The iontended election of a chairman for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Board of Trustees, BoT, turned out to be a confrontation between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his estranged protégé, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The election could not hold because of intrigues.
By Umoru Henry
Was it that President Goodluck Jonathan could not muster enough courage to do what the PDP normally does? Or was it that he opted to allow the stream of democracy carry through the wishes of members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Board of Trustees, BoT, freely in the election of a chairman?
Whichever one was the case, last Tuesday’s expected election almost caused Mr. President a great deal of embarrassment (in any case this has already been followed by a bigger embarrassment with a court judgment .which sacked the party’s national secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola last Friday).
It was to be made worse by the fact that the election would have taken place right in the domain of the president.
It was obvious that camps had emerged and President Jonathan may have tried, but in vain, not to be seen as dictatorial and, therefore, did not play the game the way the PDP does its thing – or better still, he may not have had the lever! That may explain why former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his men almost had their way until the last minute political decision of fine-tuning the membership of the BoT.
But when the situation was becoming tense, Sunday Vanguard gathered that President Jonathan had to hurriedly hold a meeting before the main meeting with some members where the plan to make Walid Jibrin, BoT Secretary, serve for another five years was hatched. When Jibrin was told later of the plans, it was also gathered that he became very happy.
Though it was a good decision, but the members would still have been able to vote because their tenure expires March this year.
Before Tuesday’s aborted election, over twenty aspirants signified intention to contest, but as gathered, the number was then trimmed down to eleven. They were former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; the re-appointed Chairman, board of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and former Chairman of BoT, Chief Tony Anenih; former National Chairman of PDP, Dr. Amadu Ali; ex- Senate President Ken Nnamani; former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Shauibu Oyedokun; Publisher of Champion Newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Senator Onyeabo Obi; Chief Don Etiebet; Chief Richard Akinjide; and Yekini Adeojo.
Bringing out their ages, Ekwueme who hails from Anambra State is 80; Chief Tony Anenih, Edo State is 79; Amadu Ali, Kogi state is 76; Ken Nnamani from Enugu State is 64; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu from Imo State is 70; Don Etiebet from Akwa Ibom State is 78; Chief Shuiabu Oyedokun from Osun State is above 70 years.
It was gathered that when it became clear that there was the need to reduce the overwhelming influence of Ali and Nnamani who were pulling strings and capable of surprising everyone as members were already rallying round them following the roles played by Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar though they were absent, the Jerry Gana led Committee became the way forward, at least to cool the nerves of all.
The committee was set-up to streamline and restructure the membership of the BoT, apart from the statutory members of the Board and was given three weeks to submit its report.
Other members of the committee are Senator Stella Omu from Southsouth; Governor Ibrahim Shema from northwest; Shettima Mustapha from northeast; Chief Bode George to represent southwest and Senator Hope Uzodinma for southeast.
One major task of Gana’s Committee is to first look at the 18 elected members, i.e. three members from each of the six zones of the country, just as the category of two female members from each of the six geo-political zones will be affected. All together, Gana will determine the fate of thirty-six members that will be brought into the BoT in the next three weeks.
The 18 elected members, i.e. three(3) members from each of the six(6) geo-political zones are Senator Walid Jibrin, Engr. Abdulkadir Kure and Senator Ibrahim Mantu for North- Central; Alhaji Kaulaha Aliyu; Alhaji Umaru Baba and Ibrahim Imam Kashim for North-East; Alhaji Bello Dange; Senator Mohammed Magoro and Governor Sule Lamido for North West; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Chief Tony Ukasanya and Hon. Patience Ogodo for South East; Chief Bozimo Godwin; AVM Larry Koinyan, Rtd and Chief E.B. Edem representing South South, while Chief Olabode George; Chief Kolapo Ishola and Chief Ebenezer Babatope represent the South West zone.
Another category of BoT membership Gana’s Committee will look into is that which has to do with two female members from each of the six geo-political zones and they are Mrs Pauline Tallen and Mrs Nimota Ibraheem for North Central; Hajia Hauwa Kida Musa and Hajia Rabi Mukhtar Muhammed for North West; Mrs Christy Silas and Mrs Zainab Maina for North East; Dr. Stella Effa-Attoe and Senator Stella Omu representing South South; Mrs Titi Oluyede and Mrs Aduke Maina for South West; Dr. Kema Chikwe and Sally Egbogu for South East. In this list, Maina is now Minister of Women Affairs, Paullen Tallen has dumped the party and Kema Chikwe is now the National Woman leader of PDP.
The Committee will also touch category(vi) that has to do with foundation members and any member of the Party that the Board of Trustees deemed fit to appoint as members of the Board, subject to ratification by the Party’s National Convention. This has become imperative because some members are dead like Francis Ellah and Admiral Augustus Aikhomu.
A source told Sunday Vanguard that Gana’s Committee will not replace foundation members that are dead, but it will replace those whose tenure have expired, just as the Committee is also saddled with the responsibility of reducing the number of aspirants for the Chairmanship position from the present eleven to a manageable size of three before the election day.
The Secretary of the board, Senator Walid Jibrin who hails from Nasarawa State, North Central and first on the list of this category of whose tenure is also expected to expire in March, had his tenure for another five year term reaffirmed as part of the political game to stop Amadu Ali who is also from the zone from becoming the Chairman of the board.
Part of the political intrigues was the motion to make Walid Jibrin’s matter become carried and Senate President David Mark, Benue, North Central was said to have re-affirmed Jibrin for another five year term through a motion and it was supported by former Acting National Chairman and immediate past Minister of Defence, Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed with overwhelming support from other members of the Board and the action became the last straw which nailed the aspiration of Amadu Ali.
Before the meeting started at about 8.25pm at the Banquet hall of the presidential villa, Ali’s camp as gathered did not also help matters because the social media was on with news that Amadu Ali has been elected unopposed as the chairman of the PDP BoT and this did not go well with some of the board members.
Also to add flavour to reports from the social media, supporters of Ali also sent Short message Services (SMS) to all members soliciting for their support. One of the messages read, ‘’Good morning. As Africa’s largest political party, BoT chairman should be a man with known passion for total nationalism, a strategist whose legacies transcend mere politics, a craftsman, a committed Nigerian whose services for a long time have been genuinely consistent in line with the desires of our national aspiration. Amadu Ali is tested through the crucibles of our nation – Goddy Emeka Ejiofor.
The meeting emerged as a confrontation between Obasanjo and the taciturn Jonathan. The day witnessed a very strong power play between both men.
The 98-member board constitutionally is the conscience of the party having being saddled with among others, the responsibility of ensuring highest standards of morality in all the activities of the party and with power to call to order any officer of the party whose conduct falls below the norms.
The BoT, according to the party’s constitution comprises, expectedly, men and women of integrity that have contributed critically to the conception and nurturing of the party, and who have sacrificed much for it, as contained in Section 12.76 of the party’s constitution.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo stepped aside as Chairman of the Board on April 3 last year. In his letter of resignation to the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the former President had said, “I have formally sent in my letter of resignation as the Chairman of BoT of PDP to the National Chairman of the party as prescribed in the party’s constitution.
‘’I have formally requested the President to allow my bowing out and to issue a short statement to that effect.
“By relieving myself of the responsibility for chairmanship of BoT of PDP, I will have a bit more time to devote to the international demand on me.”
Against the backdrop of this, the position became vacant to be occupied from among the members and interestingly, even non members of the Board, including the former Chairman, Board of Trustees of All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Chief Harry Akande, signified their interests for the chairmanship position of.
In the contest, aside Nnamani who is below 70 years, others are above 70 years.
In the heat of the contest, former President Obasanjo pitched his tent with Amadu Ali to clinch the position while President Jonathan wants Anenih to bounce back to the position he was removed from in 2007.
It will be recalled that Obasanjo replaced Chief Anenih June, 2007 at the Kano Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, in a motor-park-like approach. Though all is now history, it was gathered that prior to the meeting, Anenih had fixed the meeting for 8pm, but the time changed without his consent. According to the source, Anenih had kicked against the choice of the time and venue of the meeting for morning at 10.am in Hilton Hotel.
This explains why Obasanjo will never want Anenih to come back hence even though he was absent at the Tuesday meeting, he planted his men to ensure that his candidate, Ali, emerges. But the election was cancelled.
The battle for who becomes the next Chairman of BoT is not unconnected with the 2015 Presidential election against the backdrop that whoever chairs the BoT will play a major role when the time comes for the emergence of a presidential candidate for the PDP.
One interesting aspect of the expected emergence of Obasanjo’s possible replacement is the fact that for the first since the inception of PDP in 1998, a BoT chairman would emerge through election as against the hitherto Consensus method by the party.
It is on record that Dr. Alex Ekwueme who emerged as the first BoT Chairman, did so through consensus in 1998. After him was former governor of old Plateau State, Chief Solomon Lar who was National Chairman of PDP in 1999 and became BoT chairman in 2003 also through consensus when Ekwueme went to contest for the Presidential election. Chief Lar was replaced through consensus when Chief Tony Anenih from Edo State emerged. Still through a consensus arrangement and to pave way for his emergence as Chairman of BoT, former President Olusegun Obasanjo amended the party’s constitution. Section 12.77(b) of the 2006 constitution read, ‘’without prejudice to the provision of this constitution, ensure that an elected Chairman is either a former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria produced by the party or in the absence of such a former National Chairman of the party who has distinguished himself in the service of the party.”
The constitution was signed by the then National Chairman and Secretary, Dr. Amadu Ali and Chief Ojo Maduekwe respectively. That made Obasanjo the only person qualified to be BoT chairman – until another amendment was done later.
Those who attended the meeting were President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo; Senate President, David Mark; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal; former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
Others were Governor Ibrahim Shema, Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Senator Danjuma Goje, Alhaji Abdulkadir Kure; Senator Muhammadu Magoro (rtd); Professor Jerry Gana; Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe; Hajiya Inna Ciroma; Senator Adolphus Wabara; Senator Joy Emodi; Chief Chris Uba and Chief Ojo Maduekwe.
Also at the meeting were Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Senator Barnabas Gemade; Chief Alex Ekwueme, Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Amadu Ali, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, Chief Tony Anenih, Mrs. Patricia Etteh; Chief Josephine Anenih; and Ambassador Hassan Adamu (Wakili Adamawa).
Others were Chief Jim Nwobodo; Obong Victor Attah; Chief Richard Akinjide, Chief Olabode George, Chief Emmanuel Iwunyanwu, Senator Walid Jibrin; Dr. Musa Babayo, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, Mrs Kema Chikwe, Senator Bode Olajumoke; General David Jemibewon (rtd); Chief Don Etiebet and Chief Ebenezer Babatope.
A source at the meeting however disclosed that Senator Mark’s decision was borne out of the quest to retain the position of the North central leader against the backdrop that if Ali emerges, his influence in the zone will wither and also as a former military man, he will be bound to respect Ali and be loyal to him as his (Mark’s) senior in the military.
In politics, it is not over until it is over, now that the election has been postponed, all the gladiators and their wards will now withdraw to their camps for re-engagement. As Obasanjo’s camp members regroup for fresh battle with President Jonathan and his men, so will the President and his political aides get set for the next war of outsmarting the other.