By Henry Umoru
“Now that what has happened has happened, I can assure you the party will work with you and the government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan will work with you.
And we will make sure that the government works with you so that the mutual cooperation that we have developed in the last twelve years will continue. Thank you very much for this visit, we accept your apology.”
Those were the words of the Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed. The day was Wednesday, June, 8, 2011 and the place was Wadata plaza, National Secretariat of the party when he led members of the National Working Committee, NWC to receive the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and his Deputy, Emeka Ihedioha.
Tambuwal and his Deputy were at the National Secretariat like the proverbial prodigal to beg for forgiveness from the leaders of the party. They accepted that they erred and became very sober.
But prior to the visit of the leaders of the 7th Assembly, tempers were high in the party, especially amongst the leaders who had threatened to discipline any member who fails to follow the dictates of the party. The party had warned that all members must subject themselves to the will and caprices of the party. There were insinuations from some quarters that the party may suspend them for disobeying the party under whose platform they got elected to the National Assembly.
The Acting National Chairman had said at the retreat organised for the President, Governors, National Assembly members that, ‘’Surely, we cannot continue to allow individuals and groups to do what they like and undermine our unity, cohesion and effectiveness. Henceforth, we shall not condone acts of indiscipline in our party.”
Despite the big threat, some members of the PDP dumped the zoning arrangement of the party. In fact, they killed it by electing their own and even the watchful eyes of the Acting National Chairman, former Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT and Mr. Fix it of PDP, governors, leaders of the party could not stop the PDP stubborn boys and ladies from carrying out their act.
The PDP had zoned the Speaker ship position to the South West and had a favoured candidate in the person of Mrs Mulikat Akande-Adeola. A combination of Tambuwal and other members crushed Adeola. The new Speaker got 252 votes as against the 90 Adeola got. It was a dark day for the ruling party, that its members could humiliate it. The PDP zoning formula died on the floor of the house; the South West lost the Speakership and even the North East that would have gotten the position of Deputy Speaker lost out to Emeka Ihedioha from the South East.
Knowing the implication of what they did, the new Speaker and his Deputy went to the leadership of the party and said, ‘’Mr. Chairman, we are not unaware of the fact that in the course and the process of the emergence of the leadership in the house of the representatives, so many things happened.
It came to a point that our dear fathers, our leaders in the party were looking for their children and said we were missing even though we were not exactly wanted, because we know that we are beloved and loved by our party. We knew that we actually gave you sleepless night.
‘’As your dear children and as loyal members, we are here this afternoon to give you your due respect and to say here and now that all that we did was not intended in anyway, to either undermine our party or disrespect our party. It was a shear coincidence of the history of this country and destiny.
Providence had it that from the inauguration of the 7th national assembly, House of representatives in particular, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from North West, and Emeka Ihedioha from South East, contrary to the hope and aspiration of our party will emerge as speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. It was designed by God, it was not designed by us.
‘’We are pleading with our party to forgive whatever it was that went wrong in the process and continue to accept us because I know that we have not been rejected as your children and you will continue to guide us in doing only those things that will promote the unity, harmony, prosperity and peace of this country.
‘’Mr chairman, I and my deputy are here to assure you and indeed the party, through you, Mr. President, the Head of our government, that we shall give our government maximum cooperation, towards ensuring that all the laudable programmes of our party are implemented through good legislation that will come out of the House of Representatives in collaboration with the Senate.
‘’We assure you that we shall give cooperation and every support to Mr. President and the Government so that our party can deliver on its promises to the electorate. As I said earlier on Mr. Chairman, we seek for your understanding. We seek for your forgiveness, we hereby apologise”.
After the apologies and not prepared to cry over spilt milk, the Acting National Chairman of the Party, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed told them that they were forgiven , but they must go and sin no more, even as he urged them to carry the party along in the appointment of other officers of the House, adding, ‘the remaining positions in the house, you should allow the party to look at how we can balance it so that the other zones are taken care of before we come back to you to give you the chance to lead your people in electing, to reflect balance in the leadership of the House.
The question now is, after the party’s inability to discipline the erring members for killing zoning, even though the former National Chairman of the Party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo had said that zoning died in 1999 and to buttress it, there was no zoning before the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan as the Presidential candidate of the party, what next for the party?
Nwodo had said then that, “Yes, I said to BBC and I repeat to you again that zoning in PDP has been jettisoned. There is no zoning on ground right now. Absolutely, there is no zoning. In 1999, there was zoning and only one Northerner insisted on his inalienable right to the Nigerian Constitution to contest against the zoning arrangement of the PDP.
The PDP put its foot down and I wrote a letter to him and returned his cheque. That was the late Abubakar Rimi of blessed memory.
In 2003 after four years of Obasanjo, candidates sprang up from across the country. They paid, they canvassed. Nobody returned their money. Nobody wrote them that there was zoning. In 2007, there were more candidates from Southern Nigeria than Northern Nigeria and I think if that election was allowed to hold without interference, maybe anybody among Peter Odili, Donald Duke or Sam Egwu would have won. They all paid. Nobody returned their money.
Nobody stopped them. Nobody talked about zoning. They all contested. Why zoning now? Why? We have jettisoned it but we can revisit it. I’m not afraid about revisiting it. If we think that we need to revisit zoning today, let us revisit zoning.
But the one we did in 1999, no, no, no, no, it has been jettisoned by PDP itself. So those who are talking about that agreement are not following the history of the party.
“The party has never stopped anybody after 1999 on the altar of zoning.”
Events that took place on the floor of the House of Representatives, penultimate Monday may have vindicated the former National Chairman of the party.
Bello Mohammed at the meeting, also asked Tambuwal to carry the party along while appointing other principal officers, Tambuwal may have stooped to conquer, but how far can the party go in check-mating them to accept their suggestions when the party could not hit the stick on the snake’s head when it was about coming out of the hole. Why was it difficult to hold Tambuwal and Ihedioha to attend the retreat which they shunned?
What next for zoning after the party took a very good decision of forgiving them, at least avoiding a situation where it would have polarized the party with crisis ?
But days after the forgiveness by the leadership of the party, it appeared the go -and- sin- no more said to Tambuwal and others was just a lipstick one as events unfolding especially on Wednesday after the National Working Committee, NWC, showed that all is not well yet.
With the setting up of a four-member ad-hoc Committee to harmonize the remaining key political offices in the Senate and that of the House of Representatives, the party has agreed that the only way out besides just forgiving them was to ensure that the remaining positions in the party and the National Assembly were shared in an equitable manner.
The 4-member panel which has the National Organising Secretary, Prince Uche Secondus, National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, the National Woman Leader, Hajia Maryam Inna Ciroma and the National Secretary, Abubakar Kawu Baraje as members will advise the party on the way forward after the distortion of the zoning formula, just as it would also come up with the zone that gets the office of the Senate Leader, Senate Deputy Leader, Chief Whip and the Deputy, in the Senate as well as in the House of Representatives.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, the idea of setting up a committee on the issue became imperative in view of the interest that the decision of House of Representatives on zoning had generated across the country and within the ruling party.
What is next for the South West from the party after the forgiveness? How will the party avoid future occurrences of the trauma the leadership of the Party was presently going through and inflicted by ‘Almighty Tambuwal’ and his men. We watch as the panel marshal out its solutions to the problem and we watch as events unfold inside the PDP umbrella.