Internal crises continue to tear the Peoples Democratic Party apart, even as the leadership of the party embarks on rounds of reconciliatory meetings
| By Olu Ojewale | Apr. 1, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
FOR now, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is a good advertisement for a house divided against itself. In the last few months, its governors have been at loggerheads with the party hierarchy. The issue of control has divided the ranks of the party in the South-west where supporters of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and those of the national hierarchy have been struggling for power. The party is also divided in the north where Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State appears to be mobilising members against allowing President Goodluck Jonathan to bid for a second term in 2015.
Apparently worried by the situation, the party organised truce meetings in the South-South and South-West. At the South-south fence mending meeting held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, on Sunday, March 17, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF; Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, and some other dignitaries reportedly walked out before the end the meeting.
The two governors and a good number of dignitaries were said to have walked out when Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State was addressing the gathering. But Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the party, who was present at the meeting, defended the governors’ action. He claimed that Uduaghan had rushed home to attend to an important family matter.
Ibim Semenitari, Rivers State commissioner for Information and communication, said that Amaechi left the venue of the meeting to see off Uduaghan. But Amaechi did not return to the venue before the meeting ended. “You noticed that the Governor of Delta State was leaving at the same time Governor Amaechi had to be a proper host. So he had to see off his colleague, the governor of Delta state,” Semenitari said. But the commissioner did not explain why the governor abandoned the meeting being held in his state while other dignitaries were still in attendance.
Trouble started when Governor Akpabio announced a donation of N1m to each state chairman of the party in the South-South following a call by Uduaghan that members should be well-fed by the PDP. The gift announcement was said to have angered Amaechi, Uduaghan and some members in attendance, who left the venue while Akpabio was still speaking.
Uduaghan had reportedly said earlier that even if all the roads were tarred, members of the PDP would appreciate the provision of food on their tables. “If you want to prevent our members from going to other parties, you must put food in the stomachs of our supporters.”
Akpabio, apparently responded in kind: “My brother; Governor Uduaghan said our members are hungry and that we must put food in their stomachs so that they don’t stray to other parties. I am giving all the state chairmen of the party N1m each for lunch. Our members must not be hungry.” The chairman of the PDP’s Governors’ Forum, used the occasion to campaign for Jonathan ahead of 2015 elections, by asking every party faithful to rally round the president. “We must all support our brother to succeed. For us, we shall not fail and we will never fail,” Akpabio said. The governor also advised Tukur to make sure that the reconciliation meeting of the party was held twice every year.
In his speech, Tukur said that efforts were being made to strengthen the party. “You are the owners of PDP. We will ensure that the party is brought back to its owners. Yes, there are disagreements, but we can end our differences and still deliver our party in 2015.” When Tukur and members of the National Working Committee paid him a courtesy visit later on Sunday, Amaechi assured them that he remained a loyal member of the PDP and would do everything possible to ensure its electoral success.
While analysts say the Port Harcourt meeting could lay claim to a measure of success, the peace efforts in the South-West were in tartars. Tukur was said to have led the PDP’s NWC on a peace mission to Ibadan, Oyo State, on March 15. But the mission failed woefully as supporters of former President Olusegun Obasanjo were not in attendance. The battle for the soul of the party in the South-west zone is between a group loyal to Obasanjo and the other said to belong to the national leadership of the party. The party in the axis has been steeped in crises since Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State, was sacked by a high court as the party’s national secretary.
Shortly after that, Bode Mustaha, the party’s national auditor and Segun Oni, national vice-chairman, were also removed from their positions. Oyinlola, Mustapha and Oni are regarded as Obasanjo’s loyalists. As if that was not bad enough, the PDP also sacked the Dipo Odunjirin-led executive in Ogun State, which was said to be loyal to Obasanjo. The executive was replaced by the Bayo Dayo-led group believed to be supporters of Buruji Kashamu, a PDP chieftain in the state.
Tunde Oladunjoye, a former deputy governorship candidate in Ogun State, confirmed that the Obasanjo group was not invited to the meeting and wondered how any truce could be achieved without the cooperation of everyone. “Even, if we were invited, we would not have gone because the so-called caretaker committee of the party in the South-West is illegal,” Oladunjoye said.
But Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the party, said the meeting was well-attended by all peace loving members of the party. On why Obasanjo and his supporters were not in attendance, he said: “Chief Obasanjo has never attended zonal meetings of the PDP, except once in the 14-year history of the party.”
Even if the party is able to reconcile its disgruntled members in the South-South and the South-West, it cannot be ignorant of the discordant campaign in the north directly against President Jonathan. Governor Aliyu State has been the arrow-head of the campaign. He has said for the umpteenth time that the President signed to serve for only term in office. It was gathered that the anti-Jonathan camp in the North had exhumed the purported agreement Jonathan was said to have signed with Northern State Governors’ Forum to stop the President from seeking re-election. Sources said that the group had also reached out to former President Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar to enlist their support.
An analyst said this was probably why the Sule Lamido/Amaechi ticket was sponsored by some of Jonathan’s opponents to test the political waters. But where the disagreements in the party will eventually lead ahead of the 2015 is a matter of conjecture.