By his leadership style, Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, has turned some leaders and members into strangers in their party
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 1, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
BAMANGA Tukur, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is no doubt a successful international businessman. As a well respected business mogul, Tukur has a chain of business interests in Nigeria and abroad. This credential probably gave President Goodluck Jonathan the feeling that he could use his administrative skills and business acumen to help the PDP. But it appears Tukur has not been able to replicate his business success in politics.
Since assuming office as chairman of the party, Tukur, 78, seems to have caused more division than unity in the PDP. At various times, he had been at loggerheads with the PDP governors. For now, the situation in the party has assumed a dangerous height prompting Jonathan to lead a committee to clean the mess. Ahead of the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 20, there had been reports that Tukur and other members of the National Working Committee, NWC, had been directed by Jonathan to resign. But Tukur denied it saying there was no such thing. “Chairman is there dam! dam! The chairman is not only in office, he is also in power. In PDP, there is no vacancy in the national chairmanship,” he said. According to him, only eight members of the NWC would be resigning and face a fresh election in accordance with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s, decision that they were not properly elected.
Although Tukur himself is not facing an immediate election, chances are that he may lose his position because of the mounting opposition to his leadership. Some governors, especially those from the North East, who initially opposed his candidature, are still up in arms against him. And so are the likes of Sule Lamido, Aliyu Bamakko and Kwankwaso of Jigawa, Sokoto and Kano states, respectively. The three governors have, in recent times, been speaking vociferously against the leadership style of the party. “The governors and other leaders of the party that are against us and are insisting that all of us must go. If he (Tukur) does not resign, they will boot him out on Thursday,” a member of the NWC said.
Lamido, on his part, accused Tukur of operating in illegality. “The present leadership of Bamanga Tukur has been operating in illegality. He has refused to convene a National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting since he became chairman, whereas our party’s law says NEC meeting must hold at least once in three months. It appears there is a failure of leadership in the PDP. But I believe members of the party know their rights and they know what to do to protect the interest of Nigerians,” Lamido said.
In his reaction to his suspension by the NWC, Wamakko called for the sack of Tukur, saying the PDP national chairman was running the party as his personal estate. Firing back, Tukur declared: “If he (Wamakko) has any agenda to leave the PDP, it is within his constitutional right and he is free, but as long as he remains within the PDP, he must align himself with discipline.” Tukur’s reaction was seen in some quarters as unbecoming of a national leader who is supposed to bring members of the party together under one umbrella.
The NWC had earlier suspended Chibuke Amaechi, governor of Rivers State and chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, for refusing to reinstate a suspended local government chairman and councillors in his state. At a meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum, PDPGF, in Abuja, on Monday, June 17, the suspension of Wamakko was quashed. But that of Amaechi could not be decided because the governor had already challenged his suspension in court.
As if that was not a clear signal to Tukur, the presidential committee which Jonathan set up to look into the crisis in the party similarly indicted him and the NWC for being repressive in the management of the party. The committee, headed by Pius Anyim, secretary to the federal government, submitted its report on Monday, June 17, and recommended that a NEC meeting be held immediately. “We have put in the report that some actions of the National Working Committee are repressive and unnecessary. We wondered why the party refused to hold its NEC for about a year, which, to us, amounts to breaching of the party’s constitution,” a member of the committee said.
That, indeed, is one of the things that opponents of Tukur have been using to campaign against him. According to the PDP’s constitution, the party is supposed to hold its NEC meeting every quarter, but the last meeting was held July last year, shortly after his election. Critics say Tukur was afraid of being removed from office by opponents who might sponsor a vote of no confidence against him.
Tukur was not leaving anything to chance in order to retain his position at the June 20, NEC meeting. He was said to have asked some ‘friendly” governors of the party to lobby the president to retain him because of his loyalty. The task was said to have been given to Godswill Akpabio, chairman of the PDPGF. Akpabio was said to have spoken to some NEC members to support the embattled chairman.
But it appears that Tukur would be a hard sell to members of the opposition. Danladi Sankara, a senator and former national vice-chairman, North-West, of the party, insisted that Tukur must go to allow sanity to return to the PDP. “Our party is bigger than Bamanga Tukur. His tenure as national chairman has been nothing but a disaster for the party,” he said. Sankara alleged that Tukur and members of his team had dragged the party’s reputation to its lowest ebb.
Some of the anti-Tukur governors are joined by members of the Group of 84, including 24 ex-officio, 37 state chairmen and some former leaders of the party. They have all accused Tukur of being too-heavy handed in dealing with issues. “The aggrieved governors and G-84 members believe that the party is already divided and there is no way Tukur can lead it to victory in 2015,” a source said.
Opponents were said to be very unhappy with Tukur because of his alleged harsh manner he had been treating PDP governors who, apart from the presidency, are the major financiers of the party. They accused him of treating governors like house boys, and made reference to how he asked Wamakko to leave the party if he was not happy. Said one of them, “that our aggrieved governors are free to leave the party, if they like, and see whether the party would survive or not is too much. Such a statement sends a wrong signal to the members of the public that all is not well in the PDP.” Tukur was similarly accused of taking unilateral decisions on many issues affecting the party. “It will even interest you to hear that most of these contending issues that are causing these lingering crises are not usually brought to the NWC meeting for debates. We may just hear on the air or read in the newspapers that the PDP NWC has done this or has resolved to suspend someone or even set up a committee to do something which is not known to our constitution. So, we are a bit confused about the running of the party for now; things should not continue like this. I think the founding fathers of the party should wade in before it is too late.”
Besides, Tukur is also being accused of fostering division in the state and zonal chapters of the party. For instance, in Adamawa, his home state, Tukur’s election as national chairman led to the fracture of the party into two factions with one section supporting him and another rallying behind Governor Murtala Nyako. On Monday, June 10, Adamawa State chapter of the PDP said that it had uncovered plans by the national chairman of the party to suspend Nyako from the party ahead of the 2015 general elections. Speaking with newsmen, Peter Elisha, state secretary of the party, said the plot to suspend the Governor was due to his role in the re-election of Amaechi as chairman of NGF.
What is happening in Adamawa State is said to be happening in some other states where allies of Tukur or those who had severed relationship with their governors are now getting Tukur’s backing to inspire rebellion at home. For instance, in Kano State, Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso was the main man in the party until some pro-Tukur supporters appeared on the scene, working against him. Before then, Kwankwanso was said to suspicious of the PDP national secretariat in Abuja because of his experience prior to the 2011 general elections. Just before the deadline for the submission of names of party candidates for the gubernatorial election, it was discovered that the party’s bureaucracy, suspected to be acting in concert with some people in the presidency, attempted to withdraw Kwankwanso’s name as the PDP gubernatorial candidate despite his massive win in the primary.
The plot almost led to a breakdown of law and order in Kano before the party hastily restored his candidature. That, apparently, discouraged the governor from trusting the party hierarchy. With the appearance of Tukur’s supporters in his state now, Kwankwaso has reasons to oppose Tukur.
It is not only the governors and some members of the NWC that are opposed to the party chairman, members of the National Assembly are also said to be wary of his administration. They were said to have warned the president that keeping Tukur at his post would be inimical to his re-election in 2015. Meanwhile, the crisis in the party is also having its toll on its headquarters located at Wadata Plaza in Abuja. The building has been experiencing total darkness because of the inability of the party’s leadership to pay its bill. The party was said to owe suppliers of diesel about N9.6 million which accumulated in the last six months. Newspaper vendors also stopped supplying newspapers to the office because of outstanding bills running to thousands of naira.
But will the departure of Tukur bring the much needed peace that has eluded the party in recent times? That, for now, is a matter of conjecture. But what appears to be indisputable is the fact that Tukur must have discovered by now that running a business venture is not the same thing as running a political party.