By Olusegun Adeniyi
“…The National Working Committee (NWC) members of PDP had held an elaborate meeting at the party’s Wadata House national secretariat in Abuja with the aim of adopting a common position. At the session were Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, Hajiya Inna Ciroma, Dr. Musa Babayo, Dr. Sam Ortom, Chief
Uche Secondus, Mr. Olusola Oke, Mr. Tukur Mani, and the late Muyiwa Collins. At the end of their discussion, they had all accompanied Ogbulafor to the meeting with the PDP governors. So, it was evident the position that he canvassed—that zoning would remain an article of faith within the PDP for the 2011 presidential elections—was not his personal opinion. The implication—even if it was not expressly stated—was that it foreclosed the possibility of Dr Goodluck Jonathan emerging the PDP presidential flag-bearer for the 2011 general elections. But that was all that the governors wanted to hear. That was also the highlight of the meeting.
“The session rounded off with the unanimous decision that the party’s zoning formula would remain for the 2011 elections. But there was no consensus about how this should be handled, though the popular opinion was that it should not be announced after the meeting. A few of the northern governors, however, argued that the party chairman should immediately announce it as part of their decisions. It was thus a reluctant Ogbulafor who had the unenviable task of briefing the media on the outcome, which was essentially to state that the party would retain the zoning formula, with the presidency rotating between the north and the south. Put simply, only a northerner could fly the flag of the party as its presidential candidate for the 2011 election. “We discussed [the] zoning formula with the governors. The south had presidency for eight years. It is fair and just that the north also keep it for eight years,” Ogbulafor said.
“This was a very weighty decision that was hailed by many prominent politicians from the north but condemned by those from the south, especially by people like Chief Edwin Clark, who had long championed the cause of a Jonathan presidency the moment Yar’Adua fell ill. With that declaration, Ogbulafor was deemed a man that could no longer be trusted. A few days later, he was facing a corruption charge filed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). The case had been filed originally in 2004 and was in relation to N104 million campaign donations. But the prosecution of the matter had been stalled for some inexplicable reasons. This charge of corruption began for Ogbulafor a chain of events that ultimately led to his forced resignation as PDP chairman. Instructively, the moment that was achieved, nothing was ever heard about the corruption charge again!…”
It will be naïve for anybody to assume that the recent catalytic eruptions within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are responses to a problem that developed overnight. The fact of the matter is that they are not; as one can easily glimpse from the foregoing long narrative (of a 2 March 2010 meeting) which I excerpted from my book on the Yar’Adua years. Even when there have been shifting alliances and new actors in the long-running drama, any serious attempt to identify critical pathways in what has become a contestation for power (which has all the elements of ethnicity, religion and desperation) will be futile if we do not attack the issue from source.
What I find particularly interesting is that a motley of party leaders has been cobbled together to find solution to the problem. Not surprisingly, neither President Jonathan nor the leadership of the breakaway faction of the PDP has shown much confidence in the committee. The reason is simple: the level of distrust on both sides is deep and long standing aside the notorious fact that some of the arbitrators are themselves part of the problem. There is even a subtext that not many people are paying attention to: President Obasanjo who resigned his appointment as Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairman a few months ago is now back as chairman of an omnibus elders’ committee of which the current BOT chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, is only a member!
While we will come back to some of these lingering issues in the course of what may be a long series, for us to have a better appreciation of the challenge at hand, we must first look at the character of the ruling party itself. It must be said that the PDP, like all the other parties in this era, is not a political party in the strict sense of the word in that members have never been known for any shared ideals. Nothing illustrates that more eloquently than the manner in which its officials have always emerged. Even if there have been pretensions to some elections at their choreographed conventions, winners have always been product of some Aso Rock consensus. That explains why Ogbulafor who contested the 1999 Gubernatorial election in Abia State on the platform of the All Peoples Party (APP) and was defeated by Chief Orji Kalu of the PDP would emerge only about two years later as the National Secretary of the PDP (where he could dictate the party’s candidates for elective positions) and about four years later as its national chairman!
In fact, the history of all the people who have chaired the PDP in the last 14 years reveals that many of them were actually not originally members of the party in 1999. The same for many of those who are now in the Board of Trustees who tout “the vision of our founding fathers”. But if anybody consider all these as absurd, what would one say about the case of Sokoto where in 2007, the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) Deputy Governor was given the state’s PDP gubernatorial ticket with the official party candidate now made to become his running mate. Of course we also remember that the sitting Vice President at the time (Atiku Abubakar) of the PDP contested the presidential election on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
There have been superficial attempts to discuss the PDP crisis on which I have read many online postings but the one I consider most instructive is by someone who uses the alias, ERG, even if his riposte was a dismissive one-sentence reaction to a criticism of the president. He wrote: “The Umbrella was designed to give shelter to a finite number of persons, notably the man holding it (Bamanga Tukur) and the one for whom it is meant to be covering (President Goodluck Jonathan). All other renegade passengers can exit into the rain in their trench coats”.
As funny as that may seem, the guy sounded truer than he probably intended because it exposes the contradictions of our political parties that place more emphasis on personalities than the need to assemble and associate in promotion of some cherished values. On the surface, it would seem that Tukur is the issue and that once he is removed as being demanded by some of the PDP governors, the crisis will be over. It is naïve for anybody to assume that. If we will be honest, at the root of this crisis is the plot to either make President Jonathan not to seek re-election in 2015 or to weaken the party to such an extent that in the event that he runs, he will fail at the polls.
There are different strands to this move while the motives are diverse and in due course I intend to examine each separately. But for now there is the pertinent question as to whether it is right to bully a sitting president out of seeking the ticket of his political party for whatever reasons. I am sure any fair-minded person would deplore such anti-democratic posture and this is where the supporters of the president actually stand. But then the big question: have they always held on to this position?
That question is important against the background that in November 2011, a certain Timipre Sylva was seeking second term as Governor of Bayelsa State. That the president did not want Sylva to return as governor of his home state was evident and even understandable since there was no love lost between them. But based on some unproven allegation that Sylva threatened the life of the president, he was made to face the full weight of the presidency in a classical Third World setting. At the end, Sylva was hounded out of PDP and practically bundled out of the Bayelsa State Government House. But up till today there has been no case bordering on the alleged threat on the life of the Number One citizen (a treasonable offence), preferred against Sylva, which then means that all those security tales were mere fabrications to oust him from power.
Yet aside the Sylva case, those who accuse the president of intolerance point to the number of persons who have been PDP’s chairpersons under him. For instance, Ogbulafor and Okwesilieze Nwodo were removed on charges of disloyalty and even though Tukur is the 9th PDP National Chairman in the last 15 years, he is the fifth under President Jonathan—all within a period of less than four years. So effectively we can say that the president himself laid the foundation for the current gang-up. But as I listened to one prominent Northern politician ask another yesterday whether he belonged to “PDP Na Banza” or “PDP Albarka,” I could not but wonder about the gullibility of Nigerians. Just by fighting the president, one faction (a side of the same coin) now earns immediate accolades while the other is demonised. Interestingly, not many people remember that the “umbrella carrier” who wielded the hatchet on behalf of the president to neutralize Sylva less than two years ago is the same man who currently chairs the ‘new PDP’ to which the former Bayelsa Governor himself now belongs!
What the foregoing says very clearly is that nobody should be under any illusion that the current crisis within the PDP is a battle over principles or that it is about the welfare of Nigerians. Notwithstanding, it is also evident that the raging crisis will determine more than the future plight of the party that received power from the military in 1999 as a democratic platform. Whether those in authorities realize it or not, the future of multi party democracy, national stability and security in our country are also at stake. Because if the crisis generates more heat than the polity can absorb, we will all be in trouble. As for Dr Jonathan, there can be no doubt that how he manages the crisis will define his presidency from now till 2015 and perhaps even beyond.