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PDP’s rough pathway to opposition life

BY HENRY UMORU

THE Peoples Democratic Party’s loss of the March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) came to its supporters across the country as a rude shock.

It is the first time a ruling party would lose the presidency or control of the National Assembly after an election. The loss meant that the PDP, whose leaders once boasted that they would rule the country for 60 years had their dream cut after only 16 years.

However, signals that the party would lose the elections were palpable long before the elections. Though the party did not enter the fray as a divided house, there was no doubt that the PDP entered into the elections a greatly diminished entity.

PDP Special National Convention:   President Goodluck Jonathan addressing at 2013 PDP Special National Convention . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
PDP Special National Convention: President Goodluck Jonathan addressing at 2013 PDP Special National Convention . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

How he lost

The problems in the party were greatly inflamed during the chairmanship of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who was elected national chairman in March 2012. Tukur was elected simply because the president wanted him and not for any other reason as he did not get the support of his state chapter or of the zonal caucus of the party for his election.

His election seemed to have inflamed passions within the party especially as Tukur’s administrative style created divisions within the party. Instead of helping to unite the party, Tukur’s style helped to aggravate tensions. The appointment of numerous aides some of whom were adversaries of the party’s governors did not help matters.

Tukur’s style of administration was criticised as unnecessarily dictatorial, and a rival structure was nurtured around the national chairman who remarkably, ran the party mostly from his house.

Statutory meetings of the party were not called by the national chairman and governors and other major stakeholders regularly heard of policies from afar.

It did not take long before the problems began to surface. The national secretary, Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola was prompt to challenge what he flayed as the effrontery of aides of the national chairman running the party and usurping his duties.

Inevitably, as the problem between Oyinlola and Tukur festered, President Jonathan  sided with Tukur.

As the problem continued, former President Olusegun Obasanjo increasingly withdrew from party affairs and not long after, Oyinlola lost his position as national secretary through a court ruling that many party stakeholders believed was sponsored by those aligned with the president.

Besides Oyinlola, who was seen as an Obasanjo loyalist, other Obasanjo loyalists in the National Working Committee, NWC were also wielded out through court orders.

Tukur was severally accused of using his party position to fight personal battles especially in his local Adamawa State chapter of the party. It was believed that Tukur wanted his son, Awaal Tukur to run for the governorship in the 2015 election and was accused of using every opportunity to shift the gears towards his son’s advantage.

The problem led to the suspension of the Adamawa State executive of the party which was aligned to the state governor, Murtala Nyako.

That inevitably led to a problem with Nyako, and in the ensuing media war, both the Tukur and Nyako camps tore at one another, a development that eventually led to the suspension of the chairman of the party aligned to Tukur.

It was not surprising that the PDP governors led by the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF Rotimi Amaechi sided with their colleague and soon, the swansong of the governors was that Tukur must go.

Jonathan, however, dithered and thence the conflict widened. Meanwhile, at the same time, Governor Amaechi was also developing a personal problem with the Jonathans. No one knew much about the origin of the problems at that time, and it was only later that the governor was quoted as alleging demands on him from a family member of the first family.

By May 2013, the problem that was once the problem of Nyako had turned into an Amaechi problem and for the first time in the history of the PDP, a governor was suspended from the party. The suspension of Governor Amaechi was followed by the suspension of Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, allegedly for not picking the phone call of the national chairman.

The sophistry in that was read by many who traced the suspension of Wamakko to the open conflict between the governor and Tukur’s political adviser, Senator Bello Gada who had contested the governorship of the state with Wamakko and had continued to bicker with the governor.

The suspension of Governor Wamakko was, however, overturned, but not that of the ‘bad boy’, Amaechi.

The president’s intervention into the election of the chairman of the NGF did not help his image in the party. The victory of Amaechi over Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau, who was purportedly sponsored by the presidency to unseat Amaechi was an embarrassment. Though Amaechi scored 19 votes to beat Jang, who scored 16 votes, the presidency chose to recognise Jang making a mockery of the democratic values of those in authority.

The crisis in the party came to a head on August 31, 2013 when the party held its 15th anniversary at the Eagles Square. Governor Nyako predictably was not invited by the Tukur led NWC for the event despite pleas from many stakeholders.

On that day in a plot that was actually pre-planned, five of the governors at the event led by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar staged a walkout on the president and the party and proceeded to inaugurate a factional leadership of the party led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, a former acting national chairman of the party.

The governors who staged the walkout were Governors Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto; Ahmed Abdulfatah of Kwara, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano, Sule Lamido of Jigawa and Babangida Aliyu of Niger State.

They were followed by a number of senators, members of the House of Representatives and their supporters.

Pleas by the president to the G7 governors, as they were known, fell on deaf ears as the governors insisted on fundamental reforms of the party and for Tukur’s dismissal.

Remarkably, two of the G7 governors, Aliyu and Lamido refused to leave the party in November 2013 when the other governors defected to join the then fledgling All Progressives Congress, APC that had just been formed.

Meanwhile even with the exit of the G5 as they were known, the party still did not find peace as the remaining members of the NWC continued to find issues with Tukur’s administrative style.

In early 2014 with the 2015 election approaching, President Jonathan finally found the courage to shove Tukur aside and in came, the former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Ahmadu Mu‘azu, who was styled as the game changer.

Mu‘azu changed the game for the president by bringing unity into the party.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; former Minister of State, Trade and Investment, Dr. Samuel Ortom; former PDP National Chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade; former Governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao- Akala; and Prince Tonye Princewill, among others dumped the PDP for the APC and Labour Party, LP respectively after the PDP primaries.

As he approached the point of re-election, a major mistake on the part of the president was said to be the appointments he made to manage the campign.

Reflective of this is the fact that the party national chairman, the director-general of his campaign, Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd.) from Kogi State and even his campaign spokesman, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode all lost their states to the APC in the last presidential election.

Indeed, prior to the Wednesday, December 10, 2014 Special National Convention when President Jonathan’s ratification as PDP’s candidate for the presidential election was carried out two aspirants, a son of Nigeria’s late prime minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr Abdul Jelil and wife of late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, Prof. Akasoba Duke- Abiola signified interests to contest, but they were initially dribbled about as the party refused to make the forms available to them. However, the forms were eventually sold to them, but the willingness of the party to turn itself against democratic culture in foisting the president on the party as a sole candidate was planted.

The same culture was repeated in several states including Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Imo, Jigawa, among numerous others in gross violation of the party’s 2014 Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections.

President Jonathan’s ministers and his special advisers appeared to have worked against their boss which did not go down well with some stakeholders in the states.

It was also rumoured that some of his aides only pretended to be working for him, but did not, as they were only accused of getting the available funds for themselves. They failed to tell Jonathan the truth especially about the election, just as they were accused of not campaigning for him which then led to the President carrying his cross by campaigning.

Nigerians were also not comfortable with the Director, Media and Publicity, PDPPCO, Chief Femi Fani- Kayode who was said to be having credibility problem and saddled with such a very sensitive position to market the president and the PDP. He was also accused of driving away people because of his attack on Buhari, either about his certificate, his age, his health status, among others as well as other APC leaders.

He was accused of attacking persons rather than issues, thereby creating more problems for his boss.

The president was also not helped by the attacks on his critics by some of his Ijaw kinsmen who seemed to create a division between the president and the rest of the country.

The role of the NWC of the party was also one major reason Jonathan fell. It appeared throughout that while the President had his plans, the leadership of the party was not working in tandem with the President. The leadership of the party saw the PDP as too powerful that there was no need to sell the policies of government and the manifesto of the party.

Now that President Jonathan has been defeated as the first sitting president to lose an election, he deserved commendation from Nigerians and the international community for his non-interference. With the defeat, the PDP would in the next couple of weeks become an opposition party.

 


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