By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
LAGOS—The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, took a turn for the worse, weekend, with the decision of seven of the party’s 23 governors to float a new party, the Voice of the People, VOP.
The application for registration by the new party, it was learnt at the weekend, has been filed with the Independent National Electoral Commission, which is processing it. A source in INEC contacted on the development, yesterday, said he was unable to confirm the veracity or the stage of the application.
The party, it was learnt, is receiving the patronage of several chieftains of the PDP.
The seven governors alleged to be behind the new party include all five Northern governors that have engaged in a series of consultation with eminent statesmen, including former heads of state. The five governors are Murtala Nyako of Adamawa ; Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano; Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto; Sule Lamido of Jigawa and Babangida Aliyu of Niger State. The five governors are being joined in the rebellion against the PDP by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.
Another governor is also sympathetic to the proposed VOP, but his identity could not be confirmed as at weekend. The inclinations of Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal towards the new party have also not been confirmed though it was learnt that he has been approached.
The decision of the governors to move out of the PDP came ahead of the special national convention of the PDP this weekend. Governor Amaechi who has been suspended has not been invited to the convention but the decision of the other six to pull out of the PDP could come as a blow to the PDP given the electoral weight of the states involved.
With Sokoto, Kano and Jigawa states out of control of the PDP and the Southwest totally out of control of the ruling party, the PDP would be reduced to playing second fiddle in the Northwest and Southwest regions whose total voters’ population is more than 40% of the national voting population.
There were indications that last Friday’s private meeting between Governor Kwankwaso and President Goodluck Jonathan was a last minute bid to stop the governor and his colleagues from the rebellion.
Though associates of Speaker Tambuwal in the House of Representatives claimed ignorance of his involvement or knowledge of the new party, there were nevertheless suspicions that the involvement of Governor Wamakko could inevitably lead the speaker into the emerging party.
Speaker Tambuwal has been severally flayed by some PDP associates for his close ties with opposition political parties.
The decision of the governors to float a party instead of teaming up with the All Progressives Congress, APC, it was gathered, flowed from deep suspicions between the governors and some of the promoters of the APC.
One of the governors involved in the new party had told Vanguard that General Muhammadu Buhari and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who are among the champions of the APC were missing when activists fought for democracy during military rule.
Alhaji Abdulfattah Ahmed (KWARA)
Governor Ahmed has been a silent crusader in the PDP. Even though he has not been visible in the campaign against the alleged injustice in the PDP, his voice, has however, not been totally quiet.
His political benefactor, Senator Abubakar Saraki, it is believed, may have greatly influenced his decision. Though he, Saraki has silently offered advice to the Jonathan administration at the highest level, Senator Saraki who was the immediate past governor of Kwara State is known to be a strong political ally of Amaechi. The administration’s on-again-off-again probes of the Saraki regime has also been taken with offence in Kwara.
With Governor Ahmed decamping to the VOP, it would inevitably crumble the PDP in Kwara State. The PDP would now have to play third fiddle after VOP and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi (RIVERS)
Amaechi has been consistently labelled as the enemy of the people of the South-South on account of an alleged ambition. He has been accused of aspiring to the post of vice-president with the intent of substituting the office of the president now occupied by a Niger Delta man for the office of vice-president.
Governor Amaechi who is generally believed to have performed well in office, especially in the areas of education, health and agriculture, provoked controversy with his ascendancy to the chairmanship of the NGF. As the NGF chairman he had the responsibility of speaking the minds of the governors. Amaechi remarkably had enjoyed some level of personal rapport with the president, and had the closest relationship with the president of all South-South governors until about two years ago.
His refusal to heed the alleged directive of the PDP hierarchy not to re-contest the chairmanship of the NGF brought him into direct conflict with presidential minders and it was a testimony of his political tenacity that he braved the odds to win the contest against the PDP’s favoured candidate for the position, Governor Jonah Jang.
The PDP had left Amaechi’s few options in the last few months. The party structure was taken from him in controversial circumstances and handed over to his one time chief of staff, Mr. Nyesom Wike.
Not long after, the governor was suspended from the party. Only last week, the new leadership of the party under Mr. Felix Obuah commenced an appraisal of public officials elected on the platform of the PDP. The move it was claimed by associates of Governor Amaechi was aimed to effect the expulsion of the governor’s associates from the party on the fact that Amaechi’s associates would not appear before the panel.
Amaechi’s move to the VOP would create a challenge to the PDP in the sense that the party would be denied that leverage of harvesting its traditional two million votes in presidential elections.
Despite Governor Amaechi’s near excellent performance in office, his capacity to swing the whole state in the direction of the VOP would be undermined by the forces of Mrs. Patience Jonathan and Mr. Wike.
Rabiu Kwankwaso (KANO)
Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso’s exit from the PDP came despite last minute apparent pleas from President Jonathan last Friday when the two men held a one on one session. Kwankwaso has had a running battle with the PDP since 2010 when he formally launched his campaign to reclaim the governorship he lost in 2003.
Party bureaucrats working in cahoot with some officials in the presidency allegedly sympathetic to Vice-President Namadi Sambo had tried to deny Kwankwaso the PDP gubernatorial ticket on the fear that Kwankwaso would at the end of the second term pose a serious challenge to the hushed ambitions of the vice-president.
It took strong security reports of a possible riot in Kano for the PDP to belatedly restore Kwankwaso’s ticket. Perhaps buoyed by that victory or the messianic spirit that now effuses through his Kwankwasiya movement in Kano, Kwankwaso has turned into a stronghold that no one can stop. He has been consistent in championing regional interests.
Many disaffected PDP stalwarts in Kano would be glad to see him leave as it would give them room to operate. His exit would also gladden many in the APC as it would soften the state for the opposition party.
Sule Lamido (Jigawa)
Arguably one of the best performing governors in the country today, Governor Sule Lamido’s politics is following the path of rebellion against feudal oppression he learnt from his late political master, Mallam Aminu Kano.
He has not had any direct political problems with Abuja except the notable suspicion that his sterling performance could galvanise a momentum from stakeholders for him to contest the 2015 presidential election as a way of replicating the Jigawa experience on a national level.
It is not surprising that posters of Governors Lamido and Amaechi are regularly advertised as an item for the 2015 presidential contest.
Given the revolution he has put in terms of infrastructure and the welfare programme, Governor Lamido’s exit from the PDP would be a major loss for the party and he would almost certainly deliver the state across board to the VOP.
Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto)
Governor Aliyu Wamakko is the political phenomenon whose tentacles attracted President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007 to the extent that the former president caused his protégée, Alhaji Mukthar Shagari to surrender the PDP’s ticket to the then ANPP gubernatorial candidate.
It was one act of political engineering by Obasanjo without which the PDP could not have dreamt flying its flag in the Sokto Government House.
Governor Wamakko’s problems with the national party are in part an extension of his domestic challenges. Many of his foes who found habitation at the PDP national secretariat helped to stoke the crisis between Wamakko and the national party. It is, however, reflective of his prominence that when the national party announced his suspension on the fact that he did not answer the national chairman’s telephone call, zonal and state officials of the party and also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal publicly came out to denounce the national party.
One of the greatest dangers in Wamakko’s exit from the PDP is the effect it could have on Speaker Tambuwal. If Tambuwal as it is most likely joins him, the speaker could through his network in the House cause a free fall of the PDP in the House of Representatives.
Though Sokoto State has not been very lucrative for the PDP in presidential contests, the fact that the votes mobilized by Wamakko could go to another party of influence could put the ruling party in more jeopardy.
Murtala Nyako (Adamawa)
The challenges in Adamawa arguably were the main factors that exacerbated the crisis in the PDP. When Alhaji Bamanga Tukur sought to displace the PDP structure under the control of Governor Murtala Nyako, PDP governors led by Governor Amaechi quickly came to his support and at one time forced the National Working Committee, NWC to disown Tukur.
But with steadfastness and the presidency backing him, Tukur has held his own against Nyako
But Nyako’ exit from the PDP would be too much of a good news to his traducers. His capacity to rally support for the VOP in the state against the determination of Tukur and the PDP is, however, open to debate.
Babangida Aliyu (Niger)
For Governor Babangida Aliyu his path of rebellion was like a call to duty. As chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF it was his obligation to defend what was alleged as the understanding that President Jonathan would serve only one term in office. Governor Aliyu though without proof went on to say that the president signed an agreement on the issue.
Though some had in the past alleged that the governor could do a deal with Jonathan under the correct understanding, so far no deal has been marshalled.
His exit from the PDP would leave Niger State an open play for all three major parties, the VOP, PDP and APC.