Again, the Peoples Democratic Party is playing yo-yo with the collective aspiration of a people.Â Penultimate week, the party declared that come 2015, the South East geo-political zone would produce the next president of Nigeria.Â But this declaration has been causing ripples in the polity.
By Henry Umoru
Abuja – The highest political position an Igbo man has Â Â Â occupied in Nigeria since after the civil war was that of Vice President, by Dr. Alex Ekwueme.Â But the Igbos have also produced Senate Presidents in the persons of late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Senator Evans Enwerem, Adolphus Wabara, Anyim Pius Anyim and Ken Nnamani.
And raising the hopes of the Igbos penultimate Thursday was the Deputy National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Mohammed Bello Haliru.
The Locale was the National Secretariat of the Party, Wadata Plaza when he said that at the expiration of President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s tenure, the pendulum of which zone to produce the president would move to the South East geo-political zone.
He was also quick to warn that the Igbos will not get it on a platter of gold as they must work assiduously for it, one of the criteria being that the zone must showÂ totalÂ supportÂ forÂ theÂ partyÂ as well asÂ unityÂ ofÂ purpose.
â€œWe therefore want to remind you that this is the time for you to work for it. We have no doubt in the leadership of an Igbo man, but the Igbo race must unite to show leadership.
They must unite to show leadership in PDP and in Nigeria. It is always a source of strength to know that the community that sent you is behind you. This shows that your people have a good heartâ€.
Those were the words of the former Custom boss, Bello Haliru, when the Olokoro Community in Abia State led by their traditional rulers visited the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor who hails from the area.
At the same period the Ibos were changing their Senate Presidents, the North gave the needed support to Speaker Umar Ghali Naâ€™Abba who finished his term in 2003; and then the same support was provided for Aminu Bello Masari who remained throughout the period as Speaker, House of Representatives, from 2003 to 2007.
When the chairmanship of the PDP was zoned to the South East, an array of Ibo personalities emerged for the post:Â Former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, Former Ebonyi State governor and now Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, Rochas Okorocha, Dan Ikechukwu Ulasi, Frank Ogbuewu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Soni Iroche, Barrister Noel Agwuocha, Chukwuemeka Kanu; Tony Anyanwu, Dr. Ilechukwu Meshac, Dr. Nnamdi Ozobia, Chief Chyna Iwuanyanwu, Dr. Aneze Chinwuba; Rex Onyebo, and Senator Ebenezer Ikeyina, among others.Â For lack of consensus among the people from the Zone, the PDP governors then anointed Ogbulafor to become the National Chairman. He was least expected, because prior to the convention, Ogbulafor was not in the reckoning when compared to Anyim Pius Anyim and Sam Egwu.
It would be recalled that early this year, Haliru raised an alarm at an emergency press briefing on a Saturday that the party had evidence that some influential former members of PDP had concluded plans to destabilize the Yarâ€™Adua led government – though he failed to mention names.
As the nation was trying to recover from that, Haliru was at it again, this time, he accused the United States of collaborating with some members of the opposition to destabilise the government and this drew a lot of criticisms as it caused a diplomatic row between the NigerianÂ government and the US government until the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe and the PDP immediately disowned the former Customs boss that he was on his own.
The President was equally not happy with the latest development and Ogbulafor was subsequently asked to warn Haliru to desist from making any other inflammatory comments.Â It was also gathered that after Haliru made the allegation against the US, he escaped being made to step down as chairman of the partyâ€™s Disciplinary committee and face the committee since the party said he was on his own.Â Party elders came to his rescue.
Since he made the statement of the presidency shifting to the South East, it was reported that Senators and members of House of the Representatives have taken a swipe at him saying he was on his own and that it was his personal opinion.
Time shall tell whether the statement of Mohammed Bello Haliru would hold waters, would it be a case of siddon look from the South South Geo-political zone that is presently having the slot of Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President who is learning very fast, a former Deputy governor, later a governor and now in his present position and by His grace till the end of Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s tenure.
For a national exco of a party built on the altar of compromise, its members may not be in a position to appreciate the clear-headedness required to run what is always described as the largest political party on the continent of Africa and the best thing said to have happened to Nigeria.
Before, it was Vincent Ogbulafor, national chairman, who told legislators something to the effect that the possibility of an automatic ticket was not too distant.Â Sometime last year, he had declared that the party would rule Nigeria for 60 years.
But within 24hours, National Publicity Secretary, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, signed a statement making an about turn.Â These two, coming after Senator Adamu Aliero, Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), said President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua would seek re-election in 2011, just as the Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Harilu insisted that Nigerians would have to accept that it is only the PDP that can deliver.
In fact, Bello said:Â â€œWe shall offer President Yarâ€™Adua a 100 per cent support when the time comes. I can assure you that the PDP structures will afford him the second term when the time comes.Nigerians have to accept PDP as the party that will lead the country to its promised land.â€
Ogbulafor nearly promised legislators an automatic return ticket but before the ink could dry on that statement, a recantation had been made by Alkali. In a statement signed by Alkali , the party said, â€œThe current Constitution of the PDP, particularly article 17 (A-F) provides for the conduct of PRIMARIES to elect candidates of the party for EACH public office. The conduct of such primaries is subject to guidelines released by the National Executive Committee.
â€œThere is therefore no provision for automatic candidates in the PDP Constitution. The only means for the emergence of candidates for the party is through the conduct of primaries where ALL qualified members of the party shall freely participate in the contest of any office of their choice.
â€œContrary to insinuations from some uninformed quarters, the issue of automatic candidature for incumbent office holders does not form part of the amendments to the PDP constitution as proposed for the forthcoming National Convention.â€
Whoever thought the PDP did not know what it was doing may have gotten it wrong.Â The party has been in the habit of denominating democratic values in its own terms, doing things whimsically with a view to just satisfying interests.
Today, the opposition is more vibrant and it is becoming clearer that wool can not be pulled.
Once the PDP declared that it was going to give automatic return ticket, the opposition went to town to oppose that move.Â It was with a view to saving face that the PDP headquarters released a statement recanting. Today, the factors that would determine who gets the return ticket are enormous.
Take, for instance, the famous issue of Atikuâ€™s possible return to PDP.Â The matter has now been fully resolved and Atiku is not about to return to the PDP.
Yet, there is the other issue of Electoral Reforms, which seek to enthrone a regime of internal democracy across party lines.
And whereas the Yarâ€™Adua administration has made its position known regarding certain aspects of the reforms, it is yet unclear the extent to which the President would go in reforming the polity.
And it is for that reason that the PDP can not afford to continue playing games.