• Internal crises ahead of 2015 threaten ruling party
• Ekwueme may emerge as BoT chairman
By VINCENT KALU
With its failure to elect its Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, after a rescheduled election, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demonstrated that it is at war with itself. The party is yet to realise how possible it is to survive external war, let alone its internal war. The same internal war made the party lose its grip in the National Assembly in the 2011 general elections and also some governorship seats.
It went into 2011 elections with a very comfortable lead of 260 House of Representatives members and 85 senators, but at the end of the election, the fortunes of the ruling party depleted greatly, leaving it with 150 seats at the Federal House and 71 senators, while from 28 governors, it went down to 21. The same scenario is playing out, as various interest groups contend for the soul of the party and it appears the crisis would make or mar the party, ahead of the 2015 elections.
Today, if it is not former President Olusegun Obasanjo taking on President Goodluck Jonathan, in a supremacy battle on who becomes the BoT chairman, it is the Governors’ Forum challenging the party’s chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, over plans to bring back people that left the party for other parties. As it stands, history is about to repeat itself in 2015, as the ruling party is set to slide further following internal crisis. This time, the crisis is of higher dimension, as Obasanjo and Jonathan go for each other’s jugular, attacking and criticising each other in the public.
The election of BoT chairman vacated some months ago by Obasanjo was scheduled for last December, but the battle for supremacy forced it to be rescheduled to January 8, which was also stalemated, as the party failed for the second time to pick the chairman from over 10 contestants. Political pundits see this unsavoury development in the party as a drawback, as it prepares for 2015, considering the emerging formidable opponent – the merger plan of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and other political parties that it is going to face.
Obasanjo is out to foist a former national chairman of the party, Senator Ahmadu Ali, from the North-Central, the same zone that produced the new secretary of the Board, Senator Jibrin Walid, while Jonathan is rooting for Chief Tony Anenih, a former chairman of the board from South South, who would do his second term bidding in 2015.
Based on the constitution of the party that kicks against both the chairman and secretary of the BoT coming from the same zone, the Obasanjo group mounted pressure for the resignation of Senator Walid, the current Secretary of the board, to pave the way for Ali’s emergence as the chairman. The attempt failed, as Walid resisted the pressure and insisted on completing his tenure. Other contestants for the influential BoT chair are Senator Bode Olajumoke, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, a one-time Deputy National Chairman (south) of the party, Chief Harry Akande, a non-member of the Board, Senator Ken Nnamani, a one-time President of the Senate, Chief Emmanuel Iwanyanwu and former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, among others.
With the stiff opposition to Ali and Anenih, both Obasanjo and Jonathan’s candidates respectively, it was gathered that Ekwueme may be the compromise candidate. Checks revealed that since Jonathan is finding it difficult to sell Anenih’s candidature, other elements in the party are now rooting for a neutral and credible candidate to emerge. The group, it was learnt, has lent it support for Ekwueme, a foundation member of the PDP, whose quest to become president was thwarted when northern elements in the party drafted Obasanjo in 1999. As the battle for the BoT chair rages, another battle is on, this time, between the governors elected on the platform of PDP and Tukur.
The trouble that is brewing between the governors and the party’s leadership stemmed from the decision taken on Adamawa State PDP, where the executive loyal to Governor Murtala Nyako was sacked. As a result, Gov. Nyako has been having a running battle with the party’s national leadership over the conduct of fresh congresses in the state, a development that has also led to the suspension of the National Vice Chairman, North-East, Alhaji Girigiri Lawal, by the NWC. The NWC had dissolved the state PDP executive led by Alhaji Umaru Mijinyawa Kugama that was loyal to the governor and put in place Ambassador Umar Damagun-led nine-member caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of the party in the state.
Also, the move by Tukur to bring back former members of the party that left the party for other parties has not gone down well with the PDP governors. When former Ekiti governor, Ayo Fayose was readmitted into PDP, the state executive protested but because it is not a PDP-controlled state, Fayose had his way. Abia State governor, Theodore Orji, had led a delegation to protest the purported return of his predecessor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. The initiative to bring back former members of the party and the Adamawa crisis are counted as political sins by Tukur, which he must pay for.
These have led the governors to insist on the sack of the Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) and a caretaker committee inaugurated. In this vein, the PDP governors, who were instrumental in the emergence of members of the NWC, have reported Tukur to President Jonathan over alleged unsavoury attitude towards them and met with the president over a week ago. After the meeting, the crisis in the party deepened, as they failed to agree. After three hours of marathon meeting, efforts to resolve the lingering crisis rocking the party hit the brick wall and they dispersed to disagree.
To worsen the crisis in the party, a Federal High Court in Abuja on January 11, sacked the national secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, from office. The Ogun State chapter of the party had, through its chairman, Engr. Adebayo Dayo and others filed a suit challenging the nomination of Oyinlola by the South West Caucus on the grounds that two court judgments had nullified the South-West zonal congress through which he was nominated. Although Oyinlola has moved swiftly to appeal the ruling and seek a stay of execution,
Tukur has gone ahead to appoint the party’s deputy national secretary, Onwe, as acting National Secretary. The vigour with which the party chairman moved to defend the removal of Oyinlola confirms that all is not well even within the party’s National Working Committee, NWC. Analysts believe that the cracks within the party at the national level and the various crises facing it at the states level are strong pointers to the fact that it will take a miracle for the party to go into the 2015 elections on a united front.