BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR & HENRY UMORU
The election of a new national executive of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP was heralded with months of campaigns characterized by intrigues, backstabbing and plots that have been characteristic of the ruling party
“WHat I saw was perfect, excellently done,” Chief Olisa Metuh the newly elected National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP told Vanguard in response to a question on what he saw as the flaws in the party’s convention of last Saturday.
Metuh was, however, to confess that being a candidate that he was himself so immersed in his own campaign that he did not see anything wrong.
But not so for other democracy stakeholders, who are tongue- lashing the PDP for what many see as an arranged convention.
Last Saturday’s convention to elect new national officers for the ruling party eventually turned into a coronation as nearly all of those, who picked forms to contest for the eligible 20 national offices were compelled to step down.
At the end, only two offices, those of national secretary and national auditor were contested. Even for those two offices, the heavy weight contestants were forced out leaving room for the establishment candidates to sail through effortlessly.
Eleven candidates at the end of the deadline for submission of forms, entered the contest for the prime position of national chairman. Nearly all 11 showed seriousness in the contest as most of them went round the country to solicit the support of major stakeholders.
From Left, President Jonathan, Ag Chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, Former President and Bot Chairman, Chief Obasanjo and Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Ogiadomhe at the convention
The 24 governors elected on the platform of the party were the primary targets of the candidates. The governors were targeted because of the large influence of the governors on the delegates from the states who constitute the bulk of those who vote in the convention.
At the beginning of the campaign there were indications that some governors did not want a national chairman to come from their states. The reason for this was speculated to be the rivalry that arose between PDP governors and the national chairmen that came from the Southeast section of the country in the recent past.
Of the four PDP governors in the Northeast to which the office of the national chairman was zoned to, Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State was reportedly the most vehement against the emergence of a national chairman from his state.
Remarkably, all three aspirants that were first mentioned from Adamawa State were known to be political enemies of the governor. The trio of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Senator Jibril Aminu and Alhaji Adamu Bello from Adamawa were not supported by the PDP state structure in Adamawa.
Sensing the futility of going ahead, Senator Aminu dropped from the contest but Tukur and Bello persevered.
There was, however, an exception for two candidates, Dr. Musa Babayo and Ambassador Adamu Waziri from Bauchi and Taraba States respectively. Both men were supported by their governors who reportedly mobilized to help them achieve their ambitions.
While the governors from the Northeast had their plans, the plans of President Goodluck Jonathan prevailed eventually. Jonathan was fully behind Tukur.
The presidential endorsement of Tukur came to public knowledge after major party stakeholders including Chief Tony Anenih, Prof. Jerry Gana among others openly endorsed Tukur in his nomination form.
The candidates that finally submitted the nomination forms were Tukur, former Minister of Commerce, Ambassador Adamu Idris Waziri from Taraba; Ex-Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba Aji, Borno; former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Adamu Bello, Adamawa; and outgoing Acting National Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo.
Others were former National Chairman of Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM, Gambo Lawan from Borno state; outgoing National Publicity Secretary, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali from Gombe; ex Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Engr. Ibrahim Bunu, Borno; former governor of Bauchi State, Ahmed Adamu Mauzu, Bauchi and Ibrahim Shehu Birma from Borno State.
Why the presidency stuck to Tukur against all permutations has remained a matter of conjecture. Many have said that the 77 year old businessman was chosen as a reward for his loyalty to the president ahead of the 2011 elections.
It is as such alleged that he has been chosen again to ensure that the president gets another term in 2015. Others allege that his choice is the president’s way of silencing the 2015 presidential aspiration of Atiku Abubakar, who could be the Northeast’s most potent presidential aspirant in 2015. Atiku and Tukur are from Adamawa State.
It was as such not surprising that Tukur and his associates were quick to associate their problems ahead of the convention to what they saw as the machinations of the former vice-president. Atiku according to his associates, however, preferred to watch the chairmanship contest believing that he would have to work with anyone so chosen as national chairman.
Tukur, however, did not have it easy as he was assailed from all sides just before the convention. Three days to the convention, party stakeholders in his native Northeast at the zonal congress in Bauchi rejected his aspiration in favour of Babayo, who polled 14 votes against the 2 scored for Tukur.
The action in Bauchi was enough to rattle the presidency leading to another meeting with the powerful governors who were alleged to be the source of the humiliation given the president’s candidate.
The president it was claimed had reached an agreement with the governors through the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State to uphold his chairmanship candidate. In a quid pro quo, the governors were to be compensated with the choice of the Deputy National Chairman and the National Secretary.
It was a very tactful move for both sides. Amaechi was obviously replaying the same script the governors used on late President Umaru Yar‘Adua when they produced the national secretary and brokered the deal for the national chairman.
The then Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Bukola Saraki, now a Senator, produced the National Secretary at the 2008 convention in the person of Alhaji Kawu Baraje. Baraje before then was a Permanent Secretary in the Kwara State civil service.
It was as such not surprising that the eventual winner of the National Secretary position was a former governor, Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola who was a convenient candidate of the governors and the chairman of the board of trustees, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Oyinlola emerged National Secretary despite insinuations from several quarters that he did not submit an application form for the position being that his name was not one of the candidates published by the national secretariat.
The new deputy chairman of the party, Dr. Sam Jaja is reportedly the candidate of Governor Amaechi who conveniently thwarted the ambitions of Chief Uche Secondus, the immediate past National Organising Secretary whose political antecedents ranged from the Peter Odili days in Rivers State when as a two term chairman he was widely hailed as Total Chairman. By putting his own man in the high office, Amaechi has consolidated his dominance over the Odili boys.
Vice-President Namadi Sambo also had his own share in the division of the PDP national working committee, with the appointment of his own man, Abubakar Mustapha into the very influential position of National Organising Secretary.
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