By OMONIYI SALAUDEEN
Tuesday’s botched attempt by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to elect a new Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman to succeed former President Olusegun Obasanjo still remains a major item of the news. Part of the reasons for the intense public interest it has generated is because of its direct implication on the 2015 power game.
Even though there have been several denials from official quarters, it is quite evident that some notable power brokers within the party have a different game plan which is at variance with President Goodluck Jonathan’s alleged second term ambition. And this might just be the beginning to the unfolding drama to see in the months ahead.
As an attempt to dismiss public insinuation of alleged fissures within the party, different explanations had been given for the sudden postponement of the election at its last meeting. The postponement, they said, arose from the need to restructure the board membership. Before the meeting, there was a wide spread speculation of an arrangement to adopt a consensus candidate for the job.
But the meeting ended up without formal endorsement of any particular candidate. It was widely believed that the failure to arrive at a consensus candidate was due to the alleged stalemate arising from disagreement among members of the BOT. The Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who spoke on behalf of the BOT members, however, debunked the insinuation of an alleged crack in the party. “The meeting did not come close to election, nomination or endorsement of any aspirant. There was no deadlock and no gridlock,” he said.
He explained that a committee led by a former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana, was set up to streamline membership of the board in preparation for the election of a new chairman. The committee consisted of members such as Dr. Shettima Mustapha, Governor Ibrahim Shema, Chief Olabode George, Hope Uzodinma, and Mrs. Stella Omu. According to him, the mandate of the committee was to properly align membership of the board in such a way that the election of the next BOT chairman would be a model of internal democracy.
The committee has three weeks to conclude its assignment, following which a new date for the election would be announced. But even at that, there is a clear evidence of a loud disquiet within the board members. On one hand, there are those who believe that the setting up of the committee might be a ploy to weed out some disloyal members so that Jonathan can have his choice of candidate. Gana, in fact, admitted that the decision to set up the committee was because some members were already challenging the legality of some people to vote. Hitherto, the board consisted of only 18 members. But by guile and intrigues, the number has risen to 98.
The idea now is that by the time the planned restructuring is completed, those recalcitrant members would have been taken care of. Again, the absence of Obasanjo from the meeting is pregnant with meaning. In a way, it confirms the rumoured crack in the party, even though there have been several denials. Obasanjo had April last year resigned his position for personal reasons. Since then, conflicting interests have stalled all efforts to elect a successor.
It is no longer news that Obasanjo and Goodluck have been working at cross purposes. And it is for no other reason other than the 2015 power game. Not only that Obasanjo has been critical of the policies of the Jonathan administration in the recent time, he has also been romancing with prominent northern leaders. While the intrigues of zoning arrangement lasted in the prelude to April 2011 general election, he openly denied the existence of rotational presidency in the constitution of the PDP. But it is no less intriguing now also that he has suddenly found a new ally in the northern elements, presumably to ensure that power shifts to the North.
There is, therefore, a sense in which the BoT chairmanship controversy is seen as an open power contest between Obasanjo and his estranged political son. Before the latest postponement, some sideline spectators had even narrowed down the contest to two candidates: Ahmadu Ali, a loyal supporter of Obasanjo and Tony Anenih, belonging to Jonathan’s camp. As at the last moment, about 12 contenders are said to be on the frontline. They are: Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Senator Ken Nnamani, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo and Ahmadu Ali.
Others include: Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Emmanuel Iwuayanwu, Chief Don Etiebet, Senator Bode Olayinka, Chief Yekeen Adeojo, Senator Onyeabor Obi, Chief Harry Akande and Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun. But with the intrigues that culminated in the endorsement of Senator Walid Jibrin’s election for five-year tenure as board’s Secretary, Ali’s aspiration appears to have been settled. Some powerful interests in the North-Central zone were said to have hatched the deal, fearing that he might eventually emerge the leader of the zone. Ali and Jubrin are from North-Central with the Senate President, David Mark.
By virtue of his position as number three citizen, Mark is already positioning himself as the leader of the zone. For that reason, he was said to have been allegedly instrumental to the ratification of Jubrin’s five-year tenure to checkmate Ali’s ambition. In another breadth, there were reports of some PDP governors planning to unseat the party’s chairman, Bamanga Tukur.
He was said to have incurred the anger of the governors by his decision to sack Adamawa State PDP executive. But with the intervention of Mr. President, the matter appears to have been laid to rest. Following Jonathan’s meeting with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, 17 governors were said to have passed a vote of confidence on the National Executive Council of the party, expressing optimism that Tukur’s style of leadership would carry it far into the future. All this goes to show that things are not too well within the party.
It confirms that there are disputes threatening to tear the party apart. But the stakeholders are confident that the crisis would be resolved through its in-built conflict resolution mechanism. There are strong indications that the party might eventually settle for a consensus candidate. According to Maduekwe, the latest move was to reduce likely area of challenge, as any simplest election is capable of generating heat in the party.
The committee set up is expected to submit its report in three week’s time. Thereafter, the final decision may be unfolded as agreed to by the stakeholders. Prominent among the key stakeholders in attendance at the last meeting are: President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, David Mark, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and the Chief of Staff to the president, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe. Others are: Chief Ojo Maduekwe; his United Kingdom counterpart, Senator Dalhatu Tafida; Chief Richard Akinjide, Chief Olabode George, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Don Etiebet, Senator Bode Olajumoke, David Jemibewon, Victor Attah, Shuaib Oyedokun and Ebenezer Babatope.
Others are former Presidents of the Senate, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani, former Speakers of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba and Patricia Etteh, former Deputy President of the Senate, Ibrahim Mantu, Governors Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Ambassador Hassan Adamu, Don Etiebet, Danjuma Goje and Shuaibu Oladokun. With the befuddling dimension already introduced into the matter by the governors, PDP may be at the risk of splintering unless the matter is amicably resolved.