President Goodluck Jonathan and Peoples Democratic Party governors are on each other’s jugular fighting for the control of the party machinery ahead of 2015 general elections
| By Ishaya Ibrahim | Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
WHEN President Goodluck Jonathan took oath of office on May 29, 2011 as Nigeria’s 14th head of state, he had no illusion that members of the opposition political parties would be the greatest critics of his policies and style of governance. But what he probably did not bargain for was to be on a war path with the governors from his own political party – Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In the last two years, the president has been perpetually at war with the governors who have exploited their powers in the governors’ forum and the party’s national working committee, NWC, to act against the president’s interest. One of the battles the president had with the governors is for the control of the party machinery. But this has been a big task for the president. The reason is that the governors currently hold the ace in the PDP national executive committee, NEC, because of their overwhelming influence on the state chairmen and secretaries of the party who are members of the NEC. And with this advantage, they have persistently demanded for a NEC meeting where they plan to remove Bamanga Tukur, the PDP national chairman from office. But Tukur himself, apparently to forestall his removal, has refused to convene the NEC meeting.
Also, recently, the governors, in league with former president Olusegun Obasanjo, almost succeeded in pulling victory against the president during the last botched Board of Trustees, BoT, election. Analysts said had the election taken place, Ahmadu Alli, Obasanjo’s preferred candidate, would have emerged as the BoT chairman against Tony Anenih, the anointed candidate of President Jonathan. To forestall the defeat again, the Tukur-led PDP was said to have scuttled the process on the ground that the membership of the NWC, the body that enjoys the privilege of voting for the BoT chairman, would have to be reviewed before the election.
The governors have also ganged up to frustrate the aspect of the constitution review that sought to give autonomy to local governments in the country. This stance differs sharply with that of the president who has said on many occasions that without autonomy for the local governments, there would be no development in the country.
With the kind of power the governors wield in the party, analysts believe that they are likely to frustrate whatever ambition the president has in 2015. Kasir Yasin, a political analyst and founder of Global Awareness, a non governmental organisation, said Jonathan has conceded too much to the governors and that if he does not initiate steps to clip their wings, he would go down in history as the first president in the country to fail in a re-election bid.
But the president appears to have also taken the battle to the governors that are standing on his way. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which was a veritable tool used by the Obasanjo presidency to check the governors that crossed his path, appears to have been let loose on aides and family members of some of the dissenting governors.
Early in January, the EFCC launched investigation in the three PDP states of Jigawa, controlled by Sule Lamido, Rivers, where Rotimi Amaechi holds sway and Delta presided by Emmanuel Uduaghan, over allegations of corruption. The eldest son of Lamido is also standing trial over allegation of money laundering. These investigations are coming on the heels of rumours that Lamido and Amaechi have presidential ambitions in 2015.
But Ahmed Gulak, special adviser to the President on Political Affairs, has dismissed the insinuation. “What I know is that my principal and most of the governors are members of the PDP and when there is a crisis in the PDP, they will sit down and look for ways to settle the problem in a way that would carry everyone along,” Gulak said.
To give weight to the insinuation that the president and the PDP governors are on a war path, Godsday Orubebe, minister of Niger Delta Affairs, recently descended on Amaechi, who is also chairman of the Governors’ Forum, accusing him of diverting the “huge” resources accruable to the state to “bribing the rest of Nigerians because of his interest to become vice president in 2015.
But the most scathing attack against the governors came from an expected quarter – Edwin Clark, Jonathan’s closest political confidant and former federal minister of information. Clark wants the Governors’ Forum outlawed because, according to him, they have become a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
“I wish to dwell on some of the offending activities of the Governors’ Forum which are driving the country to madness but which, as members you do not care about, provided you achieve your purpose and the Forum’s over-bearing influence on the Peoples Democratic Party, the supremacy of which you have hijacked. The Governors’ Forum is now acting as an opposition party to the federal government. It deliberately breaches with impunity, the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and the constitution of the PDP, without any challenges. The Forum has now become a threat to the peace and stability of Nigeria. Most of the governors today, are more dictatorial than the then military governors. The President should ban them,” Clark said.
Yasin, however, warned that if there is no reconciliation soon, the situation would only lead to implosion in 2015.