12 September 2012

Nigeria: Plotting Towards 2015

Photo: This Day
President Goodluck Jonathan

The bid to amend the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) towards the 2015 general election is raising concerns over the political future of President Goodluck Jonathan who many suspect is being provided a leeway to recontest, write Olawale Olaleye and Chuks Okocha

As readers digest the thrust of this article, leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have dished out its response, albeit in the negative, to an exclusive report at the weekend that the party had planned an amendment to its constitution with a view to altering subsisting permutations towards the 2015 general election.

THISDAY had reported last Sunday that the proposed amendment was part of design to give the President Goodluck Jonathan and governors elected on the party's platform the chance of first refusal in respect of nomination for re-election.

The idea, according to the THISDAY report, was mooted by some elders in the party and ultimately aimed at fashioning the PDP constitution after the convention in the United States of America where a President seeking re-election is given the option of refusal of nomination by his party, be it of a Republican or Democratic Party.

To that extent, a committee of those behind the idea was said to have been considered with a view to fine-tuning the proposal and forwarding same to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party for consideration before arrangements are made for constitutional amendment proper.

THISDAY also learnt that members of the committee comprise some state chairmen of the party who are voting members of the NEC, elders from the six geo-political zones, members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and National Caucus of the party.

If this is pushed through, the implication, as the case in the US is that Jonathan would not have to go through the rigours of party nomination but handed an automatic ticket to return except in a situation where he declines to run. And of course, the body language of the President and his men are clear as far as 2015 is concerned.

But the leadership of the PDP does not seem to have taken lightly to the development and had denied nursing any such plan. A prominent PDP member told THISDAY on Monday while filing this report that the amendment to the party's constitution had been done long ago and that no further amendment is being contemplated, especially as it relates to permutations towards the next election.

The source which informed THISDAY that an official position which would have been communicated to the media yesterday, Tuesday and expected to be published in today's reports would state the party's position which is a complete negation to what had been reported in the Sunday paper.

Yet, another party source said it was not impossible that some elements within the PDP that are loyal to the President and disposed to his re-election ambition may have nursed such idea. He said THISDAY's report may have also punctured the move, hence the denial that has begun to follow.

The source said the party leadership may have realised the challenges that lie ahead for the President in his covertly nursed ambition for a re-election and may have begun to tinker with options that would give him a soft landing in the end.

A member of the PDP in the National Assembly informed THISDAY that if tried "it would end up like the third term fiasco." He noted that the President indeed nurses a re-election bid even though the political equation points in a different direction, adding that any attempt to force it would boomerang for the party.

"I believe they won't try it. They might have the intention, but they will dare not try it because it will end up like the third term fiasco. The President cannot be granted such free ticket and he knows he cannot sail through in the party primaries. It's a difficult option for them. They'll never try it," he said.

But as it is, the move may have further polarized the party along two camps: Those who are behind the plot and those against it. Each of the groups has its reason for the position taken.

What is clear is that whichever position taken by the two groups, the issue of amending the constitution of the party will be a battle settled at the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party and where no resolution is in sight, then the National Convention would be summoned where voting for or against the planned amendment to the constitution of the party would be determined.

For those championing the cause for the amendment of the PDP constitution, the major reason is to reduce the heat in the polity and give the incumbent president and governors time to perform because there are too many distractions in the system.

According to the argument being brandished, most of the time, the president or governors are distracted and not given time to concentrate and deliver on the party's manifesto. Against this backdrop, they said since Nigeria is practicing America's model of democracy, then the practice should be total.

THISDAY gathered that the plot sponsored by some PDP elders is working to ensure that the party's constitution is amended in line with the Democratic Party of the United States, where the President is given the choice of first refusal to contest for a second term in office.

"We are just back from the Democratic National Congress and saw how President Barak Obama was nominated without any contest from his party. This is good for our system because it will remove the President from distractions from his programmes.

This is also good for our system because it would encourage all the governors to concentrate on their programmes. As in the United States, this was intended to avoid distraction as the President and governors are given the choice of first refusal to contest or not.

"Some of us are coming up with this idea to amend the PDP constitution to be in line with the Democratic Party of the United States, since we are also adopting the United States Presidential System.

You saw the long train of campaign of the Republican Party before they nominated their presidential candidate. Our aim is ensure that any President from a ruling party like in the PDP is given time to concentrate in his campaign promises, devoid of distraction.

"However, it is left to the President or Governors in question to say, we are not interested and this is what we mean as the choice of first refusal," the source said.

He noted that "what we are doing is all about trying through the constitution of the party to reduce the pressure of second term for the incumbent. This issue of second term is overheating the polity."

It was gathered that some NWC members of the PDP are part of this grand plan to amend the party's constitution. A source within the NWC said this much to THISDAY. "I will not tell you that some of us are not aware of this, but it has to be subjected to approval by the NEC and other relevant organs of the party."

The source denied insinuations that the President has a hand in it. "Is President Jonathan going to be the only PDP President? All we are doing is to reduce tension in the system. The contest for 2015 is already generating too much tension."

Much as the arguments are deemed desirable, the number of those to benefit from it is not quite many. There are only four governors of the party from Kwara, kogi, Gombe and Bayelsa States and President Goodluck Jonathan who will be the immediate beneficiaries of the amended party constitution.

This explains why it is receiving stiff opposition from those against it. Some of them say the plot to amend the PDP constitution is like plotting to change the goal post in the middle of the game. Besides, that some of the governors who are already in their second term are also keen about the presidency is one factor that would militate against it.

A prominent politician from the north known to be nursing a presidential ambition said "such plots will not see the light of the day, even when it is brought before the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party."

The reason for this, the politician said is not far-fetched. He said the governors elected on the platform of the party control the delegates and there are about 20 governors that will not be seeking re-election because they have completed their mandatory second term in office.

The source recalled when the planned amendment to the PDP constitution to include more members of the National Assembly elected on the platform of the party suffered a major setback because the governors opposed the amendment. The matter has only been referred to midterm convention of the party for review.

THISDAY gathered that the planned amendment would have received significant support if more governors were seeking re-election. But as it is, it might never see the light of the day.

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