Following the recent constitution of a new National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party, several cracks emerged that threatened to morph into more serious challenges. But the top echelon of the party has moved to resolve brewing 'storm in a tea cup'. OSBY ISIBOR examines the substance of the development and tracks the efforts to cobble peace.
We have come to transform and build a great party, not to play politics. We have come to help politicians play a decent politics, politics based on fairness and level playing field. We have come to be those neutral referees the PDP needs right now.
We have come to ensure that both the executive and the legislature are on the same page which is, to make Nigeria great economically, socially and politically. We have come to help the President focus more on the economy than on partisan politics.
"My support staff and my team will never use this office as a platform for launching political careers. They are here to work; work and work in turning PDP into a great party and helping government turn the economy around".
Those were lofty words from the inaugural speech of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), AlhajiBamangar Turku on Tuesday March 27, 2012 in Abuja. His inauguration as the national chairman of the PDP was seen by many as a turning point and the one that will chart a new cause for the party.
This was so, perhaps because of the controversy that trailed his election. Nearly has he settled down, than his office was faced with yet another controversy. First was the boycott of the inauguration of the 50-member advisory committee set up by the national chairman on Wednesday May 30.
The only members of the NWC at the event according to our source were the national chairman himself; the National Treasurer, Mr. BalaKaoje; the National Woman Leader, Mrs. KemaChikwe and the National Youth Leader, Mr. GarbaChiza.
"We decided to boycott the inauguration because such a committee is not known to our constitution and we don't need to be part of illegality that we know won't stand," a member of the PDP NWC who craved anonymity told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY.
The member said, "Go and read the party's constitution and you will not find such a body and that is why we felt there was no need to be part of such illegality.
"When Tukur came, he brought the list of many aides that were alien to the party's structure and some of these aides were even insisting that they would be attending our meetings, which we resisted. I think we have a problem in that party."
The committee which Tukur said would help him in repositioning the PDP has as its chairman a former Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme, while its members include Chief Bode George; second republic Senate President, Joseph Wayas; a former Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN); a former deputy senate president, Ibrahim Mantu and AlhajiDaudaBirma.
The Ekwueme-led committee, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY learnt, was considered by the NWC members as a direct move to either sideline them or whittle down their influence in the party.
On assumption of office as the PDP chairman, Tukur had named the former pioneer National Administrative Secretary of the party, AlhajiHabuFari, as his Chief of Staff, while the former Inspector General of Police, Chief Mike Okiro, was appointed the Special Adviser on Security Matters.
He also appointed Senator Saidu Umar as the Special Adviser on Independent National Electoral Commission and Electoral Matters; Mr. AbduallhiGumel, Special Adviser on National Assembly; and the former Principal Secretary to the former national chairman, Dr. OkwesiliezeNwodo, AlhajiAminuYakodima as the Special Assistant on General Duties.
Tukur also named Mr. OsaroOnaiwo as Special Adviser (Liaison) while a former Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Ahmed Gusau, was appointed the Special Adviser to the National Chairman.
"All these offices were never known in the party before. They have nothing to do with the party," another NWC member who spoke to our correspondent explained.
But speaking at the event, Tukur said he decided to set up the advisory committee in order for it to assist him to reposition the party. He said it was wrong for PDP members to keep lamenting on issues and that they must rather be seen to be participating actively in finding solutions to the country's problems. "This is why I decided to ask all of you to assist me in not only repositioning our party, but also in proffering solutions to the enormous challenges facing our nation."
The national chairman wasted no time in enumerating some of the challenges facing the party to include that of coordination and cooperation, respect for one another, inclusivity, fairness, fair play and internal party process and the respect for the party's constitution and rules.
However, the appointment of AlhajiHabuFari, as the Chief of Staff to the chairman was another soul-searching moment for the NWC which seems uncomfortable with his style of leadership.
This as it were has put the national chairman, AlhajiBamangar Turku and the national secretary, Prince OlagunsoyeOyinlola at loggerhead. Oyinlola specifically accused Tukur's Principal Secretary, AlhajiHabuFari of having no regard for the laws and constitution of the party.
According to a memo dated June 8, 2012 with reference PDP NS 03/12 to Fari and Tukur, Oyinlola warned that the party was heading for a major crisis if the activities of Tukur's aides were not curtailed.
In the letter titled, 'Illegal Acts Prejudicial to the Interest of the Peoples Democratic Party,' Oyinlola wrote, "It has become imperative for me to invite your attention to some very unethical acts which are capable of causing disharmony within the leadership of the PDP as well as cause incalculable damage to relationships and smooth conduct of business at the national headquarters of the party.
"You will certainly recall that I have also had occasion to discuss this trend of unbecoming conduct with you while I have also written to you in the past from acts prejudicial to smooth conduct of activities of the NWC.
"I am constrained to once again react to your continued disregard for the laws and constitutions guiding activities of our great party which you claim to be serving at the national headquarters of the PDP."
The former Osun State governor also accused Fari of engaging in external correspondence with some members of the party, which he claimed ought to be his duty. It was learnt that Oyinlola also wrote to all state chairmen, directing them to disregard any memo from the party's national headquarters not carrying his signature.
Investigations showed that the development had polarised the NWC. But Fari fired back at Onyilola saying that all the correspondences he issued out had the blessings of the national chairman, adding that there was no section of the party's constitution which forbids the national chairman from asking him to write to any party member.
"I want to revisit your persistent emphasis on establishment manual and your attempt to reorganise it far and above the constitution of the party. In order to educate you substantially, the constitution came first above the establishment manual and regulation governing the party.
The establishment manual which we produced in the year 2000 before you joined the party was with a singular intention to run the national secretariat smoothly.
"Your aggressive nature to issues in this letter and other correspondences has portrayed you as an overambitious personality and one with a hidden agenda that can be detrimental to the party".
The National Publicity Secretary, Chief OlisaMetuh was quick to dismiss any crisis or division within the party and the National Working Committee (NWC), saying what was happening in the party was mere administrative lapses and administrative errors.
But while addressing newsmen at the PDP national secretariat on Tuesday, Metuh owned up to the subdued rift and explained that the elected NWC members and the aides of the national chairman are still green horns in the national secretariat and needed time to settle down.
"We admit that because this is a new NWC and it takes few weeks for everyone to settle down. The commotion caused by this report has made everyone to sit up and we are now united more than ever before."
While assuring PDP members that the national leadership of the party had amicably resolved the issue, he emphasised that steps have been taken to ensure the ugly incident does not reoccur again.
"We have learnt our lesson and will not allow people that elected us to be embarrassed by such reports again", he said. He, however, stated that the differences between the party leadership had been amicably resolved through the party's internal conflict resolution mechanism.
A day after, the national chairman's principal private secretary, AlhajiHabuFari who has been at the centre of the whole controversy, was fired by the national chairman. Could this be the amicable resolution of the rift within?
As if the crisis in the PDP would never end, there are strong indications that the party is again pitched against itself over Vice-President NamadiSambo and Rivers State governor, RotimiAmaechi ambition in the 2015 presidential election.
It was gathered that some leaders of the party who are not satisfied with the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and who believed if a credible person is not presented in 2015 general elections as PDP candidate, the party may be kicked out of Aso rock for the first time in 16 years of ruling.
Already, it was learnt that the River State governor, RotimiAmaechi, who is also Chairman of Governors' Forum is nursing the ambition of emerging as the presidential candidate of PDP.Presently, the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party is divided among the supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan, pro-Sambo members and Amaechi.
According to a source, leading the pack for the pro-Sambo camp is the National Organising Secretary of the party, Abubakar Mustapha, a special nominee of the vice president. It is also believed that the National Secretary, Prince OlagunsoyeOyinlola; the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Jaja and the National Treasurer, BalaKaoje, had sympathy for the group. Mustapha is a loyalist of Sambo while Jaja is an ally of Amaechi.
Those supporting President Jonathan are the PDP National Chairman, Dr. BamangaTukur; the National Woman Leader, KemaChikwe; the National Youth Leader, GarbaChiza and a few others. The pro-Sambo group also reportedly has the tacit support of some members of the National Assembly.
According to a recent report in a national daily, pro-Sambo group met recently in Johannesburg, South Africa, to fine-tune their plans to effect changes in government under the cover of attending the election of Hon. Bethel Amadi as the Speaker of the African Parliament.
The National Publicity Secretary, Chief OlisaMetuh had also debunked the media reports, saying that what took some NWC members to South Africa was to campaign for Hon. Bethel Amadi which they succeeded in doing.