Saturday, 7 September 2013

PDP’s march to the Golgotha

Like never before, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is bedevilled by factionalism, as it faces the threat of implosion. IDOWU SAMUEL writes on the dilemmas of the party of late.
The state of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) today represents an implosion long foretold. The actors and other dramatis personae in the crises had acted true to type in line with a script which now seems well directed. By implication, when core players in the PDP rise in battle against one another, confidence among them has broken down. Then, the party, which has been in the saddle in Nigeria since 1999, stands a little chance to avoid being blown into smithereens without immediate steps towards reconciliation.
The PDP had chosen a special convention it held in Abuja last Saturday to embarrass itself. Midway into the convention, which faithful members felt would be used as a launch pad for the party’s revival, the bubble burst as core members of the party, led by six state governors and some other key members, staged a walkout with a concealed motive. Outside the gate of the Eagle Square, venue of the convention, the aggrieved members announced their breakaway from the PDP hood. They are now a brand of the party known as New PDP.

The governors, who led the rebellion against the Bamanga Tukur-led PDP, had been in the news long before now. They had traversed the length and breadth of the country, oscillating visible anger while they held court with leaders and founders of the PDP, starting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General T.Y. Danjuma and a host of other elder statesmen. One striking point in their grievances centred on the need to halt the era of Tukur in PDP.
The governors of Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Niger, and Jigawa states, Rabiu Musa Kwankwoso, Magatakarda Wamakko, Murtala Nyako, Babangida Aliyu and Sule Lamido, who started it all attempted to mobilise the elder statesmen along their plot to shake PDP to its very foundation. They took time to perfect their plans on how to achieve that and had kept such close to their chests. Then, they chose the convention ground to strike and did that with almost clinical precision. Since last Saturday, the Tukur’s leadership of the PDP has been running from pillar to post making frantic efforts to brace up its falling house. The impression emanating from the turn of events now is that for PDP, the birds seem to be returning home to roost.

Roots of latest PDP crises
In March 2012, the PDP held its National Convention which produced the business mogul, Alhaji Tukur, a staunch supporter of President Goodluck Jonathan. It was with stiff resistance from governors of PDP that Tukur emerged. The governors had preferred that one of them become the PDP National Chairman, but failed to get that done. Amid consultations and compromises with the top echelon of the party, the governors settled grudgingly for the post of National Secretary. Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State, became their eyes in the National Working Committee (NWC).
The Tukur NWC had hardly settled down when the PDP was bugged with pressure on the crisis within Adamawa State PDP. The NWC, after a meeting on the issue, announced the dissolution of the Kugama-led executive. It was a decision which rattled state governor, Murtala Nyako and his fellow governors in the party. Then, the governors declared war on Tukur, at least for insisting that the NWC’s decision would not be rescinded.
Added to the pressure on Tukur was the ordeal Oyinlola had in the NWC following a court judgment that his election as PDP National Secretary was faulty. The removal of Oyinlola and Tukur’s decision withdrawing the party’s appeal against the judgment raised the anger of the governors against Tukur. From then on, the need to secure the sack of Tukur as PDP chairman became a paramount agenda that the party’s governors, led by Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, pursued relentlessly and with keen interest. It was then easy for the governors to tag Tukur as undemocratic in conduct while they focused on his alleged rigid stance on party issues. Tukur, on the other hand, felt that his antagonists in the party were merely apathetic to the reforms he had in mind to pursue. The discordant tunes between Tukur and the governors had greater effects on the NWC which also cracked amid gang-up by members who were sympathetic to the governors. The bad situation remained until the court, on advice from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared the election of nearly all the NWC members illegal. The resignation of the affected members led to last Saturday’s special convention.

Amaechi vs Jonathan
From the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in government, the PDP governors had constituted a formidable force with power and influence to control the PDP. Yet, Obasanjo had mastered the arts of putting the excesses of the governors in check. The inability of his successors to follow in the footsteps of Obasanjo made the PDP governors muster more strength and the eagerness to lord it over the PDP and the presidency. The governors did not just muster such power, the process began in 2007 with their ability to make a pact with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua on assisting them to tame the incubus of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against them. Nuhu Ribadu, the EFCC chairman then, before leaving power, had declared 31 of the 36 state governors jail-bound with evidence of acts of corruption against them. Soon, efforts by the anti-graft agency to hold the governors accountable became history, while the governors entrenched their interests in hobnobbing with the presidency without restraints. The PDP governors became more relevant when the presidency depended on them to appoint ministers and head of government agencies. They forged a special forum and had regularly used the forum to reverse some key decisions of the president. By the time President Jonathan came in first in acting capacity, and later as a substantive president, the governors had entrenched as a major force to reckon with in decision making at the federal level.
The chairman of the Governors Forum, Amaechi and President Jonathan appear to have no love lost between them. Apart from the emergence of Tukur as PDP chairman which cast them apart, the rumoured desire of Ameachi to enter into the fray of presidential contest with his counterpart from Jigawa State as partner brought about moments of confusion in the polity which the two were not able to manage. Not long thereafter, supporters of the president and Amaechi launched a war of attrition against one another to ascertain the strength of their principals. The war, taken to the doorsteps of Amaechi in Port Harcourt, spread to the camp of the Governors Forum, causing it to break into factions. Today, the PDP governors no longer speak with one voice, just as the presidency had to fight back to stay in control.

Ripples from APC registration
The merger of opposition parties into the All Progressives Congress (APC) was underpinned by one agenda: to dislodge the PDP from power by 2015. Though many top shots of the PDP found that desire laughable, considering the strength of their party, the party was really rattled by the sudden registration INEC gave to APC, despite underground moves to subvert the process of registration. The ripples of APC’s registration were felt in PDP with reports that some of its governors had plans to join the opposition group. The fear of APC and the need to not cheaply yield the voting grounds to it by 2015, according to reports, prodded some top members to contemplate the formation of a new party to play the role of a spoiler for the APC. It was in this light that the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) emerged with INEC’s registration. With PDM, which has a political juggernaut like the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as an underground source of inspiration, the PDP could not but experience some rumblings.

North’s eyes on power
2015 and the extant interest of the North on power has been an issue in the PDP. The northern agenda in respect of the coming national elections has necessitated that the leaders of the region within the party, notwithstanding their current political leanings, must act in concert. It presupposes that even key ministers from the North in the cabinet of President Jonathan would not toy with the agenda at the nick of time. The idea is that if the North must get presidential power by 2015, it must fight tooth and nail to ensure that, including fighting the incumbent President Jonathan to a standstill.
Till date, the North appears not to have come to terms with Jonathan’s presidency which came up on the crest of the death of President Yar’Adua. When he took over power in 2011, Jonathan, to gain instant support and sympathy, said he would only do one term. He has since changed that tune, given his preparedness to do battle, this time around to get himself back in office. As scenarios are playing out now, the president seems not prepared to give up fighting for re-election, a reason he will continue to grapple with crises which, from indications, will fall in torrents. That explains the reasons the PDP will always serve as a battle ground for its impossible members

The Saraki factor
The greatest surprise in the affairs of the rebelling PDP members was that a former chairman of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, is the interim chairman. In his address during the first meeting of the New PDP, Baraje spoke about the party which brought him to limelight, stating that the party had been rendered ineffectual by a few people who, he said, acted as though they were above the law. Baraje spat venoms on his party and left his listeners with an impression that he will shepherd the new faction of PDP to a new height that will make the original PDP go extinct. Baraje, to many who understand the game at hand, had no option but to play the role assigned to him. First, his mentor, a former governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki, has of late been having ordeals with the EFCC. Baraje told the world that the change of date of the PDP special convention from 20 July to 31 August without reverting to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party was done with encouragement from the presidency. Secondly, sources close to Tukur alleged that although Baraje currently heads the board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, his initial dream after handing over to Tukur was to become a minister in line with earlier assurances. His inability to achieve that dream, according to the sources, was the reason he has not been at peace with Jonathan.

Andy Uba and Anambra question
If the PDP had had a hint about the game plan by Andy Uba in Anambra State, perhaps it would have learnt to tread softly on the congress it conducted in the state. Uba preferred to enjoy automatic ticket to run in the coming governorship race in the state. His argument was that he had earlier been legitimately sworn in as governor, having won the election in 2007 before losing the seat to a court judgment. The PDP did not accede to his request. Today, the PDP is in a dilemma on the Anambra question and thus stands the risk of losing the state owing to the stalemate over the congress issue.

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