January 10, 2011

Before Conventions, PDP rumbles

*A look at a political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its serial attempts to atrophy. One way or the other, it comes out stronger. Will this time be different?

By Jide Ajani
PDP remains and may continue to be a target of public opprobrium. But Does the PDP or its politicians care about their image It may not matter to them now; but it should. At no time has the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, been more fractious than now. The reason for the fire this time is steeped in what is called zoning.

According to the party’s constitution, Article 7.2 (c) “in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party party states: “to create socio_political conditions conducive to national peace and unity by ensuring fair and equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, to conform with the principles of power shift and power sharing by rotating key political offices amongst the diverse peoples of our country and  devolving powers equitably between the Federal, State and Local Governments in the spirit of federalism”.

When a political party makes all these preachments about zoning and power rotation, the only question to ask is:  What the heel is the problem with zoning now?

The problem today and which has caused the crisis over zoning is that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended grants any Nigeria without blemish the right to be elected twice to the Office of President and Commander-in-Chief.

Nwodo: PDP chairman

Do you subjugate the laws of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the 110-page document called the PDP Constitution?

The general acclaim appears to be a resounding no.

But in a polity of diverse interests and one trying to get accustomed to the politics of rotation and zoning, what would any unbiased observer say about an Olusegun Obasanjo from the South with an eight year rule, an Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from the North another two and a half year rule, and a Goodluck Ebele Jonathan completing the tenure and seeking another four years?

For PDP, this matter has almost torn the party to shreds. Whenever the PDP comes to town with its crises, Nigerians on the otrher side are quick to predict disintegration.

Well, the party has egregiously shamed its opponents to the consternation of many who still do not understand why politicians behave the way they do.

This report look at the many crises the PDP has had to contend with and which almost always culminates in the struggle for the party’s presidential ticket.

* February1999:  Presidential primaries in Jos, Plateau State:  Olusegun Obasanjo’s victory as the presidential candidate shakes the party.

* Between May and June 1999:  Obasanjo rejects the choice of Chuba Okadigbo as senate president and instead forces Evan(s) Enewerem on the senate – this creates ripples in the party

* Mild crisis in the PDP over the forced resignation of Imam Salisu Buari, as Speaker – a resignation which Obasanjo attempted to wad off because he saw in Buari a strong ally.

* Another confrontation on the installation of Okadigbo as Enwerem’s successor in a palace coup on the floor of the senate – an extension of the brewing crisis in the presidency between Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, his deputy.

*Late 1999: Katakata over choice of Bernabas Gemade over Chief Sunday Awoniyi as PDP chairman – Gemade wins at national convention but the process was considered undue

*Crisis over amendment of party constitution to extend tenure of national executive committee of the party by one year.  Gemade makes a push to make the law retroactive so he can benefit from the tenure elongation and this leads to crisis

*Emmanuel Ibeshi and Gbenga Olawepo (publicity secretaries of the party) insist that Gemade should not benefit just as they push for reforms in the party.  This leads to serious crisis in PDP.

* 2001: Gemade announces the suspension of Chief Anthony Anenih but this immediately backfires as the former was to recant the following day.  He is shoved aside but makes a prophesy that the fate that would befall his successor would be worse than his own.  Gemade, reluctantly bows out

* Audu Ogbeh, long_forgotten Second Republic Minister of Communications is exhumed and made PDP chairman but this also creates its own ripples

* April 2002: Brouhaha over presidential ambition of Obasanjo for second term.  Crisis erupts in PDP as associates of Vice President Atiku Abubakar talks of a MANDELA OPTION which Obasanjo was expected to adopt.  This creates bad blood between Obasanjo and Atiku but they both tried to manage the crisis and keep it under the table.

Even the public declaration of Obasanjo for second term at the International Conference Centre, ICC, saw a president not mentioning the name of his running mate at all as he assesses his administration and prepares for a possible second term.  Just before then, Atiku, too, had played footsy by not making himself available for the public declaration but had to be compelled to attend to allow peace reign.

* Mid 2002:  An attempt to impeach Obasanjo as president by the national assembly polarizes the party.  Whereas the senate was able to sheath its sword, the Ghali Umar Na’Abba led House of Representatives goes ahead, prompting many influential personalities to wade into the crisis – the attempt was dropped eventually.

* Battle of wits between Obasanjo and Na’Abba spills into the party.  It deepens and weakens the party in December 2002 just before its presidential primaries.

* January 2003: Atiku eyeballs Obasanjo over presidential primaries

January 2003: State governors insist that Obasanjo would not be marketable for the 2003 elections; urges Atiku on; Atiku turns down the offer at the last minute.

* 2004: Signs of a divided PDP National Executive Committee, NEC – Obasanjo forces pitched against Atiku’s associates

* Late 2004: Audu Ogbeh hits Obasanjo in an open letter, complaining about Obasanjo’s seeming overbearing attitude and the shambles that the President’s action was turning PDP into.  Obasanjo responds and goes vulgar against his party chairman, insinuating that Ogbeh may have made so much money after being made chairman of PDP – mind you, between Obasanjo and Ogbeh, they flouted the PDP constitution which says a national officer of the party shall not accept an appointment in government at the same time: Ogbeh was made Presidential Adviser to Obasanjo on Agric.

* Early 2005: Peace brokered between Obasanjo and Ogbeh forces at the PDP NEC meeting.  That NEC meeting was thought never to hold but it did.  The temperature in the polity reached boiling point.  Obasanjo had planned to publicly disgrace his party chairman but forces loyal to the party chairman, too, had their own response agenda, the consequences of which nobody could predict.

* Shortly after, Obasanjo forces Ogbeh to resign ahead of the end of his tenure after he was cajoled to visit Aso Rock Presidential and a resignation extracted from him, personally by Obasanjo

* Ahmadu Ali of the ALI MUST GO is exhumed from private life and imposed as national chairman of PDP without an election in 2005

* PDP shocks the nation and the political world when it announces that members of the party would be re_registered as members – something akin to sacking all your workers and telling them to re_apply.

* PDP during that same period introduced what it called linkmen who determined those to be re_registered as members of the party.  This created bad blood not just in PDP but heightens tension in the polity.  The linkmen systematically refused to register Atiku and his associates.

* Obasanjo introduces a new phenomenon of tenure elongation dubbed Third Term.  This creates a new crisis in PDP and forces take sides.

* Third Term fails by April 2006

* Atiku and his associates are then forced out of PDP even while a case was in court on the matter

* 2007: Party congresses and primaries in shambles – PDP selects its candidates

* Presidential primaries and Obasanbjo’s insistence on Umar Musa Yar’Adua creates fresh crisis in the party.

* Yar’Adua emerges as PDP presidential candidate but many limbs are broken and faces bruised by Obasanjo in the process.

* Yar’Adua takes over and sets up the Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme Reconciliation Committee with a view to bringing back members who were forced out and even that committee work was sabotaged by people who saw themselves as new kings.

* 2008: Pre_national convention tussle between former Governor Sam Egwu and former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim tears the party apart – matter resolved and all aspirants for the post of national chairman file behind Vincent Ogbulafor.

* Ogbulafor then shoots from the hip in one of his first public statements by saying PDP will rule for another 60 years – Nigerians tear him apart.

* Yar’Adua’s refusal to sign handover letter to his deputy creates fresh crisis in the polity and even between and among PDP members and leaders.

* Ogbulafor’s statement about presidency and zoning sparks latest crisis.

* A new group emerges tagging itself PDP Reform Forum, insists that NEC and National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP should be dissolved.

*PDP NWC suspends leaders of the Reform Forum, among whom are former Senate President Ken Nnamani; Aminu Bello_Masari, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, convener; former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili

PDP Conventions In Brief

* First meeting of PDP leaders was September, 1998 to launch the party

* Second meeting was the Jos Convention in February 1999 to elect a Presidential candidate

* Third gathering of the PDP faithful was to elect Barnabas Gemade as Chairman

* The Fourth gathering was in 2003 where Obasanjo got the presidential ticket of the party, after a face_off with Atiku

* The fifth meeting was November, 2004 where Audu Ogbeh emerged national chairman

* The sixth gathering was in December 2005 where, through affirmation, Ahmadu Ali emerged Chairman of the party

* The seventh gathering was November 2006 where the amendment to the qualification for chairmanship of the Board of Trustees was carried

* The eight gathering was the election of Umar Musa Yar’;Adua as presidential candidate of the party

* The ninth gathering was the election of Vincent Ogbulafor as national chairman of the party

* The tenth gathering of the PDP faithful, was in 2009 to amend the party’s constitution

* Thursday’s convention would be the eleventh and that is where the presidential candidate of the party would be picked.