By NDUBUISI ORJI
The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got to a head last Saturday when the party broke into two factions after seven governors of the party, alongside their deputies and other party big wigs led by former vice president Abubakar Atiku walked out of the special National Convention of the party held at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
The governors, which include Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso, Kano; Babangida Aliyu, Niger; Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; Sule Lamido, Jigawa; Murtala Nyako, Adamawa; Aliyu Wammakko, Sokoto and Chibuike Amaechi, Rivers later announced a parallel exco.
They named former acting national chairman of the party, Alhaju Kawe Baraje, as its interim leader with Amaechi’s acolyte, Sam Sam Jaja, as deputy and former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as National Secretary.
This is coming less than one week after the seven governors were linked to a new political party, Voice of the People (VOP).
Recall that the governors have been meeting eminent Nigerians across the country on the problems in the PDP.
Problems started at the Special Convention when the party leadership edged out Jaja from the contest for the position of PDP Deputy National Chairman prompting a walk out by members of the splinter group which style themselves “ New PDP”. Speaking at a press conference, Baraje attributed the breakaway to the serial violation of the party constitution by Alhaji Bamangar Tukur with the indulgence of President Goodluck Jonathan because of the 2015 presidential election.
He said: “The desperate political permutations of Tukur, President Jonathan and others in our great party with regards to 2015 elections has blinded their sense of order and adherence to the laws of the party. They have rubbished everything and a party as ours with great ideas of democracy cannot be led that way.”
“So we have to do something to rescue the party from him in order not to allow it die.” In a swift reaction, Tukur told journalists at the Eagle Square that the governors were planning to defect to another party, hence their desire to create a semblance of crisis in the party.
“The PDP does not recognise any parallel party. Those who staged the walkout are all self-seeking and treacherous individuals pursuing neither regional nor religious agenda except their own agenda and personal interest.
“Their attempt to create parallel party is illegal, unlawful as there are no crises within the PDP whatsoever”, Tukur reportedly stated.
Though Tukur dismissed the break-up of the party, while promising that the party will deal decisively with the arrowheads at the appropriate time, the reality on ground indicates that the PDP leader was merely grandstanding.
In spite of claim by Tukur that there is no cause for alarm, the handwriting on the wall is so clear to all and sundry. With seven states out of the 23 states it controls out of the mainstream PDP, the party is left with only 16 states.
The turn of events has greatly rattled President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP top hierarchy.
To contain the situation, the President has met former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the PDP governors including some of the aggrieved governors. In the peace meeting which was also attended by the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, the aggrieved governors stated their grievances and conditions for peace. Part of their conditions was the removal of Tukur as National Chairman of the beleaguered party. So far, nothing concrete has come out of the meetings and the current development has very serious implication on the ruling party, especially as it concerns the prosecution of the 2015 general election and its dominance of the politics of the country.
The party had boasted that it would govern the country for a minimum of 60 years.
For the PDP which is grappling with intra party crisis in many states across the country, this is one crisis too many. The party is presently enmeshed in crisis in South West, Anambra where two candidates have emerged on the platform of the party for November 16 governorship election and a host of other states.
The ruling party no doubt has had several internal problems in its 15 years history but never has it witnessed this kind of scenario when party members at the national level would be forming a parallel structure.
That this is happening at a time when the opposition is putting itself together to challenge the PDP portends grave danger to the party. Recall that recently, three political parties-the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – merged to form the All Progressives Congress (APC). Coming on the heels of the formation of the mega opposition party is the registration of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) as a political party. PDM is one of the political groups that coalesced to form the PDP. The group which is led by Atiku has remained the most formidable pressure group within the ruling party.
One area where the impact of the break up of the ruling party would be felt immediately is in the National Assembly. Already, the ranks of PDP in the federal legislature has been depleted.
So far, about 22 PDP senators and 57 of the counterparts in the House of Representatives majorly from the seven states have pledged support for the “New PDP”.
Four other governors have equally pledged support for the splinter group.
Presently, the PDP has 70 Senators representing a two-third of the Senate and 204 House of Representatives members. With the swift in loyalty, the number of PDP members in the National Assembly has reduced to 48 in the Senate and 147 in the House of Representatives, making the party a minority particularly in the House.
The opposition APC currently has 137 members in the House, while Accord has 5, APGA – 5, Labour Party (LP) – 8 and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) has only one member.
In the Senate, APC has 34, APGA 1 and LP 3.
The implication is that should members of the PDP splinter group decide to forge an alliance in the National Assembly, the PDP will automatically become a minority in the two chambers of the parliament, as the ruling party will only be left with 137 and 50 members in the House of Representatives and Senate respectively
against 204 and 54 members by a coalition of the opposition in the lower and upper chambers of the federal legislature respectively.
The opposition undoubtedly is excited by the crisis in the ruling party. Former Minister of External Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi told Daily Sun in an interview that the break-up of the PDP was long overdue.
Ikimi, who is also a chieftain of the APC added “I see a lot of alignment and realignment toward 2015. Some governors who were afraid to express their views can now do so”.
Similarly, former Minister of information, Tony Momoh who said the registration of the APC has hastened the imminent implosion in the PDP, stated that the break up should be celebrated. He said
“The disintegration of the PDP is good for the growth of the nation’s democracy”.
Expectedly, the battle for the soul of PDP has shifted to the courts. Already, there are two separate suits before a Lagos High Court, Ikeja Federal High Court, Abuja instituted by the “New PDP” and PDP Stakeholders Forum respectively .
The two groups want the court to declare Tukur an illegal chairman of the party, on the grounds that he was not formally readmitted into the party after his expulsion from the PDP on May 31, 2001 alongside six others .
Besides, the splinter group wants the court to declare the August 2013 convention as a nullity because of the participation of “illegal delegates;” the disqualification of duly elected delegates; and the failure of the party to comply with the provision of Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act.
The leaders of the PDP will be meeting with Obasanjo this weekend, preparatory to its meeting with the aggrieved governors next Tuesday.
As the leaders and elders of the party make concerted efforts to save the party, this may just be the beginning of the end of the octopus called the PDP or at least the end of the road for Tukur as PDP National Chairman.