The unexpected factionalisation in the Peoples Democratic Party is creating more problems for the party as the gladiators in the conflict fight dirty and refuse to shift ground because of the 2015 elections
| By Olu Ojewale | Sep. 16, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
NOBODY seemed to have seen it coming. The colourful event started brightly with delegates in their smart attires trooping into the Eagle Square, Abuja, for the mini convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on Saturday, August 31. A good number of the delegates were seen in vivacious mood, exchanging greetings and banters as they milled around the venue of the convention. Most of the states that had accredited delegates took part in the march past to announce their solidarity with the convention.
Musicians and cultural dancers were also on hand to entertain the delegates. But while the colourful event was going on, some members of this august occasion, left the venue in protest without anyone seeming to have noticed. The walkout was led by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar with seven governors and some other members of the party. The renegades later assembled at the Shehu Yar’Adua centre in Abuja, where the new faction addressed a press conference.
The faction, that called itself the New PDP, also announced the election of its own executive officers to handle affairs of the parallel party. Abubakar Baraje, former aide of Atiku Abubakar, emerged as the national chairman and Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Osun State governor, became secretary, among others. Since the breakaway event, the leadership of the PDP has been having sleepless nights throughout the week as the situation appeared to have become more cumbersome to resolve. All the meetings held to resolve the crisis have ended in a deadlock. By midweek, it was apparent that things had remained tangled. Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the PDP, on Wednesday, September 4, warned that the seats of about 124 PDP members in the National Assembly who had declared support for the New PDP, would be declared vacant if they failed to withdraw their loyalty to the breakaway faction of the party.
Tukur, who addressed a news conference at Wadata House, headquarters of the party in Abuja, also described the promoters of the New PDP as “undemocratic and unpatriotic elements,” who were bent on destroying “our common destiny.” Threatening fire and brimstone, Tukur said: “All persons elected on the platform of our great party at all levels who identify with these enemies of the oneness and greatness of our party, shall have their seats declared vacant as required by law. We shall leave no stone unturned to ensure that such persons and, indeed, any other individuals who attempt to subvert the leadership of the PDP, shall reap in full, the consequences of such actions.”
But in his reaction, Baraje simply laughed off the threat and called Tukur unfit to lead the party. Baraje said: “They are all jokers. They don’t know what is party politics. We are not surprised because they are ignorant of party politics. In any case, the process of declaring the seats of members of the national or state assembly vacant or calling lawmakers back is well known in the constitution. To wake up and say he is going to recall people back or declare their seats vacant shows that he is ignorant. Tukur is not fit to be called the national chairman of the PDP.”
On Tuesday, September 3, Tony Anenih, chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of the party, acknowledged that the seven aggrieved PDP governors had genuine grievances. In a statement issued in Abuja, Anenih said: “I believe some of them have genuine grievances; but I have hope that, once the grievances are addressed, they will come back. I am happy that the PDP has an internal mechanism for effective conflict resolution. At the end of the day, the problems will be addressed and the PDP will come out of the crisis stronger.” He said wider consultations were also in place to resolve all the contentious issues.
On Monday, September 2, 26 senators and 57 House of Representatives members announced their loyalty to the faction. The New PDP also has governors Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara); Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers); and Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano), in its fold.
The leadership of the New PDP headed by Abubakar has also been making life difficult for the ruling party. On Monday, September 2, the faction went to a Lagos High Court in Ikeja, seeking to deregister the ruling PDP and stop officials of the National Working Committee, NWC, led by Bamanga Tukur, national chairman, from parading themselves as members of the National Executive Committee of the party. The faction said that the Tukur-led PDP should be deregistered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for its failure to comply with Section 222(D) of the 1999 Constitution which requires political parties to notify the INEC of any alteration of its constitution.
In its statement of claims, the New PDP said: “It will be recalled that the 2009 PDP Constitution was amended which brought about the 2012 PDP constitution. Evidence has surfaced to prove that strange clauses which were not part of the proposed amendment to the 2009 Constitution were inserted into the originally produced version of the 2012 Constitution and those alterations were not approved by the party’s convention and the NEC, thereby making the document a forged document which is invalid. The forged 2012 Constitution was not equally filed before INEC as required by the 1999 Constitution, thereby making the PDP constitution upon which the 2013 convention was held an invalid document and the outcome of that convention invalid, as it was held with no valid constitution. The proof of these evidences can be seen in the approved memo by the PDP NEC upon which the amendment was done in 2012 and the original version of the PDP constitution filed with INEC will as well prove these violations.”
The faction similarly wants the court to declare Tukur as illegal chairman of the PDP on the grounds that he was not properly accepted back as a member of the PDP after his expulsion by the NEC of the party in 2001. The faction alleged that the PDP NEC expelled Tukur and eight others for breaching the party constitution after its meeting in Abuja, May 31, 2001. “They were expelled after NEC considered and adopted the report of the Iro Dan Musa-led PDP Disciplinary Committee. Alhaji Tukur, Chief Don Etiebet, Asheik Jarma, Edwin Ume-Ezeoke (late), Emmanuel Ibeshi, Harry Marshal and Gbenga Olawepo, were the ones expelled from the PDP,” the group said. Citing Article 10(b) iii of the PDP 2009 constitution and Article 8(17) of the 2012 amended constitution, the faction pointed out that any expelled member could only return to the party with the approval of the party executive at his ward, state and national levels, who would give him a waiver. It thus, claimed that since the expulsion of Tukur in 2001, he had not complied with the requirements that would have made him a bonafide member of the party and that his participation at the 2012 convention where he was elected was ‘a fraud and invalid.’
The Baraje-led faction is also asking the court to declare the party convention held in Abuja, on August 31, as illegal based on the participation of “illegal delegates;” the disqualification of duly elected delegates; and the failure of the party to comply with the provision of Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act. Section 85(1) of the Act which states, “a registered political party shall give INEC at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference or meeting convened for the purpose of electing members of its executive committees, and other governing bodies.”
The suit heard by Justice Ganiyu Safari, was adjourned until Monday, September 9. The New PDP also decided to open a parallel secretariat at the Maitama District of Abuja, on Tuesday, September 3. The plaintiffs in the case were mentioned as Muhammed Baraje, Sam Jaja, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and the PDP, while defendants are said to be Tukur, Uche Secondus, Kema Chikwe, Olisah Metuh and other recently elected PDP officials.
As if that is not serious enough, another group known as the PDP Stakeholders’ Forum, filed a fresh law suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, September 3, asking for the nullification of the PDP mini-convention and the sacking of Tukur. In the suit, filed by Ikenga Ugochinyere, chairman of the forum, the group wants the INEC to deregister the Tukur-led PDP faction for allegedly using a forged 2012 constitution to hold the convention. “We insist that this act of brazen criminality must not go unpunished. The perpetrators of this heinous crime against the party and the law of the land should be arrested and charged to court. Tukur is ab-initio not a bonafide member of the PDP that is capable of being elected into the office he currently occupies. Alhaji Tukur was expelled by the National Executive Committee of the party after being indicted for “high level anti-party activities” alongside five others in May 31, 2001,” Ugochinyere said,
Tukur has since denied the allegation that he was not a member of the party, and asked his accusers to show evidence that he was no longer a member of the PDP. Speaking through his aide, Oliver Okpala, he said: “Tukur is among the founding fathers of the PDP. He has paid his dues and the allegation that he has been suspended should be ignored. Let those making the allegation show evidence that he is no longer a member of the party. It is, however, curious why the disgruntled opponents of the ruling party had waited this long to act to redress the wrongs of the party.
From all indications, the faction’s grouse against the ruling party appears to go beyond what has been let out to the public. For instance, some of the allegations made against the ruling party were not in the court papers. While addressing a press on the day of the factionalisation, Baraje said that the group had decided to take over the affairs of the party because of the iron-hand style of Tukur in running the affairs of the party. He made reference to what he called the “unlawful suspension of the popular party members such as governors Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and Aliyu Wamakko, Sokoto State,” among others.
“We address you today as leaders of the PDP, who are worried by the increasing repression, restrictions of freedom of association, arbitrary suspension of members and other such violations of democratic principles by a faction of our party led by Tukur,” he said. Baraje similarly accused Tukur of being disrespectful to the party’s constitution by refusing to hold NEC regularly, and that the party chairman fixed the date of the convention without consultation.
Another failure of the party leadership under Tukur, he said, was the power tussle in Anambra State where the party has been polarised over the governorship candidate ticket of the party. Indeed, two candidates are laying claim to the party’s ticket in the governorship election slated for November 16, this year. Both Andy Uba and Tony Nwoye have emerged at the parallel primaries held by the two factions of the party in the state. While Uba enjoys the backing of the INEC, Nwoye is backed by the Tukur-led executive, which has also announced the suspension of Uba and his cohorts from the party. Baraje said this had shown that Tukur and members of the executive could not guarantee internal democracy, hence the need for the new faction to take over. Baraje said all efforts to settle issues amicably with the Tukur led executive did not yield positive result.
It has also become apparent that some of the seven governors who joined Abubakar to walk out of the convention have different motives for being antagonistic to the present regime of the party. Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State was said to have complained bitterly that the Jonathan administration used the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to witch-hunt governors who have had political disagreements with the president. He cited the arrest and prosecution of the son of Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State by the EFCC. Kwankwaso said despite the fact that the young man explained that he was going on a medical trip to Egypt, he was still prosecuted by the EFCC and blamed the Presidency for the travail. This, perhaps, is because it was then being speculated that Lamido was interested in the presidency. In any case, evidence was not adduced that the presidency asked the young Lamido not to declare the amount of foreign currency in his possession.
Similarly, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, is said to be unhappy in the way former Governor Bukola Saraki, now a senator, has been treated by the EFCC over how the state had handled contract awards. Besides, Ahmed alleged that his own brother was recently grilled by one of the anti-graft agencies over alleged N60million contract. “I have been facing EFCC probe because I served in the executive cabinet of Senator Bukola Saraki. There is an atmosphere of fear in Kwara over activities of the EFCC,” Ahmed was quoted as saying. But Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue State, has dismissed the insinuation that the presidency has been using the EFCC as an attack dog. He said he was aware that the commission was snooping into his dealings in the state, but he could not be bothered. Suswan is yet to change his loyalty to the Jonathan camp.
Apart from that, President Jonathan seems to have incurred the wrath of the faction because of his intention to run for a second term in office. Anenih had once suggested that Jonathan should be given an automatic ticket for the 2015 presidential election. The proposal did not go down well with a number of the party members whose ambition would have been amputated if allowed. Abubakar, being one of them, quickly reminded Anenih that the proposal was foreign to the PDP constitution. Nevertheless, the BoT chair and Tukur were said to have been working underground to ensure that Jonathan eventually got the automatic ticket and that in the event that it failed, he would still get the party ticket to contest in 2015. So, Baraje was right when he fingered 2015 as part of the problems of the party. “It has become very clear that the desperate permutations towards 2015 general elections have blinded certain people from the consequences of their actions,” the factional leader said.
So, many Nigerians would not be surprised that Abubakar is with the faction. Speaking at the Yar’Aua centre on the fateful Saturday, Abubakar said: “Let us not deceive ourselves, the country is full of frustration, the country is full of anger, is full of disappointment, therefore we have a responsibility, to see how we can reform our great party so that those lofty ideals, lofty goals can be achieved. They cannot be achieved by the present leadership of the party. It cannot be achieved even by the presidency.” (See cover box)
It is common knowledge that Abubakar will like to contest the presidential election in 2015. But as long as President Jonathan wants a second term, it will be difficult for him to use the PDP platform. This is why some persons, especially in the PDP, see the registration of the PDM as an alternative platform for Abubakar in case he does not get the PDP ticket. Even if Jonathan decides not to run, some Northern governors in the New PDP are also believed to be interested in the presidency. Prominent among them are Lamido, Kwankwaso, Wamakko and Aliyu.
This, perhaps, lends credence to the reason why Aliyu has almost shouted himself hoarse that Jonathan promised to serve for only one term and that it would be a betrayal of trust for him to go for a second term. The Presidency has, for several times, denied any such agreement and charged the governor to produce a copy of the agreement. But Aliyu is yet to produce an agreement limiting the president to only one term in office.
All these have shown that the crisis in the PDP is all about 2015 elections. For instance, Ameh Ebute, former Senate president, in a newspaper interview, said that the 2015 presidency was the real reason why Abubakar, the seven governors and others formed a parallel PDP and not to save the party as being touted. Ebute, chairman, Congress for Equality and Change, CEC, therefore, called on the group to be honest.
“Their ambition is the presidency and since they know that President Goodluck Jonathan is entitled to a second term in office, they don’t want to wait until 2019, that is, the honest thing; that is the problem. So, they should call a spade, a spade. And there is nothing like a new PDP. I am sure the leadership of the PDP and the leadership of this country will bring the aggrieved party members together and they will trace their way back. I describe them as aggrieved party members for reasons that are obvious, and their reasons are to become president and vice-president of this country. That is all,” Ebute said. He added that if eventually the peace moves failed to reconcile the warring factions “I foresee that they may move to the newly-registered Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM,” he said.
This has also been the position of some analysts who believe that what happened on that fateful Saturday was a clear trademark of an orchestrated war plan to be executed in three different forms to get the president out of the way. The strategies include political distraction for the president, media propaganda against him and psychological damage. It is believed that the politicians involved have long planned to create a faction and choose the day of the convention to achieve maximum effect. Some analysts have also interpreted the crisis in the party to be a clash of ambition between Jonathan and Abubakar.
But one of the PDP stalwarts in the South-South told Realnews that the crisis goes beyond Abubakar to include former generals who are aggrieved with Jonathan. The generals are believed to include former President Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babaginda who are ably represented in the breakaway faction by Oyinola, former secretary of the PDP, and Aliyu, governor of Niger State. The generals are said to be aggrieved because Jonathan, allegedly, has not met their expectations after they had worked for his successful election in 2011. For instance, Nyako had worked against Abubakar to deliver Adamawa State to Jonathan. Now, Nyako is up against Jonathan because of Tukur who has been causing brouhaha in the party in the state.
“The essence of the breakaway faction is to continue to distract President Jonathan. As he goes about trying to quench the fire in his house, the breakaway faction will consolidate its base by drawing away more aggrieved members from the PDP. Such people will include the disenchanted members of the PDP in Anambra State led by Senator Andy Uba and his brother Chris, who have also been suspended by the PDP for conducting a parallel governorship primary in the state. The political game right now appears bad for Jonathan especially when one considers the fact that the breakaway faction of the PDP might play an unexpected joker to allow another member of the party from the South-South to contest the presidential race on its platform if they eventually move out en masse from the PDP to form a political party,” the PDP source said.
The calculation, according to him, is that contrary to popular belief, Abubakar was not the brain behind the faction of the PDP members who walked out at the convention. In fact, he argued, that the former vice-president may not be the ultimate beneficiary of the break-up of the PDP. He reasoned that since Jonathan might play up his South-South connection that the group does not want someone from the region to go for a second term, the Northerners in the breakaway faction may then sacrifice their ambition for the presidency in 2015 and ask Amaechi, the embattled governor of Rivers State, to run for the presidency. This, according to him, will be the joker that will break the back of Jonathan’s 2015 presidential ambition.
“However, for such to succeed, Amaechi will have to build a formidable party structure in his state to forge ahead with the development if it ever happens. Right now, the PDP structure in Rivers is not with Amaechi, who has since been suspended. The fact that the national body of PDP took away the party structure from Amaechi is also one of the reasons the Group 7 is kicking against the Tukur-led PDP,” he said.
Nonetheless, for the PDP crisis to be resolved, it appears that both factions of the party will have to make some sacrifice. If they do not resolve the crisis, “the governors will have to leave en masse. The G7 is saying that for Jonathan to get its support, he will have to sack Tukur. If not, don’t be surprised they will play that joker (that is ask Amaechi to run for president) since they know that Jonathan has failed in keeping to his promises,” the PDP leader said. For the time being, it appears that the game is for the breakaway faction to “give them enough trouble. After all, all is fair in war and nothing should be ruled out,” he said.
Sunday Ekanem, chairman, South-South, PDP Forum, Lagos State, said there is no crisis in the PDP, but there are some aggrieved members. “You know in politics, the minority will have a say, while the majority will have its way… Of course, they have the right to express themselves which they did. For them to have another PDP, it is not possible because in the eyes of the law, there is only one PDP that is registered and in the eyes of INEC, it is only one PDP that can hold convention,” Ekanem said.
He opined that the whole idea of the factionalisation was meant to distract President Jonathan, whom he called a “peace-loving Nigerian and a democrat.” Ekanem accused the faction of trying to destabilise the PDP before moving to the PDM. “They have founded the PDM, they should go in there, the constitution allows for freedom of movement and expression. Mind you that these people that founded the PDM are failed and expired people. They cannot add any value again to the PDP because the PDP is known for producing quality people. When we expel some of the expired ones, parties like the PDM and the APC will accept them; they should join those parties,” Ekanem said.
He is also unhappy with the role that Obasanjo has been playing in the crisis. “Obasanjo is part of them, what is he resolving? Is Oyinola not his boy? He is complicating the problems. There is only one president in this country, we can’t have a sitting president and another person will be the leader of his party. Nobody did it to Obasanjo when he was in power. Atiku tried it and he dealt with him; so, why can’t they allow the president to be in-charge,” Ekanem said.
Besides, he said most of the governors in the PDP faction would be completing their eight years in 2015 and as such, they have nothing to lose. But another PDP leader in Lagos, who prefers to remain anonymous because of his sensitive position, is not happy with the Tukur group. He told Realnews: “The managers of PDP are terrible managers because they don’t know how to manage the members of the party. Can you imagine that I bought form to contest as the national secretary of the party with N2 million? But during the interview, they asked me to step down and there was no reason given to me to step down,” he said. As if to add salt to the injury, he said they did not apologise or thank him for being obedient. He similarly frowns at the way the PDP uses its members like disposable materials to be used and dumped.
“They are intoxicated with the power of the presidency,” he said. He also said he was not opposed to President Jonathan having interest in the 2015 election, but was against the way it is being used to block others who may be interested in the same office. “What is happening now is that the party has split into two. We have the North and the South-West blocs supporting Atiku’s faction and the South-East and South-South blocs supporting President Jonathan’s faction. So, it has given an ethnic dimension to the crisis and as it is, Atiku has the majority of the members. Forget the seven governors, there are more governors in that faction unknown to people but they are not coming out to identify themselves,” he said.
It is thus being speculated that if the faction can get majority support of the governors, state chairmen of the party as well as more members of the National Assembly to its fold, it can get the INEC to recognise it as the authentic PDP. But for now, that looks a forlorn hope. But Ebute is not convinced that that can happen. He said: “They call themselves a new PDP. The PDP does not have two certificates of registration. The main certificate of registration is with the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and the secretariat…But they cannot have two PDP in the country. There is nothing like a new PDP. They don’t have a certificate of registration with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and they cannot sponsor any candidate on the platform of their so-called PDP. That shows that they have not completely left PDP. And that is why I told you that when the leadership of the real PDP makes effort to bring them back, they will definitely come back.”
But as events unfolded in the week, it appeared there may be no end to the crisis soon. The peace move initiated by Obasanjo seemed to have hit the rock because of his suspected interest in the crisis. For instance, five of the governors involved in the breakaway faction had visited the former president about two months ago to complain about the situation in the party, which perhaps put him in the know that the crisis was about to explode. He also did not attend the convention claiming that he had cold, which has raised suspicion in some quarters that he knew what was going to happen.
Is the former president in support of the new group? That may not be far-fetched. He is very close to all the seven state governors involved in the revolt. Besides, Obasanjo is very close to Oyinlola, who once took Atiku Abubakar to see him at his residence in Aboekuta, Ogun State, for reconciliation. That reconciliation fell through as it was revealed by Obasanjo himself recently when he said that he had thought that the former vice-president would succeed him but was disappointed by his attitude. This has brought about some questions in the political circles about Obasanjo’s interest in the whole saga. Obasanjo flew into Abuja on Sunday, September 1, and held many unsuccessful meetings with the warring factions. He was scheduled to hold a larger peace meeting with all contending factions with elders like Alex Ekwueme, former vice-president, Solomon Lar, former chairman of the party and General Ibrahim Babangida, former military head of state, in attendance on Friday, September 6. But that meeting was reportedly halted by the Presidency. No reason was given for the cancellation. But in an indirect reference to the former head of state, as part of the crisis, President Jonathan was quoted as saying those who ignited the crisis should also look for a way to put it off. Said Jonathan: “It is good that the current happenings are unfolding at this time; we now know those who have been hiding their faces while creating problems including security crises for the government.”
However, the peace talk between President Jonathan and the PDP governors, including the aggrieved ones, next Tuesday, September 10, is still on the card. But whether the talks will help to resolve the crisis is not yet clear. What seems to be obvious is that the boastful PDP may see its ambition to rule the country for 60 years as untenable as before. For now, the umbrella is torn. Who will mend it?
Reported by Maureen Chigbo, Anayo Ezegwu and Vincent Nzemeke