By Hugo Odiogor,Â Deputy Political Editor
For Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor these are not the best of times as the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- self proclaimed largest party in Africa. There is a battle of the titans as intense internal crisis threatens the fragile cohesion of the party that has a hyperbolic perception of itself.
With the politics of 2011 already afoot, the political actors in the ruling party have gone for each otherâ€™s jugular and the question now is who blinks first? There is also the question of the opportunity cost of the crisis brewing in the party.
The National Working Committee (NWC)Â which has been walking on one leg, literarily turned bellicose last week when it reeled out the names of pro reform elements in the party for suspension. Notable among those sanctioned were two former presidents of the upper chamber of the federal legislature, Chief Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani; former Speaker of the House of Representatives Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari;Â former Governor of Rivers States, Sir Peter Odili, and his Imo State counterpart, Achike Udenwa; former presidential aspirant, Owelle Rochas Okorocha; Senator Ifeanyi Ararume; Chief Chris Ekpeyong; Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, among others.
The action has precipitated frantic moves by the national leadership of the party to stave off a grueling a battle that has pitched the National Working Committee of PDP and PDP state governors on one side, and the PDP Reform group on the other. The feuding parties are going for the broke as they struggle to cling to their positions of influence and authority.
The Pro-reform group had in their public statements said they want the party to return to the original ideals of the founding fathers, which was to be a party with a wide national support base, people-oriented and committed to good governance. The suspended members have remained consistent in their allegation that the leadership of PDP lacks vision and has drifted from the ideals of the founding fathers. For a party that has been making strenuous effort to reconcile with some of its prominent members who left in the past, the latest rumbling in its ranks is not a welcome development.
Although the pro reform group claims that its objective is to enthrone democratic ethos in the party and not to topple the Prince Ogbulafor, there is no doubt that neither the Partyâ€™s National Chairman nor the pro reform group would leave the battle field without a deepÂ scar.
On the other hand, Prince Ogbulafor who is seen as a lackey of PDP Governors has been under intense pressure in recent time with the politics he played over the ill health of President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua.Â Since he emerged as the Chairman of PDP as a compromise candidate, on March 8, 2008, Prince Ogbulafor has not enjoyed the full confidence ofÂ party members who saw how he was chosen in a battle that was bitterly fought with the former Governor of Ebonyi state, Chief Sam Egwu and former President of the Senate Chief Anyim Pius Anyim.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who disliked Chief Anyim could not standÂ the possible victory of the former senate president as the chairman of the party. He was also distrustful Chief Egwu, hence he urged Prince Ogbulafor who was once the National Secretary of the Party to run. It was said that Chief Obasanjo sold Prince Ogbulafor to PDP Governors and urged them to accept him as the preferred Chairman of the party. Thereafter, the other prominent candidates that were force d to back down became the nemesis of the National chairman. Prince Ogbulaforâ€™s position is further weakened by the fact that he was not an original member of PDP having crossed over from the All Nigerian Peopleâ€™s Party (ANPP).
The ill feelings generated by the March 8, 2008 conventionÂ persistedÂ as Prince Ogbulafor emerged without a strong constituency and a credible mandate, consequently he is seen as a dwarf wearing a giantâ€™s robe.
Before the February 9, 2010 declaration of the National Assembly that proclaimed Dr. Jonathan as the Acting President, Prince Ogbulafor and the same governors that enthroned him in 2008, had lost their focus in the politics of Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s ill health. They had tried to hinder the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President;Â it became obvious that a cabalÂ was treating Nigerians as mugus (nitwits) on account of the presidentâ€™s incapacitation.
Notable among the opponents of Prince Ogbulafor are; Chief Andy Uba, who was a victim of politics of imposition where the aide to former president Olusegun Obasanjo was shoved aside by the NWC in the Anambra governorship elections on February 6, 2010. The PDP came a distant third to the dismay of people like Professor A.B.C. Nwosu. In Abia, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu feels betrayed by Chief Ogbulafor for abandoning him during the trial at the tribunal.
Coming in a year when it is expected that political activities leading up to the next election would be on the increase, there are bound to be political interpretations to the actions of the pro reform group. But as far back as 2005, Chief Audu Ogbe, had written to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the need for PDP to mend its ways and win its way back into the hearts of Nigerians.
Chief Ogbe, who had predicted that PDP will be in power for 50 years, was baffled by the level of debauchery and malfeasance that had become the operating ethos of the ruling party. Nigerians still remember the testimonies of the former Chairman of the Party Chief Audu Ogbe when he was frustrated out of the party to join Action Congress. Chief Ogbeâ€™s exitÂ left in the minds of Nigerians the unsavoury picture that PDP is a party of â€œcarry goâ€ in whichÂ the culture of rigging elections with impunity thrives. The present rancour in the ruling party,Â is therefore not unexpected, rather it must be seen from a positive perspective.
The politics of consolidatingÂ Jonathanâ€™s power base was bound to put Prince Ogbulafor and the Governors backing him on the path of political hurricane. First, Prince Ogbulaforâ€™s loyalty to the new dispensation is suspect.Â There is the argument that if the Acting President decides to run in 2011, he will not accomplish his ambition with the likes of Prince Ogbulafor still in office as the party Chairman.
Dr. Jonathan needs men and women who can be relied on in the intense power struggle that will emerge in the months ahead. Secondly, the allegation of N170million financial misdeeds and the 17 count charge by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission said to have been committed by Ogbulafor in 2001 has provided his opponents the ammunition to shoot him. This shows that the forces behind the reform in PDP are formidable and cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
The crisis in PDP is a fallout of the script written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is still influential and powerful in directing the affairs of the party and the country. â€œWe believe that the National leader of PDP, Dr. Jonathan, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustee, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo must find an amicable dÃ©nouement to this crisis now. With such men as Gen.
Babangida, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and others showing strong interest in the presidency, there is the need to have a leadership that guarantees every body a level playing field in the party and beyond. The two men cannot claim to be unaware of all that is going on in the party now, it is all about 2011 and they want to see who blinks firstâ€.
There is no doubt that the pro reform group in PDP want to see a restructuring in PDP that would pave the way for democratic reforms in the party that has every thing but democracy as its guiding principle. For all the braggaddocioÂ of suspending those considered to be involved in anti -party activities, political analysts believe that the on going battle in PDP is about the forces that are for electoral reforms and those who believe that the present culture of impunity should continue.
Unfortunately, the governors forum which has been a beneficiary of the debauchery in the political system wants to maintain the status quo, having secretly expressed their opposition toÂ electoral reforms that will threaten their positions.