SaharaReporters has learned of a new twist in the desire of some top officials of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a six-month postponement of polls in Nigeria, with several sources saying a faction of the party would work to replace President Goodluck Jonathan as the party’s presidential candidate.
In separate interviews with SaharaReporters, numerous PDP officials disclosed that many founding members of the party had lost confidence in Mr. Jonathan’s viability as a candidate, adding that a faction within the party had discussed easing the incumbent president out of the presidential race, and replacing him with another candidate from the Niger Delta zone.
“The only obstacle to the plan is that the South-South might kick against it, so we have arrived at a consensus to find another candidate,” one of our sources, a northerner, said.
“If elections could be postponed for six months, we will definitely replace President Jonathan as our candidate,” another member of the faction confirmed.
In a clear sign that the party was crumbling was within, several high ranking PDP members said they regretted letting President Jonathan carry the party’s flag as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections. Some of them confessed to being aware that the party’s prospects looked dire with Mr. Jonathan holding the presidential ticket.
“We are the ones who started the push for six months delay in the elections to enable us [to] put in place an interim government which would then enable the party to change its presidential candidate to somebody that is more competitive,” one official confessed. He added that Mr. Jonathan’s faction also sought the extension for their own designs, which was to explore ways of rigging the elections.
Our interviews revealed that many PDP governorship candidates in the north and elsewhere in the country were secretly working against Mr. Jonathan’s re-election or quietly distancing themselves from him.
One party leader revealed that some candidates in the northern area were all but campaigning for Mr. Buhari, the presidential flag bearer of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
However, some PDP officials told SaharaReporters that, while they hoped that President Jonathan could be sidelined to increase the chances of the party in the upcoming elections, they also wished that the APC would also dump Mr. Buhari as its presidential candidate.
The party officials claimed that key political figures across Nigeria continue to view a Buhari Presidency with mortal fear because of his stubborn personality and his promise to punish the corrupt.
Several of the PDP officials told SaharaReporters that the rift between Mr. Jonathan and a large faction in the party that wants him dumped was reflected in the responses to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who two days ago dramatically announced his resignation from the PDP, publicly tearing his membership card. Two of the officials disclosed that, while Mr. Jonathan’s aides launched direct attacks on Mr. Obasanjo, the officials at the party headquarters in Abuja adopted a more cautious and subdued tone, regretting that the former president had decided to leave the party.
Some officials stated that the party hierarchy viewed Mr. Obasanjo’s public departure from the party as a dangerous signal and as a major threat. “Chief Obasanjo doesn’t just come out swinging the way he has done recently unless he is privy to the existence of some third forces that are against President Jonathan. And to the best of our knowledge, the former president has never fought a battle like this and lost, no matter how long it takes him,” one of the officials said.
“The truth is that many senators, honorable members of the House of Reps and governors are loyal to Baba, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. So they are doing Baba’s bidding even though they are giving Mr. President [Jonathan] the impression that they are with him,” another party official in Abuja said.
The party officials acknowledged that the statements of former President Obasanjo in the last three days had caused a major havoc on the party’s plans to work towards an interim national government.
Several of the PDP officials attributed the fractiousness within the party to the way Mr. Jonathan and his wife, Patience Jonathan, imposed unpopular candidates on the party in various parts of the country. Even though they agreed that Mr. Obasanjo had imposed candidates on the party in the past, one PDP official said the Jonathans consistently backed candidates who were extremely unpopular within the PDP and unelectable.
Asked if President Jonathan was aware of plans to replace him, some of our sources said the president knew that many powerful members of the party were not satisfied with his style and low performance. One source said former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and even the party’s chairman of the board of trustees, Tony Anenih, were far from enthusiastic about Mr. Jonathan’s re-election.
“President Jonathan’s candidature and unpopularity are damaging the party,” one official stated. He added that the party’s electoral prospects in the general elections had dwindled dramatically. “We are only sure of carrying about 11 states in the country, according to our internal polls,” one party official disclosed.
Party officials also said they were determined to change numerous candidates for governorships, the Senate and House of Representatives in several states if the six-month postponement ever became a reality. “The way President Jonathan and First Lady Patience Jonathan picked many candidates has now weakened the party across the country,” one top official in Abuja complained.