18 March 2010

Nigeria: Ogbulafor's Two Years in Office - the Good, the Bad, the Ugly


Lagos — Chuks Okocha looks at the administration of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), revealing the pros and cons of his leadership

On Monday, March 8, 2010, the headship of the Peoples Democratic Party by Prince Vincent Ogbulafor clocked two. Ogbulafor was elected into office through the support of the governors elected on the platform of the PDP. He took over from Dr. Ahmadu Ali, the immediate past chairman of the party. When he took over, the morale of party members was at its lowest ebb as a result of alleged high handedness of the immediate past leadership of the party.

Upon assuming office, the Ogbulafor-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, commenced reconciliation process by setting up Reconciliation Committees to bring back all aggrieved party members to the mainstream. This was successfully pursued as some aggrieved founding members of the party including its former National Secretary, Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo, former governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ghali Na'Abba among others, were brought back to the party.

The Ogbulafor-led NWC also ensured that the party's constitution was amended with a view to expunging some offensive clauses and provisions. Also, some governors who were elected on the platform of other political parties decamped to PDP. The defectors are Governors Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, Aliyu Shinkafi of Zamfara State and Kebbi State's Aliyu Dakingari. In the same vein, some senators and members of the House of Representatives equally left their original platforms for the PDP.

Besides, in the last the two years of Ogbulafor, the party has recorded some notable electoral victories, especially during the rerun elections ordered by various elections petitions' tribunals. However, the party was dealt a serious blow when it lost two gubernatorial seats in Edo and Ondo states following the nullification of the elections of Professor Oserheimen Osunbor and Dr. Olusegun Agagu respectively at both the lower and upper elections' tribunals. The party also lost out at the recent governorship election in Anambra State.

The party lost the election because of the manner of the selection of its governorship candidate, Prof. Charles Soludo. Because the selection fell short of transparency, a division was largely created within the party in the state and in the end, many quit the party for other political parties and the resultant effect was PDP's gallant loss to the incumbent Governor Peter Obi who rules on the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). It was not surprising that in an election where PDP produced four other candidates in other parties, it was clear to any discerning mind that the party would lose the election as it eventually did.

Even after it lost Anambra State to APGA, the party still failed to restore harmony in Anambra State PDP. Today, various factions have emerged in the party because of the much detested problem of imposition of candidates resulting in various court cases.

In Oyo State, the party is also in crises following the decision of Ogbulafor led committtee to unilaterally dissolve the party's state executive committee. Consequently, aggrieved members have taken the party to court.

The South-west zone of the party is also at loggerheads with the NWC. The zonal headship of the party has dissociated itself from the decision of the national leadership and insisted that it recognized the dissolved executive. The same problem also occured in Plateau State, where the state chapter of the party under the leadership of Prof. Dakum Shown has dragged the party to court, while in Ebonyi and Enugu states, these chapters are factionalised.

The plethora of crises rocking the PDP escalated further when the national vice chairmen of the party in the entire six geo-political zones of the country clashed with the NWC over what they called unnecessary interference and under funding by the national leadership to the extent that the zonal chairmen warned of the danger of these acts for the party at the 2011 general election, if the leadership fails to retrace its steps.

The zonal chairmen claimed that the party was being under funded to the extent that only N500, 000 was released to the zones as against the N2 million naira released to it during the former administration of Ali. The grouse of the zonal chairmen as articulated in the memo to the NWC was that the party wrongly intervened in the affairs of the party without allowing due process.

Besides, the Ogbulafor-led executive has had a face-off with the headship of the Board of Trustees of the PDP over the comments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the ailing President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

The party said it is sad that for the second time in less than a year, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Obasanjo, has chosen to abandon established channels of communication to comment on very sensitive matters which are capable of causing disharmony and disaffection in the country.

It further said that the general condemnation which Obasanjo's statement attracted nationwide was an indication that such comments were ill timed, in bad taste and have not in anyway added value to the dominant issues of the day.

The party therefore said: "As a revered statesman and indeed a major and undisputed beneficiary of Nigeria 's democracy, the minimum expected from General Obasanjo even in the face of provocation is a measured and calm demeanour, wise counsel and a demonstration of good faith aimed at enhancing national unity and stability.

"One would have thought that if he must speak at all at that point in time, his focus should have been on the grave security situation in Jos, Plateau State, where scores of innocent citizens were being killed or maimed in a senseless war of attrition by people who otherwise should have been their brothers' keepers.

"The peoples Democratic Party therefore finds it difficult to understand what his motives are and what he seeks to achieve by these needless pronouncements."

More crises are also brewing within the party as 2011 general election draws nearer. To this end, a reactionary group has emerged within the party. The group, on the aegis of "PDP Integrity group," has accused the party headship of ineptitude.

Though, the group has remained faceless, some of the accusations it leveled against the NWC have been described as very real. The same accusation of interference which the national vice chairmen from the zones are accusing the NWC of, is akin to what the group is also accusing the party of. For instance, the group accused the NWC of imposition of candidates at local government election within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The national chairman allegedly imposed a councillorship candidate in an area without allowing the FCT chairman to address the issue under contention.

That is not all. The PDP governors during the leadership of Ogbulafor weigh much power and influence in the party. The implication of this is the fear that as the election year is fast approaching, it is doubtful whether the NWC will have the political strength to stop the governors from dictating the pace at next year's election, considering their power and financial strength.

The party under the chairmanship of Ogbulafor also allegedly reacts to issues, albeit belatedly. When the recent crisis in Plateau State was raging, it took PDP two weeks to react to the situation, whereas other smaller political parties and other organizations had reacted.

It was for this reason, that two of its members, Dr. Uzoma Eze and Alhaji Umaru Dan Musa, called on the NWC to sit up and address some of the challenges before it. Accordingly, they advised the NWC to act fast to bring its chapters under its close watch and ensure that a free hand is given to each chapter to operate, while the NWC should come in only as the last resort.

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