PDP: Yam, Pepper, Scatter, Scatter By by Lekan Sote
Just like every other political party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party is a patchwork of disparate tendencies. No wonder it is now bursting at the seams. An aspiring polemicist, and university student, who has now overstayed his welcome at home, courtesy of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities strike, says of the PDP crisis, ‘Things Fall Apart.’ Recent events in the PDP can be described as a saga of many twists and turns. Ex-Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, six northern Governors, Aliyu Wamakko, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Murtala Nyako, Babangida Aliyu, Abdulfatah Ahmed and Sule Lamido, with Rivers Governor Rotimi Amaechi in tow, stormed out of the Eagle Square venue of the PDP mini Convention, to converge on the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre. They alleged that some of their supporters were prevented from contesting vacant party offices, formed the New PDP and elected Kawu Baraje Acting Chairman, Dr. Sam Jaja Acting Vice Chairman, and Olagunsoye Oyinlola Acting Secretary.
Baraje says their mission is to rescue PDP from undemocratic tendencies: “We… are worried by the increasing repression, restrictions of freedom of association, arbitrary suspension of members and other such violations of democratic principles by a faction led by Bamanga Tukur.” He adds: “It has become very clear that the desperate permutations towards 2015 General Elections have blinded certain people from (the) consequences of their actions.” He charges: “Unfortunately… they are getting encouragement from the Presidency whose cold calculations are geared toward shutting out any real or imagined opposition ahead of the party’s presidential programmes for the 2015 Elections.” And that really, is the crux of the matter. Baraje accused Tukur of unilaterally changing the date of PDP mini Convention. He faulted the appearance at the Convention of delegates from nine states that the Independent National Electoral Commission says have not held their state congresses.
As in the manner of someone announcing a coup, he declares: “It is a new day for PDP. As we take over the leadership… our priority is to revive the culture of robust debate of all contending issues while providing a level-playing field for all our members.” Check the following stats: Of the 12 most prominent members of the New PDP, eight are from the North, four from the South. Of the 12 most prominent members of the old PDP, eight are from the South, four from the North. You can confirm from the photographs on the Front Page of Sunday Punch of 1st September 2013. You might as well note that there were no Yoruba within the ranks of the most prominent promoters of the old PDP. However, Lagos State PDP pledges loyalty to Tukur, with the argument that officers of the New PDP emerged, not from a proper party convention, but from a press conference.
Twenty six Senators and 57 Members of the House of Representatives support the New PDP. PDP in Niger State and Osun State endorse it. Eight members of Taraba State House of Assembly, led by the Majority Leader, Mr. Joseph Kunini, think the ‘diarchy’ suggested by PDP to cope with the political logjam arising from Governor Danbaba Suntai’s health condition, is mischievous, and satisfies only some hidden designs of Tukur. But Borno State PDP Deputy Chairman has defected with some executive members to the APC. And National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Movement, Bashir Ibrahim, has said, “We appreciate the bold, brave and patriotic stand of these delegates for refusing to participate in an election which they knew gave no even playing ground to all stakeholders.”
Despite the walk-out, the old PDP held its mini Convention, and returned Tukur and some new officers. Now the two groups are contending for the soul of the PDP through shouting battles and legal thrusts. Tukur, who alleges that the New PDP Governors planned to defect to another party anyway, described them as treacherous individuals pursuing personal agenda, and not necessarily a regional (read Northern) or religious agenda. He vows that the 124 PDP National Assembly members loyal to the New PDP would lose their seats. You’d ask, “How?” The Constitution has no sanction for anyone who crosses the carpet in the National Assembly. To the threat by Rivers State PDP Chairman, Felix Obuah, that members of the Rivers State caucus in the NASS that did not attend the PDP Convention may be expelled, Honourable Ahite, Chairman of the caucus, has replied: “Obuah’s actions cannot be final because he is neither the National Chairman nor leader of the National Working Committee of the party.” Already most Rivers State Commissioners and other Rivers State Government officers have been dismissed.
Ikenga Imo Ugochukwu started the legal battles by asking an Abuja Federal High Court to nullify the old PDP Convention and sack the Bamanga Tukur-led group. The Baraje-led faction then prayed a Lagos High Court to stop Tukur, his deputy Uche Secondus, National Women Leader Dr. Kemas Chikwe, National Publicity Secretary Olisah Metuh, and others, from parading themselves as members of the PDP National Working Committee. The old PDP countered by asking an Abuja High Court to jail the trio of New PDP Chairman Baraje, Deputy Jaja, and Secretary Oyinlola, for contempt because a Federal High Court had nullified Oyinlola’s earlier election as PDP Secretary. They asked a Lagos Federal High Court to prevent them from parading themselves as party officers. Justice Elvis Chukwu did not grant the ex parte motion. He rather ordered the two factions to maintain status quo, pending the appearance of the Baraje group before him. Are you getting confused with this plethora of court suits? Same here.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other party elders have met a brick wall in their attempt to broker peace. A hardening of positions has led some lawmakers to plan an impeachment of the President, as mobile policemen have sealed off the New PDP Secretariat. The New PDP wants Tukur removed as Chairman; Amaechi reabsorbed into the party and recognised as Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum; recognition of Adamawa PDP executive led by Alhaji Mininyawa Kugama; and election of new national officers. The Tukur faction insists: their elections were valid; pending court action prevents a review of Amaechi’s suspension; only the President can recognize Amaechi as NGF Chairman; and PDP Governors must endorse Jonathan’s candidacy for 2015. Obasanjo says: “We have met with two sides of the family and, of course, we are going to put our heads together and go on from there.” Words that indicate lack of progress. A PDP Governor says, “By 2015 Jonathan would have spent six years and there is nothing to show for his rule.”A clever copy writer could use this quote to devastating effect in a political media campaign against Presidential Candidate Jonathan.
This crisis is fuelled by two conflicting political cultures: One insists on democratic procedures; the other prefers consensual brinkmanship. The first advances the call for a Northern President, the second, by those who want to stay the course. Both positions are constitutionally valid. But if they continue with their controversy, both factions could lose the platform that has faithfully positioned them to profit almost exclusively from the nation’s commonwealth. The Liberal Party of the United Kingdom was a major political party until the 1920s. It took about 90 years for it to regain its groove, and emerge only as a junior partner in the current Government. The fear of losing political power must be the beginning of the PDP’s political wisdom. The All Progressives Congress is positioning itself as a credible alternative.
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