Plateau PDP tension: Jeremiah Useni’s supporters and matters arising

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As the National Working Committee-backed Plateau State Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) haunts Nandom Pyennap-led factional state EXCO, Associate Editor, SAM EGBURONU, reports that loyalists of Jeremiah Useni in the party are currently fighting for survival

The tension created in Plateau State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) about two weeks ago, when a splinter group suddenly announced a factional state executive committee, is yet to ease off.

The disagreement almost degenerated to physical fight recently when some party men, described by the police as thugs working for one of the factional party leaders, tried to take over the premises of the party’s state headquarters, forcing the police to block the entrance of the secretariat with their vehicle.

So long a crisis

The Plateau State PDP leadership crisis can be traced beyond the immediate issues that led to the current emergence of the two factional executive committees.

An insider source told The Nation during the week that it would be better to trace it to the forced resignation of former Minister of Sports, Damishi Sango, as the State Chairman of the party. But even beyond that, our investigation shows that the disagreements date back to the controversial jettisoning of the governorship zoning arrangement in the state party ahead of the 2015 Governorship Election, which, according to aggrieved members made PDP to loss the governorship election to All Progressives Congress (APC) as aggrieved members and supporters cast sympathy votes for APC.

Since then, there have been several plans to reconcile groups in order to regain the state, which until then was a PDP state since 1999.

During the 2019 General Elections, many observers believed PDP had regained rhythm enough in the state to recover power. This was even more so, after the presidential election when the PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, won the presidential election in the state.

This was never to be as the incumbent governor, Simon Lalong of APC, won the election.

Ironically, Plateau PDP’s disappointment in the 2019 Governorship Election further fueled the crisis as some aggrieved members accused the then Chairman, Damishi Sango, of causing their defeat and as a result wanted him out.

What followed was the allegation against Sango and his deputy, Amos Gombi, of diversion of Presidential campaign funds during the 2019 General Elections as well as N9.8 million meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IPDs).

Although Sango denied the allegations, he was suspended as contained in a resolution signed by 16 members of the state executive of the party.

In its resolution of the crisis, the party said the suspension was with immediate effect, and that the party’s Vice Chairman, Northern Zone, Chris Hassan, should take over as the Acting State Chairman pending the outcome of the disciplinary committee set up to investigate and recover the funds.

However, Sango somehow got a reprieve and managed to continue in office.

In spite of the seeming resolution, that development sharply factionalized the party, especially over occupation and usage of the secretariat offices. An office was therefore established for Chris Hassan by his faction directly opposite that of Sango.

This led to frequent frictions between the two groups.

The crisis continued until the PDP national body waded into the crises and Sango was urged to resign for peace to reign and for the progress of the party. Sango then resigned and handed over to his deputy, Gombi.

But the crises persisted as the other faction still continued their opposition and also insisted that Gombi too should go. But then, Gombi had the backing of the national body.

The disagreement got to a climax when Hassan’s faction reportedly stormed the party secretariat at about 6am in an emergency meeting to remove Gombi and reaffirm Hassan as the Chairman. But the Gombi faction got wind and some of his supporters stormed the secretariat to halt the meeting.

Security operatives had to shoot and use teargas to bring the situation under control.

But before the meeting was disrupted, the faction claimed that they had resolved to remove Gombi as the Acting Chairman and had endorsed Hassan as the new state chairman.

Senator Istifanus Gyang, representing Plateau North Senatorial District, who briefed newsmen, said the removal of Gombi was in line with the constitution of the party.

“The position of the state chairman of the party was zoned to Plateau North Senatorial District and since the former chairman, Damishi Sango resigned, Section 47 (6) of the PDP constitution stipulates that Plateau North was expected to fill in a candidate for the chairmanship position and not Plateau Central where Amos Gombi comes from.

“As you are aware, we have been having some little family problems in the PDP that led to the resignation of the state chairman, and when a chairman resigns, the deputy chairman automatically becomes the acting chairman.

But the constitution of our party says any member who resigns, the area that brought him will nominate someone to replace him, whatever is his position. “We started this process by the northern zone where the former chairman comes from and there was a nomination for the replacement.

A letter was written by the Executive Council of the Northern Zone to the State Executive Council (SEC) to inform them that someone had been nominated for the replacement of the former chairman who resigned and the SEC members met and ratified the nomination of Chris Hassan as chairman of the party,” he said.

Thereafter, the Gombi faction also addressed newsmen at the secretariat. A former Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly, Emmanuel Go’ar, who spoke on behalf of the group, alleged that Senator Gyang used his security personnel to manhandle supporters of Gombi, thereby injuring one of his aides, Mathew.

It is important to note that the two factions have influential members of the party behind them. While the Gombi’s faction was said to enjoy the support of PDP governorship candidate in the last election, Jeremiah Useni and his running mate, Dalop, former Speaker Go’ar and former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, among others, the Hassan’s faction had the support of former Governor Jonah Jang, Senator Gyang, former Member, House of Representatives, Timothy Golu and Dachung Bagos representing Jos South/East Federal Constituency.

Interestingly, when Hon. Yakubu Gwot Chocho emerged the State Chairman, the factions did not shield their swords.

He emerged the chairman following a motion moved by Rep. Edward Pwajok, which was seconded by former Speaker Plateau State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Titus Alams and unanimously endorsed by the PDP Plateau State Executive Committee.

This followed a letter from the PDP Plateau Northern Zone presenting a replacement from the zone to complete the tenure of Hon. Damishi Sango.

So, Hon. Amos Gombi, who acted as Chairman since the resignation of the former State Chairman, had to hand over to Chocho.

If stakeholders thought the negotiations that led to Chocho’s emergence had finally settled the prolonged leadership crisis in Plateau PDP, recent events show that they are mistaken.

The two factions have continued to fight each other. By middle of May this year, the faction of the party in the state loyal to Gen Jeremiah Useni (retd), the party’s candidate for last year’s governorship election, had reportedly set up a caretaker committee.

The committee is chaired by a former local council chairman in the state, Nandom Pyennap.

Trouble leading to the formation of the parallel committee started after the state Publicity Secretary of the party, John Akans, announced that the PDP national headquarters had approved the extension of the state executive led by Mr. Yakubu Chocho, pending a new election.

Less than a week after that announcement, the splinter group announced its state executive committee.

Secretary of the new committee, Godwin Bedir, explaining the rationale behind the formation of the new committee said it was illegal for Chocho and his executive committee to remain in office when their tenure had expired.

“Chocho’s tenure as chairman of Plateau PDP elapsed on May 10, and they cannot continue to function in that office under any guise against Section 31, Sub-section 2(e) of the party’s constitution 2017 (as amended).

“Besides, the outgone exco is seeking reelection in the forthcoming state congress and, therefore, lacks lack the moral standing to superintendent the party.

That is why we have the backing of the National Working Committee of the party to form a neutral caretaker committee which we have done with Nandom Penap as state chairman pending the election of new party officials,” he said.

Reacting, Akans dismissed the formation of the splinter group, insisting the Chocho executive committee remains the authentic PDP leadership in the state.

“Anyone claiming to have formed a caretaker committee of the state PDP other than the one led by Mr. Yakubu Chocho is only out to cause confusion in the party and we will not allow that.

We urge party stakeholders to disregard the activities of the splinter group because the National Working Committee has since resolved the issue regarding the party’s leadership and asked us to continue in office pending when an election is conducted,” he said.

Mr. Chuwang Badung, reacting to the current crisis told The Nation, “The party (PDP) is in an unfortunate situation here in Plateau. This is a party that has all it takes to recover the state but our leaders are simply too selfish to allow genuine reconciliation.

I am afraid that unless the leaders change their attitude, PDP may never win Plateau governorship seat again. That is, to say the least, most unfortunate because PDP is popular here.”

Commenting on the allegation that Jeremiah Useni’s loyalists might loss out in the power game, Badung said: “What is happening in Plateau PDP goes beyond the fate of Useni loyalists or any particular leader’s loyalists. The point is that there are many interest groups fighting for power in preparation for future elections.

All I can say is that if they continue the way they are going, they will all loss out. They are yet to learn from our 2015 bitter experience.”

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