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PPA Crisis : Another GNU partner bites the dust

First, it was the ANPP. How it is the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, that is being turn apart by internal crisis arising from its participation in the Government of National Unity, GNU.

By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor

THE crisis now rocking the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, is symptomatic of the malaise that serially afflicts the Nigerian polity. Here was a party supposedly put together with a view to opposing the seeming over-bearing influence of a cabal in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at a time when former President Olusegun Obasanjo held sway.

Today, the crux of the crisis in PPA is steeped in allegations that its founder, and one-time member of the PDP, former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, is a dictator, leading to the exit of some of the party’s leaders. December 6, 2007, was the date for the National Convention of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA.

For aspirants seeking to contest offices into the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, each had to fill a form.  That they had to each fill the form was not the scandal.  The scandal was in the make-up of the form.  The nomination form, which looked more like a cyclostyled document, had provisions for just the following:
Name:
Address:
Date:
Signature:

Orji Kalu
Orji Kalu

Even the form for the highest party office, office of the National Chairman, was the same. Other such provisions for sponsors to the office, occupation/profession, age, state or origin, geo-political zone, world view, et al., were not provided for. Yet, that was a political  party which came on the crest of attempting to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. But the national convention of the party took place.  And officers were voted into offices; they formed members of the PPA NEC.

Judging from how the NEC offices were filled, it is therefore, no surprise that today, there is a huge crack in the party called PPA. First was the sudden defection of one of its two governors, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State who jumped ship back to his original PDP. It was only to take a forth night for PPA’s national Chairman, Clement Ebri, to resign his position. Sunday Vanguard has learnt that Ebri, who had attempted to put a shine on PPA’s face, suddenly discovered that his match was in a different direction from that of his party’s founder, Kalu.

In the course of interrogating the events leading up to the crisis in the PPA, it was discovered that PPA did not and was never going to succeed as a political party. Among the discoveries was the fact that shortly before the presidential elections of 2007, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo went on the rampage, to stop some of politicians from seeking the presidential ticket of the PDP, Kalu, as a state governor, simply devised his own means of survival. First, Kalu applied to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, registering PPA as a political party.  Owing to the liberalised environment for the registration of parties, PPA became a political party.

In fact, after 30 days of application and should INEC not respond to the request, PPA stood recognized as a political party. To put the shine on the face of the party, Kalu shopped for some politicians who could assist in laundering the image of the party. He succeeded. One of them was Ebri. The other was Olu Akerele, a loyalist of the late M K O Abiola, of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and June 12, fame. Then Kalu also reached for Adamu Song, a former chairman of the now non-descript Alliance for Democracy, AD.

Kalu then went to town with his political group and was fortunate to have a Theodore Orji as governorship candidate on the PPA platform in Abia State as well as Ohakim in Imo State – both for the governorship elections. Both men won in their states and so, PPA, which came up late in the day as a political party, surpassed the seemingly, more rambunctious and muscle-flexing Action Congress, AC, of former vice president Atiku Abubakar – that was, until the judicial intervention which made Adams Oshiomhole governor of Edo State.

But the fact of having two state governors was not going to be enough for a political party to stabilize, let alone survive. Ebri’s resignation as national chairman of PPA was to be quickly followed by the resignation of Akerele and another national officer.

These twin events have since last week thrown up confetti of other unpleasant developments. A set of PPA leaders, while describing Kalu as a dictator, alleged that he saw the party as a personal property which he used as an instrument for business negotiation and dealing with members with such disdain, adding that his behaviour led to the exit of 1,500 devoted members of the party as they could no longer stand his one-man reign in the party.

According to the stakeholders, they were out as founding members of the PPA to rescue the party from what they described as “vice grips and mindless dictatorship of the Chairman, of the so-called Board of Trustees (BOT), Chief Orji Kalu, adding that he unilaterally negotiated the Government of National Unity (GNU) pact with the PDP led government without involving the party executive or the two state governors then.

Addressing Journalists in Abuja, former Deputy National Chairman (North), Comrade Adamu Song said  with “Kalu’s actions, the party today is now in tatters, crisis-ridden and factionalized”, and that as party, “we have all become the butt of all manner of jokes with people calling us such names as Kalu’s briefcase party, or Slok party or worse still Igbere Peoples Party”, just as he alleged that the former Abia State governor had negotiated for his personal interests with the PDP; such as “the return of his airlines, oil blocs and banking licenses and the result had been the gross short changing of the PPA which got only a Minister of State. He insisted he must be the minister when the President had said he was not going to have any ex-governor in his cabinet”.

Flanked by the first National Chairman, Alhaji Suleiman Ahmed, Samson Akiga and Hajiya Mariam Abdullahi, Song said, “and that the last straw was that Orji Kalu had caused the party to go to court and sue the defected governor of Imo State without consulting with the NWC and NEC.

In the light of the foregoing, we the co-founders and major stakeholders of the party have decided that we will not sit and watch our dear party go to the dogs. As a first step, we have decided to reject the resignation of the National Chairman, Deputy National Chairmam, South and the Treasurer.

“We have decided to retake the destiny of the party and put an end to the perfidious antics of Orji Kalu who has been acting in collaboration with a few other National Officers whose interests are the immediate financial gains from Orji Kalu’s personal pocket. A political party is a collection of people acting in tandem with agreed rules and regulations within a democratic framework. Today, we say NO to Kalu and his antics of seeing PPA as one of his so-called chains of companies. Enough is Enough”. (See interview with Olu Akerele).

They believe that the party has outgrown Kalu as founder. They reel out a litany of serial infractions by Kalu as BoT chairman of the party. Kalu has also ben suspended as BoT Chairman, along with the National Secretary, Dahiru Musa Abdullahi and the Financial Secretary, Mr. Mamman Saleh. In a communiqué issued at the end of the National Executive Committee(NEC) meeting held at Halal Palace Hotel, Abuja, Friday, the members also appointed the first National Chairman and Deputy Chairman, BOT, Alhaji Suleiman Ahmed, to replace Orji Kalu.

In a swift reaction, the suspended National Secretary, Dahiru Abdullahi in an a telephone conversation with Sunday Vanguard described the group as those chasing shadows, just as he stressed that they had no constitutional powers to convene such a meeting. “Is it possible to suspend a sitting National Executive by those who have resigned?. I have the letter which was written by the former Deputy National Chairman, Lisa Olu Akerele, it was addressed to me and it was well delivered and accepted, where did he now derive the power from as person who resigned from the party, he is no more a member of the National Working Committee (NWC), did he act as an ordinary member, he is simply chasing shadows with others”, Dahiru Abdullahi said.

Those loyal to Kalu have come out to claim that Ebri was bound to leave because he had cases of financial impropriety laying in wait for him. In fact, at a press conference called sometime last week, those loyal to Kalu, led by Minister of State, Federal Capital  Territory, FCT,  Chief Chuka Odom, warned that no matter how highly placed an individual may be, that person cannot be greater than the party – he was referring to Ebri. Continuing, he said, “the PPA is a mass movement, not a single individual is greater than the party, not even the governor(s) it produced, not even the chairman of the Board of Trustees. This party is a mass movement which draws its   strength from you the grassroots. So if somebody tells you that a single individual can determine its fate, it is false. The party does not rely on governors or its BoT chairman – Kalu is BoT chairman.

“It is better to appreciate your strength and weakness. It is better not to amplify your strength just because you want more funds from the party when you know that you are not fully on ground. The Secretariat can’t win elections for you in your terrain .It is better to avoid this kind of embarrassment”. Speaking earlier, the Acting National Chairman of the party, Mustapha Habib, who noted that the challenge before the party was the forthcoming Anambra congress, just as he said it was a testing ground for the party in the South East, asserted: “These congresses as you can are testing grounds to the PPA in the South East and will help us determine our strength and out come of the 2010 elections in Anambra State.”

Among other things, they said Ebri did not create the needed access for party members and, therefore, shut out many who would have contributed to the development of the party. To demonstrate the depth to which PPA had sunk, it would be recalled that within three months some time ago, three executive committees in the Abia chapter of PPA were changed. Among the charges against Kalu is the fact that Kalu as BoT Chairman is from the same area as the state chairman of the party, just as the national secretary of the party and its acting chairman are both from the north. As the tango continues, the PPA, which was the only party in Nigeria which had engaged a process of online registration has had to stop the process.

Sunday Vanguard learnt that the staff in charge of the on-line registration has been asked to go. The newspaper of the party, Progress, has also been closed down. All attempts to get Ebiri to comment on some of the charges of financial impropriety was abortive but sources close to him disclosed to Sunday Vanguard that Ebri may have incurred the wrath of Kalu because of his independent mindedness.

But the sources were also quick to add that Ebri had toiled immensely for the party. One of the sources at the party office told Sunday Vanguard that Ebri once had to go as “far as Nyanyan to buy furniture pieces at a re-discount rate just to save money for the party.  Even the 100KVA generator Chief Mrs. Oluremi Adiukwu gave to the party and for which a company charged N1.4 million to install, it was Ebiri who went to Calabar to bring in technicians who installed it at about N300, 000.”

The PPA is one of the political parties with a nominee in President Yar’Adua’s Government of National Unity, GNU. Some people have described the marriage as a waste of time. Speaking to Sunday Vanguard on the make up of progressive politics in Nigeria, Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide, Second Republic Minister  of Justice and Attorney general of the Federation, pooh-poohed the joke described as progressive politics in Nigeria. “I don’t accept the idea of conservative and progressive.

There is no radical socialist in this country.  What we find out in the ranks of those who call themselves progressives is that they don’t have followers. This is because they are always bickering and fighting while the so called conservatives take charge?  In Nigeria, basically every body is conservative – From the presidency to the clerk. That is the reality of the structure of our society.   That you make noise on the pages of the newspapers does not in any way make you a progressive.  That is the truth and that is why you see people doing what they are doing.”

In an earlier interview, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora scoffed at the idea of political parties nominating members into appointive offices in a federal government controlled by another party.  “I am saying that to that extent there is no need to form a government of national unity and I am saying that the whole idea of government of national unity will appear to me to be something surreptitiously foisted on Mr. President by some vested interests who would rather be satisfied to eat the crumbs from the master’s table.  So, it appears to me that at the end of the day that the whole idea of government of national unity is something that some people have found as an avenue to be part of the cake sharing if you like and not really out of altruistic motives”, he said.

Another senator, Joy Emordi, from Anambra State, but who is a member of the PDP was more caustic in her appreciation of the PPA.  According to her, “if you talk about PPA, a lot of provocative statements are coming from the leaders against the government – distabilising statements for that matter.  To be honest with you the leadership is not even in control of members”.

The Alliance for Democracy, AD, the then All Peoples Party, APP, now All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and even the Action Congress, AC, have suffered a crisis of atrophy on account of attempts to either be part of or join the GNU.


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