By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Ben Agande & Henry Umoru
Lagos — Quarrelling governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, confronted one another into the wee hours of yesterday, trading accusations of backstabbing and betrayal. They, however agreed that the problems of the party lay at the doorsteps of the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
PDP governors from the two divides of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, met for the first time under one roof in the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, with former President Olusegun Obasanjo as mediator.
President Goodluck Jonathan was not at the meeting, and at the commencement of the meeting, was said to be in talks with senior party officials in the residence within the villa.
Obasanjo and the governors, it was learnt, are expected to have an enlarged meeting with Jonathan subsequently, during which the issues which were being discussed in the second round of the meeting at press time yesterday, will be thrashed out as part of a final reconciliation.
There were suggestions that part of a final reconciliation would lead to Governors Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and Jonah Jang of Plateau State, who head different factions of the NGF stepping down.
Obasanjo to lead govs’ delegation to Jonathan
At the end of what was said to be the first phase of the meeting, which ended at about 3.00 a.m. yesterday, it was agreed that President Obasanjo will lead a delegation to President Jonathan and First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, to stress the need for less meddlesomeness of the First Lady in the affairs of the states, and particularly in Rivers State.
The governors, Vanguard learnt, did not spare Obasanjo as they accused him of drifting away from the party and by such, allowing the party to drift into its present state of rudderlessness.
Governor Amaechi, who was suspended from the party was also at the meeting, Vanguard learnt. It was the first time that the governor was involved in a caucus of the party since his suspension, which followed his election as chairman of the NGF last May. Also present at the meeting was Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, who was supported by the party for the NGF chairmanship but trailed Amaechi by 16 to 19 votes in the contest.
Following the end of what sources described as the first phase of the meeting early Tuesday morning, the governors resolved to take a break to continue last night during which issues articulated at the earlier meeting would be properly addressed.
Speaking hopefully on the progress towards reconciliation, the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, PDP-GF, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State said the meeting had sent jitters to the opposition in the country. He spoke to State House correspondents, yesterday, afternoon when he came to brief President Jonathan.
Govs trade blames
Sources at the meeting told Vanguard that once the meeting got under way with President Obasanjo as chairman, he urged all the governors to express their feelings, and one by one, the governors charged at what they described as the drift in the party. One source said the governors charged and raised their voices at one another and also pointed at the highhandedness of the party under Tukur.
The problems in Rivers State were also brought up and the governors expressed concern at the situation where the First Lady and appointees of the president had been empowered to disorganize political harmony in the state. Obasanjo, according to one source, calmly brought the governors under control as he guided them to pour out their feelings.
Some governors at the meeting also hotly countered Amaechi and his supporters over his insistence on contesting for the NGF chair as they described it as an affront to the party. The governors were said to have likened Amaechi’s insistence on contesting to what they described as the insistence of Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal to contest for speaker of the House of Representatives despite its being zoned to another part of the country.
In raising their resentment of the party under its present leadership, some of the governors quarreled with the habit of the National Working Committee, NWC dissolving the state structures without consultation with the governors.
The governors were also said to have raised their opposition to the proposal of automatic ticket as recently mooted for the president and governors by some party elders including the Board of Trustees, BoT chairman, Chief Tony Anenih.
At the end of the meeting, Obasanjo was said to have summarized the issues affecting the party as the NGF; issues with Tukur and the alleged meddlesomeness of the First Lady.
It was thus resolved that a delegation of the governors or President Obasanjo should visit the first family to impress it on the First Lady to moderate her political involvement in the polity and focus on mobilization of women. The delegation is also expected to urge the first family to discourage the practice of political lackeys flocking to them for political patronage.
What the delegation will tell Jonathan
“The situation whereby aspirants are flocking to her (Patience Jonathan) to seek her consent and blessing is unacceptable to most of the governors and we want her to stop trying to impose lackeys as the next governors in the states,” one governor told Vanguard, yesterday.
Following Obasanjo’s summarization of the issues, the meeting was suspended to continue last night during which the issues raised would be frontally tackled.
Preparatory to last night’s meeting, six governors supportive of Amaechi met at the Kano State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja where they exchanged notes before proceeding to the Villa for the continuation of the meeting.
Addressing State House correspondents after meeting with President Jonathan, yesterday, Governor Akpabio said the progress being made by the party in reconciling all aggrieved stakeholders in the party was commendable and had sent jitters down the spine of the opposition party.
He said: “All the steps being taken at the moment are steps in the right direction to ensure cohesion and bring back all the party faithful. Particularly, the body of governors will come together to work as one for the interest of Nigeria and the interest of the PDP.
“I do know that all the governors of the PDP are working towards the success of the party. I am not aware of any five aggrieved governors but one thing I can assure you is that there are jitters in the camp of the opposition with the meetings of PDP governors and the national convention that is coming up because as soon as the PDP puts its house in order, you know the result. The result is that Nigerians will follow because that is a truly national party in Nigeria. That is the only party without cleavages of ethnicity or tribalism and that is the only party without a godfather.”