By Henry Umoru, Abuja
For Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor, history was made for him March 8, 2008 when the present National Working Committee(NWC) was put in place. He is two years as National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP),the self acclaimed largest party in Africa.
If Ogbulafor would look back to what happened before that day,Â I am sure he will say God, you are merciful against the backdrop of array of chairmanship aspirants from the South-East and the intrigues, manoeuvring, back stabbing and acrimony that formed the centre stage during the entire process.
There were hopes on the part of big names like former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, former Ebonyi State governor and now Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, Rochas Okorocha, Dan Ikechukwu Ulasi, Frank Ogbuewu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Soni Iroche, Barrister Noel Agwuocha, Chukwuemeka Kanu; Tony Anyanwu, Dr. Ilechukwu Meshac, Dr. Nnamdi Ozobia, Chief Chyna Iwuanyanwu, Dr. Aneze Chinwuba; Rex Onyebo, and Senator Ebenezer Ikeyina, among others.
Ogbulafor at the end of the day crushed these names to emerge as chairman with the support of PDP governors. Other Members of the NWC are Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed as Deputy National Chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje as National Secretary, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali as National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo, Deputy National Secretary; Chief Olusola Oke, National Legal Adviser and William Makinde as National Treasurer.
Others who were â€˜electedâ€™ at theÂ Convention were Tukur Mani, National Financial Secretary, Prince Uche Secondus as National Organising Secretary, Dr. Samuel Ortom as National Auditor; Hajia Maryam Inna Ciroma, National Women Leader and Otunba Muyiwa Collins as National Youth Leader.
The Journey so far/Challenges
During the first year in Abuja, Ogbulaforâ€™s first assignment was to reach out to his fellow kinsmen at least to appeal to them, I mean those who were â€˜sacrificedâ€™ for him to emerge. He brought some to serve on the PDP committees while he was said to have influenced the inclusion of some on boards of Federal establishments.
He went further to look at the Alex Ekwuemeâ€™s Peace and Reconciliation Committee that was not attended to by his predecessor, Amadu Ali.
Ogbulafor also set up another committee this time around with the Deputy National Chairman of the party, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed as chairman to review it. One contentious issue there was the Chairmanship position of the Board of Trustees (BOT) which many members said was wrong. The provision was that to become the BOT chairman, one must have served as former president produced by the party.
Ekwuemeâ€™s Committee had also recommended that, â€œthe 2006 membership revalidation exercise should be revisited to allow for unfettered and unconditional return of all members of the party and access to new members.
As Ogbulafor led NWC marks its second year in office, he still had to contend with those problems he could not accomplish during his first year particularly the hangover of state congresses before he emerged.
One of such problems that gave him headache from the first year to the second, was that of Anambra State PDP that culminated in theÂ setting up of Professor Osita Ogbu led Caretaker Committee which lasted till last month Anambra governorship election. The Committee became imperative when several committees set up failed to achieve the targeted goal.
Following the challenges and irreconcilable differences emanating from different statesÂ as fall-out from the state congresses, like Zamfara, Ogun, Edo, Plateau, Bauchi,Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Kaduna, Oyo,among others, Ogbulafor set up the Ike Nwachukwu led 19-member Elders Peace and Reconciliation Committee to among others bring all aggrieved members on board. The Committee has travelled to these crisis-ridden states,Â resolving some while others are still on Another major challenge the Ogbulafor led NWC faced in its second year in office was the inability to conduct a congress for the Anambra State governorship candidate to emerge.
One serious challenge for Ogbulafor as Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party during the period under review was the absence of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua for over ninety days in far way Saudi Arabia for medical attention.
While the ailing president was there, Ogbulafor and his men could not see him.Â The problem of making former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan acting almost scattered the country. The party was at a dilemma, it sat on the fence as there was no affirmative decision, until the National Assembly applied political wisdom in solving a very serious constitutional matter.
Another challenge the present NWC is facing indirectly and if not checked is theÂ unfolding scenario, where the PDP governors appear to have hijacked the party or on the way to finally hijack the party because their voices seem to be heard in all issues. and accepted. The governors under the leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki now hold sway, they appear to be determining the shape and form of some very salient issues unfolding within and outside the party which ordinarily should be the decision of the leadership of the PDP.
It is pertinent for Ogbulafor to be more firm in taking decisions especially as the party prepares for its convention and selection of candidates for the 2011 general elections, his humility and very subtle as well as taciturn manner is almost taken for granted, it is time he stood on his feet, he should bark and bite more when the need arises.
The period under review was not only that of headache for Ogbulafor, he had reasons to celebrate, one was able to implement the recommendations of Ekwuemeâ€™s Committee with aggrieved members who left the party or those who adopted Sidon_ look approach bounced back. The likes of Shaibu Oyedokun, John Nwodo, Olushola Akanmode, among others. The Uyo Reunion retreat did some magic in the life of the party. Chief Solomon Lar also bounced back from his sidon look approach and became and still very active.
Ogbulafor led NWC will also stand to boast when they convinced a governor, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi of Zanfara State, elected on the platform of the All Nigeriaâ€™s Peoples Party (ANPP) to decamp to the PDP and former Secretary of the ANPP, George Moghalu.
To Ogbulafor and his NWCâ€™s credit is the amendment of the partyâ€™s 2006 controversial constitution that almost destroyed the self acclaimed largest party in Africa.
Part of his success story was the signing of the N11.5 billion contract with BNL for the construction of the New Secretariat. He raised the money last year from party members, associates, supporters with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan as chairman of the Committee.
Ogbulafor has been able to douse the political tension in the party, he was able to reduce friction in the states especially inÂ Adamawa, Kano, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi, among others. He also operates an open door policy, where even junior staff at the party secretariat can see him. He has improved on the welfare of Staff of PDP at the National Secretariat by paying the long standing monetization he met on ground.
Ogbulafor also donated various items worth over two million Naira to people with physical disabilities to aid their mobility.
Though it is not well and palatable for Ogbulafor that the former Labour leader and activist, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has finally set his party, PDP packing by winning all the recently conducted re_run elections for the State House of Assembly for Akoko Edo and Etsako Central as well as portray in all its ramifications that he is fully in charge of Edo, the sacking of Olusegun Agagu of Ondo State and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko confirmation of Theodore Orji as the authentic governor of Abia, his very own state, Ogbulaforâ€™s consolation is that when he moved his â€˜troopsâ€™ to Kogi, Bayelsa, Adamawa, Ekiti, Cross River and Sokoto states during the rerun elections, the partyâ€™s candidates won the elections in their respective states.
The party also celebrated when Courts of Appeal confirmed the elections of Muazu Babaginda Aliyu of Niger State and Gbenga Daniel of Ogun state.
Other Challenges ahead of Ogbulafor_ led NWC
Ogbulafor should ginger the Nwachukwu led Committee to reach out to other founding members like Dan Iro Musa, Yahaya Kwande, others, it is a big challenge for Ogbulafor and the NWC members as they are now two years old and marching towards the third year.
One major challenge for Ogbulafor this year is how the party will handle state primaries when viewed against the backdrop of what happened in Anambra and getting a presidential candidate for the party ahead of 2011 election.
Ogbulafor appears to be too simple and harmless for a party that requires hard posture, there is the need for him as I said earlier to bite now because this period will be the most trying moments for the party.
For the record, before Ogbulafor in office as the fifth National Chairman of the party, there was the founding National Chairman, Chief Solomon Lar, a position he held till the partyâ€™s convention in 1999. Thereafter, Chief Barnabas Gemade as the chairman of the party with the backing of the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Audu Ogbeh had to replace Gemade when the honeymoon was over between Obasanjo and Gemade Ogbeh. Dr Amadu Ali was brought in and ratified at the partyâ€™s convention in 2005, though there was no election, placing on record then as the only one who occupied the position without being elected and he left the stage for the incumbent who was also brought in through a selective affirmation.
Now that Ogbulafor is entering his third year in office as the Fifth National Chairman of the party it is hoped that those unfinished projects, unresolved crisis would resolved and accomplished as Nigerians, the world await the PDP to live up to its expectation as truly the largest party in Africa.