The seven renegade governors who have been at loggerheads with the leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party may soon find out that joining the opposition All Progressives Party is tantamount to committing a political hara-kiri
| By Olu Ojewale | Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IT IS a cat and mouse affair between the faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, under the leadership of Abubakar Baraje, and the mainstream leadership of the party headed by Bamanga Tukur. On Tuesday, November 19, the breakaway group asked Mohammed Abubakar, inspector general of police, to probe the police disruption of the meeting of the seven aggrieved governors of the party, since the IG claimed that he did not give the order.
In a statement signed by Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, spokesman of the faction, the new PDP, as the group calls itself, said it had noted the denial by Abubakar over the disruption the November 3, meeting of the G7 governors at the Kano State Government Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja. Abubakar said when he appeared before the House Committee on Police Affairs probing the incidence that disruptive order was not from him. “I want to state categorically that neither myself nor any of my officers directed anybody to disrupt any meeting, but the officer has a duty to account for his actions and activities within his domain,” the police boss said.
To that, the new PDP said: “While we may agree with the IG wholeheartedly on his stand and it is not our wish to accuse him of lying, we hereby challenge him to prove his sincerity by instituting a probe into that shameful incident.” The faction said the only way to convince Nigerians that Abubakar had no hand in the brazen act by Nnanna Amah, a chief superintendent of police and the divisional police officer of Asokoro Division, was to institute the probe.
The group argued further: “He should remember the type of support that both the G7 governors and other progressive Nigerians gave him upon his appointment as the nation’s number one policeman and stop any further acts of impunity by the police force. This is the only way for him to redeem his flagging image and that of the Force. We sincerely wish him the best as we have continued to pray for him to avoid some misguided politicians from causing him to derail from the expectations of Nigerians.”
But it is not only on the police front that the faction is embattled. The relationship between the faction and the mainstream party has been so tenuous that it appears there seems to be no visible road to reconciliation. This, perhaps, has encouraged the All Progressives Congress, APC, headed jointly by Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, and General Muhammdu Buhari, former head of state and presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, to openly flirt with the renegade seven governors in the group.
In the last few weeks, the APC leadership has visited all the seven governors in their domain with the aim of getting them into the party. The governors are Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara), and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa).
Speaking after their meeting which lasted for about four hours, Wamakko said the G7 governors were yet to decide whether to leave the PDP or not. He, however, promised that the G7 governors would soon make their decision known to Nigerians. “We are yet to resolve whether to leave PDP or not but will make it known to the public whenever we make such decision,” he said. Wamakko said the essence of the meeting was to discuss issues of common interest among them. He stated that the objective was to devise the best approach to protect the overall interest of the nation.
The meeting had, in attendance, Nyako, Lamido and Amaechi while governors of Kano, Niger and Kwara states were represented by their deputies. Others at the meeting were Baraje, Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, Bukola Saraki, Abdullahi Adamu and Danjuma Goje, former governors of Kwara, Nasarawa and Gombe states, respectively.
No matter how highly regarded the G7 governors may think, transferring their loyalty to the APC is not going to be easy. The aggrieved governors are not likely to be allowed to control the machinery of their respective states because there are loyal members already on the ground who may not wish to relinquish their holds on the party machinery. Realnews can report that Buba Marwa, a retired brigadier general and former gubernatorial candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in Adamawa State in the last election, is still interested in becoming the state governor. But it is yet unclear if Nyako, whom he contested against, will be willing to trust him enough to allow him to head the state party machinery. Until the APC leadership visited the state last month and reconciled them, both Marwa and Nyako were infamously at loggerheads over the affairs of the state.
Besides, it would be foolhardy for the APC leadership in the state to think that because Nyako is willing to join forces with Marwa, it can control the state. Tukur as the national chairman of the ruling party has a lot of influence in the state, and so is Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president. But the combination of Tukur and Bonnie Haruna, former governor of the state, who remains solidly in the PDP, is seen as a good omen for the ruling party. Haruna, who was elected with Abubakar as deputy governor but later assumed the governorship position on the appointment of Abubakar as vice-president, has since parted ways with his former boss after leaving office. Although Abubakar is part of the renegade group, he is not expected to join in the expedition to the APC, rather, he is expected to return to the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, which was registered as a political party in September, this year.
The situation for Kwakwanso in Kano is similarly daunting. The APC machinery in the state is in the firm grip of Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of the state between 2003 and 2011. Kwankwaso and Shekarau are known archrivals. It was Shekarau that stopped Kwankwanso to be re-elected in the 2003 governorship election. But Kwankwaso later turned round to defeat Shekarua’s protégé in the 2011 governorship election to return to the office. This, a Kano APC chieftain explained, was why Shekarau has kept silent and has abstained from APC’s romance with the aggrieved governors of the PDP. Besides, according to sources, some prominent members of the APC have warned the leadership of the party to perish the idea of handing over the machinery of the party to the governor. “We are not against the PDP governors that want to join us, but we are simply saying that there should be an agreed sharing formula,” one of them was quoted as saying.
As if to add insult to the injury, the leadership of the APC that visited Kano about three weeks ago to woo Kwankwanso was said to have done so without informing Shekarau. This prompted Odigie Oyegun, former governor of Edo State and a chieftain of the APC, to tender an apology to the former governor. Oyegun, who was in Kano on Monday, November 18, said they were in the state to debunk rumours that the leadership of the APC wants to handover the party to Kwankwaso. “Let me emphasise here that under no circumstance did the leadership undermine the APC and its leader in Kano, Mallam Shekarau. The reason is very obvious; one is that Kano is important to us, it is significant to APC.”
While acknowledging the role played by Shekarau in the merger which gave birth to the APC, Oyegun said: “He played a key role in what the APC is today. There is no way that the party will throw away what it knows and what it has. Four of our national leaders that included Bola Tinubu, Bello Masari, Yusuf Ali and myself met Shekarau at his private residence in Abuja to apologise to him and we requested that we visit his supporters in Kano to appease them.” Oyegun was accompanied to the state by Abdul-Aziz Yari Abubakar, governor of Zamfara State, Aminu Bello Masari, former speaker of the House of Representatives, and Yusuf Ali, former national chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
“I want to emphasise it here that the national leadership will never turn its back on the APC leadership in Kano. No state will be undermined by the party because our struggle is to wrest power from the PDP,” Oyegun said. Responding, Shekarau thanked the leadership for accepting its mistakes and making amends. “I have no option than to accept the apology for the party to move forward. Our door is open; we are not against anybody joining the APC because we have no ill feelings,” he said.
If, indeed, Kwankwaso and Shekarau can work together, Kano is likely to go in the way of the APC. But the influence of some PDP leaders such as Ghali Na’bba, former speaker of the House of Representatives, Kabiru Gaya, former governor of the state and now a serving senator as well as Abba Dabo, former managing director of the rested Triumph newspapers and former secretary to the Kano State government, among others, is believed to be so strong that it would be difficult to predict how the state will vote in 2015.
In Jigawa State, the heart of Lamido is still very much in the ruling party. But since he cannot get the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to drop all the corruption charges against his two sons, he wants to try the APC. That seems not to be a better option for him either because the APC stakeholders led by Farouk Adamu Aliyu and Bashir Dalhatu, former minister of steel in the regime of the late General Sani Abacha, are not willing to relinquish the interim leadership of the APC to Lamido. Aliyu was the immediate past governorship candidate of the defunct CPC before the party’s merger with other parties to form the APC.
One thing that may, perhaps, discourage the governor from moving to the APC is the fact that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is already on his heels. His two sons, Aminu and Mustapha Lamido were arrested in Kano, on Thursday, November 14, for fraud involving billions of naira belonging to the people of Jigawa State. It was learnt that the EFCC traced about N10 billion to the accounts of companies of which the governor and his two sons were alleged to be directors and signatories to the account. The alleged transactions took place between 2007 and this year. The commission said the governor’s sons would soon appear in court.
Another place where the governor is likely to be resisted is in Kwara State. Dele Belgore, a scion of the Belgore family, was the governorship candidate of the defunct ACN in the 2011 election. Automatically, he is now a force to reckon with in the APC. It looks inconceivable to expect him to step aside and allow Governor Ahmed to take over the leadership of the party he helped to build in the state. Besides, the governor would have Lai Mohammed, interim national publicity secretary of the APC, to contend with. What, perhaps, makes the situation dicey is because the image of Bukola Saraki, former governor and a serving senator, looms large in Kwara State politics than even the governor. “The stakeholders in Kwara State are against the planned handover of the party structures to the Governor Ahmed-led PDP government or Bukola Saraki, who is his godfather. The stakeholders believe that if the governor of the state is defecting to the APC, there should be an agreement and not just the handover of the party structures to him, as if we don’t exist. Before the governor and his godfather, Senator Saraki disagreed with the PDP, there were people in the state that were funding the APC,” an APC leader was quoted as saying.
That may well be the situation in Niger State as well. Although it is believed that there is a minimal opposition to Aliyu to take over the leadership of the APC, nobody wants to rule out the fact that he would not have problems with Ibrahim Musa, the only CPC senator, and David Umoru, its former governorship candidate in the 2011 election, who were the backbone of defunct party. They are not likely to hand over the leadership of the party to Aliyu without a fight. Even if he succeeds in heading the APC, the combination of Abdulkadir Kure, former governor of the state and strong leadership of Jerry Gana, former minister of information, in the PDP, may work against Aliyu’s interest.
Going to the APC may not be a good option for Amaechi after all. Recently, the governor was said to have called on some of his supporters together, including past and present speakers to ask them to follow him to the APC. But they told him that it would be suicidal to abandon the ruling party and shift to the new party. The governor was said to have been advised to take things easy before jumping the ship. Some members of the APC in the state are said not to be favourably disposed to having Amaechi as their leader just because of his position as state governor. Besides, Nyeson Wike, minister of education, appears to be all over the place stringing the PDP together behind him. Wike has also been using Amaechi frosty relationship with Patience Jonathan, wife of President Jonathan, to win more support for himself and the PDP in Rivers State. This means that Amaechi cannot boast of controlling the PDP machinery again in the state.
Besides, the APC leadership is not willing to allow the renegade governors to control their states on a platter of gold. There is a caveat. It was learnt that the APC leadership had made it clear to the G7 governors that the membership registration drive was yet to start nationwide, and if they should decide to join the party they would have to be registered like everyone else, thereby putting all stakeholders on an even keel. “They have accepted this explanation from us and this means that when the party structures are being set up in each of the states, a level playing field would have been created for all stakeholders to contest for elective posts at the state level. If the G7 governors can muster the numbers to win the ward and state congresses, then they would control the structures. But if the current APC members are able to win at the congresses, they would control the party structures in their states,” a senior APC member was quoted as saying.
If that, indeed, is the situation, G7 governors do not seem to have gotten a good bargain. Nevertheless, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, an elder of the ruling party, was said to have advised the seven governors that it would be a suicide for them to join the opposition party. He probably called their attention to the fact that if Jonathan wants to ruin them politically, he could use the EFCC, to hunt them for stealing or mismanagement of government funds.
Perhaps, the immediate lesson that these errant governors may learn is what is happening in Imo State at the moment. The APC in the state is said to be enmeshed in a crisis of identity and ownership. The APC loyalists, largely drawn from the leaderships of the defunct ACN, CPC and the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, who called themselves “the legacy parties,” are up in arms against Governor Rochas Okorocha from hijacking the party. The loyalists of the three defunct parties are said to have ganged-up and determined to stop Okorocha from painting the APC in his personal colours. This crisis of confidence among its members came to its peak with the hoisting of a parallel state executive by those, who claim to be the authentic members of the party.
Okorocha, whose faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, joined the APC, has been accused of hijacking the party and turning it “into a private estate in the state.” The aggrieved “authentic leaders” met in Owerri recently and issued a communiqué, in which it announced the formation of its own leadership for the state and labelled the Okorocha group “a rebel.”
With the parallel leadership firmly installed, the battle for the soul of the APC in Imo State has thus started. The new leadership was immediately given the mandate to establish similar committees at the wards, polling units and local government levels. Explaining its action, the group said that by virtue of Electoral Act on merger of political parties, only the members of the merged parties, CPC, ANPP and ACN were the legally recognised members of the APC. The group was said to have pointedly told the national leadership of the APC that it would no longer accept the gospel of a sitting governor in the state until Okorocha becomes a duly registered member of the APC. This, it was learnt, has created an uncomfortable situation for the governor, who consequently complained to the party hierarchy.
The Okorocha lesson, if any lesson is to be learnt here, must be a pointer to the vexing governors that it may not be rosy where they are going. In the meantime, President Goodluck Jonathan is to meet with the seven aggrieved governors in an effort aimed at finding a lasting solution to the crisis in the ruling party on Sunday, November 24. The meeting is scheduled to hold at the First Lady’s Conference Room, at State House, Presidential Villa, at 9:00pm. But whether the gladiators will allow sanity to prevail without making unnecessary demands, is another matter.