PDP’s Implosion: Implications for 2015 Elections By Uche Igwe
While the preparations for the August 31st convention of the Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were going on, I was pretty certain that it will not be uneventful. I conveyed my worry to a few of my friends though I could not pin down exactly what was going to happen. One thing was clear to me. The whole thing was going to be a manipulative coronation and never a competition. It was going to be an opportunity for President Goodluck Jonathan and his sympathisers to capture the soul of the party by imposing their favoured candidates on the National Working Committee and alienate all perceived enemies finally. Somehow I know the aggrieved members would not just sit and watch that happen even though I could not guess (at that time) how they would express their grievances. And so when it was reported that some delegates walked out of the convention, many people were surprised but I was not. The impunity in PDP under Bamanga Tukur had reached superlative proportions. The leadership of the party had sold their conscience to Jonathan’s 2015 agenda and were poised to pursue it by hook or by crook. Will other members just sit back and watch this happen? That is why I was shocked that the kitchen cabinet of the President were said to be taken aback by the walk-out and the subsequent parallel convention. Really? Some people have argued that the President’s loyalists might have conspiratorially feigned ignorance of that plot and that there might be a grander conspiracy right inside the GEJ political caucus. Some allege that they actually knew what was in the offing but refused to inform their principal for reasons best known to them.
Whatever is the case, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan deserves some sympathy in his current travails. The picture of a perplexed C-in-C coming out of one of those reconciliatory meetings still lingers in my mind. He might have been misled by selfish advisers and conflict entrepreneurs around him. Who was it that smuggled the word faction into our political lexicon? First it was Adamawa State PDP, then Rivers State PDP. Then Governor Jonah Jang and his gang seized the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) after he lost the election openly. Then the young people caught the flu and ripped the National Youth Council (NYCN) apart. It is now the turn of the ruling party and the faction continues… So where has equanimity gone to? Is the rupture in PDP a symptom of a deeper malady or is it just a way to force Bamanga Tukur and his co-travellers to drink from their own poisoned chalice of factional politics. The octogenarian factional Chairman has gone ahead to threaten his colleagues on the other side with expulsion in his usual display of political rascality and insensitivity. Imagine how he suspended Governor Wammako for a reason as flimsy as not picking his calls. What about suspending Governor Amaechi without a fair hearing? Is Bamanga Tukur just doing his wish (es) or acting the script written by the President? Let the truth be told, the repercussions of Tukur’s actions have made him unwittingly the biggest enemy of the Jonathan project while pretending to be its biggest fan and promoter. Time will tell whether his many goofs are out of sheer ignorance of democratic leadership style or deliberate acts of subterfuge to cast a fast diminishing presidency in a further bad light just to destroy it.
Now back to the walk-out. Could it be that such a plan was perfected without the intelligence agencies getting a clue about what was about to happen. How did the planners pull this off? How far is Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, from the Eagle Square? In examining the implications of the event of August 31st, the first thing to do is to review the degree of competence and sincerity of purpose of the inner caucus of President Jonathan’s political machinery. On one side, that they could not get wind of the plan before it was hatched says a lot about the sophistication of their political reach and network. On another side, what if they knew what was in the offing but failed (very deliberately) not to confide in their boss as is now being widely alleged. That will easily call into question the direction of their loyalty and their commitment to the political survival of their principal. Let us leave this for another day.
There are those who have tried to reduce the formation of a New PDP as an act of political desperation by power hungry politicians and saboteurs who want to take a shot at the Presidency. They have hinged their position on that fact that President Jonathan’s yet to be announced intention to run in 2015 is said to be against the gentleman’s agreement which he allegedly entered into with some people at the twilight of 2011 elections. While some of these may be true it may be tantamount to over simplifying the matter. As far as I am concerned, the actions of the aggrieved governors go far beyond the conversation of who runs or who does not run for the Presidency come 2015. Rotimi Amaechi, for instance, is clearly playing a politics of survival. In his home state, the Government has been made to suffer untold hardship on many fronts. From the seizure of the state owned aircraft, growing insecurity due to the refusal to redeploy a partisan police commissioner, several aborted attempts at impeachment, to the suspension of all the federal projects in the state all in the name of frustrating a man who has refused to become a puppet of the President and his wife. I do not blame Amaechi for his new found alliance. At least, if the President can toy with Rivers State, not with states like Kano, Jigawa, Adamawa, Kwara and Niger, where at least 13 million votes are at stake!
I know the office of the President of Nigeria is a very powerful one but it depends on what it is up against. Regardless of what you say in Nigerian politics today, there are people whose collective absence will make anyone jittery. Both former President Olusegun Obasanjo and IBB or their representatives and supporters were conspicuously absent during the special convention. That should worry any vigilant observer. Never mind that they are now part of the so-called Elders Committee. I hate to say this but the absence of these two leaders during that event (regardless of their excuses) should have sent a red flag to Jonathan and his men that all was not well. If OBJ and IBB have tacitly joined forces (for once) with Atiku and the eight or seven governors in the anti-Jonathan project then there is enough to make me panic. The problems have become far deeper and the current window dressing in the name of peace can never resolve them. Granted the President may end up muscling his way through and imposing his preferred candidates on what will remain of the PDP. He may even emerge as a sole candidate of the PDP. But there is no peace without justice. Consider that as of Friday night prior to the convention, it appeared to keen watchers of unfolding events that the president’s men had succeeded in muscling out all the dissidents. Yet there was this veil of palpable fear and uneasy calm in their arrogance — almost as if they knew something was not just right.
With the benefit of hindsight now, I hasten to conclude that either they knew about the grand conspiracy against the presidency or they smelt that there might be something in the air and just wished that their convention should just come and go without any counter-event. I suspect, and many believe, the former more explains the situation. Friends of the President like Mr. Tony Uranta believe that the President needs to reorganise his so-called kitchen cabinet. There is simply no way that the Baraje faction could have surreptitiously booked the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre as venue, decorated it with the PDP colours and sent invitations out to all its members regarding the time, date and venue of the factional convention without one or more members of the President’s faction having a whiff of it. The excuse that the Centre was booked for a wedding reception is absolute bumkum and cuts no ice with me. That those to whom this dummy was successfully sold feigned ignorance of the PDP colours in which the centre was draped should raise a larger red flag as to the loyalty of the King’s horsemen. Many years of military rule has taught the average Nigerian that one of the cardinal principles of a successful coup d’etat is the restriction of information flow which is a direct function of the size of the coup plotters. This principle was negated but with success by the Baraje faction. The number of persons who turned out at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre was so large that one would think the invitation was advertised on facebook! The burden of proof falls on the President’s men to show that none of these invitations got to them, advertently or inadvertently. Tukur, Anenih, Akpabio, Dickson, Jang, Gulak, Okupe, Obi, the security agencies and everyone else that have edged the president on need to explain this to our understanding. If they had done their work, the current but belated brutish measure of the unjustified police clampdown on the New PDP Party office in Abuja and which is now drawing so much flacks against the presidency would have been promptly applied to the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre with as little damage to the president’s image than is happening now.
So, rather than continue the infantile knee jack responses like sealing the New PDP secretariat, the President’s men must take a deep breath and understand the magnitude of challenges that lie before their master. If they continue in their business-as-usual mood then they should be ready for more surprises. Those who threaten the nation with violence should have learnt a lesson or two from the Boko Haram insurgency. It will eventually spill on everyone including innocent passers-by. When a region or the nation becomes ungovernable, everyone loses. For me, gauging the temperature of the discontent in the Nigerian polity, nothing else can be more certain in 2015 than uncertainty. Unless something is done quickly to address the man made injustice inflicted on almost every aspect of our national life, nothing and I mean nothing can be ruled out including a factional Presidency and political catastrophe. But very importantly the collective events of August 31st graphically illustrate not only high level political naivety but also a failure of the national security and intelligence architecture.
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