By Henry Umoru
Nobody knew that theillness of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua will distort the existing political structure ofÂ the ruling Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party, PDP the way it is doing now. Since Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s arrival from his medical trip to Saudi Arabia , acting President Jonathan seemed determined to shape the party the way he wants.
If not for the health situation ofÂ President Yarâ€™Adua , he would have completed his first term and possiblyÂ present himself for second tenure till 2015 when the North would have completed its eight year in line with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP unwritten zoning formula.Â Though unwritten, the zoningÂ formulaÂ had worked out in the past when former President and Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from the South West completed the zoneâ€™s eight years.
To be fair to the ailing President, he is seemingly out of the Presidential game plan as he may not be able to come back and contest the presidency even though the National Chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor had said after a meeting with the PDP governors that the North should complete its second term.
Ahead of the 2011 Presidential election and with the time table released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the search for who replaces Yarâ€™Adua has been a serious headache to the party and even to the North.
The issue has polarized the PDP against the backdrop that politicians are likened to lizards who lie on their stomachs that you cannot identify which has a stomach pain.
As the north looks up to who takes over from Yarâ€™adua, it has become a nightmare for the PDP especially with the sudden re appearance of a former military President , General Ibrahim Babaginda.Â It took everyone within the party by surprise.
Babangidaâ€™s appearance has made it difficult for the partyÂ to contend with since the positionÂ is open to the entire north and not the Katsina axis alone.
Just when the party was grappling with the emergence of IBB, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar stormed the National Secretariat of the party to intimate the PDP national Chairman, Prince Ogbulafor ofÂ his return. Unlike IBB however, Atiku seems to be battling with his stateâ€™s executive as his movesÂ are being frustrated at his state level byÂ the state governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako, Senators Jubril Aminu, Folashade Grace Bent, Binta Garba among others.
They are working around the clock to ensure thatÂ he is not registered at his ward.
The Chairman, Adamawa PDP, Alhaji Umaru Kugama had on Wednesday announced that the party in the state had rejected Atikuâ€™s registration. According to him, the denial followed a unanimous decision by all stakeholders andÂ leaders of the party at the state and these are the state governor, members of the State Executive Council, members of the National Assembly from the State andÂ members of the state House of Assembly.
Though he said the decision had been communicated to the national leadership of the party, the National Working Committee of the party at its Wednesday meeting ordered that Atiku and his associates be registered in Adamawa State and across the country because Ogbulafor had said it repeatedly that he must first settle his problem at his Jada Ward before the party could finally absorb him into its fold, and the state PDP is taking advantage to punish him, thereby dividing the party.
Forces against Atiku Abubakar
Another area where the PDP seems divided now ahead of 2011 is the non appearance of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan who may be the man to beat. It is believedÂ people may be working for him underground which is already affecting the leadership ofÂ the party, but what may work against him is the rotational formula ofÂ his party which if practised to the letter would disqualify him.
There are strong indicationsÂ however at the national secretariat of the party that Jonathan whoÂ isÂ now the leader of the party may pull a surprise and use the paraphernalia of office at his disposal to dislodge everyone, then the party may not have any other option than to retract its earlier position that the North be allowed to complete its eight year term.
Saturday Vanguard authoritatively gathered that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is the man to beat ahead of the 2011 presidential election, but how the party will manage the scenario isÂ stillÂ the big issue.
Sources said the move to remove Ogbulafor is thickeningÂ everyday. According to a source who is a very strong member of the National Working Committee(NWC) of the party, big names like former President Ibrahim BadamasiÂ Babangida and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar may not make it as the partyâ€™s candidate as there is the tendency that Babangida may bow out, but Atiku may be knocked out using the partyâ€™s constitution, especially with Article 8.9 which notes that, â€œPersons who desire to rejoin the party after leaving it shall, unless exempted by the National Working Committee, be placed on probation for a period of time not less than a yearâ€.
The source who also noted that the comment by the partyâ€™s national chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor was just an opinion and not binding on NWC and even the National Executive Committee(NEC) of the party, said, â€œI want to tell you authoritatively that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is the man to beat in the 2011 elections and he will beÂ PDPâ€™s candidate.
Yes,Â I am aware that IBB is coming out, but he may not continue till the end of the exercise.Â ItÂ has happened before and for Atiku, he may not be qualified except there is a constitutional waiver for him by the NWC. Donâ€™t forget that Jonathan is the leader of the party and the partyâ€™s NEC regulates the procedure for selecting the partyâ€™s candidates for elective offices. The party will adjust everything for him when the time comesâ€.
The source stressed further that Ogbulafor is never the problem of the party and moves to remove him cannot succeed as it must be done constitutionally, adding that a group which was loyal to President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua rushed the time table for the party with the hope that the National Assembly will not pass a resolutionÂ making Jonathan acting President.
On whether the acting President will not be going againstÂ the decision of the party, the source said, Ogbulaforâ€™s statement is an opinion, not a rule. â€œ Tell me where it is in the partyâ€™s constitution that a particular zone must produce the president of this country? Didnâ€™t theÂ late Abubakar Rimi, Barnabas Gemade, Alex Ekwueme run against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo even though it was said that the South West should produce the President ? Didnâ€™t Rochas Okorocha run against the former President?
â€œLet me tell you, some members of the NWC pushed that into the chairman that the North continues with the presidential slot. Now,Â they are trying to remove him to enable them have someone who they assume is very close to Jonathan in order to actualize the plan. They cannot succeed. I mean, they cannot remove him. It must be done constitutionally.
They donâ€™t need to remove him to allow the Acting President contest. He is free to contest even if Ogbulafor remains the chairman of the party. As chairman, he presents proposals ofÂ NWC to NEC for ratification.
â€œIf the coast is not being cleared for Acting President Jonathan, let the issue of the North retaining the President be brought before the NEC meeting to see if the party will remain the same. Tell me, if the people are not preparing to present the Acting President, why the delay in the release of PDPâ€™s time table and the postponement of NEC meeting twice?
The party wants to key into the popularity ofÂ the man. No NigerianÂ president has ever had the kind of support he hasÂ inÂ Â recent times. He is enjoying the goodwill of the party, so the party wants to take advantage of this. If the party fails to key in, he may decide to form a new party with this support and bring people from other parties to join him and he will win the Presidency.â€
Though the PDP has not officially released its guideline on how its presidential candidate would emerge, it isÂ gathered that to produce a presidential candidate for the party, each of the 774 local government councils would produce a national delegate to the national convention through a special local government party congress .
According to the tentativeÂ guidelines prepared by the party ahead of the 2011 primary election to select its candidates for the election, the guidelinesÂ states, â€œfor the purpose of nominating the partyâ€™s presidential candidate, each of the 774 local government party chapters shall produce one national delegate to the national convention through a special local government party congress.â€
The PDP guideline also stipulates that a presidential aspirant shall be nominated by 60 persons who are members of the party from at least two -third of the states of the federation, with a copy of the voterâ€™s registration card duly attached to the nomination form.
â€œThe executive officers at the ward, local government, state, zonal and national levels shall by virtue of their respective offices in the party, be automatic delegates to the special state congressâ€.
It also stipulates that to get the presidential candidate for the party, political office holders from the local government areas who are members of the party shall participate as automatic delegates, just asÂ Ministers, Ambassadors, chairmen of Federal Boards, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Special Advisers/Special Assistants to the President and the Vice President, state commissioners, Special Advisers to the governors and Secretaries to the State Governments are also in this category.
Also included in this, are former local government party chairmen and secretaries, former local government council chairmen and vice chairmen elected on PDP platform and former leaders of council (Speakers) elected on PDPâ€™s platform and who are still members of the party. To participate as automatic delegates at the special state congress are elected local government council chairmen, vice chairmen, supervisors and councilors and members of the National and State Assemblies from the local governments who are members of the party.
It would be recalled that while speaking with journalists in Abuja last week, a founding member of the PDP and former Minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma had said â€œBetween now and that period, a lot of claimants are already beginning to emerge and it will not be unexpected if the Acting President also wishes to contest. And whether or not he succeeds will depend on how he handles issues in the party between now and the primaries in the party. If he wishes, you cannot stop him from trying. He may try and by the time he succeeds, it means the wish of the party has changedâ€.
It will also be recalled that when the Cable Network News(CNN) asked Acting President Jonathan ifÂ he would present himself for 2011 Presidential election, the answer was neither yes nor no, His answer wasÂ , â€œFor now, I donâ€™t want to think about it, because the circumstances of the day are quite worrisome. I came in as the Vice President to run with President Yarâ€™adua, and of course getting close to period of election, he took ill.
â€œAnd I had to take over under somewhat controversial circumstances. Only last week, I reconsidered the cabinet. So, let us see how Nigeria will move forward first. I had a similar experience when I was governor of my state, I said, nobody should ask me whether I will contest election or not. I must first of all see whether the state is moving. If the country is not moving, what will I tell Nigerians I want to contest for?â€