BY HENRY UMORU
IN the beginning of 2011, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was in the hands of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo who took over from Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor.
Ogbulafor was elected the head of the National Working Committee, NWC of the Party on March 8, 2008 by the Mallam Adamu Ciroma led Convention electoral panel at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
Other Members of the NWC that came on board were Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed , Deputy National Chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje , 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, National Treasurer.
Also ‘elected’ at the Convention were Tukur Mani, National Financial Secretary, Prince Uche Secondus , National Organising Secretary, Dr. Samuel Ortom as National Auditor; Hajia Maryam Inna Ciroma, National Women Leader and late Otunba Muyiwa Collins as National Youth Leader.
Following some political intrigues within the party, Nwodo was forced to resign before the conduct of the primaries where President Goodluck Jonathan emerged as the party’s Presidential candidate on January 13. Nwodo’s sin was that he climbed the stage and spoke when a court injunction was hanging on his neck.
With the exit of Nwodo, the South East geo-political zone of the country lost out in the composition of the present NWC with Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed from Kebbi State becoming the Acting National Chairman of the Party.
The National Executive Committee, NEC meeting of the party, following the appointment of Bello Mohammed as Minister of Defence, ratified the elevation of the National Secretary, Abubakar Kawu Baraje from Kwara, North Central to the position of Acting National Chairman and Musa Babayo, the Deputy National Secretary from Bauchi stepped in as Acting National Secretary.
Muyiwa Collins’ death
Also during the year under review, the National Youth Leader, Muyiwa Collins died while the National Auditor, Dr. Samuel Ortom was made the Minister of State, Trade and Investment Similarly, the National Financial Secretary, Tukur Mani was nominated by the president as an ambassadorial nominee.
Presidential primaries: At the end of the January primaries where three Presidential aspirants contested in the persons of Jonathan, former Vice President Atiku Abukakar and Mrs Sarah Jubril, President Jonathan polled 2, 736 votes as against that of 805 by Atiku Abubakar.
Prior to the primaries, tension was high especially with the emergence of the Mallam Adamu Ciroma –led Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), under whose platform former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged as the consensus candidate for the north. The group came up following its stiff opposition against Jonathan’s intention to contest for the position against the backdrop that the presidency was zoned to the North.
Other Presidential aspirants from the North before Atiku Abubakar became the anointed person were former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, former National Security Adviser, Mohammed Aliyu Gusau and former Kwara State governor, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Parallel primaries: The party also witnessed massive division even as parallel primaries took place in some of the state chapters. This led to mass exodus of aggrieved members to clinch tickets of other parties like Labour Party, LP, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, among others.
For instance, It was crisis all over, in Ogun state, as two parallel primaries were conducted. There was the one led by the Chairman of Ogun State chapter of the Party, Chief Joju Fadairo, just as the faction loyal to former governor Gbenga Daniel produced Gboyega Isiaka as its governorship candidate. Another faction which was loyal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo produced Major- General Adetunji Olurin (rtd) as the governorship candidate
In Enugu and Plateau states, it was the same problem and it led to a situation where the then deputy governor of Plateau State, Mrs Paullen Tallen left to clinch the Labour Party governorship ticket for the state, Senator John Shagaya also left for LP.
In Nasarawa State, some PDP members left the Party to fight the then governor, Aliyu Akwe Doma, they included the CPC governorship candidate and present governor, Alhaji Usman Tanko Al_Makura, former Minister of Works, Hassan Lawal, among others. Also, Senators George Akume, Joseph Akaaghegher dumped the PDP to fight the Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswan and the fight is still on.
In Anambra, former Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili dumped the PDP to get the APGA Senatorial ticket, just as former Taraba state governor Jolly Nyame left the PDP to become a Senatorial candidate for Taraba North on the platform of ACN. In like manner, Gen Buba Marwa, former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, who lost out to governor, Murtala Nyako dumped the party and he is now a the governorship candidate of CPC for the forthcoming governorship election.
In Kwara state, the fight was in the family of Olusola Saraki, while the governor, Bukola Saraki did not leave the PDP, the father left the party with his daughter, Senator Gbemisola for the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN to actualize his ambition of making his son hand over to his daughter as governor while the daughter will handover to her brother as a Senator.
Zoning System: One big shock the PDP experienced during the year under review , was the killing of the zoning system by some members of the Federal House of Representatives.
In January, 2011 some members of the PDP dumped the zoning arrangement of the Party, as they ignored it by electing their own, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Speaker and Emeka Ihedioha as Deputy Speaker before the watchful eyes of the leadership of the party, like former Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, Cheif Tony Anenih.The PDP before what could be termed a revolution, had zoned the Speakership position to South West and had a favoured candidate in the person of Mrs Mulikat Akande-Adeola.
It was the day, the PDP zoning formula died on the floor of the house, the South West lost the Speakership and even the North East that would have got the position of Deputy Speaker also lost out to Emeka Ihedioha from the South East geo-political zone.
This has necessitated the rezoning of party offices to the zones, with North East getting the National Chairmanship position and South West, National Secretary. The PDP during the year, came out to support the proposed deregulation and removal of fuel subsidy by the government.
Challenges for PDP: In the year 2011, it was quite challenging for PDP especially as it handled the kogi issue. First, it was Jibrin Ali, Echecho as winner of the governorship primaries and this brought about bickering from some aspirants especially from Kogi West with the likes of Deputy Chief of Staff in the Presidency, Sola Akanmode, ‘the bridge’, ex- Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo, among others who felt cheated.
The PDP following the Court Judgement went ahead to conduct another primary election, this time, Jibrin Ali, Echecho was thrown out with Captain Idris Wada becoming the candidate. The PDP won the election at the end of the day. Soon after the party recovered from that of Kogi, it was faced with yet the most trying period and that was the task of producing the candidate for Bayelsa State, the President’s own state.
It became very stormy where the PDP was almost in a state of total collapse and with intense political intrigues, manoeuvring, backsliding, scheming, the incumbent governor, Timipre Sylva became very embattled and was schemed out for a member, House of Representatives, Henry Seriake Dickson who is now the PDP candidate for the State election.
Former Special Adviser to the President, Timi Alaibe, Ex- Director-General, Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, Ben Murray-Bruce and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Goodswill; Mr. Ben Murray Bruce and the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Ambassador Godknows Igali were not cleared to contest with Dickson.
The PDP governors tried to save their own colleague through several meetings with the President, but they failed.
During the year, the PDP also set up a constitution review committee with the National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke as Chairman, just as the ground breaking ceremony of PDP Headquarters, located in the Central Business Area of the Nation’s Capital City was carried out and work is seriously in progress.
As the self acclaimed largest party enters the new year, the year of convention where new members of the NWC would emerge and a year of election for the party in states like Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto, Cross River and Edo, we wait as events unfold within the party.