Within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), events of the last two weeks have indeed brought out the worst among its leading lights. Some of them who have shared ideals and political camps for decades are now at both ends of the political divide, which was created by the August 31, 2013 factionalisation of the party. First, some elements within the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), believed to have been sponsored by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, clandestinely registered the political pressure group, which is an integral part of the PDP as a full-fledged political party. Then the aggrieved seven governors of the party, who had earlier walked out from the party’s Special National Convention of August 31 in Abuja, converged on Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, not too far away from the Eagle Square, venue of the PDP convention, to announce they were splitting from the mainstream PDP.
To say that these are challenging times for statesmen within the party, is to state the obvious. Two of them, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, have since led the efforts to reconcile all sides and return the party to oneness. While the initial meeting brokered by Obasanjo did not produce much result, Anenih was caught in the crossfire for daring to state the obvious-that some of the G-7 governors leading the new faction have genuine grievances, which would be resolved and the party, thereafter would emerge stronger from what he described as a “minor” crisis.
Anenih had, in a statement in Abuja, urged leaders of the party and all others involved in the dispute to avoid making provocative statements that could jeopardise on-going efforts by the party leadership to mend the cracks. His statement was in apparent response to the bitter altercations between the party’s National Chairman and leaders of the ‘New PDP’. For instance, many consider Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s reference to former Vice President Abubakar and leaders of the splinter group as impostors and prodigal sons, as harsh and improper, just as his threat to initiate the process for the recall of members of the National Assembly who identify with them. Both parties had also initiated court proceedings against each other. While Tukur filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking the committal of Alhaji Baraje, his deputy Dr. Sam Jaja, and their National Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola to prison, Baraje, on the other hand, asked the court to commit Tukur to jail for contempt.
The like of Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, former Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), General I.B. Haruna (rtd) and former Senate President, Ameh Ebute, had frowned at Anenih’s statement which they described-unfortunately-as an indication that he was sympathetic to the aggrieved governors. In a statement by their group-Centre for Equality and Change- led by Clark, they made veiled reference to the governors’ threat to jeopardize the 2015 second term ambition of the President.
From that statement, it is obvious Clark and his group, were out to mischievously take undue advantage of the crisis to score some cheap political points. While it is a known fact that Clark has usually picked quarrels-most of them unnecessary-with virtually everyone he perceives as opposed to the 2015 ambition of Jonathan, to make such a reference to Anenih, dyed-in-the-wool Jonathan supporter, in whatever veiled manner, is uncharitable, to say the least. As one of the country’s most enduring political actors, Anenih has indeed paid his dues, standing heads above others in both principles and loyalty. His statements neither associate him with the demands of the G7 governors nor detract from his well-stated commitment to the interest of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Even as an elder, it is proper therefore, to urge Clark to be more cautious in his statements; more importantly, he should give Anenih his due respect.
When Anenih said some of the governors’ grievances were genuine, was he really saying something new? Not really. As the party’s father figure, he owes it a duty to speak up in times like this and to seek reconciliation as impartially as possible. As chairman of the party’s BoT, he had, since resumption of that office in February led fact-finding delegation to PDP state governors on ways of achieving lasting peace in the party. He had also on two occasions-first, the PDP South-South leaders’ meeting in Asaba on May 12, 2013 and second, the Unity Dinner at the Presidential Villa on May 30, 2013, disclosed in his speeches that some governors had genuine complaints against the leadership of the party and had insisted that such complaints were not sufficient to warrant any rebellion especially since there were also complaints against the governors themselves. Interestingly, Clark was at the Asaba meeting where Anenih made the speech.
The split in PDP should have been for the party’s leaders like Clark a sobering moment, pointing as it does to the threat it poses to the president’s second term ambition, a campaign of which he gets mentioned as the arrowhead. Whichever way one chooses to look at it, the events of the past two weeks hardly afford any committed PDP member time to play political brinksmanship. The split signposts threat to the party and the country. Many were therefore rankled that the Clark group reduced such threat to a Jonathan 2015 affair; worse still, to disparage the very soul of the party-which Anenih represents-by making mischievous statements in seeking to score hollow political points.
Rather than denigrate the like of Atiku, Kwankwaso, Lamido, Wammakko, Nyako and company, Anenih had shown wisdom in his comments which were in pursuit of reconciliation. In Anenih’s view, such pre-emptive, inflammatory statements, intimidating one another and issuing threats of court actions were clearly inimical to the reconciliation process as well as disrespectful to President Jonathan at whose instance the reconciliation efforts were being made. It is necessary to state here that the way Clark carries on with the 2015 presidency has sparked discussions in the public sphere; so I won’t bother myself with it here. But it will suffice to say that the Ijaw leader’s attitude has, in recent times, done more harm than good to the unity of Jonathan’s support base.
At a time like this, Clark and his group should seek ways of solving a major problem that presents itself in any form rather than constituting themselves as part of it. Like the Ibos would say, no reasonable man pursues rats when his house is on fire. They should borrow a leaf from President Jonathan and Anenih who have voted for reconciliation rather than derogation and combativeness. At the PDP post convention dinner on Sunday (September 8, 2013), Jonathan and Anenih’s homilies were soothing balms amid the cacophony of bellicose statements made by many of the speakers. The president described the crisis in the party as both a normal family issue and minor disagreement that would soon be resolved.
Read him: “That some of us have grievances is normal and (this) has been happening. We will do everything possible to make sure that the party grows stronger. In any human institutions there must be disagreements. What happened (the factional PDP) is a minor disagreement that can be solved. For those who have issues, we thank the elders and governors who have been meeting and listening to them; we are committed to resolving our differences. Even those that are aggrieved call themselves the new PDP, meaning they know without PDP they are nothing. PDP is intact; that we have some disagreements is normal. PDP is intact and will remain intact. We will make sure that the party remains one, those who left will rejoin us”.
Jonathan’s goodwill message was, indeed, the magnum opus of the dinner, finding anchorage on Anenih’s earlier homily that no efforts would be spared to bring everybody back on board. He expressed confidence that the on-going reconciliation would resolve the crisis. The BoT chair put it elegantly thus: “We will not fire any shot but we will win the war. We should not recognize opposition in the PDP (as) we stand for unity, cohesion and discipline. We will work together as a team so that by 2015, we will come here again to shake hands.” The Jonathan/Anenih perspective is commendable and I recommend it to their followers.
· Kayode Ojo, a political analyst, sent in this piece from Lagos.