Bauchi, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Kano: Pointers to PDP’s troubled soul
It took the high-profile defection of Ebonyi State governor, Chief Dave Umahi, a Civil Engineer, from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) for Nigerians to know that all was not well with the former governing party.
Before Umahi’s remarkable change of platform, immediate past Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had stunned watchers of the nation’s polity by divorcing Governor Bala Mohammed, with whom he plotted the defeat of Governor Mohammed Abubakar and APC.
The two high-profile defections did much to obscure the infighting in Ekiti State chapter of the party between Senator Biodun Olujimi and immediate past governor Ayodele Peter Fayose over who occupies the position of leader in the state.
The battle of Fayose and Olujimi spilled over to the zonal caucus of the party. Informed sources blamed the infighting to the eventual loss of Ondo State governorship election, which many saw as a low hanging fruit for the main opposition party to harvest and improve their standing in the Southwest.
It could not be easily ascertained how far the Ekiti PDP crisis affected the recent suspension of the Lagos State chapter chairman, Babatunde Doherty. But stakeholders allege that it entangled the lone state governor from the zone, Governor Seyi Makinde, and inhibited his ability to offer leadership for the emancipation of PDP in most Southwest states, particularly Lagos, the Centre of Excellence.
The internal eruptions in those four states that encompass four geopolitical zones represent the huge pointers to PDP’s troubled soul, which has continued to suffer in silence after its defeat in the 2015 presidential poll.
Onset Of Discord
BUT, contrary to public perception, PDP’s problem did not start with its dethronement at the 2015 general elections. It preceded that historical downfall. Students of history and politics know that it is not easy for incumbent leaders to lose democratic elections, especially in Africa.
PDP’s downfall in 2015 was a gradual descent from nobility through impunity to ignominy. When the party started to interfere with its noble initiative of rotating elective and appointive positions among the various geopolitical zones, it did not take long before it began to intrude upon election processes.
Popular choice of members became subject to the whims of those at the Wadata Plaza National Headquarters of the party. From then who becomes national chairman was also subjected to the capricious designs of the President, who was oddly made leader of the party.
There were dramatic selection and removal of national chairman, especially Audu Ogbe, Vincent Ogbulafor and Dr. Okwy Nwodo. But, real signs that the internal defects in the party structure would consume it emerged before and after the election of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) led by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
In the build up to the 2012 national convention, Tukur failed to garner the endorsement of Northeast stakeholders, especially the governors of Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba states. That rejection was highlighted when the then acting National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Musa Babayo beat Tukur, President Jonathan’s preferred candidate by 14 votes to 2 to clinch the zonal title for the post of national chairman allotted to the Northeast.
Without knowing it, the foundation of deception against Jonathan was laid by the intrigues from the northeast stakeholders, who accused Governor Isa Yuguda of hijacking the system to embarrass Tukur, whom he personally detested.
Prepared to bulldoze their way, Niger Delta leaders, Chief Tony Anenih and President Jonathan, insisted on railroading Tukur through the convention. As it turned out, northern leaders saw the insistence on enthroning the former governor of old Gongola State as evidence that Jonathan was laying the foundation for eventual takeover of the party structure for his second term ambition. They began to explore ways of stonewalling.
Perhaps, recognizing that he was being favoured for the chairmanship to stump Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s ambition to contest the 2015 presidential ticket, Tukur accused the former Vice President of reaching to northeast stakeholders to ensure his defeat at the zonal congress by Babayo.
While Tukur, in a statement accused Atiku of sponsoring a legal action to disqualify him from the chairmanship contest, he declared that PDP stakeholders from other geopolitical zones would give him victory during the March convention.
Was PDP national leaders prepared to uphold Northeast’s endorsement of Dr. Babayo as national chairman? The answer they provided was to handout nomination forms to all 11 aspirants, which put a halt to Babayo’s optimism.
As expected, Tukur fell back on Jonathan’s support and clinched the national chairmanship position. But that happened as a prelude to other insurrection politics on the way to the 2015 Golgotha.
BARELY one year into the life of the Tukur-led NWC, 10 members ganged up against him with a demand to drop the former chairman of African Business Roundtable if the party was to win the 2015 general election.
All eyes were trained on the 2015 poll and supporters of Jonathan’s secret ambition for a second term devised a scheme to whittle the powers of some influential governors and those loyal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, particularly Governors Rotimi Amaechi and Babangida Aliu.
The opportunity to weed out possible naysayers to Jonathan’s aspiration for a second term from the NWC came shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) faulted the 2012 convention surrounding the election of some NWC members without affirmative votes from PDP faithful.
The April 8, 2013 report, INEC nullified the election of some NWC members, especially those belonging to the anti-Jonathan camp within the party. The make-up of the interim NWC members as the party prepared for a mini or remedial convention showed that the battle line had already been drawn for the soul of PDP.
They included Tukur, who was Jonathan’s candidate, Cibudom Nwuche for Deputy National chairman, recommended by Jonathan with the support of Peter Odili and Nyesom Wike. Remi Akintoye was put forward by Chief Olabode George to represent the Southwest as the National Secretary, while the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Senator Anyim Pius Anyim penciled Senator Azu Agboti for the post of Deputy National Secretary.
Senator Andy Uba and Oliseh Metuh sent in Tony Okeke to serve as acting National Public Secretary, while Governor Jonah Jang put forward Simon Jok as acting National Legal Adviser. The Chief servant, Babangida Aliu, nominated the acting National Youth Leader, Tanko Beji.
Further intrusion in the process was perfected in the composition of the Special Convention Planning Committee, which was headed by Prof. Jerry Gana. The presence of Governors Ibrahim Shema and Isa Yaguda on the committee was seen as an attempt to hide the fact that Jonathan’s men were taking over the party structure.
At the end of the day, former NWC members and PDP stalwarts that were associated with Obasanjo, Sule Lamido, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aliyu Wammacko, Amaechi and Babangida were systematically sidetracked.
That was why and how Sam Sam Jaja, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Bode Mustapha, Mrs. Kema Chikwe, Victor Kwon, Abubakar Mustapha, Binta Goje and Garba Chizea all lost their former positions on the PDP NWC.
A one-time governorship aspirant in Adamawa State, Dr. Ardo, described the INEC report as a smokescreen to weed out opponents of Jonathan’s second term chase, doubting that such a report could be given the weight of seriousness accorded it by PDP, the Presidency and INEC.
Fall Of Tukur, Domino Effect
THE tenuous hold the pro-Jonathan group began to loosen shortly after some stakeholders including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and five state governors left the party en masse to form new PDP. Members of the party’s NWC accused the national chairman of running the party as a sole administrator, insisting that with Tukur on the steering wheel, PDP was sure to lose the 2015 general election.
With the threat of possible defeat, Jonathan withdrew his support for Tukur and supported the search for a national chairman that could lead PDP to another electoral triumph.
The emergence of former Governor Adamu Mu’azu of Bauchi as Tukur’s replacement was hailed by anti-Tukur forces not only as a game changer, but also a great way to undercut the villainy of his local political rival, Yagudu.
But many PDP insiders believe that the domino effect of Tukur’s fall was the instability that trailed that disruption even after President Jonathan lost the 2015 Presidential election to General Muhammadu Buhari of the newly articulated All Progressives Congress (APC).
With Tukur out of the way, some PDP stalwarts that left to former PDP continued to indirectly tele-guide the affairs of the party, while some stakeholders concerned themselves with money making opportunities as they fleeced the party in its halfhearted attempt to return President Jonathan for a second term.
Rehash Of Intrigues
Exactly 12 months from now, PDP would be heading for another national convention to elect members of the NWC. The party is yet to pronounce on the issue of zoning. However, a silent agitation for the position of national chairman to be ceded to Southwest is on.
While those working for Southwest to produce the chairman believe that step would bring balance and accord a sense of belonging to Southwest, others point to the impact of the ill-conceived removal of Bamanga Tukur on the fortunes of the party in 2015.
It is perhaps the attempt to link the build up to the PDP’s 2021 national convention to the 2023 presidential contest that caused the trepidations in some state chapters of the party.
Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, is the chairman of PDP Reform Committee. It is said that the governor’s design to prosecute his second term ambition single-mindedly led to Dogara’s exit. Sources close to the Governor said the belief that Dogara might not support PDP’s presidential candidate in 2023 informed Mohammed’s decision to sideline him very early in the life of his administration.
There were also claims that Dogara was being primed to serve as presidential running mate to a national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. This claim is said to have towered above every other consideration convinced Governor Mohammed to shrink his influence and relevance in PDP before he does maximum damage.
For the Ebonyi State governor, APC provides the best platform for him to actualise his presidential ambition in 2023. Moreover, coming from the same Senatorial District as the former SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Umahi was said to have calculated that a move to APC would give him a head start against the former President of Senate, whom sources said is also interested in contesting the presidency.
The conduct of the last state congress, during which Anyim, Senators Sam Egwu, Obinna Ogba and other members of the National Assembly approached the PDP National Headquarters for its nullification convinced the governor that he was surrounded by “hostile and envious elements.”
Umahi believes that those angling to stop Prince Uche Secondus from getting a second term in office were prepared to alter the presidential zoning arrangement away from Southeast.
WHO should be the leader of PDP in Ekiti State? The PDP Constitution stipulates that in the absence of a state governor, the occupant of the highest elective office from the state should serve as leader.
Former Governor Fayose insists that having serving the state as governor, he is entitled by virtue of having held that office to retain the leadership of the party. However, party stalwarts disclosed that the former governor’s fear that Senator Olujimi’s governorship ambition would diminish his relevance in the scheme of things made him to stand up against his former deputy.
But, prior to the recent Ondo State governorship, some Ekiti PDP stakeholders alleged that Fayose was working to destabilise PDP in the state because of his support for the presidential ambition of an APC chieftain from Southwest.
BLAME it also on 2023. Senator Kwankwaso, who governed the state for two terms before his four years’ stint in the Senate has not hidden his desire to recontest the presidential ticket of PDP. The former governor, who has a large following of supporters on the Kwankwasiyya Group, believes that winning the governorship in 2023 will put him in a pole position to actualise his dreams for the Presidency.
But, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Aminu Wali believes that Kwankwaso should not eat his cake and have it. Wali’s supporters accuse the former governor of destroying PDP in the state for his selfish political interests, adding that after Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje pushed him out of APC, he came to disrupt the peace and stability of the party by fighting the former Minister of Education, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau.
Wali and his supporters believe that the PDP leadership in Abuja has demonstrated spinelessness in handling the excesses of Kwankwaso in Kano State. They express dismay that after rejoining PDP, the NWC decided to favour Kwankwaso with the party’s structure at the ration of 59 to 41 percent against Shekarau, stressing that that has emboldened the former governor to treat the state chapter as his exclusive preserve.
Who knows, it might a collection of the above scenarios that informed the recent prediction by Rivers State governor, Wike that PDP was not prepared to win the 2023 general elections. As the party heads to another make or mar national convention in 2021, how it responds to these indicators would determine whether it can keep the trouble at bay.