By HENRY UMORU
This is the story of the fall of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. It is also the story of how Nigeria wastes its best; the story of serial mis-calculations by President Goodluck Jonathan leading to the loss of five governors and dozens of legislators.
BEFORE last Thursday when President Goodluck Jonathan, at the 63rd National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, announced that the embattled National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, had agreed to step aside to save the party from imminent collapse, confusion had reigned in the polity as to whether the Adamawa born elder statesman would weather the storm.
Twenty four hours earlier, facts had been established that Tukur was gone having lost the confidence of key party players like the governors, members of the National Working Committee, NWC, the thirty-six state chairmen plus the chairman of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, elders, and leaders, but, like a typical politician, he gave himself hope and declared that he will not resign.
When confronted by journalists at the Presidential Villa on his way to attend the Board of Trustees, BoT, meeting, on Wednesday, the ousted party boss continued to fight, saying he was not that kind of person who would resign in secret even when he knew his case had already been discussed and concluded hours earlier with agreement that President Jonathan should be the one to unfold the decision taken before the very eyes of NEC members.
His calculations may have been that the tide could still change and he would retain his position as National Chairman of the self-acclaimed largest party in Africa.
Tukur’s fall on Thursday did not deviate from pattern as he quit in a manner similar to the way some former PDP National Chairmen left office. Tukur resigned in January 2014, same month as former party leader Audu Ogbeh who resigned in January 2005 and Okwesileze Nwodo who resigned in January 2011.
Since the formation of the PDP in 1998, Tukur was the 10th National Chairman, Former Vice President Alex Ekwueme was protem National Chairman at the PDP inception. He stepped down to contest for the party’s presidential ticket, but lost to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The late Chief Solomon Lar, a former governor of old Plateau State, stepped in as PDP National Chairman till 1999. Senator Barnabas Gemade, from the Tiv axis, came in after the first ever competitive convention. He defeated the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi intrigues.
After Gemade, it was Ogbeh, from Idoma axis of Benue State amid who resigned in 2005 following a disagreement with former President Obasanjo. Dr. Ahmadu Ali, from Igala, Kogi State, succeeded Ogbeh. Prince Vincent Ogbulafor from Abia State assumed office in 2008.
When Ogbulafor resigned in May, 2010, Dr. Okwesilize Nwodo, from Enugu State, came in. He resigned in January, 2011 to pave the way for his deputy, Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed, from Kebbi State. Following Bello’s appointment as Minister of Defence, the then National Secretary, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, from Kwara, stepped in until the March 2012 National Convention which brought in Tukur from Adamawa State.
The exit of Tukur as National Chairman could be seen as a case of waste of one of the best in the country having served as governor, old Gongola State, now Adamawa and Taraba, from October 1983 to December 1983; Minister of Industry; General Manager, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA; President, Africa Business Roundtable, among others.
Announcing Tukur’s resignation at the 63rd NEC meeting of the PDP, Jonathan noted that the former party leader was stepping aside having paid his dues and agreed to resign for peace to return to the ‘family’.
Jonathan declared that the “stepping aside” was a personal sacrifice for the party to reinvent itself in the face of emerging challenges, saying his successor will come from the North-east zone and will be someone acceptable to all stakeholders in the party and the new leader will emerge on Monday (tomorrow) when the party would hold another NEC meeting.
Jonathan, however, stated that Tukur was not guilty of breach of the party’s Constitution, adding that steps were being taken to reposition the party in view of the increasing tempo in political activities of the country ahead of the 2015 general elections.
”We have some internal problems that have been agitating the minds of people and let us really thank the Working Committee led by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. They have done very well; the Chairman of our party, we have all known, he didn’t just wake up to be Chairman of our party, he has paid his dues.He had held several offices and worked for this country and he has done very well.
For us to make sure that we rest these issues, the party Chairman agreed to step aside,” he said.
The President said the National Caucus and BoT meetings must henceforth be held quarterly while NEC meeting should hold every two months, NWC meeting weekly against the backdrop that people want to see a vibrant party, adding that the party had resolved to assist states without PDP governors.
Jonathan said, “We now want to ensure that the National Caucus, the Board of Trustees and NEC meetings should be held more regularly. We want NEC to meet possibly every other month. I will be meeting with PDP governors every month and we want to work out how we can assist states where we don’t have PDP governors.”
Then the President told members of the NEC that Tukur had agreed to step aside and that he tendered a letter of resignation which he, Jonathan, presented to the National Secretary, Professor Wale Oladipo. The hall erupted as everybody rose for a standing ovation for a man (Tukur) everyone appeared wanted out.
Jonathan, who announced that he would leave the hall with Tukur for the Presidential Villa to have further discussions with him, however, called on Cross River State governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, to move a motion for Tukur’s stepping aside; the motion was seconded by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, Bauchi Central.
Imoke, who spoke about Tukur in glowing terms, describing him as sacrificing for the unity and growth of the party, said, “Today, PDP is reinventing itself and sacrifices have to be made. Tukur said whatever sacrifice is necessary to reinvent PDP, he is ready to make the sacrifice.”
Before seconding the motion, Ningi, who likened the sacrifice made by Tukur to what Jesus Christ did for the redemption of mankind, however, reminded, NEC members that since the inauguration of the PDP in 1998, Tukur was the first National Chairman to preside over the NEC meeting where his resignation was announced because he was leaving office with dignity.
After that, the President put the question if NEC should accept Tukur’s resignation and it was unanimously carried.
The Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, presided over the second phase of the meeting.
As the former PDP National Chairman vacated office, what many analysts did not understand was the
contradiction in Jonathan’s statement that Tukur was not guilty. If that was so, why then did he have to resign?
Anyway, the President, who gave Tukur a soft landing, however, promised to assign him a tougher job that will saddle him with, among others, the responsibility of marketing Nigeria to the international community, possibly as an ambassador to China since he has a long standing relationship with the Asian country.
IN THE BEGINNING
Tukur’s period as National Chairman of the PDP witnessed many problems from the beginning just as his aides compounded his situation as they saw everyone, including members of the NWC, as enemies of their principal.
Even prior to the March 2012 Convention which brought him in the North-east where the position of the National Chairman was zoned to, he had started having problems as he was rejected through a shadow election which favoured the then acting National Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo, from Bauchi State.
Notwithstanding that he was touted as Jonathan’s candidate, he was defeated by Babayo who polled 14 votes to two in the zonal election. This was an indication that right from day one, the governors from his zone, particularly Governor Murtala Nyako from his home state of Adamawa, were against him.
HIS MANY SINS
His turbulent tenure started soon after he assumed office at Wadata Plaza and it was with his former Principal Secretary, Habu Fari, who began a fight with the then National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, with exchange of letters. The National Chairman sacrificed Fari to save his job and for peace to reign, but the scar was already there and Oyinlola did not take it likely.
From Fari, Tukur’s relationship with other members of the NWC became sour. Two of his aides, Senator Ibrahim Ida and Alhaji Ahmed Gusau, also repeatedly clashed with NWC members. Tukur sacked them. Other assistants, Senator Umar Gada and Alhaji Mohammed Shittu, then escalated the problem, blocked Tukur from seeing the NWC members and stopped their principal from holding meetings at Wadata Plaza and made his Wuse 2 private residence the venue for meetings.
Infact, the aides were said to have seen themselves as more powerful than members of the NWC. It was at this point, in June 2013, that Tukur was reportedly ill-advised and took one of the decisions that nailed him by suspending the Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, for, among other offences, not picking his phone calls. Tukur humiliated the governor following the kind of aides he had. One of the aides was said to have had an axe to grind with the governor and simply used the opportunity of his relationship with Tukur to humiliate Wammako with the suspension from the PDP.
Soon after Tukur assumed office, sources said NWC meetings were no longer taking place. It was alleged that since September last year, meetings were held five times. After the defection of the five PDP governors to All Progressive Congress, APC, meetings were only held twice and never exceeded 45 minutes, even as Tukur was alleged to have travelled severally outside the country without informing his deputy, Secondus, for him to hold the forth while he was away.
Members of the NWC, who moved a vote of no confidence on Tukur when they reported him to the President, also identified one of his sins as running a one man business and administering the PDP without carrying them along. At the meeting, Tukur was said to have been asked by other members of the NWC to point at any major achievement recorded by the body since it came on board in March, 2012.
And rather than settling down to face his assignment of leading a national party with national problems, one other sin Tukur committed was to dabble into the politics of his home state by dissolving the Adamawa PDP Executive Committee led by Alhaji Umaru Kugama that was loyal to Governor Nyako and replaced it with the Amb. Umar Damagun- led nine-member Caretaker Committee, thus setting the stage for a big problem and for the party.
The decision created a gulf among members of the NWC as 10 members disowned the Adamawa Exco dissolution. This was in fact, the beginning of his problems as other PDP governors also opposed him on that score.
Tukur also got the PDP national secretariat involved in Rivers State chapter crisis when it immediately rushed to swear in Chief Felix Obuah following the sack of the Godspower Ake-led executive loyal to Governor Chibuike Amaechi after a court order. This bred the insinuation that the party leader may be taking directives from the Presidency. Amaechi was eventually suspended from the party.
Tukur’s non-recognition of Amaechi as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), apparently at the behest of the Presidency with which the Rivers governor had a long drawn battle, was another costly mistake. The former National Chairman encouraged the formation of the Governor Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom)-led PDP-Governors Forum as a counterpoise to the NGF notwithstanding that Amaechi won the NGF election and later Tukur backed a faction of the body led by Governor Jonah Jang (Plateau).
The logjam in the PDP continued with the sack of the National Secretary, Oyinlola, following the January 11, 2013 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja which declared that Oyinlola’s nomination and subsequent election into the NWC was invalid, null and void. Three days after, Tukur replaced Oyinlola with his only loyalist in the NWC, the Deputy National Secretary, Onwe Solomon Onwe. Prior to Onwe’s emergence, it was a big battle in the NWC where Tukur appeared to be alone, but had the support of Onwe.
But when the decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal that Oyinlola should return to Wadata Plaza as National Secretary, Tukur and his NWC members played politics, denying the receipt of the judgment.
Pundits expected that the Tukur-led NWC would have given itself a soft landing by using the Court of Appeal judgment to reinstate Oyinlola who had become the National Secretary of the splinter group led by Baraje and the seven aggrieved governors namely: Amaechi, Nyako, Wammako, Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano), Abdufatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Sule Lamido (Jigawa).
Following the irreconcilable nature of the problems that led to the seven governors walking out of the August 31, 2013 Special National Convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja, Amaechi, Wammako, Ahmed, Kwankwaso and Nyako defected to the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC, leaving Lamido and Aliyu behind in the PDP.
The last straw that broke the former National’s Chairman’s back and a clash in the NWC was the dissolution of Kwara and Sokoto PDP executives and subsequent appointment of Caretaker Committees to run the affairs of the states without recourse to the members of the NWC.
Following the exit of Tukur from the PDP leadership, the contest for his successor has begun from the North-east with the aspirants for the National Chairman, who came out in 2012, still in the race. The battle is between the PDP and non-PDP controlled states in the region. The PDP states are Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba while Adamawa, Yobe and Borno are the non-PDP states. Top among the contenders are the former Acting National Secretary, Babayo, from Bauchi State, who was the choice of the zone before politics played out and Tukur got it.
Also from Bauchi is former Governor Adamu Mauzu. Both are good party men, humble, loyal, and loved by the people. Babayo, having worked at Wadata Plaza, understands the politics of the PDP while Mauzu, as a former governor, also understands the party politics. Babayo is presently the Chairman of TertFund Governing Board, while Mauzu, the immediate Chairman of NIMASA, is Chairman, National Pension Commission, PENCOM.
Also in the race is former Special Adviser, National Assembly Matters to the President, Senator Abba Aji, from Borno, who is seen as a stabilising factor in the PDP, a good party man, just as Senator Abubakar Mahdi, from Borno, and a leader of Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, is in the race. Barrister Ibrahim Birma, Shettima Mustapha, Abba Gana, all from Borno State, are also in the race.
Minister of Transport, Senator Umar Abubakar, from Gombe, is also a contender and he is said to be the candidate of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, even as a former National Publicity Secretary and Chairman, Governing Board of Federal University of Minna, Prof. Ahmed Alkali, from Gombe, as well as former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Dr. Umar Modibbo, from Gombe, are jostling for the PDP national chairmanship. From Yobe is a former Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Waziri, another aspirant.
As the politics of who replaces Tukur continues with series of meetings on-going and a vow to get his successor tomorrow, Article 45(1, 2)of the 2012 Amended Constitution of the PDP empowers the Deputy National Chairman, Secondus, to oversee the affairs of the party, but he has just few days to act until tomorrow (Monday) when a new Chairman emerges.
Article 45(1) of the constitution reads, “ If a National Officer of the Party I removed or resigns from office, he shall immediately hand over to the National Secretary all records, files and other properties of the party in his or her possession”.
Subsection 2 reads, “ In the case of the National Chairman, he shall hand over to the Deputy National Chairman who shall, without prejudice to Section. 45(6) of this Constitution, act as the National Chairman pending the election of a replacement.”
With the move to inaugurate a new Chairman without an election as the Constitution stipulates, it was not clear if Tukur’s successor will emerge from his home state of Adamawa although the position is zoned to North-east. This may follow precedent as when Audu Ogbe from Benue State resigned in 2005, Ahmadu Ali, from Kogi, the same North Central, where the PDP national chairmanship was zoned, provided his successor; when the former National Secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, from Abia State, became a minister, the late Bernard Eze, from Enugu, South-east, which had the national secretaryship, took over; when John Odey, as National Publicity Secretary, from Cross River, South-south, to which the national publicity secretaryship was zoned, was made the Minister of Information, Lady Umeh, from Akwa Ibom, took over.
Also when Ogbulafor, the former PDP National Chairman, from Abia State (South-east), resigned Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo, from Enugu, stepped in because the position was zoned to South-east, but when Nwodo resigned, the unusual happened as Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed, the then Deputy National Chairman, from Kebbi State (North-west), took over in acting capacity until he was made the Minster of Defence and the then National Secretary, Baraje, acted until March 2012 when Tukur came.
After months of intrigues, manoeuvring, backstabbing and political intrigues, embattled Tukur left. The choice of his replacement would determine the future of the party, as PDP prepares for 2015.