Anenih’s Fingerprints and the PDP Doing What it Does Best, By Olatunji Dare
At the end of a visit the other day with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Ota, Ogun State, in continuation of meetings with leaders of the party across Nigeria to resolve a raft of internal issues, the chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, debunked suggestions that the PDP could lose the next general elections.
“When the time comes,” he declared, “I will assure you we will do what we know how to do best.”
The elections are not due until 2015, but the biggest vote-harvesting machine in Africa showed this past week that, despite the conflicts rocking it, doing what it knows how to do best, namely, turning winners into losers and losers into winners, is still its standard operational procedure, its trademark.
And the fingerprints of the Arch Fixer himself, Tony Anenih, are stamped all over the deed.
I am referring to last week’s election for the chair of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), an extra-constitutional body that has grown influential to the point of making President Goodluck Jonathan panicky and insecure, despite the awesome powers of his office. As a consequence, he has had to invest his prestige, as well as enormous public resources, to ensure that the incumbent chair, Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi, would not win reelection.
Since it was bruited several months ago that Amaechi would serve as running mate to Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido in the 2015 presidential race, with Obasanjo’s blessing, it was clear that Amaechi’s days as chair of the NGF were numbered, and that his relationship with President Jonathan, who has given every indication of entering the race except formally declaring, as well as his political future, were in grave jeopardy.
Amaechi has been a marked man since then.
The NGF election planned for February was rescheduled for May, apparently in the hope that, by then, the assets needed to defenestrate Amaechi would have been fully deployed. The contrived kerfuffle over his official plane, operations permit and all that, was part of the grand strategy.
Meanwhile, the alleged waywardness of the NGF under Amaechi’s leadership, it has been said, was more than sufficient to make Aso Rock engineer the creation of a complaisant faction, the PDP Governors Forum, with Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom as chair.
As if to put Amaechi on notice that his number was well and truly up, Anenih, reportedly echoing the “oga” at the very top, complained at a meeting of state governors, federal legislators and state chairpersons of the PDP in Asaba, Delta State, that the NGF had become “a formidable group of power wielders seeking to control governments at all levels.”
Translation: The NGF had become a subversive organisation.
The body, he said, had been “hijacked by “opposition” Governors and was no longer promoting the interests of the PDP.”
Just why governors elected on five different party platforms expressly for “providing a common platform for synergy, collaboration among interests” and serving as a lobby group to foster, promote and sustain democratic ethos, good governance in Nigeria, Africa and beyond” should promote the interests of the PDP, Anenih did not deign to explain.
But thus was the stage set for last week’s NGF showdown election to put Amaechi in his place.
In that dubious quest, Dr Jonathan and Anenih seem to have been worsted.
Of the 35 governors present and voting, Amaechi won the backing of 19, according to the returning officer for the election and director-general of the NGF, Ashishana Okauru, who described the poll as fair and transparent.
Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, who had been dragooned into the race at the last minute when neither Jonathan’s favoured candidate, Katsina Governor Ibrahim Shema nor Bauchi Governor Isa Yuguda who also had his eye on the job would step down for the other, garnered 16 votes.
In the normal run of things, that should have settled it. But nobody has ever accused the PDP of subscribing to normality. And so, no sooner had Amaechi finished delivering his acceptance speech than the PDP launched its desperate bid to turn Amaechi’s victory into defeat and Jang’s defeat onto victory.
The election, they claimed, was “rigged.” An election with just 35 candidates rigged? Consider what could happen in 2015, when the stakes would be much higher. Shifting gears, they claimed that the ballot papers had not been unnumbered serially. But why didn’t they point this out before voting began? Amaechi should have stepped down so that a neutral person could conduct the poll. Again. Why was no objection raised at the outset?
Were they severally and jointly anaesthetised?
Leaving nothing to chance, a conclave of 18 governors hastily organised another poll and proclaimed Jang the winner and new chair of the NGF. There is nothing curious here: this in-your-face brazenness is the modus operandi of Africa’s biggest vote-snatching machine. They don’t do subtlety at Wadata Plaza.
Even by Nigeria’s standard in matters political, Jang’s speech at a special service ahead of “Democracy Day” at the Faith-way Chapel Church in Jos, the Plateau State capital, seems rather exorbitant.
His “emergence” as chairman of the NGF, he asserted without fear and without irony, was “the will of God” because he had gone to Abuja merely an as an elector, only to be chosen by his colleagues to lead the organisation.
As if anticipating those who might question why the divine should be insinuated into a project that bears all the marks of the profane, he declaimed: “God is a democrat, does not support rigging but if you rig and succeed, that means God approves of it.”
So, there you have it.
Even with his “suspension” from the PDP for allegedly defying the “directive” of the Rivers State Executive Council – of which he is chairman, by the way – to reinstate the executive council of a local government he had dissolved, and with his declaration of unswerving loyalty to President Jonathan and the party and all its grandees, Amaechi must entertain no illusions that his travails are ended.
Soon, they will charge him with engaging in “anti-party activities” and expel him.
But in whatever guise or disguise it functions henceforth, the NGF will be yet another symbol, and a constant reminder, of all that is wrong with the formation that calls itself the biggest political party in Africa.
I verily believe with his spokespersons that President Jonathan had absolutely nothing to do with these developments.
After all, he was away in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, availing a sub-Committee of the Africa of his globally recognised expertise on infrastructure, a subject so dear to his heart, and in the development of which he has achieved such transformative results at home, that he passed up his turn to address the full Summit.
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