BY JAMES OBUTE, ABUJA
Recently some members of the National Working Committee of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) resigned following the report of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that their elections did not follow due process. It was also by whiskers, that the embattled national Chairman of PDP, Dr Bamanga Tukur, survived his planned removal at the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC), held on Thursday 20 July, in Abuja. While the ruling party fixed the mini convention for July, 20, 2013 and later re-scheduled it to August 20, 2013; decision was also taken that President Goodluck Jonathan should lead the reconciliation committee of the party. However, the storm is yet to be over as many party chieftains have disagreed over many issues relating to the convention and the reconciliation committee led by President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was gathered that shortly after the party’s National Executive Council’s meeting last month governors started to closely monitor PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur with the aim of compiling his “other sins.” Tukur survived the plan to remove him at the NEC meeting, where 20 officials of the party resigned. The battle to remove him would come to a climax before or during the party’s mini-national convention when 17 officials would be elected. It was learnt that as part of the plot against Tukur, the governors led by the factional Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi, had begun discreet fresh moves to ensure that the PDP chairman resigned before the July 15 national convention.
Recently former Vice President Atiku Abubakar condemned the appointment of President Goodluck Jonathan as leader of a reconciliation committee that would meet with aggrieved party members across the country for the resolution of all pending disputes within the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Atiku said: “The President has no business setting up any committee on party matters when his interests are widely believed to be central to the ongoing acrimony within the party.
According to Atiku, “it is imperative that they establish an independent committee comprised of credible and neutral members to look into the crises of the party dispassionately and offer a lasting solution because no one can impose their preferred solution on a Party as diverse as their own. “All members must be treated fairly whether or not they belong to the President’s camp. Otherwise, we will force people to exercise other options available to them, which the Party may not like,” Atiku affirmed.
He said “President Jonathan might harbour personal designs to continue in office beyond 2015 and it is incumbent upon him to permit the establishment of a nonpartisan committee that will have the autonomy and authority to devise the appropriate strategy to resolve the ongoing turmoil within the party without interference from the Presidency or from anyone.” The former vice-president wondered why there was a need for a new reconciliation committee when the reports of earlier panels led by former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, had not been implemented. Saying Members of these committees sacrificed their time and energy to help the party with constructive and implementable recommendations capable of moving the Party forward.
“It is curious to many of us why the party leadership lacks the moral courage to implement those recommendations. Can impunity and imposition ultimately replace the will of the people? According to him, George Washington, one of America’s founding fathers, said “No man is good enough to govern another without his consent.” He said as a founding member of the PDP he would not fold his arms and allow the party to derail. The former vice president urged President Jonathan to leave the party alone and allow it to be run independently in the interest of all members. “I call on the executive arm to leave the party alone and make a more productive use of its time to govern the country. It will be unhealthy and unhelpful for the government to insist on running the Party and the country at the same time. In mature democracies such as the United States, the President becomes a statesman and the leader of the whole country once his election victory is announced. He leaves party management to party apparatchiks and delves into partisan matters only at policy level.
If this model has worked well for the United States, I cannot see why it should not work well for us. The presidential system has its own internal logic and protocol. We need to understand this logic and protocol if our system is to succeed”, he said. However, the presidency recently said contrary to the opinion of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on the reconciliation committee set up by the national caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party, President Goodluck Jonathan remained the best person to lead the panel. Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, said this in an interview with journalists. He said as the chairman of the party’s national caucus as well as its leader by virtue of his position as the President, nobody in the party was better placed to head the committee.
On the composition of the mini-convention committee led by Prof. Jerry Gana some northern governors are believed not to be too comfortable with it as the leadership consist of mainly Christians. This may have forced the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party to postpone its special national convention from July 20 to August 20.This is because July 20 falls within the Ramadan period. Investigations reveal that the governors were not happy with the decision to hold the congress and the convention when the majority of the delegates might be fasting during the period.
About 17 members of the party’s NWC resigned because of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s report, which voided their elections. But, a former National Secretary of the PDP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola who was sacked a few months ago, had written the party, saying his position was not vacant. Oyinlola was not among the NWC members, whose elections were voided by INEC. In spite of the former governor’s letter, the party, on Tuesday July, 26, in an advertorial announced the South-West congresses and the mini-convention.
The lists of the acting national officers of PDP include Ag. Deputy National Chairman Hon. Chibudom Nwuche, Ag. National Secretary Dr. Remi Akintoye, Deputy National Secretary Emma Agboti, National Organizing Secretary Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar, National Publicity Secretary Tony Ceaser Okeke, National Legal Adviser Simon D. Jok, National Youth Leader Barr. Tanko Beji, National Women Leader Barr. Oyibo Nwaneri, Deputy National Legal Adviser Barr. YauKwadon, Deputy National Youth Leader Hon. Peter Adefunmilayo and Deputy National Auditor Nasiru Ibrahim Birchi.
However, DESERT HERALD observed that the sacking of about 17 of the NWC of PDP may not because of the INEC’s report as widely claimed. This is because INEC reports are hardly taken serious by PDP and INEC itself. This may be because of some certain people whom the presidency may want to take control of the party at both the national and the state level.
The governors who seemed to weld so much power have since been divided into two camps after the Governors forum election in May this year. While some governors are loyal to the winner of the election, the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, some others are loyal to his rival, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State who is believed to be an anointed candidate of Mr. President. Amaechi won 19 to 16 votes against Jonah Jang.
Amaechi’s popularity was put to test penultimate Thursday June, 27 when he led 17 state governors to a dinner called by President Goodluck Jonathan after postponing the meeting of the forum he earlier scheduled for 8pm. The governors were said to have first assembled at the Rivers state governor’s lodge in Asokoro area of Abuja at about 7pm and deliberated till about 8.15pm when they agreed to shift their own meeting so that they can honour Mr Jonathan with their presence.
The governors who accompanied Amaechi to the dinner included Adams Oshiomhole(Edo); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa); Murtala Nyako (Adamawa); Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso (Kano); Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun); Babatunde Fashola (Lagos); AbdulAziz Yari (Zamfara); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); the Deputy Governor of Borno, Zannah Umar Mustapha; and the Deputy Governor of Osun State, Laoye Tomori.
To show that all is not well, President Jonathan’s body guards prevented Governor Amaechi from greeting Mr. President. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has already condemned the action and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately order a probe into the issue. In a statement issued in Lagos last Thursday by ACN National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the President should ensure that whoever is behind such a condescending treatment of a State Governor is properly sanctioned to serve as a deterrent.
“We are making this call because we do not believe that, in spite of the reported frosty relations between the two, President Jonathan – as the father of the nation – will lend the weight of his high office to such a demeaning action as exhibited by the presidential security personnel,” it said.
Another sign that all is not well with the party who has 23 governors is the drama that played out during the National Economic Council. At the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, penultimate Thursday the two governors laying claim to the chairmanship of the factionalised Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Jonah Jang of Plateau State, eventually sat side by side at the National Economic Council meeting, presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo. The NEC has the VP, all state governors, ministers of Finance, National Planning and Justice are members of the council.
Both governors had been said to be determined to occupy a hitherto reserved seat for the NGF chairman at the NEC meeting. But apparently showing that the presidency does not recognize Amaechi who won the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election as the chairman, the seat meant for the NGF chairman was removed.
The adjustment in the seating arrangement however averted what could have been a confrontation between the two feuding governors. The drama started early when Amaechi arrived ahead of the 11am starting time of the meeting and was heading towards his usual seat.
He usually sits on the first seat to the right of the Vice President. The seats are designed in such a way that he would be sitting directly opposite Sambo. As Amaechi was making his way to the seat, a protocol official and Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State called his attention to the change in the seating arrangement.
He was told that governors would sit in alphabetical order. He smiled and searched for his seat only to discover that he would be sitting besides Jang, since their states (Plateau and Rivers) followed each other in alphabetical order. Amaechi quickly returned to Aliyu, who is one of the members of his faction of the NGF, to tell him that he would be sitting beside Jang. Amidst laughter, Aliyu said, “That (the seating arrangement) is good. I think somebody is trying to be diplomatic here.”
Amaechi, also laughing, said, “Yes o! The authentic chairman (beating his chest) will sit beside the pretender!” They all laughed over it while Amaechi returned to his seat. However, the real drama played out when Jang arrived. He was also heading towards his usual seat when they called his attention to the fact that the seating arrangement had changed. He greeted Babangida, Mimiko and Osun State Deputy Governor on his way to his new seat. As he approached his seat, Amaechi rose to give him a handshake as the battery of photojournalists surged forward again to take pictures. Amaechi smiled while Jang avoided eye contact with his colleague.
It was learnt that the governors who are plotting the removal of PDP national chairman Tukur hinged their fresh plot against Tukur on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s report, which led to the resignation of some party officials. The report, which invalidated elections of 12 members of the National Working Committee, had also stated that the committee was not properly constituted. A source who spoke in confidence, said that since the report stated that NWC was not properly constituted, all its members, including Tukur should have resigned.
Although Tukur was not among the 12 officials, investigations showed that the governors were relying on the fact that at last year’s convention, he (Tukur) was the only candidate that contested this position.
The INEC, had in the report, said, “The mode of election adopted for single candidate was not in accordance with the mode of election stipulated in paragraph 6.5 (i) of the guidelines for the conduct of the year 2012 congresses and national convention and therefore not acceptable to the commission.”
The source said “In the next few days, there may be court cases that will force Tukur to resign. The case will be hinged on the fact that nobody contested against him.” It was also gathered that the governors had not forgiven Tukur for the harsh treatment meted out to their two colleagues-Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers). The two governors were suspended by the party over what it described as indiscipline.
While Wamakko has been recalled, Amaechi is still on suspension. Investigations indicated that the governors, who felt slighted by Tukur’s handling of the party, had yet to forgive him. A source within the anti-Tukur camp, who confided to the medium, said what happened on Thursday 20th July was simply “a postponement of the evil day.”
The source said, “Do not be deceived by all the backslapping and talk of solidarity. Those opposed to Tukur’s continued stay in office are not giving up. “In warfare, the element of surprise is key to the success of any battle. Even among those who claim to support him today will ditch him when the time is ripe.
“Every discerning member of the party knows that his leadership is leading the party nowhere. “If the President believes that risking a further deterioration of relations between him and the governors is what’s best for the party, good luck to him. “There is a growing consensus among the governors that the continued stay of Tukur has put every talk of reconciliation on hold.”He further explained that other opportunities would present themselves in the coming months. “What people seem to forget is that 2015 is still two years away and there is still a lot of room to manoeuver. You just wait and see.”
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