Nigeria at 52: Celebrating 13 years of return of democracy

By IndepthAfrica
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Sep 30th, 2012
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Nigeria at 52

By Moses Alao,Nigeria Tribune
Apart from attaining 52 years of nationhood this year, Nigeria should also be celebrating 13 years of return of democracy after military interregnum. But it appears that the nation is battling many challenges. Indeed, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it appears, signifies the chaotic situation in the polity. It is no longer news that the fortune of PDP, the self-acclaimed largest political party in Africa, has been dwindling for some time now as the party is riddled with controversies occasioned by power play and political intrigues among its members across the country. What could be news is the attempt to bring back the lost disciples of the party, a voyage embarked upon by its national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.

No sooner had Tukur been elected as chairman in March 2012 than it became clear what his mandate for the party would be—he had to restore the dwindling of the party which was fast losing its grip on power due to internal wrangling as well as work on the battered image which the party already cut before many Nigerians. Not a few people, as evident in the opinions of opposition politicians and activists, believe that Nigeria had been the worst for the party’s 12-year rule at the federal level.

In his acceptance speech as the chairman of the party, he promised to reform, reconcile and reposition the party.

However, his first 100 days in office were not enough to mend the broken fences in the party as the outcomes of the congresses across the state became the bedrocks for fresh wrangling. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) even ordered a repeat of the congresses in Lagos, Nasarawa, Plateau, Anambra, Jigawa, Katsina, Taraba, Sokoto, Anambra and Adamawa states, while a state like Oyo ended up with two executive councils from the two congresses held in the state.

But in a recent move to restore the dwindling fortune of the party and probably solidify the party’s electoral strength in preparation for the future, the chairman, during his 77th birthday, made an appeal to aggrieved members of the party who had to other parties.

“For us to be one, indivisible and indissoluble political party ruling Nigeria since 1999, it may be necessary for me to beg our members who are aggrieved and hence left the party into different strange camps to come back home. It is time to re-build Nigeria and all hands are needed to do so.

“The umbrella is big enough to accommodate all of us. So our members who left us should please come back into the party so we can resolve our differences and begin to move on as one people for one Nation Nigeria”

In another twist, the National Working Committee of the party issued a directive that members who had left the party and wish to return should do so in 30 days, saying they could only return to the PDP fold by returning to their wards to register.

Though the party directed the ward executives to ensure that the returnees are registered without inhibitions, saying that “this exercise (should) be carried out within 30 days from now and that ward chairmen and secretaries should register such returning members without inhibitions.”

The chairman advised any returnee not allowed register to report to the national secretariat, calling on the six zonal national vice-chairmen to ensure compliance with the directive.

Hinged on the principles of 3-Rs of reconciliation, reformation and rebuilding, Alhaji Tukur and his NWC has left no stone unturned in the attempt to make past members of the party return to the fold, and in the process, have begged and ordered at the same time all in a bid to restore the PDP’s glory.

The PDP, which was formed in 1998 and in 1999 went on to win several major positions including the majority seats of both arms of the National Assembly, 23 state governors and the presidency, began to have problems among its members as entrenched interests sought to outdo one another with the attendant results being the frustration, expulsion or exit of some of the members.

Though the party appeared to have a better showing in the 2003 election, winning the presidential position for a second term while also adding seven additional states to those in its control, it took no time for things to begin to fall apart in the party as bigwigs in the party lost out in the power play while others were subjects of disciplinary actions. In the end, many of them left the party, thereby weakening the ranks of the PDP.

Former chairman of the party, Audu Ogbeh, former governor of Benue State now a Minority Ledare of the Senate, elected on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), George Akume; former Bauchi State governor, Adamu Muazu; former Anambra State governor and now a Senator on the platform of the ACN, Chris Ngige; former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose; former Oyo State governor, Rashidi Ladoja; former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu; former Enugu State governor, Chimaroke Nnamani; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’aba; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bello Masari; former Nasarawa deputy governor and now a Senator on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Solomon Ewuga; Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko and countless others were at the receiving end of the blows which the PDP dealt its own, as some of them were either frustrated out of the party or set aside in the scheme of things.

With some of these erstwhile party stalwarts reportedly lost for good, the PDP could be said to have been left with no choice than to reconsider its stance and make peace, leading to the present efforts. Interestingly, a look at all the past members of the PDP who have left for other parties revealed that not all of them would like to return as many of them have landed juicy positions in their new parties. Senators Akume, Ngige and Ewuga, as well as Governors Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and Dr Mimiko were mentioned as likely examples of politicians who would not return to the ruling party. However, those who have been fingered to be interested in a return to the PDP umbrella, such as Kalu and Ladoja, have been said to be capable of wielding great influence if they return to the party.

Chief Kalu was reported to be interested in returning to the PDP fold, with the party executive in his local government, Bende Local Government said to have opposed the idea.

He had formed the Progressive Peoples Alliance in 2007, winning the Abia State governorship election and some other positions before the governor, Theodore Orji abandoned the PPA for the PDP, thereby whittling down Kalu’s influence.

A lot of opinions have been expressed about the immense political clout of Senator Ladoja who floated the Accord Party few months to the April 2011 general elections and ended up winning eight seats in the Oyo State House of Assembly and four seats in the House of Representatives, with many members of the PDP at the national and state level working to see to his return to the party. Sunday Tribune gathered from an impeccable source close to the former governor that he was favourably disposed to returning to the party but could not do so because some top PDP members in the state, who were afraid of Ladoja’s influence, threatened to institute legal actions against him.

However, the Oyo State PDP chairman, Alhaji Yinka Taiwo said there was no truth to the claim that some people do not want Ladoja back in the PDP, saying: “He is our leader. We are expecting him in the party, he is welcome any time.”

It is not clear how many people would choose to return to the party following the new waves of reconciliation and attempts to rebuild the party, what is clear is the palpable fear that has gripped the state chapters of the party as a result of the likely returnees’ influence and political strengths.

The Oyo PDP chairman also confirmed that people were already returning to the party at the ward levels in the state, adding that he would be able to say who and who has returned after the end of the exercise.

The ongoing reconciliation efforts have also been supported by the National Vice Chairman (Southwest) of the party, Engineer Segun Oni, who said in a recent interview that: “We have to bring all members together in the Southwest especially as we are not in the government, we must ensure that no group pockets the party. That is why we keep telling them, if there is need to harmonise the warring factions by looking at the executive of any state again, we would not shy away from doing that. But if anybody is under the illusion that the party will be in the pocket of one person or group of people in any part of the Southwest, that person should have a rethink, because we are not in PDP because we want to run a political party but because we know that the people of the Southwest are yearning for change.”

The reconciliation efforts, if successful, have been said to be capable of bringing a lot of gains to the party, with the reclamation of lost states in the Southwest being said to be top on the list of gains for the party.

“There is strength in the movement of a majority. The PDP has people and the return of those who have left and the reconciliation of the aggrieved would bring immense benefit to the party. We are in support of efforts to bring back the lost sheep of the party so that we can be further strengthened, that much I can tell you,” Alhaji Taiwo said.

However, the ongoing efforts to reconcile warring members of the PDP have not all been a smooth ride. From the seemingly contrasting positions of the party on the former members of the party willing to return to the fold, with the earlier position of the chairman appearing as a plea and the latter which appeared as an order with ultimatum, developments in the polity show that Tukur’s reconciliation efforts though thought capable of bolstering the party’s strength, have put him in the bad books of some PDP governors.

The governors were said to have boycotted the chairman’s birthday celebration because they were irked by his reconciliatory moves which Sunday Tribune learnt have not been favourable to the governors.

With the governor’s dispositions, it has become doubtable whether the present efforts of the party to reconcile and rebuild would come to fruition, as some of the governors have been known to have the party machinery in their pockets.

In fact, analysts have expressed fear at the feasibility of Tukur’s repositioning efforts on the grounds that past PDP chairmen who entered the governor’s bad books ended up failing in their tasks. Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo was mentioned as an example in this regard, having been accused of stirring the hornets’ nest of the PDP governors at the time.

If the governors’ alleged opposition to Tukur’s perspective and approach to the reconciliation and rebuilding of the PDP was thought to be a problem for the party, the likely outcomes of the reconciliation moves and eventual return of some former party members have been a source of worry for the party leadership, Sunday Tribune learnt, with the case of Ekiti State where the former governor of the state, Ayo Fayose, was recently re-admitted into the PDP fold, a development which has been having varying effects both negatively and positively on the party in the state.

The fear of the return of these politicians seem to have become the beginning of wisdom for some state chapters of the PDP, as the people presently in control of party machineries mostly serving governors, have been reportedly hell-bent of frustrating the return of people who they perceive would be obstacles to their ‘smooth operations.’

Benue, Kano, Bauchi, Enugu, Ogun and Oyo states have remained hot spots where the ongoing reconciliation efforts could suffer huge setbacks, with Ogun State chapter’s peculiar mess of a litany of court cases which have threatened the soul of the party.

According to observers, the return of former members may lead to implosion in the party, as those who presently control party machineries would not let go easily, a situation which they said could make the PDP ‘win some and lose more.’

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