathers come back and give their blessing I don’t think we can make it anywhere.

So many people, including a former chairman of the PDP have described the party as a nest of killers. What do you make of that?
I think the person is in a better position to provide the answer because as a former chairman he should know who and who killed. I am a founding member of the PDP but I am not a killer, so if anyone says the party is a nest of killers he should provide the facts.

The G-21 challenge
Apugo said he believes in the cause of the G21, a group of reformist who emerged during the heat of the build up to the convention. He however faults their modus operandi. In fact he alleges that most of the members of G21 have skeletons in their cupboards.

“Yes. But the problem there is: were they ready to pursue their case? At least 90 percent of them worked in Obasanjo’s government. They were there when all these problems started but nobody spoke against it except people like us who summoned courage to say no to undemocratic practices. Why did they not speak at that time?
“My problem with people is that when they are in government, they keep sealed lips over whatever is taking place whether good or bad but as soon as they are out of government, they start singing new songs, making nonsense statement.

“Most of them have skeletons in their cupboards because they worked with Obasanjo. They cannot stand strongly against Obasanjo because they were with him. Some of them worked as Senate Presidents, speakers, ministers and so on.
“So, some of them lack the moral standing to challenge anybody. But I believe the PDP Constitution should be reviewed because there is no constitution. I still believe in the 1999 constitution. Let us revert to that constitution which was prepared by the founding fathers. Because apart from that, PDP has no constitution at all.”

Now that you have lost election to become chairman, will you retire from PDP?
“I have not lost election because there was no election. There was no contest but the power has come to my village so I cannot go out to protest. I am a politician and I am still in politics and I will continue to play politics. I will not lose my head over what happened. I will remain in PDP and life goes on.”

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