By Emmanuel Aziken, Henry Umoru, Ben Agande & Dapo Akinrefon
*Obasanjo urges Baraje faction to return
*They are jokers — Babatope…
ABUJA—The Bamanga Tukur-led Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was thrown into panic, Sunday, a day after seven governors on the platform of the ruling party broke out to form a parallel executive of the party. The panic was being fuelled by reports of the rebellion swelling to include party officials disenchanted with the outcome of last Saturday’s convention.
Another governor in the North-West was last night said to be making moves towards joining the rebellion just as a former female deputy governor in one of the South-West states, was last night said to be mobilising women, including a former female gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos State to join the Kawu Baraje-led parallel faction of the party today.
The sense of foreboding was reflected by the unwillingness of party and presidency officials to comment on the development which many of them said was still unfolding.
Meanwhile, Baraje, yesterday, confirmed that the faction would be opening its national secretariat in Abuja, today.
It was confirmed, yesterday, that President Goodluck Jonathan had summoned a meeting with PDP governors, including the rebel governors last night. The meeting was on-going at press time, with 16 governors in attendance. But even before its commencement, there were indications that some of the governors had moved to frustrate or boycott the meeting.
The sense of panic which was prevalent among senior party and presidency officials was, however, played down last night by former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark who said the rebellion was bound to fail. He accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of orchestrating the rebellion with the purpose of foisting Governors Sule Lamido and Rotimi Amaechi as president and vice-president respectively in the 2015 election.
Also dismissing the rebellion, PDP chieftain Chief Ebenezer Babatope said the development was a storm in a tea cup as he described the architects of the split as jokers.
The rebellion in the PDP was nevertheless welcomed by governors in the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, who through their platform, the Progressives Governors Forum, lauded the development in the PDP as they promised to join hands with the governors irrespective of partisan leanings to move the country forward.
Their assertion nonetheless, the PDP Governors Forum has pledged to stem the rebellion.
Besides summoning the seven rebel governors, the president, yesterday, met with Obasanjo during which it was believed the development in the party was discussed. Presidential spokesmen did not give details of the meeting between Jonathan and Obasanjo which happened after the church service at the Aso Rock Villa Chapel.
Obasanjo is known to be a patron of, at least, five of the northern governors who have in the last few weeks raised agitation against Jonathan’s handling of issues in the party and polity.
The five Obasanjo governors, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto, Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) were joined in the rebellion against the Tukur-led PDP by Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara on Saturday.
Obasanjo meets Jonathan
The meeting was preceded by a church service at the Aso Rock Chapel which was attended by the duo and was held behind closed doors.
Former President Obasanjo met the first family shortly before the commencement of yesterday’s church service and they were later joined by visiting President of Benin Republic, Boni Yayi.
The trio subsequently visited the children’s church after the service following which they went into the President’s residence for lunch. They were joined by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mike Oghiadomhe.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati who confirmed the meetings, however, did not give details of what they discussed at the meeting.
The move by the seven PDP governors provoked concern among presidency officials who feared yesterday that it could lead the PDP to become a minority in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Besides, it was learnt that the crisis in the party could provide the basis for members of the National Assembly disaffected by developments in the PDP to formally break away from the PDP.
Under constitutional provisions, legislators can only decamp from the party on which they were elected if the party is factionalised.
Presidency minders it was learnt, were yesterday desperately reaching out to the principal officials of the National Assembly to sustain party and official harmony. A senior presidency official made a circuit of the residences of the presiding officers of the National Assembly to sustain the cordiality between the administration and the legislature.
Women kick against Kema Chikwe
Meanwhile, there were strong indications, yesterday, that the rebellion was catching on especially among women who were displeased with the return of Dr. Kema Chikwe as National Women Leader. A former deputy governor of one of the South-West states was yesterday alleged to be mobilising women to show solidarity with the Baraje-led faction of the party today. The women were peeved that Chikwe was returned despite strident opposition and campaigns to the national headquarters by women groups against her re-election or endorsement.
The women plan to make a show at the formal opening of the national secretariat of the Baraje-led faction in Abuja today.
Chief Clark nevertheless described the development as a gang-up against the president which he said was bound to fail, saying Dr. Jonathan would not in any way lose sleep over the development.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja yesterday, Clark accused former President Obasanjo of stoking the rebellion saying he, Obasanjo, had conceived a scheme to pair Governors Lamido and Amaechi to run on the ticket of the party for the 2015 presidential election.
“Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is the President of Nigeria, not PDP. It is true that PDP presented him. What happened yesterday, (Saturday) wouldn’t affect his electoral fortune, it is Nigerians that would decide his fate in 2015. No amount of gang up would make Jonathan lose sleep over 2015.
Clark blames crisis on Obasanjo, Atiku
“Obasanjo is the one encouraging them; he is pushing Governors Lamido and Amaechi to run in 2015, that’s where the trouble started.
“Amaechi thought because Senator Bukola Saraki used the Nigeria Governors’ Forum chair to contest to be president, he could also use it to become Vice-President and we have said in the South-South we wanted President, not Vice-President. So, the gang up of five governors which Amaechi has joined believe only a northerner could be president.”
He also accused former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of disloyalty for allegedly sponsoring the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, as a platform to contest the 2015 election.
“Atiku said he is in PDP, not PDM but all his men are in PDM. Is that a loyal member of the party? All his followers have left. PDM was created for them by Atiku. Even Governor Murtala Nyako had boasted that they would bury the PDP. Let them go, but I can tell you that PDP will remain stronger! They will soon know that they are alone. Atiku has always been a disloyal person; what he is doing now he has done it to Obasanjo before.”
But in a swift reaction to Clark, the chairman of the parallel PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje told Vanguard: “Let us watch and see, by the time we put our office in place tomorrow, (today), we will know who is serious or not.”
Also speaking on the development, Governor Godswill Akpabio, chairman of the PDP Governors Forum said the disagreement would soon be resolved.
“Let me tell you that I and some of my colleagues have resolved here and now to ensure a total reconciliation of the grievances in this matter. I can tell you that there was a break in communication. I was with the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and we even took pictures with the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu at the convention venue.
“This is a family affair and I can assure you that in a few days time, this matter would be resolved”, he said, explaining that the PDP Governors’ Forum has commenced reaching out on a personal basis some of the governors involved.”
Those involved are jokers — Babatope
Chief Ebenezer Babatope in a chat with Vanguard, said the political history of Nigeria has shown that splinters out of political parties do not normally succeed in the country, saying those involved do not have a workable script.
He said: “The people who moved know why they moved away, it has nothing to do with the existence of the PDP as a party. I can assure you that the PDP is as strong as a rock. We respect our constitution and the Nigerian people who put us in power and we will never joke with the supreme will of the Nigerian people. Those who announced that they were going to form another PDP know that they were only joking; the constitution does not guarantee what they have announced. We know very well that they were acting a script that has long been written.
“Nigerians will witness when they have finished acting out the script, but I am very happy Nigeria’s political history has never recorded a successful rebellion or revolt against an existing political party.”
On whether the South West PDP will toe Oyinlola’s path, he said: “The PDP in the South West remains one. Oyinlola has the democratic freedom to move anywhere. The South West PDP will remain in the party and will remain firmly with the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.”
Progressive Governors laud Baraje faction
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State who lauded the action of the splinter PDP governors said the APC governors were ready to join forces with them to navigate the country unto a better course.
Fayemi in a posting on his facebook page said: “The Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) welcome the PDP split of August 31, 2013 and the emergence of Abubakar Kawu Baraje-led PDP as a necessary and inevitable result of repressive rule of the PDP.
“Recent events, first with the orchestrated crisis in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), suspension and expulsion of PDP leaders, including serving Governors without fair hearing and complete demonstration of lack of tolerance and respect for different opinions are signposts of crisis that should unavoidably result in the split of any organization.
“The PGF commend the courage and resilience of the Baraje-led PDP and in particular congratulate all the serving PDP governors for standing up to be counted among patriotic political leaders of Nigeria. It must no doubt be a conscious decision that must have been borne out of commitment to make all the sacrifices needed to rescue our dear nation from the current reign of terror and bad governance.
“As serving governors too, we are ready to support, work with our colleagues in partnership and solidarity with the goal of facilitating accelerated human development by embracing policies and programmes to improve quality of life of all Nigerian citizens, eradicate poverty and create jobs in the country. We are under no illusion that our reality as a nation today calls for both intra and inter party networking.
We are therefore ready to transform our relationship with all serving governors irrespective of our partisan differences in order to move our dear country, Nigeria, forward. Nigeria has outlived all dictatorships in the past and will definitely outlive any present or latent, manifest or potential dictatorship. Congratulations”.
Obasanjo pleads with Baraje faction to return
Meanwhile, former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday appealed to a breakaway faction of the party to sheath their sword and come back to the party’s fold saying the development was giving elders of the party great concern.
In a statement he released in Abeokuta yesterday, the former Board of Trustees , BoT, chairman of the party said: ”The situation in our ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) after the convention on Saturday and the parallel convention same day has given great concern to all well-meaning members of the party and particularly to the elders of the party.
“While some select elders are making efforts to get the situation resolved as soon as possible, it is imperative to emphasize that the move will bring back peace and return the party to its vigorous and dynamic election-winning party that it has always been.
“I want to passionately appeal to both sides for now to sheath their swords, maintain the status quo, with earliest conveyance of the Elders’ meeting before the end of this week. Members are equally enjoined to remain calm until the Elders’ complete their peace-making meeting.”