Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Culled from News Watch:
PDP’s House of Crises
|Written by Demola Abimboye|
|Monday, 22 November 2010|
Over-ambition and greed are tearing apart Nigeria’s ruling political party, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in virtually all states of the federation
It was like daring the proverbial lion in its den. On Friday, November 5, Rashidi Ladoja, a member of the board of trustees, BoT, of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and thousands of his supporters stormed Ogbomoso, the hometown of Adebayo Alao-Akala, his successor as governor of Oyo State. But the lion had scurried out of its abode, leaving its cubs to ward off the invaders. The cubs proved unequal to the task. After setting bonfires on major roads and disrupting business activities in the town in the morning, they had become weary by the time Ladoja and his supporters stormed Ogbomoso after Jumat prayers that day. The tumultuous crowd that attended the meeting of this faction of the party was proof of the deepening crisis rocking PDP in the state.
Two weeks earlier, the former governor had stormed Oyo town with his faction of the party. As in the latest episode, Ladoja was accompanied by top politicians in the state including Yunus Akintunde, chairman of the Implementation Committee set up by the national headquarters of PDP, to reunite the warring lords, Teslim Folarin, Senate leader; Lekan Balogun, a former senator; Wole Oyelese, former minister; Ayo Adeseun, chairman; House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, and many others. Rather than restricting himself to the local crisis, the former governor noted the impending disaster in the party that prides itself as Africa’s largest. The assertion brought to the front burner the internal crisis threatening PDP’s survival in some of the 26 states it controls.
Newswatch investigations across the six geopolitical zones of the country showed that the PDP is fighting the battle of its life in many states. The party in such states has been polarised, some for as long as five years. Each state has parallel office and executives to run them. And all efforts, including litigations, to reconcile the warring factions have proved abortive.
Three states – Oyo, Osun and Ogun – are badly affected by the bug in the South-West.
Trouble began in Oyo during the party’s congress in 2005 with a sharp division among loyalists of the late Lamidi Adedibu and then Ladoja. Contrary to the party’s constitution which vested the control of the party at the state level on the sitting governor, the national secretariat of the party surrendered the reins of power to Adedibu. The congress was inconclusive and the party broke into two. While a faction claimed the exercise produced an executive committee, EXCO, others said there was none to date, a position supported by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The factionalisation of the party led to the governor’s impeachment by lawmakers loyal to Adedibu and Alao-Akala on January 12, 2006. Alao-Akala, then deputy governor took over and ruled for 11-months. On his return, Ladoja set up an administrative panel to probe his 11-month interim administration. He was found guilty and banned from contesting the April 14, 2007 governorship polls. But Ladoja was denied the opportunity to renew his mandate. With the backing of Adedibu and President Olusegun Obasanjo, his deputy got the party’s flag at a rally in Akure, capital of Ondo State. They also got the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to clear him. He won. Since then, the party has known no peace in the state.
Several steps have been taken by the national leadership of the party to resolve the crisis. First, the PDP at the national level raised a committee headed by Alex Ekwueme, former vice-president, to reconcile all the aggrieved members of the party. The body recommended that all aggrieved leaders who were frustrated out of the party in the wake of the 2007 polls should be re-registered and return to the party. The party accepted the recommendation but with the party machinery still in Alao-Akala’s firm grip, it refused to make the necessary re-registration materials available.
Next, the zonal working committee of the party led by Tajudeen Oladipo set up another reconciliation committee to resolve the crisis and bring back the founding leaders of the party. The new body was headed by Shuaibu Oyedokun, deputy national chairman of the party. The committee submitted its report a year later and asked that a 15-man elders committee should be set up to harmonise the various agitations and demand for an all inclusive exco.
But the aggrieved men passed a vote of no confidence on Oladipo’s ability to manage the crisis and insisted that the national panel headed by Ike Nwachukwu, a senator, should take over and resolve the lingering feud. The national secretariat of the party agreed. The third body met the warring factions on November 5, 2009.
Ladoja told Newswatch that the committee turned in a good report which could have solved the problem. According to him, it raised a 19-member Implementation Committee to harmonise the demands of the various groups and fashion out an acceptable sharing formula for party offices. Alao-Akala’s faction and Ladoja’s group had five seats each. Adeojo’s camp had three seats while members of the National Assembly were given two. Balogun and Oyelese’s camps had one slot each. Dejo Raimi who had remained neutral in the crisis was also given a seat on the committee. Akintunde was appointed the chairman of the party’s Implementation Committee. Since then, the power brokers in the National Working Committee, NWC, and BoT have not allowed full implementation of the Nwachukwu report.
While the dust of the 2005 congress was yet to settle, the governor ordered another congress on February 28. Deji Afolabi emerged chairman of the party. But his victory further deepened the crisis. Today, there are two secretariats of the PDP in Oyo State. The governor’s faction retained the Mokola state secretariat of the party under the leadership of Afolabi. The other faction led by Balogun runs a parallel state secretariat behind the new Gbagi Market on the Old Ife Road. This is manned by Yunus Akintunde.
Ladoja said peace-loving members of the party are waiting for the intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan and Okwesilieze Nwodo, national chairman of the party, on the issues. He blamed Obasanjo for the crisis in PDP across the states of the federation. He told Newswatch that his meddlesomeness would negatively affect the party’s fortune if he was not removed as BOT chairman. Specifically, he accused the former president of thwarting all the efforts of the NWC to implement the various reports which could have ended protracted crisis within the party in Oyo State. He alleged that Obasanjo and Alao-Akala, the governor, connived and prevented Vincent Ogbulafor, former national chairman of the party, from doing “what is right” on the Oyo crisis “for whatever reasons.” But he praised Nwodo for rebuffing all efforts “to bribe him.”
Peeved by the turn of events, Balogun, leader of Ladoja’s faction went to the Abuja High Court to void the congress of the PDP held in that state on February 28. He said the congress was held in defiance of a court order, and that the party’s NWC refused to obey a directive from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ordering the party via two separate letters, to organise a fresh congress in Oyo State.
He asked the court to remove incumbent state chairman of the PDP in Oyo State, Afolabi, who was declared the party’s chairman and Ashiru Akanbi, secretary, from office, and that all the decisions they have taken so far in that state are a nullity because their continued stay in office is unconstitutional and illegal. The trial judge has fixed ruling in the matter for November 29, 2010.
But Dotun Oyelade, special adviser on public communications to Alao-Akala, toldNewswatch that the crisis in Oyo was largely a simulated affair because the preponderance of agitators of the so-called crisis in Oyo State, is localised. “The dust is being raked up by few Ibadan elite who feel that the only way they can get back to power is by making use of the media and orchestrating a rancour that does not exist,” he said.
He denied the existence of a parallel office of the party, saying it was a symbolic gesture of the faction’s rally. The state, according to him, has continued to tell INEC that there is an exco of the party and has supplied the electoral body with the information hitherto not available to it. “We expect a new turn in the next few days.”
Oyelade said there was never any fuss before the appellate court judgement in the legitimacy of the Akala government. It was only when the few elite saw that he would spend four years that they started trouble. “It was then that it became a consistent furore but I can assure you that Akala’s government is performing. Based on his achievements, he will defeat them in the next election,” he said.
In the neighbouring Osun State, the PDP is in turmoil. The bone of contention is who succeeds Olagunsoye Oyinlola as governor next year. About 19 men have shown interest in the job. The incumbent governor has openly offered support to Iyiola Omisore, chairman, Appropriation Committee of the Senate, against the others among whom are two of his former principal officers - Fatai Akinbade and Peter Babalola, former secretary to the state government, SSG, and chief of staff, respectively and Wale Oladipo, a professor at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. Oyinlola explained at the meeting that Omisore was the only politician who supported him financially during the ongoing defence of Aregbesola’s petition against his governorship.
Also, Ademola Rasaq, chairman of PDP in Osun and members of the party’s state executive, are backing Omisore. At a meeting held in Ibadan, with all the aspirants, Rasaq said it was Oyinlola and a prominent traditional ruler in the state who told them to support Omisore. He said he, thereafter, declared the federal lawmaker as the party’s candidate.
The group of 18 aspirants led by Lateef Bakare has shunned all entreaties from the governor and Oladipo, vice-chairman, South-West, of PDP. The festering crisis has polarised the party. Eight of the governorship aspirants have set up a parallel office of the PDP along Osogbo-Gbongan Road, a stone throw from Omisore’s campaign office. One of them who preferred anonymity, told Newswatch that the group has picked Oladipo, a professor, as its consensus candidate.
Young party members in the state accused Obasanjo and the traditional ruler of meddling in the affairs of Osun PDP. But the former president said he had every right to wade into the crisis and find a solution to it as a result of his position as the party‘s BOT chairman. Also, he said since the Owu community in Egbaland, Ogun State, has its roots in Orile-Owu, Osun State, he was by extension, an indigene of Osun State.
Other PDP leaders in the South-West such as Shuaib Oyedokun, former deputy national chairman, Ebenezer Babatope, former transport minister and Yemi Farounbi, a communication guru, have called for a credible primary as the lasting solution to the crisis or else the party would lose the state to the rival Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
However, Adeolu Adeyemo, director of publicity, Osun PDP, denied that there was an irreconcilable crisis in the state chapter of the party, saying the parallel exco and their office were dormant.
But sources said that the only solution was for Rauf Aregbesola, ACN governorship candidate in the April 2007 election to emerge victorious in his petition being heard by an Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan. “If this happens, the state as a whole would be spared the catastrophe of Omisore emerging as the PDP candidate,” one source said.
Some of the governorship aspirants are believed to be working closely with the Osun ACN with a view to wresting the state from the Oyinlola-Omisore grip.
Gbenga Daniel, Oyinlola’s counterpart in Ogun State, has been battling notable members of the party in the state who do not agree with him on how the state should be run. Consequently, in the last one year, the Ogun State branch of the PDP has been polarised into two. One faction is led by the governor while the other is headed by Martins-Kuye, minister of commerce. Joju Fadairo is chairman of Daniel’s faction.
Before now, an intractable crisis had engulfed the State House of Assembly with the impeachment of Titi Oseni, as the speaker and the election of Tunji Egbetokun, as her successor, in May 2008. But the crisis has not subsided since then. It worsened on September 6, when nine members of the House impeached Egbetokun and suspended 14 of their colleagues. The nine members subsequently appointed Soyemi Coker as the speaker. Egbetokun’s group which has the Mace and thus the authority to conduct legislative businesses in the Assembly has not been able to do so since.
An attempt by the NWC to harmonise the positions proved futile as the warring factions refused to sheath their swords. Nwodo dissolved the state EXCO and asked Daniel to produce 12 of the 23 members while others including Obasanjo, Dimeji Bankole, speaker of the House of Representatives, Martins-Kuye and Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello should produce 11. The minister’s camp would also produce the party chairman. The arrangement failed. When President Jonathan visited the state two weeks ago, he refused to comment on the matter. But a source said this was in deference to the governor who by the party’s constitution is the leader in the state.
Olusola Saraki, acclaimed godfather of Kwara politics, has ignited a crisis in the otherwise peaceful PDP in the state. On September 18, at a rally, he declared Gbemisola, his senator daughter, representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, as the next governor. Bukola, his son, has been governor since 2003 while Gbemisola has been in the National Assembly for three terms, first as member of the House and twice as senator. Some of the members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party including members of the National Assembly, 18 of 24 lawmakers in the State House of Assembly and local government chairmen attended the rally.
The same day, Isiaka Danmairomo, PDP publicity secretary, in a statement, said “the leadership of the party was not aware that any candidate had been endorsed.” He added: that “the guideline for the emergence of party’s flag bearer either as president, governor and other political offices released and sent to all states would be religiously adhered to.”
This surprising declaration has thrown off balance all permutations in “The State of Harmony,” as Kwara is often referred to. But Yussuf Ayedun, state chairman of PDP, toldNewswatch that he would ensure a level playing field for all candidates. “Everybody will go to the primary to test his or her popularity. Anybody that emerges is our governorship candidate,” he said.
But Bukola Saraki, the governor, is believed to be opposed to this plot to install his sister as governor. Indeed, some PDP members under the aegis of Aggrieved Delegates of Kwara PDP, loyal to the patriarch of the Saraki family, accused the governor of hijacking the party machinery in the state to subvert his father’s plan. Bayero Ahmed, the group’s leader said the governor was persecuting his group for its support for Gbemisola in the 2011 elections. However, insiders said this might be a façade to deceive the public and that the family would resolve its differences at the last minute.
In the South-East geopolitical zone, the battle for the soul of the PDP is tearing the party apart in Imo, Enugu, and Anambra states. In Imo State, the crisis led to the split of the party into two major factions. One of the factions known as the New Face Organisation, NFO, is being sponsored by Ikedi Ohakim, governor of Imo State as part of his strategy to actualise his second term ambition in 2011. The other faction known as Alliance for Good Governance, has Ifeanyi Ararume, governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2007 general election as its leader. The driving force behind this group is to truncate Ohakim’s second term ambition and by so doing ensure that Ararume emerges as the next governor of Imo State.
Ironically, Achike Udenwa, immediate past governor of Imo State, who had worked against the victory of Ararume in the 2007 governorship polls, has now teamed up with him to stop Ohakim in 2011. The Alliance for Good Governance is, therefore, a fusion of Ararume’s Destiny Organisation and Redemption Group a.k.a Onongono led by Udenwa.
The factionalisation of the party deepened in July 2009, when Ohakim decamped from the Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA, on whose platform he rode to power in 2007 and returned to the PDP which he had dumped in 2007. This was shortly after he won the legal battle for the Imo governorship seat against Ararume.
On his return, he immediately intensified efforts to control the PDP machinery in Imo State. Acting as the new leader of the party, Ohakim took firm control of the Imo State PDP executive led by Marcellinus Nlemigbo. The attempt by Ohakim to hijack the party machinery was resisted by Ararume and other stalwarts of the PDP who took the matter up with Vincent Ogbulafor, who was then the national chairman of the party.
However, following the recent directive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that fresh congresses be conducted to elect the PDP executives in eight states, including Imo, the tussle over who controls the party’s structure was heightened. When the Ararume faction suspected that the governor had concluded arrangement to impose his loyalists as members of the new executive, they went to court and got an injunction restraining the PDP from going ahead with the congress. But Ohakim ignored the court injunction and went ahead with the congress in Owerri, amidst tight security on November 1. Although members of the Alliance for Good Governance boycotted the congress, it was observed by Olisa Metu, vice-chairman of the PDP in the South-East and Celina Oko, INEC resident electoral commissioner in Imo State. At the end of the exercise, Eze Duruiheoma, emerged as the new state chairman of the party while Nlemigbo, his predecessor, became the deputy chairman.
Although the members of the new executive have been sworn in, the crisis in the party has not abated as the Ararume faction has faulted the process through which they emerged. He described the congress as illegal and urged the national leadership of the party to annul it. He claimed that since some notable politicians in the state, including Udenwa and himself did not participate in the congress, and there were subsisting litigations against the party over the issue, it would be wrong to recognise the Duruiheoma – led executive as authentic.
Duruiheoma is aware that the crisis has still not been resolved. He told Newswatchthat his priority would be to ensure that whatever divisions existing within the party are resolved in-house. He explained that the party recognises the relevance of politicians like Udenwa, Ararume, Rochas Okorocha who feel aggrieved and would make efforts to reach out to them. “On my own, I will try to reach them. In the next few weeks, we will come up with programmes to reach those people to let them hear us and we hear them and may be find a common ground for resolution,” Duruiheoma said.
However, despite the fact that the new chairman has announced his intention to reach out to aggrieved members, Newswatch learnt that the Ararume faction was already considering the option of decamping to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Although Ararume has denied the speculation, investigation in Owerri, showed that there is a political romance between the Alliance Group and the ACN. Paddy Obinna, a PDP stalwart and political associate of Ararume, said the group would likely join the ACN since Ohakim has hijacked the PDP political machinery in the state. “We are not at war. Politics is supposed to be a game. Instead of fighting for the soul of the PDP, Alliance for Good Governance, I believe, is thinking of a new direction but we have not finally made a declaration. But I know there is a marriage proposal going on between Alliance Group and the ACN,” Obinna said.
Apart from the Alliance Group, there is a third force that has emerged in the Imo State PDP crisis. It is known as the Agenda and spearheaded by Rochas Okorocha, another PDP stalwart, who is also an aspirant for the 2011 governorship race. Like Ararume, Okorocha is not comfortable with the new executive of the party in the state. He is said to be considering the option of decamping to the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, with his loyalists.
The crisis in the Enugu State chapter of the PDP is even worse than that of Imo State. In Enugu, the home state of Okwesilieze Nwodo, national chairman of the PDP, the crisis has deepened the rift between the Nwodo political dynasty and Sullivan Chime, governor of the state. Nwodo incurred the wrath of Chime recently when the National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP under his leadership ordered the dissolution of the state executive of the party under the leadership of Vita Abba which is loyal to the governor. Although Nwodo claimed the dissolution of the executive was based on the directive of INEC, the Chime camp suspects that the national chairman’s call for a fresh congress was his grand design to hijack the state PDP structure by installing a new executive that would be opposed to the governor’s second term ambition. Consequently, both Chime and Abba have vowed that there would not be a fresh congress in the state.
Abba insists that the 2008 congress through which he emerged as state chairman of the party was properly conducted, supervised by INEC, and authenticated by Ogbulafor, then national chairman of the PDP. He claimed that it was because he is the authentic state chairman of the party that made Nwodo to seek a waiver from him a few months ago when he was finding it difficult to be re – admitted into the PDP. According to him, if Nwodo insists that the state executive under his leadership is illegal, the implication is that the waiver he secured from the same executive which enabled him to secure his current position as national chairman of the party is illegal.
Nwodo is opposed to Chime’s alleged plan to grant automatic ticket to all lawmakers in both the state House of Assembly and National Assembly to vie for the 2011 polls. On his part, the Chime faction alleged that Nwodo wants to pave way for Nnia Nwodo, former minister of information, who is his younger brother, to contest the senatorial race. Nwodo has, however, denied this and insisted that no relation of his would vie for elective position in 2011.
The factionalisation of the party began in 2008, following the frosty relationship between Chime and Chimaroke Nnamani, his predecessor and erstwhile political godfather. Therefore, on February 28, 2008, when Ahmadu Ali, former national chairman of the party, ordered that there should be a congress in the state, the Chime faction held the congress that produced Abba as chairman at the Presidential Hotel, Enugu. On the other hand, the Nnamani faction known as the Ebeano political family held its congress at Mac Davos Hotels Limited, Enugu, and Ray Nnaji emerged as chairman. Although Ogbulafor recognised the Abba faction as the authentic executive of the party in the state, Nnaji went to the Federal High Court, Enugu, to challenge the decision of the national leadership of the party.
However, when Nnaji later jettisoned the legal battle and pledged loyalty to the Abba – led executive, he applied to the court to be discharged from the case as the first plaintiff.
Nnaji’s decision to align with the Abba – led executive did not bring the crisis to an end as Reuben Ochi, deputy chairman of the Ebeano faction, who is the second plaintiff, took over the matter as its new factional chairman. The legal battle has since then been raging before the latest twist in the saga that has pitted Nwodo against Chime.
Newswatch learnt that on assumption of office, Nwodo had, in an effort to resolve the lingering crisis, summoned a meeting of all the leading politicians in the state at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, and set up a reconciliatory committee. However, the effort of the committee did not yield the desired result before the recent letter from INEC asking the national leadership of the party to revisit the composition of the state executive failing which PDP executive in Enugu State, will not be recognised by the commission. This compelled Nwodo to dissolve the Abba – led executive. Since the dissolution of the executive, and the order for a fresh congress, there have been litigations in both camps.
The Abba – led executive first filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Enugu, restraining PDP from conducting a fresh congress to elect new party officials in the state on October 30, this year. Initially, the court presided over by Justice Ramat Mohammed granted the interim order. However, the Ochi – led faction filed a motion to be joined in the suit and a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to handle the case. He equally filed another motion in the same court asking for the discharge of the interim order contending that the suit was an abuse of court process. On November 10, Justice Mohammed discharged the interim order and transferred the matter to the Court of Appeal for determination.
While Nwodo and the Ochi faction felt relieved that the discharge of the interim order meant that it could go ahead with a fresh congress, the Abba - led faction again went to the Court of Appeal, Enugu, and secured an interim order restraining the PDP from conducting fresh congresses in the state.
This has further compounded the confusion in the PDP in Enugu State. The efforts of the South-East governors to resolve the crisis had not yielded positive results. The governors had met both Chime and Nwodo in Enugu, a few weeks ago to resolve the conflict but both leaders refused to shift ground. Nwodo had earlier declined to attend the peace meeting summoned by the governors at Government House because he claimed that he could not “attend a meeting in a place where they put me in a casket while I am alive.” Even when the governors later met him in his Enugu residence, the matter could not be amicably resolved as he insisted that a fresh congress must be conducted in the state but Chime is vehemently opposed to it.
Nnamdi Abigo, a stalwart of the PDP in Enugu State, told Newswatch that the crisis deepened because both Nwodo and Chime were embroiled in the problem of ego. “I think there is this ego factor behind the problem. But I believe that the way out is for the two leaders to exhibit the spirit of give and take,” he said.
Okey Ezea, PDP governorship aspirant, believes that in order to resolve the crisis, the governor must be ready for reconciliation on the terms dictated by equity, fairness and justice devoid of politics of exclusion.
While the crisis is lingering, the Ebeano political family is trying to align with Nwodo to get back into the mainstream of the PDP in the state. However, investigation showed that Nnamani and his group are already considering the option of decamping to the Party for Democratic Change, PDC, in preparation for the 2011 polls.
In Anambra State, a fresh congress was recently held in Awka, the state capital. At the end of the exercise, Emma Nweze emerged as the chairman of the new executive through consensus affirmation of delegates. The congress was supervised by Metu, vice- chairman of the party in the South-East who inaugurated the new executive. Although Nweze has promised to run an all – inclusive administration where every member would be carried along, the PDP faction sponsored by Chris Uba, self – acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics, described the congress as illegal. Uba insists that his faction led by Benji Udeozor is the authentic executive of the party in the state.
For the past three years, the Plateau State chapter of the PDP has been enmeshed in crisis. The crisis is due to the inability of the state to organise a congress to fill party offices. This has led to the emergence of factions of the party in the state, and a court case is currently at the appeal level.
Jonah Jang leads a faction with Dakum Shown as chairman while Michael Botmang, Musa Garba Izam, Alhassan Shuiabu, Simon Lalong and Ndam Gambo are leading another faction. In between these two factions is another one made up of top politicians and some governorship aspirants. They are Ibrahim Mantu, former deputy senate president; Pauline Tallen, deputy governor; Fidelis Tapgum, former minister of state for commerce and industry, Damishi Sango, former sport minister and Jimmy Cheto.
The factionalisation of the party coupled with the declaration by INEC recognising no congresses in Plateau State led to the clamp down order by the national secretariat of the party on all the factions. In their stead, a care-taker committee headed by Abu King Shuluwa was put in place to oversee the affairs of the party in the state.
This action by the national leadership of the party did not go down well with Jang’s faction as Shown, the chairman of the faction, took the party to court. The national body of the party is currently at the Appeal Court challenging the verdict of the High Court which gave judgement in favour of the Shown faction.
Determined to resolve the crisis in the state, the national leadership of the party recently invited both sides of the factions to Abuja, where a proposal was presented for the harmonisation of party positions on a 50-50 sharing formula. The Governor’s faction was allowed to produce the chairman. Newswatch learnt Haruna Dabin has been chosen as the chairman.
Rather than bring peace, the proposal has deepened the crisis further. The Botmang group has rejected the proposal. He told Newswatch that his group rejected the proposal because among several other reasons the group controls the majority of party faithful in the state, especially when measured with the fact that 16 of the 21 PDP House of Assembly members belong to his group while Jang has only five PDP members in the House.
Recently, the group wrote to the national leadership of the party requesting that the sharing formula be based on a ratio of 70/30 in favour of their group. In case this is impossible, the group called on the national leadership to revert to the original decision to organise a full scale congress as earlier directed by INEC.
Chris Gyang, personal assistant to Jang, described the call for a full scale congress as the handiwork of mischief makers to hoodwink the electoral body into conducting a fresh congress in the state. “They have realised that the current leadership of the party in the state is 100 percent loyal to Jang and President Goodluck Jonathan. Their intention is to have the executive dissolved and willy-nilly, install their own loyalists through crooked means with the ultimate aim of using them to prosecute the agenda of the President’s opponents,” he said.
In Adamawa State, the failure to organise fresh congresses since 2006, has thrown the state chapter of PDP into deep crisis which is tearing the party apart with the emergence of several factions. Already, some members of the party under the aegis of ‘Concerned A’ have instituted a legal action at the Federal High Court, Yola, asking the court to compel the party to conduct a fresh congress in the state. Umar Ardo, a member of the group and a gubernatorial aspirant on the platform of the party in the state, toldNewswatch that there was the need to change the present leadership of the party in the state. He said the present leadership of the party under Mijinyawa Kugama came into being in November 2002, and that its tenure expired in 2006.
Despite the expiry of the tenure, all attempts since 2006, to constitute a new executive has always been defied with impunity by a group he described as ‘enemies of democracy’ who would rather stick to the old order. He accused INEC of complicity in the matter.
Ardo expressed surprise that Adamawa which was earlier listed among PDP states whose state congresses were not recognised by INEC due to its illegal and unconstitutional manner of emergence, suddenly got de-listed after some underhand dealings by some INEC staff and national officers of the party. Medan Teneke, chairman of one of the factions, told Newswatch that the crisis in the party has been intractable and said that but for their loyalty to PDP they would have decamped to other political parties.
Since it lost power in 2003 to the ANPP, the PDP in Kano has been grappling with internal wranglings and power tussle among two factions led by Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and the late Abubakar Rimi, both former governors of the state. Rimi, who was governor of the old Kano State from 1979 to 1983, died after an encounter with armed robbers early this year. His death paved way for Kwankwaso who ruled Kano from 1999-2003, to assume a larger than life image in the party. At present, Kwankwaso’s name is synonymous with PDP in Kano, and he is in the 2011 race to reclaim the governorship seat in the state for his party.
Kwankwaso’s dominance showed eight months ago when he led his loyalists to clinch all the 51 seats contested by PDP members at the congress organised to elect a new EXCO, to run the affairs of the party and prepare it for the 2011 general elections in the state. Farouk Iya, lawyer and former speaker of the Kano State House of Assembly, who emerged as chairman of the party, told Newswatch that all factions and their leaders took part in the election. “It was meant to end all complaints about dominance of the party by one group. At the end Kwankwaso cleared all the 51 seats, and confirmed that he is in control here.” He extended an olive branch to those he defeated and urged them to embrace the new leadership. Iya said the process of reconciliation was in progress and many people were returning to the party on a daily basis and that the era of intra-party crisis and formation of factions is now a thing of the past.
But, he is wrong. Investigations revealed that a new faction which is angry with the new state of affairs still exists in the party. The faction known as Garkuwa alleged that internal democracy was not followed, particularly during the congress, which produced Iya, a member of the Kwankwaso group. The group, led by Alhaji Usman Alhaji, former co-ordinator of the presidential campaign of Orji Uzor Kalu, complained that what transpired at the state congress left much to be desired. “In as much as we are committed to the struggle for the repositioning of the party, decorum should be allowed to prevail. A situation whereby one man would unilaterally call the tunes is unacceptable. This unwholesome trend of events within the party’s hierarchy is what the Garkuwa group is vehemently opposed to,” he said.
Alhaji, who said he had earlier contested and lost the Kano South Senatorial seat in 2003 and 2007, stated that his bitter experience during the attempt at winning a senatorial seat was the reason behind the formation of the Garkuwa group. He explained that most of the founding members of his group contested elections on the platform of the PDP in one capacity or the other, pointing out that the failure of some of the contestants experienced in 2003 and 2007, as well as during the 2004 local government elections spurred the contestants to come together to checkmate the failure and losses the party suffered over the years.
In an effort to actualise their agenda, Alhaji stated that the Garkuwa group decided to come up with three objectives, prominent of which is to ensure the victory of the PDP in 2011 elections, as well as to promote free and fair primaries within the parties, to ensure the emergence of good candidates and to ensure that only credible candidates get elected.
On the relationship between his group and Kwankwaso, Alhaji said an attempt was being made to mend fences. “We, the Garkuwa group, are striving to enthrone and ensure a free and fair primary elections within the party, if this is obtained, I am sure we have no problem with the other group,” he said.
The Katsina State chapter of the PDP is also not left out of the crisis rocking the party in many states. The crisis which has been in abeyance since the administration of Ibrahim Shema came into office in 2007 became a matter of public concern when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who had been pillar of unity in the party, proceeded on a prolonged medical trip abroad. The trip offered opportunity for Shema who had all along been living in the shadows of Yar’Adua, to assert some degree of authority and position himself for possible re-election in 2011.
Newswatch learnt that the governor carried out a minor coup in the party by first dissolving the EXCO of the party which had been in office for 10 years and was dominated by loyalists of the late president. A new EXCO dominated by Shema’s men is now in place. It is led by Rabiu Gambo Bakori as chairman. Soon after the new EXCO was formed, five factions, all struggling to take vantage positions ahead of the 2011 general elections emerged. They are the Shema camp, Abuja group led by Abba Sayyadi Ruma, former minister of agriculture and water resources, and Aminu Bello Masari group, also known as PDP Change, led by Masari, former Speaker of the House of Representatives. The other two are led by Magaji Mohammed, a diplomat and Lawal Kaita, a second republic politician.
By press time last week, the factions have thinned down to two. These are the Shema group which appears to be the most visible and dominant group in the state, and the Abuja group. Newswatch learnt that the need to realign forces to produce a formidable group that can confront Shema at the party primaries became necessary on account of the leadership vacuum that was created by the death of Yar’Adua. There was also the problem of depletion of credible men in opposition following the sudden exit of Masari who left last month with Ahmed Yar’Adua, former SSG in the state and a number of other PDP stalwarts to join the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, a new party led by Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state, who contested the 2007 presidential election on the ticket of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP.
The Abuja group is believed to be in a desperate position now to abort Shema’s second term bid. The group, which has enlarged to include the likes of Tanimu Kurfi, former economic adviser to the late President Yar’Adua, and Mustapha Darma, executive secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF, is believed to be behind the anti-Shema campaigns currently going on in the state. The group is wooing Mahe Rashid, an official of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to join the governorship race against Shema.
The Abuja faction accused the governor of sidelining a number of core loyalists of the late President Yar’Adua who helped him to become governor of the state. They cited the dissolution of the EXCO and the sacking of Ahmed Yar’Adua as SSG, as examples of ingratitude on the part of the governor. He was also accused of not spending the resources of the state judiciously.
Newswatch was unable to speak to the governor or any of his officials last week in Katsina. The governor was said to have gone on pilgrimage. The Government House was largely deserted by spokesmen of the governor last Monday.
Efforts to speak with Gambo, the party chairman, was also not successful. Salisu Ali, public relations officer of the party in the state, declined to speak but promised to arrange an interview with the chairman. He never did.
But Farida Barau, a House of Assembly aspirant for Katsina Constituency, who claimed to be a loyalist of Shema, said all the allegations against the governor were false. She explained that Shema was being criticised unjustly because he failed to bend government policies to favour a few. “Rather than cause division in the party and vilify the governor on account of selfish reasons, Shema’s critics should accept the obvious. The governor excelled in education, infrastructural development, women and youth empowerment. He deserves a second term in office,” Barau said.
There has been serious infighting over the leadership of the party in Rivers State. This led to the formation of a parallel secretariat, and climaxed in the arrest of some big wigs in the party, including the factional leader, Lolo Ibieneye. The faction led by Ibieneye has joined the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
Jerry Needam, publicity secretary of the faction, said PDP allowed its governors to become tin gods in the party, a development that is tearing the party apart. “In PDP, you cannot air your views. We have no option than to join the party that believes in the rule of law,” he said. Needam is not happy that those who helped the PDP win election in the state in 2007, have now been sidelined.
The twelve PDP factional members caught in the web of running a parallel party secretariat in the state are still facing prosecution. They include Ibieneye, and Nancy Chidi Nwankwo, a former commissioner in the state during the administration of Peter Odili. According to him, Ibieneye was the campaign chairman of PDP in 2006/2007, and won all the positions from the ward elections to the senate. “This is the person that is being prosecuted today. Those who claim they are in PDP are actually not working for the PDP. Those pretending to belong to the PDP are fake, who have not won any election in their area,” he remarked.
In Bayelsa, the party is sharply divided into two camps-one for the governor and one for other gubernatorial aspirants in the state. The party office at Yenizue-Gene Epie in the state capital, is busy going on with registration of members, prior to a date for the state congress of the party. Rufus Abadi, former chairman of the party in Bayelsa State, has since resigned. He is contesting for a senatorial seat. Before this time, he had fallen out with Timipri Sylva. Their battle raged till he ran away at a point, claiming that his life was under serious threat.
Reported by Chris Ajaero, Tobs Agbaegbu, Anza Phillip and Godfrey Azubike