Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party and Tony Anenih, chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, maintain rivalry to realise their different ambitions
| By Olu Ojewale | Jun. 24, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IRONICALLY, they are both nominees of President Goodluck Jonathan. To that extent, Jonathan expects Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, and Tony Anenih, chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, to work together to ensure his electoral success in the next general elections in 2015. But Tukur and Anenih appear to see themselves as rivals who must outdo each other. Hence, since February when he emerged as the BoT chairman, Tukur has seen his position as the leader of the party being threatened by Anenih. Could that be real or imagined? The rivalry is known to everyone in and outside the party. To disabuse the minds of the public on it, Tukur issued a statement on Tuesday, June 10, to deny any rift between him and Anenih.
The statement signed by Oliver Okpala, special assistant on media to the PDP national chairman, said the insinuation that there was a conflict between Tukur and Anenih was the handiwork of enemies of the party. He said both Tukur and Anenih, as founding members of the PDP, were working “collectively and harmoniously for the overall interest of the party and the country,” adding: “The PDP is a strong and united party under the able leadership of Dr. Bamanga Tukur, and nobody whosoever can create division in the party or bad-blood among the leaders of the party because of the recent exercise by the leadership of the party to instil discipline, sanity and political decorum among members of the party.”
Okpala insisted that the PDP members had been working as “a family of like-minded patriots and there is no animosity among the members.” He said the present efforts of the national leadership of the party were aimed at helping to ensure the realisation of the transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration through the institutionalisation of party discipline.
The PDP’s BoT issued a similar statement on April 25, this year. Walid Jibrin, secretary of the BoT, in the statement, said there was no quarrel between both leaders since each of them had their functions clearly defined in the party constitution. Apparently reacting to a newspaper’s report where Anenih was accused of instigating some governors against Tukur during his fence-mending tour. Jibrin said: “I want to state categorically that the BoT delegation under the leadership of Tony Anenih visited some PDP governors with only the intention to bring peace, unity and harmony among the governors in order to enable our party wax stronger and thus restore confidence among the entire members.” He said contrary to the allegation, Anenih did not discuss any plan to remove Tukur from office with any PDP governor. “I want to assure all members of our party that the relationship between Anenih and Tukur remains cordial,” he said.
But despite the show of solidarity, the two leaders are believed to be working at cross purposes. For instance, Anenih was said to have irritated some senior members of the party, including Tukur, at the PDP leaders’ dinner with Jonathan in Abuja, on Thursday, May 30, when he proposed automatic tickets for the president and all first term governors. Although Anenih was said to have used the proposal to test the waters, a lot of party members were not favourably disposed to it.
Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, and some northern governors have kicked against the suggestion saying it is unconstitutional. But Anenih is insisting that reaching a consensus is the path the PDP should follow. The fear is that if a primary should hold, a lot of members believe that it would divide the party, which is already having problems of uniting members, especially in the North, which wants to produce the next president.
But for a consensus to emerge as Anenih has suggested, the PDP would need to change its constitution. Already, there has been serious concern on how to get the Tukur-led National Working Committee, NWC, to convene a national executive committee, NEC, meeting, the only body charged with the responsibility to approve and fix the date for a national convention. The last time PDP held its NEC meeting was in July 2012, in clear violation of the party’s constitution which mandates that the NEC should meet at least once in every quarter. But the same constitution gives only the national chairman the power to convene such a meeting.
The meeting itself, it is believed, may pitch Tukur against Anenih. The BoT boss is reported to have been in favour of getting another leader for the party. And with the gale of suspension and threats of suspension against some governors, there is fear that Tukur may, indeed, be shown the way out at the next convention. This apparently explains why the PDP national chairman has been reluctant to allow it. But that can only be for a while. A federal high court has already declared that a majority of members of the NWC were not duly elected, as such, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has reminded the party of the need to normalise the irregularity ahead of the next general elections.
For Tukur to remain the national chairman of the PDP, he will need the support of the governors. But some of the governors are not in good terms with the party boss. Governors Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State are currently suspended from the party for what the Tukur-led NWC called “anti-party activities.” Anenih, it seems, enjoys the support of the governors. In fact, Mr. Fix it, as Anenih is fondly called, caused a stir in the Tukur camp when he set up a team on reconciliation, which embarked on a peace tour and visited all the zones already visited by Tukur on a similar peace mission.
Besides, Anenih was accused of not consulting with the PDP national headquarters before embarking on the tour. This prompted some members to feel that Anenih has a personal agenda of taking over the party with a view to installing his own stooge as chairman. He also reportedly refused to disclose details of discussions he had with all the governors he met during his tour. The Tukur camp is also said to be worried that he has also refused to intimate the PDP chairman of his tour, even when the PDP demanded for it.
But Tukur has decided to keep a straight face on the issue. Sometime in April, Olisah Metuh, PDP national publicity secretary, issued a statement saying that the Anenih-led BoT had not usurped the functions of the NWC by embarking on the peace tour. He said that Anenih’s reconciliatory visits complemented the reconciliation and consolidation tours embarked upon by the NWC, and that both tours had been yielding the desired results. Metuh said: ‘’We are aware that this group of meddlesome interlopers and political jobbers with no fixed address has been commissioned to stir up controversies and portray the BoT as working at cross purposes with the NWC. For the avoidance of doubt, the NWC and the BoT are united and committed to providing the necessary political direction for the party.”
In any case, some members of the party have expressed reservations regarding the way Anenih has been operating as the BoT boss. They said during the time former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the chairman, he was not hobnobbing with governors as Anenih has chosen to do. “OBJ was rather relating directly with the president on the basis that the position of BoT chairman as specified in the PDP constitution, is only advisory. Even when Anenih was BoT chairman under Obasanjo, he was rather more supportive of the party and never engaged in any frivolous trip to see governors under any guise,” a party leader was quoted as saying. This has probably put Tukur in a precarious position that Anenih may use his relationship with the PDP governors to his advantage over him. More so, a good number of the governors see the suspension of Amaechi and Wamakko as a personal vendetta against them for their personal ambitions.
Amaechi has gone to court to challenge the suspension. On his part, Governor Wamakko, who returned to Sokoto from the Netherlands on Wednesday, June 12, has called on the PDP to remove Tukur as the national chairman. Addressing his supporters at the Government House shortly after his arrival, the governor also said that the national party chairman was running the party as his personal business. Said the governor: “My message to Mr. President and the leader of the PDP in Nigeria, going by its constitution, is that you should please direct the convening of the party’s NEC meeting immediately to remove Bamanga Tukur from the PDP chairmanship before he succeeds in destroying this party.”
According to him, Tukur has demonstrated incompetence and ingratitude. “Up till now Bamanga Tukur did not see wisdom in going round the states in this country to say, ‘thank you’ to those who voted for him; up till now Tukur does not visit any state in the federation to find out the true position of the party and proffer some guidance where need be; Tukur is running the PDP as his personal private business.”
Even at his home state of Adamawa, Tukur has been having problems because of his innocuous ambition to take over the party structure in the state. Governor Murtala Nyako holds sway in the state. But this has not been pleasing to Tukur, who believes he should be the one calling the shot. Hence, the PDP executive in Adamawa State has been going through a hard time. But Nyako’s loyalists have managed to remain in control of the state party structure.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, June 11, there were reports that the Presidency had set up a secret committee to look into the crisis rocking the PDP and proffer solutions to them. The idea was mooted by some close aides of President Jonathan, who warned that the crisis in the party could swing support to the opposition in 2015. The committee was mandated to work on a number of issues and pay special attention to the suspension of Amaechi and Wamakko within a space of two weeks. It will also work on the effect of the report of the INEC, which queried the manner majority of members of the PDP NWC emerged.
According to analysts, the question is no longer who wins between Tukur and Anenih, but how long the party will allow personal ambitions to destroy it before taking a decisive action to stop the trend? Perhaps, the answer may come sooner than expected.