Anenih’s second time resignation
CHIEF Anthony Akhakon Anenih, the octogenarian Uromi, Edo State-born founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is known within and outside the party as “Mr. Fix-it”, a sobriquet he acquired by his ability provide solutions to the myriad of problems that had confronted the self-acclaimed largest political party in Africa during its 16-year domination of the political space of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
Anenih, an old horse who has been very active at the top level of the country’s political field since the Second Republic was Chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the old Bendel State in 1981. He was then a 48-year old retired Police officer.
His ability to fix things manifested at that early stage when his leadership of the NPN led to the party trouncing the well-entrenched Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the 1983 elections when his candidate Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia was announced the winner of the governorship contest.
Ten years later, he was named in another type of “fixing’ when, as the National Chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), the leadership of the party allegedly traded away the victory of its candidate and the acclaimed winner of that year’s presidential elections, late Chief M.K.O Abiola, an action that put a stamp of legitimacy to an annulment that took the country to the edge of the precipice.
Last Wednesday, Anenih resigned, for the second time, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, a position he was holding as the most important person in party hierarchy after the President of the country who is the party leader.
In a letter he sent to President Goodluck Jonathan, notifying him of his decision to step aside, Anenih said he was taking the step to allow Jonathan take over as the BoT chairman.
Coming moments after the Chairman of the party, Adamu Muazu, caved in to pressures from a large section of his members for his resignation, Anenih’s letter reads, “Your Excellency will recall that in a conversation I had with you a few weeks ago, I had offered to step down from the office of the Chairman of our party’s Board of Trustees and proposed to hand over to you as its new Chairman in a ceremony that would have taken place on the 23rd of May, 2015. I had also repeated this position in our subsequent meetings.
“As a follow up to the above proposal and in view of the current state of affairs in our party, I have decided to formally put my offer in writing to enable you effectively assume the Chairmanship of Board of Trustees or approve a process that will enable any other member of the BoT who is considered competent, to assume the position.
“Kindly accept therefore, this letter as notice of my decision to step down from the position of Chairman of the BoT of our party with effect from today, the 20th of May, 2015.
“I am happy to inform you that, I remain a loyal foundation member of our great party and will continue to pray for the prosperity of Nigeria, our party, and for you and your family.”
Perhaps his ability to fix problems in political parties could have been of more importance now to the survival of the PDP, a party which fortunes and that of the Uromi Chief have been entwined for more than 16 years if not for a clause in the PDP’s Constitution that limited the leadership of its BoT to certain individuals.
A party that just lost presidential powers, control of the National Assembly and a number of state governors and has been pushed to the unfamiliar terrain of playing opposition, would certainly need the sagacity of an Anenih’s long years of fixing things, to survive.
The party’s constitution was amended a few days to the exit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo from power in a way to make the Ota farmer, whose iron-grip on the party structure, the lack of which, under the Jonathan leadership, was said to have contributed to the party’s fall, relevant in managing party affairs.
The amendment, which was ratified by the party’s convention in 2007 and tailored to favour Obasanjo, limited the occupation of the Chairmanship seat to only an ex-president, a description that fitted only the former president at that time. And in its first implementation after the change of baton, Anenih, who had been holding the position had to resign for Obasanjo to emerge.
The intrigues of leadership and clash of interests that trailed Obasanjo’s exit from power led to a further amendment of the constitution and gave the right of first refusal to former presidents who are still members of the party to head the BoT
The relevant Section (32) subsection (1) states that the membership of the BoT shall be made up of “all past and serving Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who held or hold the respective posts as members of the party and who are still members of the party and all past and serving National Chairmen, Deputy National Chairmen and National Secretaries of the Party, who are still members of the party.”
The list also included all past and serving Presidents of Senate and Speakers of the House of Representatives who are still members of the party and subsection (2) states that members who shall also be drawn from across the geo-political zones of the country “to reflect the federal character”, shall elect the Chairman from among themselves.
In this instance, except a former President is not desirous of taking up the position and is ready to, according to Anenih’s letter, “approve a process that will enable any other member of the BoT who is considered competent, to assume the position”, the seat is reserved for him.
And as Jonathan would be the only former President still in the PDP (Obasanjo tore his membership card just before the elections that consumed the party), he is best placed to assume the position.
However, as being canvassed by the party’s governors and other stakeholders who have been calling for a change in the party’s leadership, maybe Anenih’s and by extension, Muazu’s resignation would create a refreshing new way of doing things particularly for the party to navigate the unfamiliar waters of opposition politics.