The crisis in the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, continues to deepen as President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Bamanga Tukur, national chairman, scheme to take over control of its affairs
| By Olu Ojewale | Jan. 28, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE crisis-ridden Peoples’ Democratic Party appears desirous to mend its fences. The leadership of the party headed by Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the party, is scheduled to meet with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and leaders of the South West caucus of the party in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Saturday, January 19.
In a statement by Tajudeen Kareem, a member of his media team, last Thursday, Tukur described the removal of Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the party’s national secretary as a temporary setback, and that the party had no choice but to abide by the order of the court. He assured that: “The party is determined to adhere to its original zoning arrangement and members of the NWC have pledged to ensure that the post of national secretary returns to the South-West as soon as possible.”
A Lagos Federal High Court had, on Friday, January 11, held that Oyinlola was not worthy to be recognised as the national secretary of the PDP and that the action of the party and Oyinlola amounted to criminal conduct, liable to be condemned to prison, as that was a flagrant disobedience to two court orders. Justice Abdul Kafarati, who delivered the judgement, therefore, ordered the embattled Oyinlola to vacate the office immediately. The Ogun State executive of the PDP had challenged 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 emerged.
Based on the judgement, Tukur replaced Oyinlola with his deputy on Monday, January 14. In a statement released on the matter, Tukur said: “Pursuant to the powers conferred on the National Chairman by Chapter V Section 35 (1), 35 (1)(b) as well as section 36(2) of the constitution of the PDP (as amended), the Deputy National Secretary of the PDP, Solomon Onwe, is hereby directed to assume duties as the acting national secretary of the PDP.”
But in what appeared to be a further crack in the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, Victor Kwon, national legal adviser of the party, asked the Court of Appeal to reinstate Oyinlola. Kwon also told the Federal High Court, Abuja, to grant a stay of the judgment, which led to Oyinlola’s removal from office. The legal adviser said that the party believed that a “vacuum would be created in the National Working Committee (NWC), which would affect the smooth running of the party.”
Kwon’s motions before the two courts glaringly contradicted the position of Tukur, who had removed Oyinlola from office. It was learnt that Tukur had planned to hold a congress in the South-West to replace the embattled former governor of Osun State because of his loyalty to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Replacing him with his deputy as soon as the court sacked him, a source said, betrayed Tukur’s plot to get rid of Oyinlola.
But some members of the NWC were said to have kicked against the removal. It is believed that a good number of NWC members are loyal to the PDP governors and Obasanjo. This has made Tukur’s position to be very difficult because he only enjoys the support of President Goodluck Jonathan, who appointed him to the post last year.
Some members of the NWC said they resisted replacing Oyinlola, because they did not want Tukur and Jonathan to dictate how the affairs of the party should be run. They viewed Tukur’s prompt appointment of Onwe as a demonstration that he was happy with his misfortune.
Tukur, who holds the leadership position of the PDP at the mercy of Jonathan does not have the political support of his Adamawa State. Since his appointment as the national chairman of the PDP, he has been scheming to install his own people at the party’s hierarchy in the state. Last year, Tukur accused the Murtala Nyako administration and the PDP state executive of submitting a list of candidates for local government elections to the state’s Independent Electoral Commission without the approval of the NWC.
Tukur and his cohorts also accused the state of conducting illegal local government elections when, indeed, the NWC had collected more than N53 million from the party executives for the same elections. This caused a crisis in the party, and with the backing of the NWC, Mijinyaya Kugama, the state party chairman, was removed from office and his executive dissolved in October last year. But Nyako, who enjoys the support of the party executive, took the matter to President Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP Governors’ Forum and the party’s NWC. Two weeks ago, the NWC cancelled the congresses held by the party in the state and reinstated the state’s party executive led by Kugama. The decision was supported by PDP governors, thereby leaving Tukur in the cold. This has also forced President Goodluck Jonathan to set up a committee to resolve the crisis in the state.
As if that was not bad enough, Tukur landed on another storm following an allegation that he had passed a tape of the recording of a meeting of the governors’ forum to the President Jonathan. It was alleged that a governor from the North Central geopolitical zone gave the “strange tape” to Tukur for an onward transmission to Jonathan. But Tukur, in a statement by Kareem, denied the allegation.
This, perhaps has raised the speculation that the governors were plotting the removal of Tukur from office. But Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has dismissed the speculation saying it is not true. Uduaghan, who spoke to journalists in Asaba, Wednesday, January 15, argued that the PDP governors, were instrumental to the emergence of Tukur as the party chairman, and therefore, would not work against him. He said: “I want to say this with all emphasis and seriousness. There is no war between the governors and the national leader of the party. There has never been anytime the governors came together privately or publicly to discuss the issue of fighting the chairman of the party.”
However, Uduaghan said the problem in the PDP recently was caused by the NWC of the party, which, he said, issued two conflicting statements on the sack of the Kugama-led executive council of the PDP in Adamawa State. He said that the NWC had issued a statement, announcing the sack of the executive in the state and later issued another statement re-instating the sacked executive. He said it was at this point that the governors intervened, and that the intervention was not targeted at Tukur.
Another indication that all is not well with the PDP was also given an impetus when the election of Obasanjo’s successor as Board of Trustees, BoT, chairman, resulted in a stalemate on Tuesday, January 8. The election had become imperative following the resignation of Obasanjo last April. By the time the party members met to elect the BoT chairman, there were 12 candidates in the list. The leading aspirants included former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, Ken Nnamani, former Senate President; Okwesilieze Nwodo, former national chairman of the party; Tony Anenih, former BoT chairman; Emmanuel Iwuayanwu, publisher of Champion newspapers, among others.
Insiders say Obasanjo was in favour of Ahmad Ali, who is from Kogi State. But the party having elected Walid Jibrin from Nasarawa State, as secretary of the BoT, it would be impossible for Ali, who comes from the same zone to be made chairman.
Prior to the election-day, there had been rumours of a cold war between Jonathan and Obasanjo and that this might affect the decision on who would emerge the BoT chairman, as both of them were believed to be supporting different aspirants. Jonathan was believed to be in favour of Anenih, while Obasanjo, who had lately advocated that the office be zoned to South West for power balancing, preferred Ali.
With Ali out of contention and with the cold war going on between Jonathan and the former president, it will be difficult to see the two camps agree on a common candidate, more so that Obasanjo does not want the president to go for a second term. Since the stalemate there has been some behind-the-scene horse trading to accommodate both camps. But the failure of the party to elect a BoT chairman is seen largely as the depth of the crisis in the party.
Nonetheless, the crisis in the ruling party is believed to be an extension of the fight for political supremacy between former president Obasanjo and President Jonathan. But if it is not well managed the fall-outs could have a devastating effect on the fortunes of the PDP in the 2015 elections.