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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FACTS: PDP, A Catalogue Of Crises

PDP: A catalogue of crises
Crisis-ridden Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been suffering from self-inflicted wounds arising from its aversion for internal democracy, dictatorial leadership, presidential pressure on the party structures, and politics of exclusion at the federal and state levels. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the catalogue of crises that has characterised the ruling party since its inception.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been a promising platform, right from March 31, 1998, when it was established. It was built on a solid foundation under the leadership of the former Plateau State governor, Chief Solomon Lar. The founding fathers were elder statesmen who, under the auspices of G-34, recommended a terminal date for the military rule. The fold was a mixed grill of conservatives, progressives and military apologists.
However, the Afenifere Deputy Leader, the late Chief Bola Ige, found fault with the composition. To him, it was an association of strange bedfellows. Ige reasoned that, since the military apologists of the Babangida and Abacha eras have invaded the platform, the prospects of building an ideological party was slim. Although he wrote the party constitution, the former Oyo State governor left the party.
The former Plateau State governor was able to wield the fold together. He had taken the baton of leadership from the interim chairman, the late Senator Sunday Awoniyi, the Aro of Mopa. In 1999, the acclaimed largest party in Africa won federal and state elections without massive rigging. But it was evident that the party had been hijacked by the conservative actors and their collaborators, the retired military officers, who brought back one of their own, General Olusegun Obasanjo, as the civilian President.
Lar is a celebrated democrat. President Obasanjo is a retired soldier, who could not adjust to the democratic civilian life. The transition from soldering to politics was difficult for the old soldier, who had mastered the hierarchical military dictatorial order and command. His first move was to secure the title of the ‘National Leader’ of the PDP. Few months after he assumed office, he agitated for the change of baton at the party’s national secretariat. That was necessary to limit the party’s influence and moderation on presidential activities. It was clear that Lar, the former Police Affairs minister, had to bow out honourably. He spent barely a year in office.
During Lar’s tenure, crises were minimal and the party was supreme. One of his aides, Dr Solomon Dalung, a lawyer, recalled that trouble started when Obasanjo, who is not one of the founding fathers, became the President and the party’s national leader.”When Obasanjo came in, being an African General, he came in with the Machiavellian theory of dispensing with whosoever that might have made him king because it was only him who knows the intrigues that brought him to power. He applied this to Lar”, he said.
Since Middlebelt politician left office, there has been a high turn-over of national chairmen. The position was zoned to the Northcentral geo-political zone. Up came the former interim chairman, Awoniyi, and Chief Barnabas Gemade, former member of the Interim National Government (ING) led by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Awoniyi, a Yoruba, was from Kogi State. Gemade hails from Benue State. Other contestants-Senator Ahmadu Ali, Yahaya kwande, and Sule Usman from Kogi State-were on the fringe.
Awoniyi, who had often described himself as a Yoruba-Northerner, got the shock of his life when Obasanjo from Ogun State declared that, in the PDP, Yoruba could not produce the President and National Chairman as the same time. Awoniyi was a though politician who could challenge Obasanjo, if he undermined the party leadership. He was harassed out of the party. On his way out, he lamented the collapse of the due process in the party and derailment of the vision of its founding fathers. Awoniyi said that he was leaving the party of sinners.
Gemade, who succeeded Lar, inherited a party ruptured by the post-presidential primaries. The aspirants that were rejected at the inaugural party primaries, including former Vice President Alex Ekweme and the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, were bitter. Crisis was also brewing at the state chapters because of the presidential directive that the pioneer chairmen should hand over to other chieftains in the party. The national chairman went on tour of the troubled chapters. It was evident that the idea of the national party caucus could not be adopted by the PDP. Suddenly, there was a push for the extension of the tenure of the members of the National Executive Council (NEC) from two to four years.
Gemade wanted to run the affairs of the party as a democrat. That meant mustering the effort to assert himself. But he was handicapped. Following disagreement with the National Party Leader on party issues, his days in the office were numbered. He complained that certain powerful forces in the party were making unreasonable and unethical demands from his office. When the tenure of the National Executive Committee (NEC) was extended by one year, there was disagreement over whether the chairman, Gemade, could benefit.
Amid the crisis, the national chairman announced the suspension of Chief Tony Anenih, the powerful Works Minister. It became his undoing. The next day, he recanted. Gemade was forced out of office. But on his way out, he predicted that the fate that would befall his successors would be worse. Reflecting on his tenure, he said: “The way I saw the situation in the party that time, it was clear to me that the mindset of the people who had the party in their control and who had the government in their control that time was such that the meddlesomeness that we were experiencing as the leadership of the party would not change”.
At a special convention organised by a committee led by Senator David Mark, who is now the Senate President, the Second Republic Minister of Communications, Chief Audu Ogbeh, replaced Gemade as the chairman. All those who wanted to succeed Gemade were edged out. Obasanjo made Ogbeh his Special Adviser on Agriculture, contrary to the provision of the PDP constitution, which forbids a party executive from accepting government appointment. In 2004, the NEC was polarised. A section backed Obasanjo. Another section backed his deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. It was very hard for the chairman to blend with Obasanjo. He felt that the President was elected to run the country and the chairman, in consultation with him, was elected by the party members to run the party. Ogbeh became the chairman as the party was preparing for the 2003 elections. The party was in turmoil. The state chapters were crisis-ridden and the divisions had weakened the fold. The crisis on the Anambra State chapter drew a wedge between the President and the chairman. The state was later enveloped in tension when the Ubas waged war against the former governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, who was abducted. The Govement House and the state-owned television were in flames. Ogbeh told Obasanjo that the matter was not being properly handled by the party leadership. The President and national chairman canvassed opposing solutions. In Lagos State, there were three camps. Efforts to promote harmony failed. The feeling was that the former President was behind the dominant camp, which was bent on rusticating the members of the rival caucuses. In disunity, the chapter went for the polls. The report of the reconciliation panel headed by Chief Tunde Osunrinde from Ogun State recommended the distribution of party offices among the Lagos PDP caucus. It was not implemented.
In Osun State, Otunba Iyiola Omisore, a defector from the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to PDP, was standing trial for an alleged involvement in the murder of the slain Attorney-general and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige. Ogbeh counselled that that he should not be made the senatorial candidate for Ife/Ijesa District to preserve the image of the party. The President was said to have disagreed. Some party leaders supported him, explaining that, since Omisore had not been found guilty, he can contest while still in the custody.
The parting of ways became imminent between Obasanjo and Ogbeh, when he publicly advised the President to pay more attention to the sliding economy and the cries of the populace for improved welfare. The former President took exception to washing the administration’s linen in the public. He went vulgar, alleging that Ogbeh had made much money after he emerged as the chairman. The chairman was harassed and cajoled to visit the Aso Rock, where Obasanjo demanded for his resignation, ahead of the expiration of his tenure.
Ogbeh was succeeded by Dr Ahmadu Ali of the ‘Ali Must Go fame’. He was the only chairman who enjoyed harmonious relationship with Obasanjo. Both of them are retired soldiers. Ali, a retired colonel, former Federal Commissioner for Education and Third Republic senator, hails from Kogi State. When he was inaugurated as the chairman, Obasanjo said: “Now, Ali has come. Ali must stay”, a vague reference to the call for his removal as minister by students who insisted that “Ali must go”. Former Governors Fidelis Tapgun (Plateau) and Lafiagi (Kogi); Senators A.T. Ahmed, Alex Kadiri and Abdulazeez Farouk were interested in the job. But they stepped down for him.
Ali stirred controversy when he announced that party members should re-register. To forces opposed to Obasanjo, the move was meant to de-register the perceived foes. The crisis between Obasanjo and Atiku got to a peak. The former Vice President was disrobed. No duty was assigned to his office for him to perform. An administrative panel was set up to investigate his activities in government. It was also clear that the PDP would not organise democratic presidential primaries. Atiku and his supporters left the PDP for the defunct Action Congress (AC), where he emerged as the presidential candidate in 2007. But he lost to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua at the poll.
In 2008, Yar’Adua set up a reconciliation committee headed by Ekwueme. His goal was to bring back the aggrieved members who had deserted the party. But the work of the committee was sabotaged by some forces in the party. Its report was not implemented. Following the same pattern, the report of another panel headed by Gen. Ike Nwachukwju (rtd), was thrown into the dustbin.
Also, the pre-national convention rift between former Governor Sam Egwu, who was backed by Obasanjo, and former Senate President Ayim Pius Ayim torn the party apart. A dark horse, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, emerged as the national chairman. Basking in the euphoria of the party’s victory, he declared that PDP will rule the country for another 60 years. Also, his statement about zoning sparked off crisis. A group, the PDP Reform Forum, called for the dissolution of the PDP NEC and National Working Committee (NWC). In 2010, a corruption case against Ogbulafor was exhumed. He was forced to resign from office.
His successor, Okwesilieze Nwodo, also had a turbulent tenure. He had served as the national secretary, but left the party when it was engulfed with crisis. He returned and emerged as the chairman when the pro-and anti-Jonathan forces were at war. His home state, Enugu, was also boiling. The national chairman was locked in a protracted battle with Governor Sullivan Chime over the imposition of candidates for elections. At the PDP presidential primaries in 2011, Nwodo was consumed by the crisis. He was allegedly forced out of office on the instruction of President Goodluck Jonathan.
When Nwodo was shoved aside, his deputy, Dr.Haliru Bello, became the acting chairman. When he was appointed as minister, the national secretary, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, became the acting chairman.
The next national convention was fixed for March, 2012. The competing forces were in hot competition for the party leadership. Obasanjo had laid the precedence of imposing the national chairmen in the past. President Jonathan emulated him by insisting on the candidature of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the chairman. The zonal congresses and national convention were rancorous. In the Southwest, stakeholders protested the emergence of former Ekiti State Governor Segun Oni as the National Vice Chairman and zonal leader. Also, some protested over the election of the national secretary, Gen. Olagunsoye Oyinlola. When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) report came, it was discovered that 16 national officers were elected without following the laid down rules. They were advised to step down.
The relationship between Obasanjo and Dr. Jonathan had turned sour. Therefore, when Oyinlola and Oni, who are members of the Obasanjo camp, were removed from the NEC, the former President, sources said, believed that the President was against him. Also, following the court ruling, which recognised the Adebayo Dayo executive in the Gateway State, Tukur directed that the Dipo Odujinrin factional executive, which had the backing of Obasanjo, should be dismantled.
Reconciliation between the Obasanjo camp and Dayo executive, which is backed by the billionaire politician, Buruji Kashamu, also collapsed. Also, former Governor Gbenga Daniel, who could not find his feet in the troubled chapter, defected to the Labour Party (LP).
To correct the mistake of the last year’s messy convention, a new convention was scheduled for Abuja to fill the vacant positions in the NEC. Ahead of the national congress, the state chapters were ruptured by strife. In Anambra State, the governorship primaries was chaotic. Parallel shadow polls threw up the former student leader, Tony Nwoye, and Senator Andy Uba. The NWC gave recognition to Nwoye and expelled Uba. The supporters of the two politicians carried the acrimony to the Eagles Square, the venue of the convention. They exchanged blows.
But in the last one year also, crisis had broken out between the President and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The President’s man, Nyeson Wike, the Minister of State for Education, is coordinating the presidential onslaught at the home front. Attempts have been made to remove the governor illegally. Also, the crisis in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum was mismanaged by the ruling party. The party set up the PDP Governors’ Forum under the chairmanship of Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio. Amaechi won the NGF chairmanship election. He defeated his Plateau State counterpart, David Jang. Both of them are PDP governors. But the party recognised Jang, who polled 16 votes, instead of Amaechi, who got 19 votes. The crisis has not been resolved.
The Rivers State governor was suspended from the party. Later, Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State was also suspended. But the Northwest PDP rallied round Wamakko, who had called for the resignation of Tukur. The suspension slammed on him was lifted. But Amaechi’s suspension was not lifted. Other anti-Tukur governors-Admiral Muritala Nyako (Adamawa), Alhaji Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Alhaji Musa Kwakwanso (Kano) and Dr. Babangida Aliyu (Niger) could not be touched. The reconciliation shuttles by the Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, Tukur and Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson, failed to reconcile the aggrieved members and the national leadership.
Ahead of the convention, Oyinlola, whose election as the national secretary was not voided by the INEC, celled for his reinstatement. He went to the court to challenge his removal. Thus, the election into the position was postponed, until the determination of the suit. Oni also went to the court, complaining that he was unjustly removed. When the Southwest zonal executive was dissolved, a caretaker committee was set up under the leadership of Chief Isola Filani. But Filani stepped aside recently to contest for the national chairmanship. A BoT member, Commodore Bode George (rtd) disagreed. Following complaints by aggrieved stakeholders, the Southwest zonal congress was put on hold. Thus, the number of delegates to the Abuja convention reduced drastically.
The mistake of last year was repeated at the convention. Due to the crises in some states-Anambra, Rivers, Adamawa and Nasarawa-the Convention Planning Committee headed by Senator Jerry Gana gave accreditation to the statutory delegates. The elected delegates alleged a foul play. The Rivers State delegates who were loyal to the governor, alleged that the pro-Jonathan forces raised Chris Secondus to replace Dr. Sam Jaja as the deputy national chairman because he is supporting Amaechi. Delegates from Rivers, Adamawa, Anambra and Nasarawa alleged deliberate exclusion from the convention.
Amid the convention, the aggrieved governors and party chieftains walked out. At the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, they set up a parallel NEC. Today, the acclaimed largest party in Africa is factionalised. The split was sudden and there is no end in sight to the crisis.
Source: The Nation