Like NYSC, PDP Has Structure All Over Nigeria – Hon Chris Hassan

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The Peoples Democratic Party Chairman in Plateau State, hon Chris Hassan, in the following interview, describes the Appeal Court’s Claim that the Party in Plateau State has “no structure” as strange, stating that the Court order referred to was obeyed to the latter, and in the ensuing congress, the man who went to court earlier did not only accept defeat, but congratulated the winners, and that that outcome of the congress has not been challenged in any court of law. Excerpts by UKANDI ODEY

Good day, Chairman. Recently, there have been a series of judgments against your Party from the Appeal Court. What really is the status of the PDP in Plateau State?

Let me welcome you to my office. Well, what is happening today with the interpretation of the judgments is alien to me – and it’s alien to us as People’s Democratic Party, because we’ve not understood what “structure” is like.

Is it “structure” as in the political party or “structure” as in the judgment? We don’t seem to understand; but you know, for sure, ever since the inception of the People’s Democratic Party, it is one party that is well structured.

From the manifesto, from the constitution, from the philosophy of the party, I want to believe that there’s no political party in Nigeria that is as structured as the People’s Democratic Party. And that is why, you can see, of course, the existence of the People’s Democratic Party is in all the 774 local government areas in the country.

No political party in Nigeria has the same national spread and presence. So, in the right sense of the word, we’re well structured.

Then what is peculiar with the Plateau situation?

Good question. You are aware that we had congresses that brought in the Ward Exco, the Local Government Exco, and, of course, the State Exco, up to the six geopolitical zones.

And we also concluded that journey with a national convention. So, we are part of a structure. What is structure? In line with the constitution of the People’s Democratic Party, we held the congresses up to the state level.

In November 2020, at the state congress, I was elected as the chairman of the party. My brother and contender for the same chairmanship position at the congress, Bitrus Kaze, went to Court and the Court granted his prayers and ordered that we repeat Congress. Because the People’s Democratic Party is a party that respects the rule of law, we said there was no problem with that order. We said let us go back, so that we can save ourselves from all these litigations and court processes. The legal team advised us to that effect too; and that Exco was off.

And upon dissolution, the national secretary of the party put together a caretaker committee headed by Senator Tunde Ogbeha. He came here to the state with a mandate to stay here for 90 days only – that is three months. And he did wonderfully well. A very experienced senator, an ex -military man, and a proud father of the North Central Zone, his contacts were actually very extensive; and he did consult with all those who were aggrieved

And before then, there were judgments given in five local governments that there should be a repeat of congresses. It was that same caretaker committee that saw to the conduct of the said repeat congresses and emergence of party Excos in those five local governments.

Local governments like Jos North, Jos South, Jos East, were part of those captured in the judgment that we received. Having got our house in order, we went back. And this paved and gave birth to the state congress that took place on 25th of September 2021

How was that Court ordered, and the repeat State Congress conducted?

Although the chairman of the caretaker committee, Tunde Ogbeha was in place, but, in the wisdom of the party at the national level, as if they envisaged there will be a judgement like this, they put the power to conduct the congress in an electoral committee headed by Shola Akamudi.

Shola Akamudi came in here and conducted the congress. And in that congress, there’s no single individual that has gone to court again to challenge anything relating thereto. Even Bitrus Kaze congratulated and embraced me. The video clips are there. They all congratulated me!

What happened thenceforth?

We went back on our journey. A journey, of course, to conscientise our people, trying to mobilize our people toward these last elections. And you saw what happened even when we had a sitting APC government here.

And I told you before that for anybody that is actually aware and in tune with the Plateau struggle, the manifesto and philosophy of the party comes very close to our struggle.

And that is why you’ll find out that, overwhelmingly, we brought in 16 members of the State House of Assembly as against the then ruling party’s seven. We brought in five members of the House of Representatives, with two senators and a brand new governor that has the interest of the state at heart.

What INEC declared is what I’m saying; because it is the only statutory body in Nigeria that has the power to conduct general elections. If the elections were unfair, they know it better. But I’m yet to hear that from them!

So, what is the basis of this claim of “no structure”?

If we don’t have a structure, check, as compared to other political parties, why is it that it is only the People’s Democratic Party that conducted congress and primaries, and nobody went to Court. In Plateau State alone, for the House of Assembly, we had 313 people that went and obtained the forms to contest for the House of Assembly.

We had 19 that bought forms to contest the governorship election. We had 68 who obtained forms to contest the House of Representatives. For Senate alone, we had 27. And no form was obtained from this office because we believe that there’s only one certificate of registration and that certificate rests with the national secretariat of the party. For you to conduct anything in this state, it is the national Secretariat that does everything.

Ours is to receive them as visitors, and give them every assistance of which they may stand in need; such as link up the security agencies so that they can of course conduct their activities in a well secured atmosphere. That’s what the state does. Even now, I don’t have the powers to communicate with the INEC. If I have a problem in ward A, I have to take it back to the National Secretariat. The national secretariat will communicate the secretariat of the INEC. And if the INEC wants to come and do a repeat Congress in a ward, they don’t communicate to me, they communicate to the National Secretariat. The National secretariat will now tell us “INEC has approved so, so, date….” That is how we operate.

Besides, If we don’t have a structure, should it be the concern and resolution of the judiciary or INEC?

What of internal democracy within your Party? How fair were the primaries in terms of how you related with the aspirants as part of build up to the primaries?

First of all, remember I have told you the number of aspirants who obtained nomination forms for various elective positions; and that at the end of the day none went to court seeking one thing or the other.

There is no single person that came out dissatisfied – nobody. Instead, as a chairman of the party, I had interface with all the aspirants and I promised them that we will be very fair to them. And they also said, if you are going to be fair in the conduct of all these primaries, then we are reassured that we will not have protest votes.

When you see members of the political parties going around to do protest voting, then the process was not transparent. And because the process was transparent enough, that is why all those that lost elections in the primaries, closed ranks and teamed up with those who won the election and worked for the success of this party.

And that did not only manifest, it was brought to the table. And I’ve understood and learnt as chairman of the party, that there is nothing as good as being very justifiable in the conduct of your office, particularly during party primaries.

And when we did that, we had fewer problems. So, if anybody says today that there was no fair play or “structure”, the golden question is, who went to court? Nobody went to court! Not even against the conduct of the congresses that brought in the present Exco and the primaries that brought in our candidates. Nobody went to court!

In other political parties, you saw what happened during the primaries of the governorship election. Up till now, they are in the Supreme Court. Even the election that brought in the Exco of the Plateau State APC from the Wards to the State are still being disputed and contested as fraudulent and make-belief!

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