Plateau North: Uncertainty over PDP’s participation in rerun

Correspondent examines the preparations for the February 3 by-election in Plateau State by the People Democratic Party (PDP).

One major thing that would engage the attention of politicians across the political divide in Plateau State at this time of the year is the rerun election scheduled for the first week of February.

Though the election will be taking place only in one senatorial district, Plateau North, the entire state appears to be anxious over the outcome of the contest.
A lot of claims and counterclaims have been flying around concerning the fate of the People’s Democratic in the February 3 rerun in Plateau State.

The election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is expected to give the true position of things regarding the contestants, has not come out to clear the uncertainty. The Plateau State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Tarsoo Agungu said he is still waiting for the national leadership of the body in Abuja to release the list of candidates. He said: “INEC is prepared for the rerun in the state. As far as we are concerned, all those who contested the election in Jos North during the last general election are eligible.

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“This is subject to the decision of the INEC headquarters in Abuja; they have not given us the list. So those who contested in the election of February 25, 2023, are the same contestant in the rerun, the parties are not going to do fresh primaries.”

While the political parties, their candidates and the voters are left in the dark over the rerun, campaigns, however, have intensified in the zone. The political parties and the candidates used the yuletide to advance their interest in the rerun among the voters.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had in October last year set aside the victory of the Senate Minority Leader, Simon Mwadkwon of the PDP in the February 25, 2023, senatorial election in the Plateau North Senatorial District. The appellate court then ordered INEC to, within 90 days, conduct a fresh election in the district.

The court, in its judgment on the appeals filed by Mr Chris Giwa of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr Gyang Zi of the Labour Party (LP), ordered a rerun. Giwa and Zi had appealed against the judgment of the National/State Election Petitions Tribunal in Jos, Plateau State, which earlier affirmed Mwadkwon as the rightful winner of the senatorial poll.

The appellants had contended that Mwadkwon was not qualified to stand for an election as his party, the PDP, which nominated him during the election, had no structure to do so, having not complied with an earlier order of the High Court for the party to conduct a proper state congress. Counting 90 days from a judgment delivered on October 30, 2023, the rerun is due to take place within the first week of February.

However, less than 30 days to the rerun, it is not clear which political parties will contest in the Plateau rerun election. While it is true that the judgment that set aside the victory of Senator Simon Mwadkwon, Musa Agah and Musa Bagos was against the PDP, it is not clear if the party will contest in the election as the Court of Appeal was not categorical in its judgment.

The PDP, the ruling party in the state believes it stands a second chance to reclaim its lost victory during the rerun. Other opposition parties, like the APC and the LP, are of the view that the PDP is not qualified to contest in the rerun.

But, the PDP has begun preparations for the election. Its Chairman, Chris Hassan told The Nation in Jos on New Year’s Day: “The election we are holding next month is a rerun, and do it does not require any congress. The party already has its candidates for the rerun. For the Senate, we have distinguished Senator Simon Mwadkwon for Plateau North, while for House of Representative Bassa/Jo’s North. Musa Agah. The party is not changing any of those candidates. By God’s grace, they are the ones we will present. This is why we are optimistic of victory.

Agah agrees with Hassan. He said, “We are always prepared for any election. That was why we won in the main election. Now that the court said we should go for a rerun, the PDP is more prepared than ever; we know how to play the game and we will win an election in my constituency any day anytime. You know that the PDP is Plateau and Plateau is PDP. Like the slogan of our party says, Power to the people. That means we are with the people and in the election the people will speak again through their voter’s card.”

On the uncertainty surrounding the eligibility of the PDP to field candidates in the rerun, Agah added: “The Judgment said there shall be a rerun with all registered political parties participating; there is no caveat excluding the PDP from participation. So, we are trusting God to grant us victory again during the election. So, we are not only participating, by the grace of God, we would emerge victorious as always in Bassa/Jos North.”

The Plateau State Labour Party (LP) Chairman, Mrs Grace Zamfara said the party is fully prepared for the contest. She said: “Our candidates for the election are Gyang ZI for Senate and Daniel Atama for the House of Representatives. We are deploying the same strategies we deployed during the presidential election, which earned the party victory in the state. Apart from that strategy, we are also working underground by going from house to house, community to community to sell our party and candidates to the people. Also, the candidates are not left behind in their quest to woo the electorates. So far, we are confident of victory.

The main opposition party in the state, the APC believes that with the Court of Appeal setting aside the victory of the PDP and ordering a rerun, the PDP cannot contest in the rerun. APC Publicity Secretary, Sylvanus Namang said: “The PDP is not contesting; the party has been telling everyone that it is going to contest. They know the truth but have been lying to the people that the party is still qualified to contest. They went on television stations across the country to sell this falsehood to everyone. But, it is up to the court to determine whether the PDP, whose victory was quashed because it had no structure to conduct primaries is still disqualified to contest in a rerun to determine the rightful winner of that election. They keep on disobeying the court order, even disobeying the guidelines of their party. Let me tell you, this election is between, the LP, the APC and the PRP. Yes, we are fully prepared as we’ve hit the ground running in our campaign and our candidates are fully involved in our campaign.

“The APC on the Plateau are fully prepared for the rerun; we have been campaigning vigorously, and our senatorial candidate, Chris Giwa has been campaigning everywhere in Plateau North Senatorial District 24/7. Similarly, Chris Hassan Baba, the House of Representatives candidate, has also been campaigning. He equally has all it takes to defeat his opponents. He is an experienced politician; he contested and represented his constituency at the Plateau State House of Assembly in 1999. So, the APC is very confident in winning the rerun that is expected to be held early next month.”

The APC senatorial candidate for the Plateau North rerun, Giwa has continued his engagement with critical stakeholders to map out his strategies for the contest. On his level of preparedness, he said: “We were at the Kalwa House secretariat of our party to deliberate on key issues with our leaders. This is because we believe that unity and teamwork are crucial ingredients to achieving victory hence our continuous and sustained interface with our party leaders and stakeholders. This is in line with our firm conviction that ‘Together, We Can Make It’.”

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