Mending Fences of a Divided House

Tony Anenih
Tony Anenih

The Peoples Democratic Party is working very hard to resolve the crisis tearing apart its ranks, but will that be enough to help it win in 32 states of the federation?

By Olu Ojewale  |  Apr. 29, 2013 @01:00 GMT

FOR the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, mending the cracks in its divided house is proving more difficult than envisaged. In the last few months, efforts have been intensified by the party leadership to mend fences with renegade members and produce a strong stance ahead of 2015 elections. To achieve that, Bamaga Tukur, national chairman of the party, started crisscrossing the country about two months ago. Apparently, his efforts did not achieve much, hence, the current effort of Tony Anenih, chairman of the PDP board of trustees.

Anenih was on a peace mission to Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Monday, April 15, to meet with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the leadership of the PDP in the state as well as the larger South West. After the three-hour closed door meeting, Anenih told reporters that he had come with the delegation to discuss some paramount national issues with Obasanjo.

“I am here to see my leader (Obasanjo); I am here to pay my respect and, indeed, I am here with my colleagues, some members of the BOT of our party, to discuss some issues that affect the corporate existence of this country; some issues about the insecurity in the country and some issues about the party itself,” he said.

Anenih, who is known as ‘Mr. Fix It,’ however, declined to make public, details of the meeting. Instead, he said: “As you see, we are all smiling. Can’t you see me smiling? And my leader too is smiling. So, we are quite happy about the outcome. For now, it is not for public consumption.” Accosted by reporters on the same issue, Obasanjo simply retorted, “Did you hear what our chairman said?”

Although details of the meeting were not disclosed, sources said that Anenih commended Obasanjo for his contributions to the party and reiterated President Goodluck Jonathan’s respect for him as one of the prominent leaders in the country. He also commended the former President for helping the party to its present advantageous position in the country. These, Anenih said, makes him an authentic and indispensable leader. While assuring the former President that all the wrongs done him would be corrected, Anenih said that the decision by the national leadership of the party in Ogun State was not meant to humiliate Obasanjo. He said the decision to dissolve the party executive in the state was in the overall interest of the party based on the rule of law.

Bamanga Tukur
Bamanga Tukur

“The feeling at the meeting was that Obasanjo deserved more respect in the party, based on his position as the former President and national leader,” the source said. After much entreaties by the delegates, the former President was said to have assured them that he would not leave the party. “I think that he will be given some concessions, especially in regards to the composition of the Southwest executive of the party, that is, after the caretaker committee has finished its assignment,” the source said.

But another source said the meeting was not as successful as Anenih would want people to believe. It was learnt that the delegation failed to persuade Obasanjo to support the Bamanga Tukur-led national executive committee of the party, and the re-election bid of President Jonathan. The source said that Obasanjo insisted that President Jonathan must honour a deal he struck with the north by not seeking re-election in 2015.

If, indeed, that was the case, analysts say it would be very difficult to expect peace to return to the PDP in the state soon.

Prominent among those who accompanied Anenih to meet with Obasanjo, were Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State; Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Ahmed Markarfi, a senator and a former Kaduna State governor; Abdullahi Adamu, a former Nasarawa State Governor, and Walid Jubrin, the party’s BOT Secretary. Also in attendance were Segun Oni, the sacked PDP national vice-chairman (South-West), Bode Mustapha, a former national auditor, and Joju Fadairo, former chairman of PDP, Ogun State.

Notwithstanding the crisis in the ruling party, Anenih insisted that, “PDP is the party to beat; when the time comes, I assure you, we will do what we know how to do best.” He also dismissed the planned merger of opposition political parties, saying it would not pose any threat to the chances of the PDP in 2015.

But the threat within the party does not seem to be abating. While peace effort in Abeokuta was going on, Bamaga Tukur, national chairman of the party, caused a stir in the political circles when he told a visiting delegation of a PDP caucus from the South-West that he had a presidential mandate to deliver 32 states to the party in the next elections. “We need to work hard now because we have a (presidential) mandate to move beyond 23 states in our control and win at least 32,” he said. But Tukur did not say when President Jonathan gave the directive. Meanwhile, the presidency last Tuesday, distanced from the purported presidential directive.

Nonetheless, the PDP chairman, who acknowledged the disunity within the party, urged the members to start preparing for the 2015 elections, saying “it’s going to be a serious battle,” adding: “I use this opportunity to appeal to our members to bury the hatchet and cast away whatever forlorn hope they nurse about the future.”…

To restore peace in the party, Tukur said that its national working committee, NCW, had concluded plans to embark on a tour of all the states to carry out reconciliation and to put the party on a sound footing for the coming general elections. “I appeal to our members to begin to invest in the future right away and doing so involves hard work, diligence and dedication to the cause of the PDP,” he said.

Taoheed Adedoja, a professor and former Oyo State governorship candidate of the party, who led a 15-man delegation to meet with Tukur, said the delegation was in his office to discuss critical issues involving the PDP in the South-West. He refused to expatiate.

As Tukur was racking his brain on how to solve the South-West problem, another was added to his list. A federal high court in Abuja dissolved the executive of the PDP in Rivers State.  Justice Mohammed Talba gave the order that removed all members of the Godspower Umejuru Ake-led state executive whose members incidentally are staunch loyalists of Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State. By the order, the embattled governor is now without a strong political structure. It is common knowledge that Amaechi and President Jonathan have been at loggerheads over a perceived ambition of Amaechi to team up with a northern candidate to vie for the post of vice-president, while Jonathan is pushing for re-election in 2015.

Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo

The court action was instituted by Felix Amechi Obua and Walter Ibibia Opuene, who claimed that they were both duly elected as chairman and secretary respectively, at the state congress held on March 17, 2012, by a committee set up by the national headquarters of the party. The court also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the party from appointing Godspower Umejuru Ake, or any other person(s) other than Felix Obuah and Walter Opuene as chairman and secretary of the party executive in the state.
Apparently in line with the court order, the national secretariat of the party swore-in a 13-member committee, headed by Obuah and Opuene, chairman and secretary respectively, to run the affairs of the party in the South-South, on Tuesday, April 16. The oath was administered by Victor Kwom, national legal adviser of the party.

After the ceremony, Onwe Solomon Onwe, acting national secretary, said the inauguration was in compliance with the Abuja court ruling which was served on the PDP leadership on Monday. He said the party had no choice other than to obey the court verdict that sacked the Ake-led executive committee. The development does not please some stakeholders in the state and members of the sacked committee, who have accused the Presidency of interfering in the process.

Speaking to the press on the matter, Asita Honourable, chairman of the Rivers State Caucus in the House of Representatives, said the Abuja high court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case. Honourable said the persons who won the case were impostors, who did not take part in the congress that produced the sacked executive.  “This travesty of justice and broad day light judicial robbery leaves much to be imagined and casts doubts in our minds over the much talked about reforms in the judiciary now ably championed by the respected Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council,” he said. The protesters, however, said they would respect the verdict and seek redress to correct the anomalies.

President Jonathan
President Jonathan

The situation in Rivers State has a wider implication for the party that is also struggling with internal crises in other states such as Adamawa, Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti. Analysts say if the controversies tearing these state chapters are not resolved, it would further damage the chances of the party. Meanwhile, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, has denounced the presidential mandate that the PDP should win 32 states, saying that Jonathan and Tukur must begin to realise that Nigerians would not vote for them in 2015.

Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the ACN, said the PDP’s plans to capture 32 states would fail woefully. “By the time Tukur and Jonathan wake up, they will realise that they have been living in a fool’s paradise because Nigerians had deserted them a very long time ago and no amount of coercion can make them achieve that kind of fathom ambition,” Mohammed said.

Speaking in the same vein, Emma Eneukwu, national publicity secretary of the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, dismissed the PDP’s plan to win 32 states as an empty boast. “He (Tukur) is only trying to console himself by talking big. The elections will be done by Nigerians who will rate them according to their performance in the past 12 years. Nigerians are not fools who can be deceived by mere boasts by a party that has plunged the country into terrible darkness. The day of reckoning is approaching,” Eneukwu said.

For now, the PDP’s ambition to win 32 states in the next general elections looks forlorn. As a house divided, it would take a miracle to have a formidable united front to improve on its present performance with the level of discontent and animosity going on within its rank.

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