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Pressure on PDP to hold convention November

Posted by By STEVE NWOSU and CHRISTIAN ITA on 2005/08/28 | Views: 324 |

Pressure on PDP to hold convention November

Proponents of the campaign to get President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for a third term in office have upped the ante as they seek to create the appropriate scenario for the actualization of the controversial ambition.

Proponents of the campaign to get President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for a third term in office have upped the ante as they seek to create the appropriate scenario for the actualization of the controversial ambition.

Sunday Sun can authoritatively report that these campaigners are now toying with the possibility of provoking war with Cameroun over the Bakassi peninsula, even as the third term agenda veers into a desperate and dangerous path.

A highly reliable source close to the secret think-tank told Sunday Sun that “the thinking is that of all the proposals for a third term bid for the president, the only one that would be acceptable to Nigerians would have to be precipitated by a major national crisis”.

The strategy, Sunday Sun gathered, is hinged on the fact that most right-thinking Nigerians would not touch the third term proposal with a mile long pole unless there is a real and present danger of the country being in a major crisis where national security would be paramount.

“Such a crisis, given the present situation in the country, can only come from two possible fronts – the disputed Bakassi Peninsula or the ever restive Niger Delta”.
“However”, the source said, “the Niger Delta is so unpredictable that any artificial crisis created there could escalate out of hand into a real national crisis that not even Obasanjo can manage. That leaves only the Bakassi option”.

He said the think-tank settled for the Bakassi pseudo war option following the failure of the recently concluded National Political Reform Conference to categorically endorse the third term proposal.
Similarly, efforts of agents of the Presidency to push the agenda through the National Assembly had also been shot down with Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Bello Masari, openly advising against it and reassuring that the lower House would never be a part to such a project.
Asked whether this now meant that the Presidency would be so desperate as to plunge the country into war with the Cameroun simply because of the quest for a third term, the source said: “None of the proponents of this strategy is a war monger per se. Make no mistake about it. And nobody is ready to go to war. The intention is to encourage some skirmishes to break out in the area – maybe even provoke it, allow it to degenerate, ensure that it persists for a long time - with both Nigeria and Cameroun talking tough. It could even be internationalized. There could even be some visible troops movement. But the war will never happen. War would never be declared.”
He said that there would be a seeming state of emergency and everybody would be so concerned that postponing the presidential election would only be a logical step. “No country changes its leadership in times of war. It would have been done in the interest of national security but it would have achieved the aim of giving Obasanjo a third term which was the aim ab initio”.

Obasanjo’s position
Although the prime beneficiary of the plot is President Obasanjo who would be automatically handed his third term ticket, as the superior consideration of defending the country against external aggression takes precedence over local elections, it is not known what is the official position of the president on the matter.
So, what is not clear is whether the President would accept this proposal. However, if it is accepted, the next plan of action would be to either totally withdraw from the joint committee set up by both Nigeria and Cameroun to work out an agreeable arrangement on what to do with the land and the citizens resident there.

American experience
The war option seems to have been borrowed from the World War II experience of the United States when war president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) had to rule for a third term as the US which was at war could not afford to be distracted by presidential elections.
The proponents of this strategy, Sunday Sun gathered, have also advanced the experience of the recent past history in the same United States. They reasoned that President George W. Bush essentially won the last presidential election because of the war in Iraq. Bush whom many argued had failed on the economy where all empirical indices indicated that the economy was a lot worse than his successor, Bill Clinton, left it. However, Bush rode to victory on the strength of his war against terror and the seeming conviction among Americans that there was a need to sustain the tempo of the anti-terror campaign.

Yet Bakassi smoulders
Since the ruling of the World Court, which pronounced Cameroun the legitimate owners of the disputed oil-rich peninsula, Nigeria has yet to officially hand over the territory to the French-speaking eastern neighbours. Several deadlines fixed by the United Nations, the World Court and even mutually by the two countries have all expired without any hand over.
A few weeks ago, the Camerounians seemingly got restless and their Gendarmes reportedly invaded some of the communities in the area. The resulting clash with the indigenes (all of whom are Nigerians of Efik extraction) left several people dead and many others wounded.
Meanwhile, the indigenes have vowed to die on their land rather than be evacuated or partitioned into the Cameroun.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has come under sever pressure to hold its national convention in November as indications emerged that it could be postponed till 2006.
The pressure is coming from groups within the party who are opposed to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s alleged third term bid. While insisting that the attempt to shift the convention is meant to allow the president time to make up his mind on the third term agenda, some members of the group who spoke with Sunday Sun, said the one way to end the speculation was to hold the convention in November.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they contended that things would be made clearer at the convention as to which zone would produce the president in 2007.
Going by the constitution of the party, the ward and state congresses of the party, a prelude to the national convention, should be conducted in August and September respectively.
But with August already gone without any sign that the ward congresses would be conducted, tension is mounting.

The National Chairman of the party, Col. Ahmadu Ali first gave the hint that the convention could be postponed during a recent visit to his office by a delegation of the party from Sokoto State.
Ali told the delegation that was led by Water Resources Minister; Muktar Shagari that holding the convention in November was no longer feasible.

At yet another forum, the PDP national chairman said the date of the convention is yet to be known. He said this despite that the party constitution has scheduled it for November.
The statement has been generating so much furor in the party with some members threatening court action should the convention be postponed.
To underscore their disapproval of the plot, senators of the party last week boycotted a dinner organised by the national leadership of the party.

Though the plot to shift the convention is to aid the president’s third term bid, it has a negative implication for the party hierarchy at all the levels.
A source in the party disclosed that by the provisions of the constitution of the party, the leadership of the party at the ward level would cease to exist by the end of August if ward congresses are not held.
The same thing, he said applies to the state and national levels which by the end of November, would cease to function.

Interestingly, the National Executive Committee of the party, which is vested with the limited power to shift the convention, has been left in the dark except for some members who are privy to the plot. This has created a chasm within the NEC.
The irony however, is that under the current constitution of the party, not even the NEC has the powers to shift the convention.

Mr. John Odey, the National Publicity Secretary of the party has been giving reasons on why the ward congresses were yet to be conducted.

Odey, at the end of the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting in Abuja Wednesday, said the delay was because the party was conducting a fresh registration exercise.
Incidentally, the registration exercise, though yet to commence, has been eliciting negative reactions from within the party.

Some members of the party view it as a grand design targeted at Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
By asking every member of the party to register afresh, they fear that some members of the party seen as loyal to Atiku might be denied registration. This would foreclose the chances of Atiku picking the party’s presidential ticket.

Another source of conflict in the party is the sacking of some state executive committees of the party by the unelected national leadership.
In Imo State for instance, the state executive committee was sacked by the Ali led National Working Committee which subsequently appointed a caretaker committee in its stead.
Under the constitution of the party, a caretaker committee can only be appointed where the party fails to resolve any crisis in the party leading to its factionalisation.

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