• Hostile reception awaits defectors
The possible defection of members of the Reformed- All Progressives Congress (R-APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not appear to be good news to the ears of many PDP supporters in several states, if reports across the country yesterday are anything to go by.
Supporters of the PDP in such states as Kwara, Kogi, Sokoto and Kano are said to be uncomfortable with the coming of the defectors because of the perceived threat posed to the influence of the old party members by the new ones.
PDP chieftains in such states have already complained about the situation to the national leaders of the party, The Nation gathered yesterday.
Some party members said the defectors should not expect an open arm welcome.
The development is one of the obstacles now threatening the deal being worked out by the PDP with R-APC, the Obasanjo-backed Africa Democratic Party (ADC) and the Accord Party (AP).
Other contentious issues include the proposal by R-APC that the PDP should change its name and sharing of party executive posts.
In Kwara State, a group under the auspice of Kwara PDP Reality Movement (KPDPRM), has warned that the state chapter of the party will not agree to any power sharing formula that requires elected officials to resign their positions with a view to making way for the defectors from APC.
Chairman of the group, Seidu Gafar and the Secretary, Alhaji Ajibola Ajadi Muraina, said in a statement that they are “conscious of the common antics of the Saraki political family and we are patiently following the happenings around the plot by the Senate President to defect back to the PDP and hijack party structures as usual.”
They vowed that they “will not allow that to happen this time.”
They added: “while we will support any arrangement aimed at giving the PDP victory in 2019, we will oppose any arrangement that will demand that elected officials resign their position for Saraki’s men to take over.”
The situation is similar in Kogi State where opposition is swelling up against the return of Senator Dino Melaiye to the PDP.
Party chieftains in his native Kogi West senatorial district say the Senator lacks the followership that will warrant him or his group being given special treatment on his return to the party.
They said there will be no automatic ticket or position for him.
The Kogi West Concerned Members said:”the case of Kogi State is far different from that of Kwara, Sokoto or Kano where the APC defectors have very large followers sufficient enough to cover revolts.
“Kogi’s case is peculiar and we implore the national leadership to listen and abide by the views of the leaders of the party in the state which are as simples as follows: Senator Dino Melaye is welcome to PDP as specified under the Constitution of the party.
“He is free to aspire to any position of his choice but must take cognisance of the existing mutual arrangement.
“He will not be discriminated against in any form in the conduct of the affairs in the state. He should come into the party with genuine open mind and contribute meaningfully to growth of the PDP like any other senior members of the party.”
The group is made up of ex-lawmakers, former commis-sioners and past council bosses.
The Nation also gathered that PDP’s initiative to form an alliance with a cross section of parties for the purpose of unseating the APC in next year’s election is facing challenges of its own, including the demand by the Africa Democratic Party (ADC) and the Accord Party (AP) that the PDP should give them equal treatment as R-APC.
Sources said efforts by the Liyel Imoke-led committee set up by the PDP to negotiate with the R-APC are not making progress as expected because of the insistence of the R-APC members on alleged controversial demands.
One of such demands is the sharing of executive positions on a ration of 60:40.
Sources said the Imoke committee has been unable to convince R-APC to back down on some of the controversial demands at the weekend.
A serving member of the House of Representatives from the Northcentral said: “It is true that the committees could not resolve critical issues last week and the talks were put on hold for the two parties to go back home and see if they could shift grounds.
“I can tell you that the issue of name change is of major concern. We have our reasons for insisting that we merge under a new identity. We must go into that alliance as equals.
“Politics in Nigeria is funny. Look at what is happening within the APC and you will understand our position. It is unfair for anybody to say we are asking for too much. We are merely trying to ensure that we are comfortable wherever we decide to pitch our tent away from the APC.
“And you talk about the alleged demand that we want to take over the party structures in the state. That wasn’t part of our demand.
“Mischief makers are blowing some of these issues out of proportion and this is affecting the negotiations. What we said is that there will be need for our people to be accommodated in the party structures at the states level. And in states where we are obviously the stronger partner, we should be allowed to have the larger share.”
A member of one of the PDP negotiation teams said a few of the parties and groups were unrealistic in some of their demands. He specifically said the insistence that PDP change its name may end the merger talks.
“We got the report of one of the committees and we were told that they are particular about PDP changing its name. I can tell you this is one demand that may end the whole talk,” the source said.
“Most PDP leaders will never agree to a name change. Let us be realistic: most of us have good reasons for saying no to a name change. For example, our leaders in the BoT have this attachment to what they see as a legacy. In some states, the name PDP is like a national anthem.
“And if you consider the fact that we need a popular party to defeat the APC, then we will not be talking about a name change at this time. I think it is important for all of us talking about the alliance to put general interest above personal and group considerations. That way, the talks will move faster. PDP is committed to working with other parties and groups to free Nigeria from the misrule of APC.”
It was also gathered a group of chieftains within the PDP, opposed to the return of some of the R-APC members to the opposition party in their various state may have intensified efforts to prevail on leading PDP stakeholders to insist on the rejection of the demands being made by the would be defectors. According to reliable party sources, the anti-R-APC group includes governors, national assembly members and other big wigs.
One other reason why some PDP chieftains are opposed to the continuation of the talks with R-APC is the demand by the group that leadership positions will be shared in ratio 60:40 across the states for the merger to be concluded. The Nation gathered that many of the PDP governors have expressed reservation over the demand while R-APC chieftains are insisting that it is the only way to give their supporters some sense of belonging in the new party.
“It is just two sides of a coin for them to say we either change the party name and go for a new convention or share leadership position in ration 60:40. I think we should be thinking of working together for a common purpose and not trying to compete with one another,” a chieftain of the PDP in Kogi State said.
“What will then happen to the other parties interested in joining the PDP too? What ratio will they get? All these are really difficult demands,” our source added.
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