Read about the tense, high-wire politicking of the PDP first Presidential Convention, see statistic, active players and more

Exactly 22 years ago, the PDP held its first ever national convention to select a presidential candidate, and kick-start 16 years of ruling partyship in Nigeria. Jos was the battleground. Read about the tense, high-wire politicking of that day.

Exactly 22 years ago, the Peoples Democratic Party held its first ever national convention to select a presidential candidate, and kick-start 16 years of ruling partyship in Nigeria. Jos was the battleground. Read about the tense, high-wire politicking of that day.

May be an image of one or more people and people standing

Sunday, February 14, 1999: “JOS, Nigeria (CNN) – Nigeria’s dominant party began voting Sunday to pick a candidate for this month’s presidential elections to end 15 years of military rule. Former army ruler Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was a front-runner


SPMGN REPORT SET 04: Obasanjo Wins in A Crushing Majority



ALEX EKWUEME 521 21.36%
DON ETIEBET 106 4.35%
JIM NWOBODO 59 2.42%
TOTAL 2,439 100.00

Watch out for state-by-state delegates counts later


Agence-France Presse Headlines – From Latest Time to Earliest Time
Blow-By-Blow, As the Drama Unfolded

LAGOS, Feb 15
10:32 GMT – 216 words
Nigeria-vote-alliance : Two Nigerian parties to meet to decide on joint

JOS, Nigeria, Feb 15
09:24 GMT – 138 words
Nigeria-vote-ticket : Obasanjo wins Nigerian party nomination

JOS, Nigeria, Feb 15
09:10 GMT – 91 words
Nigeria-vote-count : Obasanjo set for crushing victory in party primary:

JOS, Nigeria, Feb 15
07:13 GMT – 576 words
Nigeria-vote : Obasanjo appears set to win Nigerian party’s nomination

JOS, Nigeria, Feb 15
06:18 GMT – 226 words
Nigeria-vote-count : Obasanjo “well ahead” in Nigerian party’s vote:

JOS, Nigeria, Feb 15
00:10 GMT – 589 words
Nigeria-vote : Voting drags into early hours for Nigerian primaries


Obasanjo wins Nigerian party nomination – officials

JOS, Nigeria, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Former Nigerian military ruler General
Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday won a majority in the vote to be named as the
presidential candidate of the dominant Peoples Democratic Party, party
officials said.

“It is now just a matter of announcing it officially. Obasanjo got more
than half the vote,” said one official in the central town of Jos.

The nomination of the PDP, which won most of the vote in local and state
elections, puts Obasanjo in a strong position ahead of the February 27
presidential ballot to decide a successor to General Abdulsalami Abubakar
on May 29.

Officials said Obasanjo took nearly 1,700 votes from the 2,469 delegates
at the convention in the central town of Jos. In second place, with more
than 520 votes, was former civilian Vice-President Alex Ekwueme.

In 1979 Obasanjo, now 61, became Nigeria’s only military ruler to hand
power to an elected government.

His critics say that despite the fact that he comes from Yoruba in
southwestern Nigeria, he is a tool of the military and northern political
establishment which have dominated Africa’s most populous nation since
independence from Britain in 1960.


BBC News
Monday, February 15, 1999 Published at 10:12 GMT

World: Africa

Ex-general favourite to lead Nigeria

Olusegun Obasanjo, fourth left, voted in January’s state elections

Twenty years after leaving power, former military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo
has won the presidential nomination of Nigeria’s largest political party.

The nomination now puts the retired general – who was imprisoned by former
military dictator Sani Abacha – in a strong position ahead of the
presidential elections on 27 February.

Mr Obasanjo, who held power between 1976 and 1979, stands out as Nigeria’s
only military ruler voluntarily to have handed over power to elected

The current military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has pledged to
step down on 29 May after handing over power to the first civilian
president in 15 years.

Officials said Mr Obasanjo took nearly 1,700 votes from the 2,469
delegates at the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) convention in the central
town of Jos.

In second place, with more than 520 votes, was former civilian
Vice-President Alex Ekwueme.

All three of Nigeria’s parties must submit the names of their candidates
for the presidential election on Monday.

The All Peoples’ Party, Nigeria’s second largest party, has named
Ogbonnaya Onu as its presidential candidate. The low profile candidate is
a former governor of eastern Abia state.

The smaller Alliance for Democracy has also chosen its candidate, former
Finance Minister, Olu Falae.

Under an electoral pact the two smaller parties are expected to field a
single presidential candidate to stand against Mr Obasanjo.

Jail sentence

Mr Obasanjo and 43 other soldiers and civilians accused of plotting a coup
against the late General Abacha were handed lengthy jail terms by a
special court martial in 1995.

When General Abubakar took over as head of state following the unexpected
death of General Sani Abacha, he released nine key political prisoners,
including Mr Obasanjo, in June 1998.

Mr Obasanjo initially said he would not run again for the country’s top
office but in November last year announced he had changed his mind after
consultations with friends and supporters.

He is an ethnic Yoruba from south west Nigeria and correspondents say he
enjoys the backing of many in the Hausa-speaking north, which has
dominated Nigerian government for decades.

He also has the support of many retired and serving military officers.


The Guardian News
Monday, February 15, 1999

Intrigues, foot-shuffling drama in Jos

>From Akpo Esajere,Political Editor

In one of the far-flung suites of the Jos Hill Top Hotel, an argument
started as to whether it was right and in good conscience for delegates to
accept cash from more than one contestant and whether they should “take
the money knowing that we are not voting for him”.`

THE question of who the leading contestants are is not in dispute. Before
the convention, they had had a media blitz, a relentless exchange in which
they sometimes relapsed into slinging of mud.

In Jos for the convention, the ground war was witnessing the deployment of
every musterable arsenal. In both the physical and psychological levels of
battle formation, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Alex Ekwueme are well in
front and miles ahead of the remaining five presidential runners.

First are campaign artefacts such as posters, billboards, handbills,
campaign leaflets, canvassers, mobilizers, carnival groups, dancing
troupes, vans and buses, with slogans – an area in which Obasanjo and
Ekwueme are clearly dominating.

Obasanjo’s billboards are in strategic locations around the Jos metropolis
and rekindled in the delegates to the convention and inhabitants of the
Tin City, memories of the late Chief Moshood Abiola, the billionaire
campaigner, and his presidential battle cry at the primaries of the
defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Jos in 1993.

But the scrupulous attractiveness and fiercely propagandist content of
Ekwueme’s posters are also not lost on the delegates’ most of whom were up
till last night still carrying out like beautiful brides. There was a
certain overbearing and emotional {Igbo Kwenu} content to the Ekwueme
battle for the presidential ticket of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
for which some delegates were saying they were rather scared.

The Easterners have left no one in doubt on what an Ekwueme ticket meant
to the Igboman. They came from the East in trains of luxurious buses. From
the Hill Station Hotel, with the most outstanding lodgings in town, to the
Plateau Hotel, another good sleeping place, to some 50 to 60 odd hotels in
the city, the Igbo are everywhere – quite boisterously and
characteristically business-like crowd.

But the nobody-else-but-Ekwueme undertone of their battle cry was last
Saturday at the commencement of accreditation of delegates being openly
and severely criticised by delegates and even national officials.

A national leader of the party, who lives in Jos, was said to have become
uncomfortable with the manner the supporters were beginning to make the
primaries look like an ethnic election that he openly criticised it in
front of his aides.

The Ekwueme organisation had secured a good number of the hotels for use
by supporters of the former vice president. That left his opponents with
making alternative arrangements, which is why some of the party
presidential contestants took up accommodation in the guest houses
provided by the Plateau State Government or in the private homes of their

There was also a strategic consideration to movement and accommodation of
delegates. The original arrangement by the organising committee of the
convention was for accreditation of delegates to be done last Saturday,
the first of the two-day convention, while voting by secret ballot,
counting of votes and announcement of results would take place yesterday.

But the contestants, particularly the Obasanjo camp, had their game plan,
which consisted of isolating the delegates from the states and zones which
would favour his aspiration. It is a strategy perfected by the late
Maj.-Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua. It was used to pull through the eventual
election of a Yar’Adua protege, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe as SDP
chairman in 1990.

In Jos in 1993, Yar’Adua again used the system to secure his delegates for
a blistering horse-trading, leading eventually to unleashing them to turn
the tables for the nomination of Abiola. Yar’Adua’s boys, especially
Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, the governor-elect of Adamawa State; Dr. Iyorchia
Ayu, Prof. Jerry Gana, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, the departed general’s
younger brother and governor-elect of Katsina State, and Alhaji Yahaya
Kwande, a Jos-based old friend of Yar’Adua, are at the controls of Gen.
Obasanjo’s campaigns.

The overflow of the Yar’Adua tactics is unmistakable. Most of the 10
Northern PDP governors-elect – Ahmed Markafi (Kaduna), Rabiu Kwankaso
(Kano), Adamu Abdullahi (Nassarawa), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Rev. Jolly
Nyame (Taraba), George Akume (Benue), Ahmed Muazu (Bauchi), Atiku Abubakar
(Adamawa), Umaru Yar’Adua (Katsina) and Engineer Yahyaya Kure (Niger) –
were, along with their state delegates, guests of either Muazu in Bauchi
or Markarfi in Kaduna. The South South delegates, led by Mr. Donald Duke,
governor-elect of Cross River; Chief James Ibori, governor-elect of Delta
State, and Lucky Igbinedion, governor-elect of Edo State, were closeted in
Abuja in the night of last Friday and unleashed on Jos last Saturday at

But the secretariat of the PDP had a strategy of its own. On one hand, the
office was operating with an unspoken code to keep an eye on what was
going on at the rival All People’s Party (APP) Kaduna, about four hours by
road from Jos. On the other hand, the secretariat with the party
Secretary, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, former Enugu State governor, calling a
good number of shots, appeared to prefer to shuffle its feet in a way that
unwittingly shakes the bottom off the Obasanjo organisation game plan.

On Saturday, accreditation of delegates, which was scheduled for
10.00a.m., finally began at about noon. At about 4.00p.m., the secretariat
stopped accreditation and told delegates that the exercise would continue
yesterday and some of the delegates who were isolated in the night of
Friday had to look for places to lay their heads in the night of Saturday.
Iyorchia Ayu, Yahaya Kwande and many well placed stalwarts of Gen.
Obasanjo’s campaign team had to move fast to see what could be done to
keep their delegates secured.

But the isolation could no longer be water-tight. Saturday night became
the night for great horse-trading which went on into the morning of
yesterday. The delegates from the Northern, Middle-Belt and South Minority
states were called beautiful brides. You could not see the money going
round. But the frenzy of movements from one hotel room to another, and the
meetings that were said to be going on turned out to be avenues where
leaders of delegates and contacts of presidential contestants did business
were obvious indications that money was changing hands.

A presidential aspirant had allegedly sent a package of N50,000 on each
delegate from some of the “critical states” of the South South, while the
contacts of another frontline contestants arrived with their own bags. In
one of the far-flung suites of the Jos Hill Top Hotel, an argument started
as to whether it was right and in good conscience for delegates to accept
cash from more than one contestant and whether they should “take the
money, knowing that we are not voting for him.”

At about 11.15p.m. one angry delegate from Delta State who did not
hesitate to condemn what he termed “cutting a notorious image already”
said he was against delegates who were using the cover that voting will be
by secret ballot to “take money from wherever it comes.”

Beside Obasanjo and Ekwueme, the remaining five presidential runners are
facing up to the primaries in different ways. On Saturday night, Chief Jim
Nwobodo told reporters in his suite at the Jos Hill Top that he could not
be discouraged by the campaign of calumny being waged against him.

Asked if he will step down to improve the chances of Ekwueme, he said: “If
anybody ought to step down, that person has got to be Ekwueme.” To a
suggestion that his participation is of nuisance value, calculated to rob
Ekwueme and Igbo a great opportunity to take a good kick at the presidency
Nwobodo, who had kept surprisingly cool in the face of the names they were
calling him maintained that he stood a better chance to win the primaries
than Ekwueme.

“Ekwueme has never contested and won an election. I have contested and won
elections. He is not a politician. I am a politician. I can win this
election (primaries). He is in no position to win and you can take that
from me,” he said.

Chief Alabo Graham-Douglas and Chief Don Etiebet are commanding some
attention in the way they were carrying on with their campaigns.
Graham-Douglas’ office inside the posh Jos Hill Top with so many paper
works going on and delegates from Rivers State milling around, suggest
that it will be difficult to take his home base from him. Douglas and
Etiebet will draw from the “son of the soil” factor. Douglas will pick up
the votes of the delegates from Rivers State even if that is all he will
have to do. Like him, Etiebet will take many Akwa Ibom delegates votes.
However, with Duke and other chieftains of the PDP in Cross River routing
for Obasanjo, Etiebet is unlikely to get much from the “brother” state –
Cross River.

Chief Phillip Asiodu continued up to yesterday to largely cut the portrait
of a technocrat in politics, speaking with bespectacled clarity on the
need for the PDP to come out with an “uncontroversial” presidential
ticket. Some delegates from Delta State complained yesterday that when
they went to see him on Saturday evening, they were made, by Asiodu’s
aides, to fill papers. Two of the delegates claimed they did not like the
treatment and left while others waited.

The campaign leaflets of Chief Francis Ellah were yesterday still
presenting him as “a man with the widest variety of cognate exprience in a
manner that no other Nigerian has perhaps been exposed to.” But the
allegation looms large that the 78 years old politician is an admirer of
Obasanjo to the point of teaming up with him in the last minute.

>From dirty newspaper campaigns that dominated preparations for the
convention, the sponsoring of destructive leaflets and handbills had
caused considerable alarm in many circles in Jos by yesterday. At about
11.30a.m. on Saturday, while delegates and supporters of presidential
contestants were gathered at the Jos Township Stadium, venue of the
convention, a leaflet titled: “Obasanjo’s ministerial list” was circulated
among delegates, evidently to cause disaffection for the former head of
state, by seeking to portray him as a power hungry runner who had already
designed portfolios in desperation. Although another, a counter list, was
said to have been released titled: “Ekwueme’s ministerial list,” the
leaflets, circulated against Obasanjo’s, were in such large numbers that
even women and children picked them.

Although there is so much talk here about retired generals being in Jos to
infleunce the voting of delegates, only former internal affairs minister,
Brig.-Gen. John Shagaya, who owns a palatial home in Jos, was seen openly.
On phone from his home in Minna, Niger State, yesterday, former military
president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, said: “{Haba}, who do they mistake me
for” to reports that he was closeted in Jos to monitor the PDP primaries.
“I don’t have to be in Jos to influence anything, and you people should
begin to admit that I am smarter than you care to admit,” he remarked
lightly in a good-natured joke.

As at yesterday, the delegates from Kano State were praising their leader,
Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, for dropping his presidential ambition and “agreeing
to work close to Obasanjo”.

But Alhaji Lawal Kaita, Malam Adamu Ciroma and other warlords of the
defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), who are backing Ekwueme have also
mounted a shrewd propagandist compaign.

All said, however, the race might turn out a non-event, in which one of
the leading runners could well pick up the official 50 per cent votes,
making a second ballot unnecessary.

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