Exit of Boastful Tukur

After a tumultuous two-year tenure in office, Bamanga Tukur bows out as national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but his exit is seen as too late

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jan. 27, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

HIS exit had been anticipated for a very long time. But several attempts to edge out of his exalted position had failed. This earned Bamamga Tukur, erstwhile national chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a sobriquet of a man with nine lives like cat. But Tukur exhausted all the nine lives when he eventually bowed out of office on Thursday, January 16. President Goodluck Jonathan who formally announced his departure at the PDP National Executive Council meeting, on Thursday, said the former national chairman of the ruling party had decided to throw in the towel on mutual agreement with the party hierarchy.

The exit of Tukur is expected to bring a measure of sanity to the party which had been enmeshed in crisis since last year. But former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who wrote a letter to the former PDP recently on the affairs of the party and his decision to stay away, said the problems of the ruling party were far beyond the resignation of Tukur. Tunde Oladunjoye, media aide to the former president, who said his principal would not like to react yet, said Obasanjo had already made his impression known to the leadership of the party. Nevertheless, a good number of the PDP members apparently saw the former chairman as the cog in wheel of the party’s progress and being responsible for the crisis which has engulfed it.

Jonathan
Jonathan

Tukur himself must have seen that the end was near when he recently set up a panel of eminent persons from his home state to reach out to Jonah Jang and Godswill Apkabio, governors of Plateau and Akwa Ibom state respectively. The mission of the panel was to thwart the plot to remove him from. The two governors said to have been picked for strategic reasons. One, Jang as head of a faction of the Nigeria Governors Forum, is recognised by the party and the Presidency, makes him an influential person in the party hierarchy. Akpabio as the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, PDPGF, could talk to governors in the party to stop their opposition against.

But before the four-man panel could reach the two governors, Tukur’s opponents had succeeded in mobilising the 37 state chairmen of the party, who at an emergency meeting, passed a vote of no confidence on him. Added to that the majority of the members of the National Working Committee of the party, which worked with Tukur, ignored his summon for the meeting he called on Monday, January 13. Irked by the audacity of the NWC to boycott the meeting, Tukur was quoted by some media reports to have boasted that no one and that not even President Jonathan, who by virtue of his position is the leader of the party, had the power to remove him from office. “I am an elected national chairman, I have my certificate of return, I cannot resign. The convention brought me, so it has to take the convention that brought me for me to resign. So, not even the president can ask me to resign. Remember, some members of the NWC were asked to go recently because the election that brought them was flawed, so Mr. President cannot tread that route again,” he said.

But barely 24 hours after his comment went viral; Tukur denied speaking to any reporter.  At a press conference at his Abuja residence, the former chairman said that it was out of place for him to lecture the president as suggested in the media reports. He reiterated that he enjoyed a cordial relationship with President Jonathan for whom he had immense respect. “It is totally out of place for me to lecture Mr. President as suggested in some articles in the media. It is the preposterous and smacking of an indiscipline mind. The sad thing about these mischief makers is that they tarnish the image of Nigerians at home and abroad. They present a bad picture to scare investors from our country. They join the enemies in fanning the embers of disunity. I am confident that any discerning Nigerian, particularly his Excellency, the president can see through this shallow mischief… I restate that I and President Jonathan are standing shoulder to shoulder in our quest to transform Nigeria. I will never dare the president,” Tukur said.

But it appeared things had gone beyond redemption in his relationship with the party leadership. Even long before then, Tukur had been under pressure to step aside. His troubles actually started the moment he was elected as the party’s chairman at the national convention on March 24, 2012.

Just a few weeks after his inauguration as chairman, Tukur engaged Governor Murtala Nyako of his native Adamawa State in muscle flexing over control of the party machinery in the state. Tukur was said to be preparing the ground for one of his sons, Anwal, to clinch the governorship ticket of the PDP. This brought into a collision with Nyako who was believed to be projecting his anointed candidate for the position ahead of the 2015 general elections. By the time the dust settled, two parallel executive committees of the party had emerged in the state. The faction loyal to Nyako was led by Lawal Mijinjuwa, while Joel Madaki headed the Tukur faction.

Obasanjo
Obasanjo

Using his might as the national chairman, Tukur sacked the Mijinjuwa-led faction and gave recognition to the Madaki group, a development that set the stage for the irreconcilable differences between him and the governor. While Tukur claimed that the decision to replace the Mijijunwa executive with Madaki’s was a joint decision of the party’s NWC, the NWC members said they had no knowledge of the situation. They also claimed that the decision to sack the Adamawa executive was unilaterally taken by Tukur.

Other state chapters like Rivers, Sokoto, Kwara, and Kano also had their state executive committees sacked by the party leadership under Tukur. The persistent crisis in the Southwest zone of the PDP has also been blamed on the way and manner Tukur handled the various disagreements among stakeholders in the zone. Tukur ensured that all zonal national officers were eased out of their positions with Segun Oni, former governor of Ekiti State, Bode Mustapha and other prominent leaders of the party sent packing. The party is yet to conduct a fresh zonal congress to elect new leaders for the Southwest zone.

The refusal of the PDP to reinstate Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the national secretary of the party also contributed to the hard feelings against the party chairman. The Court of Appeal had on November 11, 2013 ordered Oyinlola’s reinstatement after he was ousted based on the ruling of a lower court. The Tukur-led NWC spurned the order of the appellate court, choosing to hang on to the ruling of the lower court.

Similarly, the setting up of the national disciplinary committee chaired by Umaru Dikko was also said to have violated the constitution of the PDP. Such a committee required the approval of the NEC of the party to operate. But the NEC did not sit to ratify the Dikko committee before the panel started its work. After their trial in absentia the Dikko committee recommended the expulsion of Abubakar Baraje, Sam Sam Jaja, Ibrahim Kazaure and Oyinlola were tried and recommended for expulsion by the committee.

The pettiness of Tukur came to the fore when Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State was briefly suspended from the party sometimes last year. The only reason given for the suspension was that the governor failed to pick Tukur’s telephone calls.

The five PDP governors who defected to the All progressives Congress, APC, in November, last year, also cited Tukur’s leadership style as one of the reasons they fell out with him. The governors had insisted on his removal for peace to reign in the party. After months of dilly-dallying Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Nyako (Adamawa) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), abandoned the PDP for APC.

Barely a month after the governors’ defection, 37 PDP members of the House of Representatives also defected to the APC. A number of senators elected on the platform of the PDP were also said to be waiting to defect to the APC in the days ahead.  Just recently, 27 of the 30 member Sokoto State House of Assembly defected to the APC, leaving the PDP with only three members.

Another reason why some members of the PDP were opposed to Tukur’s continued stay in office was because he was considered as Jonathan’s yes man. It was believed that with Tukur in the saddle Jonathan would get the PDP ticket to run for a second term on a platter of gold.

A member of the party who specifically asked not to be named told Realnews that northerners in the PDP regarded Tukur as a traitor. He added that one of the reasons why Jonathan delayed edging Tukur out was because he was searching for a capable replacement. “Tukur is a very loyal party man. If not for the pressure the president would not have asked him to go. The northerners in the party don’t like him because he never hides his support for Jonathan. He told them openly that Jonathan would be the party’s candidate in 2015 and they are against him because they want power to go back to the north,” he said.

A PDP official at the PDP secretariat said Tukur and Jonathan had reached an agreement so that whosoever takes over the mantle would protect Jonathan and ensure that he gets the party’s ticket for 2015. “It is all politics. The president bowed to the pressure but there is already an agreement. Whoever takes over from Tukur will also be able to guarantee President Jonathan the PDP ticket for 2015,” he said.

Akpabio
Akpabio

Now that Tukur is no longer in the equation, some former members of the PDP are already feeling vindicated. One of them is Bukola Saraki, a serving senator and former governor of Kwara State, who defected to the APC, in December, 2013. In a personally signed statement titled: “Resignation of Bamanga Tukur: Senator Bukola Saraki and others vindicated at last”, Saraki said the issues that eventually threw Tukur out as the national chairman of the PDP, were  the same issues he and other members of the party had always complained and fought about. He added that rather than joining them in rescuing the party from Tukur’s grip, some PDP members blackmailed them until they were forced to leave the party.

Saraki said despite Tukur’s exit, the PDP was now in tartars and beyond repair. He added that history would judge those of them who tried hard at the appropriate time to put the party on the right track. “The PDP as a party was built by the founding fathers on a solid foundation but this has since derailed from the coming of Bamanga Tukur who came to damage the party beyond repair. After doing the damage, he’s now leaving the party in tartars with no respite in sight,” the senator said. Despite Tukur’s resignation, some analysts also said it would be very hard for the PDP members who had defected to return to the party. But whether there would be no more defection to other parties is also left to be seen. However, analysts agreed that the tenure of Tukur would go down as the most turbulent in the history of the party.

In the meantime, speculations were rife at press time that Tukur would be replaced by another staunch supporter of Jonathan by Monday, January 20. Some of the names being suggested as likely replacement include Rufai Alkali, former national publicity secretary; Musa Babayo, former acting national secretary and Idris Waziri, former minister of commerce.