29 July 2012

Nigeria: PDP - the Inside Story of Bamanga's Rule By Proxy - Anger Over Son's Role in Subsidy Fraud

Lafia — On March 24 this year, most Nigerians were hoping that Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would reshape the ruling party, considering Tukur's pledge to pursue an agenda on Reconciliation, Reformation and Rebuilding; otherwise known as 3Rs.

However, four months after Tukur was elected national chairman of the PDP, there is no clear-cut evidence that the party has started flying, taking cognizance of his assertion that 'the agenda is built on premise of sustainable grassroots energy, empowerment and environmental stability that could sufficiently lead Nigeria to peace, security and development'.

The headaches of the 77-year old Tukur began with his leadership style that seems to suggest a clear departure from that of his predecessors. The unusual scene stemmed from his penchant for the appointment of large number of aides outside the established manual of the party, clash between his aides and NWC members over official functions, irregular NWC meetings, salary structure for NWC members, constitution of personal advisory committee, less consultation with PDP zonal national vice chairmen over party matters, loss of Edo governorship election and his son's alleged involvement in oil subsidy scandal.

Large number of aides and quarrel over their roles

Appointment of aides by PDP national chairman is recognized by PDP establishment manual, especially the right to appoint Principal Secretary, Political Adviser and Media Adviser. His appointment becomes unusual when he invited people like the former Inspector General of Police Chief Mike Okiro as Special Adviser on Security Matters, Senator Saidu Umar as Special Adviser on INEC and Electoral Matters, Abdullahi Gumel Special Adviser on National Assembly, a former Principal Secretary to the former PDP national chairman Okwesilieze Nwodo, Alhaji Aminu Yakodima, Special Assistant on General Duties and Osaro Onaiwo of the Red Carpet Protocols as Special Assistant Government and Governors, as well as Mr Bernard Mikko Special Adviser Monitoring, among others. Another unique feature is the appointment of three media aides, instead of one, which had been the practice of his predecessors.

The quarrel over roles of aides came into limelight, following a misunderstanding between PDP national secretary Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Tukur's former Chief of Staff Aliyu Habu Fari over conflict of official functions by the two parties. Both Oyinlola and Habu Fari exchanged correspondences over the issue before it was finally resolved that it was due to 'administrative error'. The eventual ouster of Habu Fari was, however, believed to have been the consequence of the crises. The possibility of a conflict of roles among new Special Adviser Media Ishola Filani, Senior Special Assistant Media Ujudud Sheriff and the party's National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh is another case in contest.

Besides, the mode of appointment of the special aides to the national chairman also sends wrong signal as some of the letters of appointments for Tukur's aides were signed by Oyinlola, while some of the more recent appointments were signed by his new Principal Secretary, Senator Ibrahim Ida. Before it was resolved, some members of the NWC were not happy that the appointment of his aides was also published in the newspapers as advertisements.

Salisu Magaji Gombe (Sarkin yaki), an associate to PDP national chairman, however, allayed fear over the decision of Tukur to appoint different aides and advisers.

Magaji Gombe, who spoke with Sunday Trust, said: "Mr chairman appointed some advisers, some of whom are old and grand. Though, according to the party, few of them are not in the manual of the party, but these people are to advise the chairman. Their duty is to advise the chairman, not to advise the PDP or the NWC of the party.

"I don't see this as something that we should keep talking about. Let Nigerians start helping Tukur to achieve what he wanted to achieve by reforming the party and bringing unity to make sure the PDP moves forward. The chairman needs people to lead the party. The NWC is there as NWC of the party. Just as commissioners and advisers in states work under the governor, these aides are to work under the chairman.

"They are to advise the chairman and have schedule of work to do. Bamanga wants to reform the party and move it forward. We want all to continue to give the chairman support needed to achieve his goals of moving the party forward."

Irregular NWC meetings and review of condition of service

Sunday Trust's investigation revealed that the usual weekly meeting of NWC is no longer regular as Tukur-led NWC has only managed to hold about six meetings instead of 16 since March 24. This scenario has created an impression that the party's leadership is encouraging irregular meetings because they have fixed monthly salaries for themselves apart from the tradition N50,000 sitting allowance.

As part of the ongoing effort to review the party's condition of service across board, the party leadership is said to have approved monthly salaries of N2 million for the national chairman, N1.5million for national secretary, and N1 million monthly other NWC members, while a director earn N62,000, supervisory staff will be paid N56, 000, intermediate staff will go home with N33,000 and junior will have paltry N24,600 as their salaries.

The report of salary package was, however, refuted by the PDP's Deputy National Chairman, Dr Sam Sam Jaja. Dr Jaja, nonetheless, confirmed that the review of the condition of service was discussed at last Wednesday's NWC meeting.

He said, "Talking about approval of money and all that. Money, like salaries and others, somebody must sign and deliver it through the bank. They are telling you real lie if you read it in the paper. It's absolute and total lies.

"Up till now, we are working out what establishment manual will be, which also includes ourselves as members of NWC. So, how can we start allocating to ourselves two million naira or that million....? It's totally false... Please discountenance that. We are serious-minded and we have come to reposition the party. We have not come to do what will bring the party to disrepute or bring political leadership to disrepute.

"We have come to live by example and this is exactly what we want to do. I reassure that as soon as we continue to interact, we will continue to know who we are individually and what we have come to do collectively as a party. Thank you and God bless you."

Establishment of Alex Ekwueme-led advisory committee

Tukur inaugurated his high level 50-man advisory committee on May 30 this year. The committee under the leadership of Ekwueme has Dr Mohammed Shata as Secretary and Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Gusau, Tukur's Political Adviser as Coordinator. Analysts feel that the committee is not necessary as it is going to be duplicating the functions of the party's Board of Trustees (BOT) which is advisory.

But Tukur's aide, also dismissed this notion, stating that the committee is meant to assist Tukur in his effort to unite party members, especially those who felt neglected.

He said, "On this issue of advisory committee, some of the members of the advisory committee are founders of the party. They know the problems of the party as founders of the party. They know where the PDP is heading to. Alhaji Bello Kirfi is one of the members of the advisory committee. He is the founder of the party in Bauchi State.

"So, if people like Kirfi and Alhaji Yerima Abdullahi, a former minister as one of the founders of the party and they are part of the advisory committee, then, it's a welcome development.

"This is because they will advise the chairman on how to reform the party, unite the party, and bring unity in the party, particularly those people that were sidelined and marginalized in PDP in order to move the party forward....So, the appointment of the committee is a welcome development because he is leading the party and wants to ensure that the party keeps moving forward."

On the insinuation that the committee will duplicate the job of the BOT he said "It is not so because the role of the BOT is different from that of the advisory committee. The duty of the advisory committee is to advise the chairman."

However, an indication that the party's structure could be circumvented by the new development is what happened in Nasarawa State, where the party's zonal structure was ignored in an attempt to resolve the feud between Senator Abdullahi Adamu and former Governor Akwe Doma. The former governor of the state Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu led a delegation to PDP National Secretariat last Wednesday where a call for the setting up of caretaker committee for Nasarawa PDP was made. Sunday Trust learnt that the PDP national vice chairman, North-Central Yusuf Ayitogo, who ought to be part of the meeting, was not there, thereby raising a concern that Tukur is not involving all stakeholders in his effort to rebuild the party.

Confirming the development, Ayitogo, who spoke with Sunday Trust yesterday, said he was not aware of any visit by Adamu to PDP national chairman.

He, however, recalled that he set up Senator Walid Jibrin-led reconciliation committee whose recommendations, he claimed, has been implemented, following a local congress committee selected between party members loyal to former governors Akwe Doma and Adamu.

Involvement of Tukur's son in alleged oil subsidy scandal

If there is any issue that is supposed to be giving the PDP national chairman a cause for concern, it is the alleged involvement of his son, Mahmud Tukur, in the alleged looting of the Petroleum Support Fund. Mahmud is the Managing Director of Eternal Oil and Gas, one of the indicted companies in the scandal. The party is expected to be concerned with the development as the case is being seen as a moral burden on PDP national chairman. But PDP deputy national chairman Dr Jaja believed that the issue should be detached from the personality of Tukur and that of the party as an institution.

Jaja said, "On the issue of some PDP members being involved in oil subsidy; these are individuals. Everybody bears his own cross. There were governors who are now facing prosecution as a result of their actions and inactions. So, it is not a party thing.

"PDP did not send anybody to go and misbehave. Even if you mention my national chairman's son, he is up to age. Assuming he is to go to jail, they will not come and jail the national chairman, because he did not send him...he is a man of age and he has household, and he has his family.

"Everybody accounts for his own position and of course it has been mentioned, until they proved guilty, they still remain innocent. So, the party cannot just get out and breathe down on them and begin to condemn them. They will be given equal opportunity to defend themselves in competent court of law. Until they are found guilty, then the party will come out and take a position. But for the party now to begin to condemn them is absolutely premature and prejudice."

Civil society groups and political party have expressed anger over the involvement of Tukur's son and sons of other chieftains of the party in the subsidy scam.

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS) and the Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE-Nigeria) described the development as shameful and a symptom of failure of leadership.

In separate interviews with Sunday Trust in Abuja the executive director of CISLAC Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, president of VOTAS Comrade Mashood Erubami and deputy general secretary of ACE-Nigeria, Asuzu Echezona were unanimous in also blaming President Goodluck Jonathan for the corruption ravaging the country.

"The involvement of the PDP chairman son's in the Subsidy scam confirms how highly place people in Nigeria are misusing their privileges to seek for favour for their family members without due process and transparency. Many Nigerian leaders are after capital accumulation forgetting the need to build sound and vibrant socio-economic and political institutions that would secure the future of Nigerians.

"Unfortunately the president is not giving us hope on the fight against corruption in Nigeria; his manner of governance seems to allow corruption and corrupt people to always have their ways in Nigeria. Recently we saw how some people at NNPC who were indicted by the National Assembly subsidy report but he decided to cover them up by only asking them to go rather than investigating their role in the subsidy scam.

"Again the NEITI Audit reports have implicated so many companies and individuals who have been short changing Nigeria through tax evasion and stealing of crude oil but no one has been sanctioned for these criminal activities. If our leaders were concerned with the development of Nigeria then we would not have become a country so basdardized with system failure and impunity," Rafsanjani said.

On his part, Echezona said it would amount to taking folly too far if Nigerians are taken on another round of jolly ride all in the name of partial disclosure of fuel subsidy scam perpetrators, adding that if the total amount of money spent on fuel subsidy in 2010 stood at less than N400 billion naira, it would only be a cruel adventure in illogicality to try to convince Nigerians that only N400 billion was looted out of nearly N2 trillion spent on fuel subsidy in 2011.

"The finding of the AIG Imoukhuede led committee did not come as a surprise to many Nigerians especially with regards to the indictment of people close to the government. Nigerians demand that the anti-graft agencies must ensure dutiful and diligent prosecution of all those involved, no matter whose ox is gored. Another critical issue that the fuel subsidy scam threw up is the prevalence of undue pressure on the national and state treasuries every election year. This simply underlines the fact that political leadership in Nigeria is still shamelessly monetized.

"This brings to fore the need for a more holistic and fundamental reform and enforcement of Nigeria's electoral laws. Government must now show its determination to root out corruption by successful prosecution of the fuel subsidy scammers, Capital Market liquidators, Power Sector vandals, and Police Pension looters," he said.

Erubami, on his part, said the arraignment of those indicted shows that the government is now responding to public outcry against the debasing level to which corruption has reached in the country.

He, however, said that President Jonathan administration must send stronger signals to his party members that corruption stake will be raised higher and will never be tolerated anymore as a family tradition.

"Nigeria now knows how their monies are being stolen and by who. The echoing of corrupt practices by the Civil Society has been vindicated and that corruption cannot be taken past most members of the ruling party is no more a story. It is now established that we are poor and wallowing in the paradox ocean of poverty in the midst of plenty as a result of the domineering effects of fraudsters that are superintending in the parties that pretend to be ruling us when indeed they are ruining the nation and setting agenda for the underdevelopment of its citizenry.

"Nigeria can only look forward to the judiciary to do justice and make scape goats of those found to be culpable however highly placed or well connected. It is time now to change our laws so that convicted fraudsters are made to serve community service on every environmental day within their homestead, so that other family members can learn from them to serve as deterrent to others too. The charity of paying for fraudulent actions in political offices should start from their homes," Erubami said.

The National Conscience Party (NCP) and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) also condemned the development, saying no stone should be left unturned to get justice done in the matter.

In separate interviews yesterday in Abuja, national chairman of NCP Dr Yunusa Tanko and media officer of TMG Dooshima Tsee said the involvement of families of Nigerian leaders in corruption is not surprising.

"It is only in Nigeria that lackeys and cronies are glorified as against credibility and dedication to serve the people which are thrown into dustbin. We believe that subsidy does not exist at all. The government of the day and its predecessors have been using it to continue to impoverish the people as their gain for voting or keeping quiet for them to continue to perpetuate themselves in power.

"Even though the government has shown signs of prosecuting the matter due to popular demand, it is noble of mention. But how it is finally executed is another matter. Now that people have been identified, government and the court should not shy away from doing the right thing for the benefit of the nation," Tanko said.

On her part, Tsee said, "The arraignment of Abdullahi Alao, the son of prominent businessman, Alhaji Abdulazeez Arikesola-Alao, Mahmud Tukur and Mamman Nasir Ali, the sons of the current and past PDP chairmen, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Ahmadu Ali respectively, is not particularly surprising. It is inevitable that some of the big wigs in Nigeria would be caught up in the chain of events that have exposed layer upon layer of corruption in the higher rungs of society and governance in Nigeria recently. As the saying goes, "Deep corruption often follows big money.

"It would be wrong however to consider these young men guilty till proven innocent. They have as much right to a fair hearing as any other Nigerian. A fair hearing includes their prominent fathers allowing justice take its course. The stance the PDP chieftains have taken is therefore commendable. They should be sure that Nigerians will be looking out for and intolerant of any 'behind the scene' manipulations of the process of justice."

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