The decision by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River state to jettison party primaries for consensus candidacy for the March 28 local government polls has pitched the party against critical stakeholders with some threatening to abandon the party.
Our reporter gathered that the list of prospective chairmanship candidates for the polls have already been compiled and submitted to the State Independent Electoral Commission, CROSIEC, without inputs from critical stakeholders, including National Assembly members.
The list includes Mrs Justina Edem for Odukpani, Effefiong Nta Eke for Calabar Municipality, Mrs Esther Bassey for Calabar South, Emmanuel Offiong Bassey for Akpabuyo and Iyadim Nakanda Amboni for Bakassi amongst others
In a chat with our Correspondent, a source at the State secretariat of the party, who preferred anonymity, alleged that some persons close to Gov Ben Ayade had convinced the governor to opt for affirmation through voice vote thereby abandoning party primaries.
“Names of the would-be local government Chairmen and councilors have been agreed upon and submitted to CROSIEC. Most critical stakeholders of the party including the National Assembly members have not been consulted. This is bad for the party, this is bad for internal democracy, I fear for PDP in Cross River” our source said.
Also speaking, a political analyst, Simon Utsu, said, “By handpicking local government chairmanship candidates without reaching out to critical stakeholders (legislators, party big wigs, the people etc) across the 18 LGAs or recourse to the electoral rule books, the Governor has all but sunk a dagger into the heart of the party; a big fight back is in the offing.
“In all the LGAs, the most unpopular candidates were handpicked without primaries – only on the presumed conditions that they would bow to the whims and fancies of the Governor or were very loyal to him in the past.”
Utsu said his highly placed sources confirmed that “the three senators from the State and six of the eight Reps Members met yesterday and unanimously agreed to leave (for a yet to be disclosed party) the PDP if the structures of the party are handed over to Ayade in the forthcoming congress.
“They’ve asked the National to make sure that the congress is participatory; all critical stakeholders should be carried along in line with the standing tenets of democracy. PDP Chairmanship aspirants across the state are already heading to court to challenge the breach of the party’s constitution/guidelines in the selection of candidates for the council elections.”
Moreover, a group, Movement for Restoration of Cross River PDP, and some legislators in both the State Assembly and National Assembly have joined voices to condemn the alleged substitution of primaries for selection by few privileged individuals.
Coordinator of the group, Raymond Takon, lamented that the issues surrounding the local government elections were shrouded in secrecy, including the sales of nomination forms.
Takon said the party leadership was in a state of comatose as their functions to conduct and screen candidates have been usurped, adding “The party is not allowed to sell forms to aspirants for chairmanship and councillorship elections. The Governor has promised to pay for all the candidates to be selected by him.”
Secretary of the group, Emmanuel Agba, in his reaction, said any attempt to jettison conduct of primaries would completely erode internal democracy, alleging that names of candidates for the 18 LG chairmen and 196councillors were compiled without due consultations with other relevant stakeholders.
But in his reaction, the State Chairman of the party, Edim Inok Edim, described the allegation as unfounded, saying that the party has the right to adopt any option as approved by its constitution to conduct its primaries.
He said, “The party has the right to select whoever it wants. We have other options other than going for direct primaries. The constitutions allows for affirmation. Anyway, any aggrieved party member should complain to the party secretariat. Any PDP member who involves in anti-party activities will be suspended.”