Several top members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have described last week’s meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee as a futile exercise aimed at shoring up President Goodluck Jonathan’s political ambitions and papering over deep divisions within Nigeria’s ruling party. The party’s NEC met on Thursday, June 20 amid signs that various feuding camps within the PDP are digging in, each group determined to seize control of the soul of the party.
“The meeting was supposed to be an opportunity for the party to redeem its long lost glory,” said a deputy governor from one of the north eastern states.
“But it ended up as an exercise designed to give a desperate lifeline to President Jonathan in his bid to run again in 2015.”
Another source, from the southwest, called the meeting “a disorganized comedy which did not provoke laughter but showed the world that our party has fallen into the hands of degenerate managers.”
The sources who spoke to us, including some who attended the meeting, were of the consensus that the meeting was convened for one purpose: to give Mr. Jonathan the psychological relief of “endorsement” of his desire to seek a second term. One Abuja-based party member categorized those gathered together to boost the president’s reelection hopes as “a ragtag group of fortune hunters and a cross section of those in urgent need of rehabilitation.”
Two members said they expected the party to discuss the debacle of the recent Nigerian Governors Forum election which ended with the reelection of Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, but with Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau posing as a rival chairman. The Presidency had backed Mr. Jang, but the Rivers governor eked out a victory with votes from a coalition of ACN, PDP, CPC and APGA governors.
“Since the frontline gladiators were in attendance, I expected the party to have a robust debate on the issue and to discuss the increasing state of disunity in the party,” said one member. He added, “It is unfortunate that we avoided the hot issues facing our great party.”
Critics said they were dismayed that those handpicked to speak at the meeting spent time showering praises on Mr. Jonathan and applauding achievements that are a mere mirage.
A party member, who is close to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, accused Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom of “blazing the trail in crediting President Goodluck Jonathan with phantom achievements.” Despite the bad blood between some of the party’s governors, with some of them breaking ranks with the party to vote for Governor Amaechi of Rivers in the Governors Forum election, Mr. Akpabio repeatedly claimed that all the 23 PDP governors were “solidly behind the President.” As he made the assertion, the governors of Sokoto, Niger, Kebbi, Kwara, Kano as well as the deputy governor of Jigawa sat glumly. Those state administrators are seen as hostile to Mr. Jonathan’s certain reelection campaign.
A few critics told SaharaReporters that they found it bizarre that the party’s national chairman, Bamanga Tukur, asked Olisa Metuh, the party’s former National Publicity Secretary, to move a motion calling for the resignation of party functionaries whose membership of the party’s National Working Committee was deemed irregular. “Normally, a person resigning from a position merely submits a letter for other members to either ratify or reject. But our party has introduced a different way of doing things whereby those resigning moved a motion for their own resignation,” one source said.
Another source accused Mr. Tukur of incompetence in conducting a meeting. “Alhaji Tukur does not even know how to put the question to the floor for approval. He said, ‘Those who approve say aye. Those against are absent’. How can you say you’re the national chairman of a democratic party and you’re deciding on issues all by yourself?” the party member said.
Our sources said it was clear that Mr. Tukur was not in control of running the NEC meeting. According to one, “The meeting was hijacked by a group from the Presidency led by [Secretary to the Government of the Federation] Anyim Pius Anyim and supported by [political adviser to the President], Ali Gulak, and [Chief of Staff] Mike Oghiadomhe.” He added that the activities of the group from the Presidency were coordinated by Tony Anenih, the octogenarian politician known in Nigeria as Mr. Fix it. “The message was clear – that none of the real or perceived opponents of the president should be allowed to speak.”
A northern governor told SaharaReporters that it was disgraceful that the PDP avoided confronting the major issue facing the party. “Our party is on the path to self-destruction because of Dr. Bamanga Tukur's erratic and imperial manner of administration.” He disclosed that the Anyim Committee had recommended that Mr. Tukur step down in order to “create a conducive atmosphere for genuine reconciliation.” He accused “sympathizers of President Jonathan” of scuttling Mr. Tukur’s removal because they believed “it would be another psychological victory for the group that disgraced the Party at the Nigerian Governors Forum election. Hence, the same Tukur, whom most stakeholders deem as the problem of the party, survived while the resignation of other members of the NWC was only carried out in order to get rid of those whose loyalty to President Jonathan’s agenda cannot be vouched for.”
Two members of the party who attended the NEC meeting said the high point of the political drama was when Mr. Tukur handed a script to Bode George, a convicted felon who spent a prison term, to read what was to be a vote of confidence in President Goodluck Jonathan. “While the media were excluded from other discussions, a few cameramen were invited to cover this particular item,” said one of the two sources. He added that the president’s team made a last-minute substitution on realizing “the implication of allowing a convicted criminal to move a vote of confidence in the President.” He stated, “They quickly Senator Ibrahim Mantu to read [the vote of confidence].” Mr. Mantu, whose era in the Senate was marked by colossal corruption, “reeled out a tissue of lies which he termed as achievements of President Jonathan. [Mantu] even included that he was on a train ride from Lagos to Kano only last week! The claim was greeted with sarcastic applause.”
Our numerous sources agreed that the NEC meeting ended as an anti-climax. “Some of us who are becoming fed up with the antics of our party expected that the party was going to reinvigorate itself,” said one member. He added: “With Alhaji Tukur still firmly in charge, the party has merely wrapped a bandage on a big sore.”