The prognosis by those who have posited that the deliberate factionalization of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is part of the larger plot to stop President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term of office by first decimating the party such that it would be difficult for it to win the general elections even if Jonathan picks its presidential ticket, may be correct. But will the plot sail through? This is the pertinent question that should bother the camp of the plotters who have gone overboard to fish for trouble in what many discerning minds have regarded as political misadventure.
For the first time since the formation of the PDP in 1998, internal feud seems to have stretched it and its internal mechanism for conflict resolutions to their limits. Some leaders of the party have coordinated an onslaught from within, trying to precipitate an implosion. The presidency and the party leadership have been fighting back to steady the party and keep it strong as much as it is possible. The bone of contention has purportedly been the bad management style of the national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. Those who are not happy with Tukur, especially some state governors, have been pushing for his ouster.
And, for the first time, a seemingly unpopular national chairman of the party, who is central to the festering crisis, appears to be surviving the moves to oust him. His survival is understandable: he still enjoys the backing and protection of President Jonathan. Should Jonathan decide today that Tukur’s time is up, nobody in the PDP can save him. But while the grace period subsists, Tukur is boasting that he is in charge and that he would brook no opposition. Watchers of the development have argued that Tukur, who seems to have been out of tune with the running of a behemoth like the PDP and the constitution of the party, should have been more calm and statesmanlike in dealing with the issues at stake.
They pointed out that virtually all his predecessors did not survive moves to remove them. Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh, Ahmadu Ali, and Okwesiliese Nwodo all had issues with the powers-that-be as well as other issues and were removed. But Tukur’s luck, they reasoned, was that the governors who wanted him out were muddling a lot of other issues with it. For instance, their hands were said to be in the plot to stop Jonathan’s re-election in 2015. This has put them on Jonathan’s direct firing line. Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, in particular, has been playing the role of an agent provocateur, deploying the platform of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to propagate anti-Jonathan positions; which was why the Forum has been polarized with two leaderships.
Amaechi is believed to have sponsored the shuttle diplomacy that the five northern governors-Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano), Aliyu Magartakarda Wammako (Sokoto) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa)-embarked upon to selected PDP leaders across the country on the heels of the NGF election that produced the parallel leaderships of Amaechi and Jonah Jang of Plateau State. Efforts at getting Amaechi to embrace a compromise position before the NGF election failed. It was therefore clear that Amaechi and his group were acting out a carefully prepared script by some bigger masquerades behind the scene.
The veil gave way on August 31, 2013 at the party’s special mini convention when the seven aggrieved governors, including Amaechi and Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, broke out of the convention ground in company with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to announce the formation of a new PDP at a press conference addressed at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida, who were believed to have sympathy for these aggrieved governors were also absent at the convention. Interestingly, they were among the PDP leaders that mediated in the crisis and presented some recommendations subsequently to Jonathan for his attention and consideration.
What particularly attracted suspicion to Obasanjo as being the promoter of the rebellion was his absence at the convention, only for him to emerge in Aso Rock the morning after. Babangida was understandably not there, because he has not really been attending PDP events. Indeed, the elements that have conspired to wreak collateral damage on Jonathan’s re-election bid are doing that with their eyes on dismembering the party. That process has begun. The new PDP led by Kawu Baraje has opened its headquarters office in Maitama, which has now been sealed consequent upon a court order, restraining the leadership from parading itself as such.
Indeed, all these maneuvers, to my mind, tantamount to political misadventure, which is not in the interest of the elements involved in it. Their calculation maybe to destroy the party in order to truncate Jonathan’s second term, but my concern is that some of them are trying to destroy a party that they did not help in forming and building. The PDP is a big party that has catered to the needs and aspirations of these power wielders. Obasanjo, for instance, was in jail when the PDP was formed. He was only invited to be president on the platform. Did he even build the party while in office for eight years? The issue is moot. Maybe he destroyed more than he built!
Where was Wammako in 1998? He was not in the PDP. He was in the All Nigeria Peoples Party on which platform he was deputy governor to Attahiru Bafarawa in Sokoto. What of Babangida Aliyu of Niger? He was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of FCT. It was prelude to the 2007 election that he joined the PDP and was handed the ticket, almost gratis, to contest the governorship seat. Amaechi was a fringe element in the formation of the PDP. He was an aide of Dr Peter Odili, who became governor of Rivers in 1999. It was Odili who sponsored him to the House of Assembly and predetermined his emergence as Speaker for eight years. Is he grateful to Odili? He is arrogantly not!
Senator Bukola Saraki who is tele-guiding Baraje was not there from the beginning. Even his father, the late Senator Olusola Saraki who got him the PDP governorship ticket, was a founding leader of the All Peoples Party (APP). Perhaps, only Lamido and Kwankwanso can be said to have been part of the formation of the PDP in 1998, which was why Lamido, a close ally of the late Abubakar Rimi, emerged as Minister of Foreign Affairs, while Kwankwanso emerged as governor of Kano State. Lamido must particularly be commended for his position that he will not leave the PDP, that is to say he would fall in line once the issues were resolved. Kwankwanso was almost toeing the same line until very recently when he was reported to have said the aggrieved governors could move to the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC).
Even that would have been better than dividing the PDP, with his faction holding on to a structure which is not recognized by any law and the electoral body. The new PDP is, as far as I am concerned, a huge joke. All odds are against it. The Presidency and its apparatchik are against it. A vast majority of the party structures in the State are against it. As it is, the new PDP is fighting a lost battle in a bid to decimate the ruling PDP. Many leaders in the aggrieved governors’ states are waiting for them to egress so that they can take over the party structures.
Can the promoters of the rebellion work in synergy to stop Jonathan’s re-election if they decide to team up with the opposition? I do not think so. There is nothing new that can happen to Jonathan’s candidacy in Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, and Niger in 2015 that did not happen in the 2011 presidential elections. Jonathan was defeated by Buhari in the four states. In fact, he was defeated in all northwest and northeast states save Adamawa and Taraba where Jonathan scored 508,314 to Buhari’s 344,526 and 451,354 to Buhari’s 257,986 respectively. In fact, it is only Nyako that can lay claim to having supported Jonathan solidly in 2011.
These are the scenarios that should moderate their actions before they perpetuate their extreme postures. They should not allow this macabre dance to continue. They would have committed political hara-kiri if PDP survives without them and also if Jonathan secures re-election in spite of them. These possibilities should guide them to embrace reconciliation. I believe PDP is home for them. Many of those who left the party before now have since returned. They should respond positively to the appeal by Jonathan and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, to embrace reconciliation and return to the party.
And, if for nothing, they should mind Governor Godswill Akpabio’s warning that the aggrieved governors may realize late in the day that their people (masses in their states, not political jobbers) were not following them to where they have gone. It is not too late to undo this political misadventure that the new PDP typifies. Forewarned is forearmed.
·Ojeifo sent this piece from Abuja.