The ruling Peoples Democratic Party is moving from one state of crisis to another and a halt in this drift does not seem to be in sight, writes Chuks Okocha
The leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party has as its undertone: the battle for the control of the party's executive organ, the National Working Committee. This is especially as the presidential primary election to determine the presidential candidate of the party ahead of 2015 draws nearer. The power tussle follows the divergent positions of the various interests that had sponsored the members of the 12-man NWC.
It is believed that President Goodluck Jonathan sponsored the election of the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. His emergence was against an earlier decision by the North-east zone, where the post had been zoned, to choose the former acting national secretary of the party, Dr. Musa Babayo. In the same vein, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the governors elected on the platform of the party are believed to have sponsored the sacked National Secretary of the party, Olagunsoye Oyinlola. PDP National Organising Secretary, Abubakar Mustapha, and National Treasurer Bala Kaoje are said to be sponsored by Vice President Namadi Sambo. The party's Deputy National Chairman, Sam Sam Jaja, is believed to be sponsored by Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi.
PDP National Legal Adviser Victor Kwon is said to be sponsored by the Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, while National Auditor Bode Mustapha is seen as a direct nominee of Obasanjo. Deputy National Secretary Onwe Solomon Onwe is believed to be sponsored by the Ebonyi State governor, Martin Elechi, while National Woman Leader Kema Chikwe and National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh, because their states, Imo and Anambra, respectively, are governed by another party, are said to be collectively sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and other PDP lawmakers in the South-east in conjunction with the governors of Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi states.
With this cocktail of sponsors, many analysts had predicted that it was only a matter of time before the NWC descended into a kind of crisis that the party would find difficult to resolve.
In the Beginning
The crisis in the party had first manifested between April and May last year, when the NWC members supported Oyinlola in the battle that led to the sack of Habu Fari as Chief of Staff to the PDP National Chairman. Oyinlola had insisted that the PDP establishment manual had no provision for the office of Chief of Staff, saying Tukur's decision to appoint Fari as Chief of Staff was a slight and an encroachment on the office of the National Secretary. At the end of the day, there was a hot exchange of correspondence between Fari and Oyinlola. Tukur intervened and eventually sacked Fari and appointed Senator Ibrahim Ida as his Principal Secretary. The office of the Chief of Staff was abolished. This was victory number one for Oyinlola.
Then, came a letter by Oyinlola to all state chapters of the party that on no account should they write official letters directly to the national chairman without his consent. This was the second victory for the sacked national secretary.
Adamawa PDP Crisis
The congresses from the wards, local governments ending with the state congress were the last test of the NWC's cohesion, which, eventually, broke the organ's unity. In a surprise move sponsored by the PDP governors that were supporting Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, who opposed the congresses, the deputy national chairman disassociated the NWC from the conduct of the congresses in the state. The coup-like betrayal took place in the absence of the national chairman, who was busy organising the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the party to elect its chairman. The national publicity secretary said Tukur could not attend the meeting where the decision to rescind the dissolution of the Kugama executive was taken because he was preparing for the BoT meeting, thus, giving indication that it was a palace coup.
Trouble started when the Governor Sule Lamido Presidential Committee on the resolution of the crisis in Adamawa State threatened to use their influence to sack the NWC for their compromise position in the state's chapter of the party, which had led to the sack of the Mijinyawa Kugama-led state executive.
The national chairman had authorised the congress that took place on December 27 last year and the January 4 this year's ward and local government congresses, despite a court order that restrained the party from conducting the congresses.
According to the deputy national chairman of the party, the NWC rescinded the dissolution of the Adamawa State executive because it was never the decision of the party to conduct the congresses in the first.
Metuh had announced the dissolution, stating that that the dissolved executive had "flagrantly disregarded and shown serial disobedience to the decisions of the NWC." His statement announcing the dissolution read, "On behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great party, the National Working Committee hereby dissolves the Adamawa State Executive Committee of the PDP.
"This is in exercise of Article 31, section 2(e) and 29, 2(b) of the 2012 amended constitution of our party and consequent on repeated breaches of the constitution by the Adamawa State chapter. A caretaker committee has been set up in its place."
Article 31(2) (e) empowers the NWC to "where necessary, dissolve a State Executive Committee and appoint a caretaker committee to run the party until another Executive Committee is elected , provided that the period from the dissolution to the election of the new Executive shall not exceed three months."
Tukur Fights Back
Tukur called NWC's decision to reverse the dissolution of the Adamawa State executive a betrayal. "This is just a case of betrayal of trust. The documentations and correspondence in this matter will justify that the congresses in state was approved by the NWC," he said.
Documents obtained by THISDAY showed that the decision to conduct the congresses was a collective decision, the PDP national chairman and national secretary had in a letter on December 5 last year notified the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, of the various dates for the congresses schedule for December 27, 2012 to January 8, 2013.
The letter, with reference number PDP/DOM/Gf/1/276, titled, "Notification of party congresses in Adamawa State," said, "In keeping with the provisions of section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010, we write to inform the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the National Working Committee of our great party has approved the conduct of the following congresses in Adamawa State, sequel to the upcoming party congresses in the state.
"Ward congresses, December 27, 2012, LGA congresses, January 2013, and State Congresses, January 8, 2013."
In another letter dated December 6, 2012, the national organising secretary, Abubakar Mustapha, wrote the PDP national chairman to approve the dates of congresses as earlier forwarded to INEC. The letter that was copied to the caretaker chairman of PDP, Adamawa State chapter, Ambassador Umar Damagum, stated, "In adherence to the stipulations of section 85 of the Electoral Act 2010, INEC has accordingly been notified of these congresses."
PDP Governors versus Jonathan
As the arguments about the status of the Adamawa State chapter continued, the governors of the party, at a meeting presided over by their chairman and Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, endorsed the decision of 10 members of the NWC reinstating the dissolved state executive under the leadership of Kugama.
In a communiqué signed by Amaechi, who is chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, the governors also endorsed "the decision of the NWC dissociating themselves from the purportedly held ward, local government and state congresses in Adamawa State and declaring same null, void and of no effect whatsoever."
They "re-affirm their recognition of the Kugama-led executive lawfully elected in March 2012 and endorsed by the national convention."
While expressing discomfort over the failure of the NWC to call for the PDP NEC, the PDP governors "resolved to call for National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings of the party to be held as and when due as provided for in the PDP Constitution."
It was this stage that President Goodluck Jonathan intervened with the members of the party's BoT. THISDAY gathered that the president informed the NWC that he, as the party leader, could not afford a divided party, as it would be a distraction to him. He was supported in this by the BoT members who counselled that the NWC should work as a team. The intervention of the president and the BoT caused the NWC to come forward with a statement.
According to the statement by the national publicity secretary, "PDP remains the only political party in the country where differences in the leadership of its various organs could be resolved within a record time.
"In a political party as large as the PDP, divergent opinions on issues are normal but in the ability of its leaders to resolve and find a common ground on such issues, dwells the strength and dynamism of such an organisation. In this instance, it is only in the PDP that misunderstandings are not just resolved but done in matter of hours.
"The National Working Committee of the PDP therefore wishes to commend the Board of Trustees of the party for proving its role as the conscience of the party."
The statement further said, "The National Working Committee wishes to further assure all members of the PDP of the unwavering unity of purpose in our ranks. We are united under the able and dynamic leadership of our National Chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur. We are ever determined to ensure that the party fulfills its electoral promises to the people by securing an undiluted compliance of all our members in various positions of authority to a credible performance target."
In a curious turn of events, amid the brewing controversy, a Federal High Court in Abuja, presided by Justice Abdu Kafarati, sacked Oyinlola as the national secretary, stating that his election did not follow due process. This was not the first time the courts would give orders on the South-west congresses. Earlier, the courts had sacked the national auditor, Bode Mustapha, and the national vice chairman for South-west, Engr. Segun Oni. There was a subsisting court order against the election of Oyinlola on April 15 last year, but the highpoint of the avalanche of court orders was the one by Kafarati on January 11.
Acting National Secretary
Based on the legal advice provided by the Legal Consultant of the party, Chief Joe Gadzama, the NWC in a meeting appointed the deputy national secretary as the acting national secretary, pending the resolution of the court order against Oyinlola. The party also denied any personal rift with Oyinlola. It said the appointment of Onwe as acting national secretary was a reaction to the nullification of the election of Oyinlola as national secretary.
According to NWC, "The appointment of Onwe as acting secretary was following the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to annul the election of Prince Olagunsoye Onyilola as the National Secretary of the party."
NWC stated that the executive organ of the party was only obeying a court directive to avoid a vacuum.
The statement said the clarification was necessary to douse insinuations that the appointment of Onwe was the result of a rift between Tukur and Oyinlola. "The National Working Committee wants to make it very clear that what happened was nothing more than obedience of a court judgement, and the consequential application of the relevant sections of the party's constitution under the circumstance. Section 45 of the party constitution states: 'If a National Officer of the Party is removed or resigns from office, he shall immediately hand over to the National Secretary all records, files and other properties of the party in his or her possession. In the case of the National Chairman, he shall hand over to the Deputy National Chairman who shall, without prejudice to Section 45(6) of this constitution, act as the National Chairman pending the election of a replacement.
"In the case of National Secretary, he shall hand over to the Deputy National Secretary.'"
Section 35 (1) also states: "There shall be a National chairman who shall be the Chief Executive of the Party, and his functions shall be to: (a) summon and preside over the meetings of the National Convention, the National Executive Committee, the National Caucus and the National Working Committee of the Party;
"(h) ensure strict compliance with the provisions of this constitution and do all such other things as shall promote the growth and welfare of the party."
The party further said, "Given the judgement of the Federal High Court, a situation was created for invocation of Section 45 and the National Working Committee accordingly did what the constitution expects it to do under such circumstance. The matter has absolutely nothing to do with any imagined rift between the National Chairman and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
"For the avoidance of doubt, we want to say unequivocally that there is no personal rift between Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, as the National Chairman of the party, and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola to warrant the sensational headlines that have been published in newspapers on the issue. In any event, reports have indicated that Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola has appealed against the court judgement and the NWC wants to say that as soon as the appeal is decided, the party will, in the same way as it did in the case of the Federal High Court ruling, obey the appeal decision.
"We want to make it very clear that our great party is a law abiding party, which bases its conduct and activities on internal democracy and rule of law. In the event, whatever a court of competent jurisdiction decides on any matter involving the party, the PDP will have no hesitation in obeying and implementing the judgement."
All the combatants in the internal dissensions for the soul of the ruling party are still planning their next lines of action. No one knows the nature of the schemes. But what seems sure is that the battles for control of PDP would get more intense as the 2015 general election draws nearer.