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Atiku, Bala Mohammed and the PDP’s swinging chair

By Joshua Salem
Pity the lot of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. Four years ago as he made preparations to commence his controversial presidential campaign on the platform of the former Action Congress (AC) he reportedly fractured a leg in a domestic accident in his Abuja home .


When news of the accident emerged there were suggestions in some quarters that the domestic accident may have been a contrivance to give the then Vice-President an honourable exit from his 2007 controversial presidential campaign. But Atiku, a former customs officer carried on in the race stumping about with one leg in battle against a determined General fixated on anyone but Atiku succeeding him as President.

Four years on, as he launched yet another presidential campaign last Sunday, Atiku suffered even a more public bump as he slipped at the public launch of the campaign.
The fall captured on photo and video at the public launch of the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel reminds one of 2003 all again.

Just as he did four years ago when he launched his presidential quest it was on a party-less platform before he eventually assumed the Action Congress (AC) presidential ticket in December 2006.

After suffering the humiliations of playing second fiddle to former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Atiku has returned to his original party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which he co-founded with others in 1998.

However, his return and membership of the PDP has become another controversy in itself that is draining the essence of whatever campaign the former Vice-President has in mind.

Whereas Atiku claims he is a bona fide member of the PDP, the Governor of his local Adamawa State, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd.)  and others aligned with him disclaim him. Nyako has gone the length of describing Atiku as a troublemaker who is not wanted in the party.

It is perhaps for that reason that the Adamawa State chapter of the PDP under the leadership of Nyako became one of the first States in Northern Nigeria to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 presidential election. That action was largely interpreted as a way of taking the winds off the sail of Atiku’s campaign.

In interviews with Abuja journalists earlier this week, Governor Nyako affirmed that Atiku was not yet a member of the PDP saying he had not been properly readmitted into the party.

“Only read about Atiku’s activities on the pages of newspapers; even when he declared in 2007, he wasn’t a member of any party, so he is declaring today again with no party,” Nyako said.

Atiku insists he has registered with both factions of the party in his local ward in Adamawa State, an affirmation that has been rebutted by state officials of the PDP in Yola.

But even more worrisome for Atiku is the clause in the PDP constitution barring members less than a year old from seeking political office on the platform of the party.

Atiku is, however, claiming that he deserves a waiver on the clause saying that the terms of the Alex Ekwueme report provided for people like him who exited the party in 2006 should be automatically readmitted without any conditions.

However, to get the waiver he needs the support of his local chapter, a support Governor Nyako is unwilling to give.

Asked why he is against Atiku, Nyako said in his interview that the former Vice-President caused a crisis in the party prior to his leaving the PDP in 2006 saying “while he was leaving the party, he fought with virtually everybody and went to form another party and now he wants to come back just like that.”

Another high profile person desperately seeking to enroll himself in the membership list of the PDP is Senator Bala Mohammed the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Mohammed like Governor Isa Yuguda had decamped to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) prior to the 2007 general elections and had on that platform won election to the Senate just as Yuguda was elected Governor on the ticket of the ANPP.

Mohammed had served as Special Assistant to Yuguda when the later was Minister of Aviation during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

The relationship between both men, however, ran into stormy waters when Yuguda two years into his administration fell in love with the daughter of former President Umaru Yar’Adua and eventually moved into his father in law’s party, the PDP.

Yuguda’s decampment was seen as a serious betrayal by the political establishment in Bauchi who in 2007 ganged up to oust the performing  former governor of the state, Adamu Mu‘azu from his lordship of the state.

Senator Mohammed had seemingly identified with the sensibilities of the people and refused to decamp along with Yuguda and hence the battle of acrimony between a former boss and a subordinate.

Senator Mohammed’s leadership of the National Interest Group (NIG), which canvassed the enthronement of then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President during President Yar‘Adua’s sickness, however, changed Senator Mohammed’s orientation.

For his efforts in consolidating Jonathan’s grip on presidential power the Bauchi Senator was rewarded with the juicy appointment as Minister of FCT.

For Mohammed who had suffered long in the shadows of the opposition in the Senate, the appointment was seemingly like a power aphrodisiac. Before the formation of the NIG Senator Mohammed had set his eyes on ridding on popular disenchantment against Yuguda to win the 2011 gubernatorial election.

In beating Yuguda, it was seemingly imperative that Mohammed attach himself to whatever leverage he could muster from the presidency. It was as such not surprising that once he was appointed that he sought to identify with President Jonathan and the powers around the new President.

On his appointment the popular story around Senator Mohammed in Abuja was a joke he was alleged to have said to the effect that he (Bala Mohammed) did not belong to ANPP or PDP but belonged to Jonathan!

Hence, since he needed a political party to actualize whatever political ambition he has, the FCT Minister has since declared for Jonathan’s political party, the PDP.

His public declaration for the PDP on Monday August 9, 2010 was a successful outing attended by the cream of the political elite from Abuja. However, conspicuously absent were the leader of the PDP in Bauchi, Governor Yuguda and the cream of the PDP establishment in the State.

The secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the PDP in the State Alhaji Samaila Barga had following the event declared that Senator Mohammed was not a valid member of the PDP saying he had not followed procedures in returning to the party.

Mohammed through his Special Adviser on Political Matters has dismissed the claims of the State PDP chapter going the length to explain how invitations were sent to the State PDP chapter and Governor Yuguda to attend the declaration ceremony.

Noting efforts made by Yuguda who had been notified to serve as the Chief Host of the event to thwart the same ceremony, he said:

“The state governor and his agents on the eve of the event, embarked on a highly disappointing plot to sabotage the August occasion by instructing the Chairman of Alkaleri Local Government Council and others to seal off the Alkaleri Stadium, venue of the reception few hours to the event. That desperate action was in flagrant negation of the fact that we had obtained all necessary permits and approval to use the Alkaleri Mini Stadium for the reception.”

Continuing, he said:

”Luckily through the intervention of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo we were able to clear the illegal obstruction thereby enabling us to prepare the stadium for the reception just at the nick of the eleventh hour.”

Just like Atiku and Mohammed, former Governor Orji Kalu has also been trying albeit unsuccessfully to return to relevance in the PDP a party he once hounded for allegedly being a nest of killers.

His return to the party has been almost successfully blocked by the mainstream of the party in Abia State who under the leadership of Chief Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity have instead courted Governor Theodore Orji.

With Orji now set to formally declare for the PDP next week, Kalu it seems may have met his waterloo.

Governor Orji had only last month decamped from Kalu’s Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).

Remarkably, while several others are swimming in search of the political honey in the PDP pot, some others in the party are bolding walking away from the party.

This week, Senator Joy Emodi, a member of the PDP National Executive Council (NEC) decamped from the party and embraced APGA at a ceremony that was witnessed by the APGA Chairman in Anambra State.

Her decision which was reportedly heralded with celebrations in Onitsha, follows the seeming collapse of the PDP in the State. The Anambra chapter of the party has been particularly troubled since 1999 and has the record of being the only chapter in the country that is yet to elect a standing executive since 2003!


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