Dutse — The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Elders committee headed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo has told President Goodluck Jonathan to shelve his 2015 ambition as one of the conditions for resolving the crisis that has split the party into two.
The confusion in the PDP as a result of the formation of 'New PDP' on August 31, has lingered for two weeks now, with no solution in sight. Rather, President Jonathan last week sacked nine ministers, most of whom were nominees of governors and top politicians in the New PDP.
An insider in the elders committee told our reporter that the elders told President Jonathan the bitter truth, giving him two conditions for peace.
Sunday Trust source explained what happened thus: "The governors have resolved to let go of their grievances only if Bamanga is removed and Jonathan drops his 2015 ambition. The Obasanjo-led group of elders of the party presented this position to the president days before this meeting. However, we learnt the president rejected the idea."
Our correspondent learnt that it was as a result of this position taken by the elders that loyalists of the president began to call Obasanjo names. The former President supported Jonathan's 2011 election against all odds.
The former members of the PDP's National Working Committee (NWC) told our reporter that many members of the party from the North were disappointed in President Jonathan because before the last election he had vowed not to contest 2015 in the next election.
He said, "Particularly those of us from the North who had earlier backed him for the presidency in 2011 are not happy. We had an understanding with him over the 2015 election, but his refusal to honour it and insistence to contest the election at all cost is part of what we are experiencing now. I think he should be honourable enough to tell those calling on him to dump that agreement that it will not help the PDP and our democracy."
'SACKED MINISTERS WERE UNDER WATCH FOR WEEKS'
The 'New'Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has explained that the nine Ministers sacked by President Goodluck Jonathan last Wednesday were under security watch for weeks, describing them as victims of the ongoing war between the PDP and the New PDP.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Trust in Abuja, the National Publicity Secretary of the factional group, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, advised the dismissed ministers not to regret their ouster, saying 'the future is bright for them' and 'they should not see it as do-or-die affair'.
Eze said, "If the President has taken a stand to remove some of our people or those we nominated into his cabinet, it is his entitlement to do that. But we want to assure those people who are with us but have been dropped that the future is bright for them. They should not see it as a do-or-die affair. They should just see it that they have become victims of the struggle to liberate our party from the hands of undemocratic elements that are occupying it".
Also in its official response titled "The removal of our candidates from the Federal Executive Council (FEC)", Eze said "the truth of the matter is that the innocent Ministers were sacked because they were either nominated by us or sympathetic to our cause', stressing that "they were programmed to fail immediately they were indentified with us."
He also said, "No matter the flimsy excuses being given by the Federal Government over the sack of nine of our candidates from the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the truth of the matter is that these innocent Ministers were sacked because of us.
"We are aware that these Ministers had been under surveillance and denied the necessary tools to work with. Sadly, these innocent Ministers have been sacked while the most corrupt Ministers, whose atrocious activities are well known to Nigerians, are retained. The most pitiable case of these sacked Ministers is that of our mother, the Minister of Housing, Ms Amal Pepple, whose crime was approaching Mr. President to plead with him, even kneeling down to beg him to forgive Governor Amaechi for whatever sins he is assumed to have committed against him.
"We urge our supporters to continue to exercise patience and avoid the temptation to meet force with force so as not to play into the hands of our enemies. We also urge all Nigerians to intensify prayers for God to touch the hearts of our leaders so that these dark days of General Abacha during which people are haunted for expressing their views would not return".
The PDP National Publicity Secretary Chief Olisa Metuh, who was contacted to speak on the crisis rocking the ruling party, promised that the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) would make its position known after the ongoing efforts by party elders and leaders to resolve the matter.
"We won't comment on the issue as a mark of respect for elders and party leadership at the highest level. They are at present working on having a resolution to the differences. We look forward to the resolution of our differences. But whatever happens at the end of the day and however it goes, the party will come out with its position very soon. But for now, we want to give respect to the elders and the leaders who are trying to resolve the matter.
DAY JONATHAN'S ANGER MADE MINISTERS TO WEEP AND SWEAT
On the eventful Wednesday, members of the cabinet had arrived the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa for the Federal Executive Council (FEC), obviously without sensing what observers described as a ministerial coup was about to happen. Indeed, the extensive deliberations on several memos before the council could not have suggested that President Jonathan would release a "minor" wave that swept away nine ministers' jobs. But apprehension set in among the cabinet when the president slowly began to inform them that some of them would be attending their last cabinet meeting in his administration. And the names of the affected ministers began to roll.
Some of the sacked ministers left the State House unnoticed, stylishly staying away from the watchful eyes of journalists, while those who survived the hammer, apparently conscious of the fact that their fate could equally be up in the air, stepped out of the Villa like wildfowl drenched to the skin by a thunderstorm.
The Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, was drenched in sweat; the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Olusegun Aganga, was aghast; the Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, looked very pale; while the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Chukwuemeka Nwogu, was wobbly.
Even while speaking to State House correspondents after the FEC meeting, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who defended and justified the president's 'verdict' on the affected ministers, could not help getting perplexed and petrified as he was intermittently wiping off sweat with a handkerchief.
Maku dispelled insinuations that the shake-up had some political undercurrents. "We're all convinced that the president has so far in council and as a leader of this country, shown uncommon commitment to the development of Nigeria...we commit ourselves to him and the nation...Even the press has been speculating cabinet reshuffle for a long time...There is no government in the world that doesn't reshuffle cabinet. Cabinet reshuffle is part of a systematic public administration. I believe what the president has done is simply to address the issues of re-tooling his government to achieve greater service delivery. It's at the discretion of the president at all times to reshuffle his cabinet. It's his prerogative under the constitution.
"This has nothing to do with any other factor other than having come two years into his administration, he's refocusing his government to inject fresh blood to achieve greater service delivery to Nigerians. I believe this must have been coming over time. It can't be something you do over night.
So, I believe, as the president explained to us, he has studied the way his government has worked, set targets for the next two years, and what he's doing is to adjust his cabinet to realise the objectives of his transformation agenda. That is exactly the reason he has come out with these changes at this time", Maku said.
Many political watchers remain unconvinced by Maku's assurances. At least, five of the sacked ministers are known to be political allies of key leaders of the PDP who nominated them to President Jonathan for ministerial appointments when the nPDP was still united. The sacked Minister of State of Power, Kuchi, for example, was the Niger State nominee sponsored by Governor Aliyu Mua'zu Babangida. The governor is a leading figure among those opposed to Jonathan's touted re-election ambition in 2015 and chieftain of the nPDP. It was actually Babangida who first exhumed what he maintained was the president's agreement in 2010 to spend only one term in office. Kuchi is widely believed to have been consumed by Babangida's "sins" against Jonathan.
Obada, the former Minister of State of Defence hails from Osun State, as former governor of the state, Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was instrumental to her appointment as minister. Oyinlola was the National Secretary of the PDP before he was removed when the party's crisis began to fester. Oyinlola, whose removal was attributed to his loyalty to former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is currently the National Secretary of the nPDP.
Professor Rufai's offence might not be unconnected with the activities of her state governor, Lamido, despite the innocuous speeches of the two politicians at the Aminu Kano Triangle. The governor is one of the G5 governors who have drawn a battle line with the presidency and the PDP over what Jonathan's touted re-election ambition and the leadership style of the party chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
The former Minister of National Planning, Usman was one of the longest serving ministers in the country. He is from Kano State and he was said to have been chosen by Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso for the ministerial appointment. The minister, who had served in Obasanjo's and late Yar'adua's administrations before he was reappointed by the present administration, is seen as a close ally of his state governor. Kwankwaso is a founding member of the nPDP faction.
Before his sudden sack last week, Ashiru was seen by many as one of the ministers the president trusted in terms of service delivery in his administration. But he was believed to have been nominated by Obasanjo. Now that the former president has fallen apart with Jonathan he could no longer be trusted. It was learnt that he was sacked over fear of where his loyalty might be in the effort to actualize Jonathan's 2015 ambition.
The ministers were caught off-guard, as was Inuwa Abdul-Kadir whom Jonathan had earlier removed as Minister of Youth Development on Monday August 26 while he (Abdul-Kadir) was on official duties in Calabar, Cross River State. Abdul-Kadir was ostensibly removed over a crisis arising from the election of Yakubu Shendam as president of the National Youth Council of Nigeria. Some members of the Council believed to be pro-Jonathan were said to have vehemently rejected Shendam's appointment. But the minister stood his ground.
The recent sack of the nine ministers has, however, been according further speculations to Abdul-Kadir's removal. The former minister, sources said, is a political ally of Sokoto State Governor, Aliyu Wamakko, also a key leader of the nPDP. And although many people might have foreseen, speculated and predicted a cabinet reshuffle, the manner of the announcement of the sack and the political leanings of the affected ministers have been raising more questions than answers.
HEROIC WELCOME FOR PROFESSOR RUQQAYYA
Professor Rufai, the immediate past Minister of Education might not have been a "prophet" appreciated by President Goodluck Jonathan, but in Jigawa State where she hails from, the effusive demonstration of appreciation by the people on Friday September 13 struck quite an emotional chord in her.
Two days earlier, the Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido had announced his administration would be organizing a homecoming reception for Rufai at the Aminu Kano Triangle, Dutse. Lamido had nominated Rufai to Jonathan's ministerial cabinet. And many political analysts and followers of the raging crisis threatening the unity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were quick to read vindictiveness into the president's axe, as Lamido is a chieftain of the New Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) faction baring fangs against Jonathan and the PDP's leadership style.
A mammoth crowd turned out to honour the former minister. As early as 3pm, thousands of both men and women thronged the reception venue with banners of various inscriptions, chanting 'sai mama'. Rufai arrived the Aminu Kano Triangle in company of Governor Lamido and her husband, Dr Ahmed Rufai by 5pm. As soon as the crowd sighted their motorcade, it erupted into songs of 'sai Lamido,'sai mama', dancing all the way. Ruqayya could not hide her joy as she waved endlessly to the crowd, showing her appreciation.
Chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Umaru Zandam, described the former minister as "a woman whose star has just begun to shine." Zandam enthused: "We are here today in honour of our illustrious daughter of Jigawa State who has made Nigeria, Jigawa State, Governor Lamido and her family very proud. She is a testimony to that statement that what a man can do a woman can do better. History will vindicate your achievements in the Ministry of Education. Your achievements in the education sector will continue to speak for you. We are not surprised because you came from a sound parental background. We are proud of you".
After the chairman's speech, Professor Ruqqayya rose to express her gratitude to Allah, who she said had guided and protected her in the last three and a half years she served as education minister and Governor Lamido who stood by her and supported her all the way.
"I thank Allah who used my leader, my governor to nominate me as a minister. I will, forever, remain grateful to Governor Sule Lamido for the confidence and faith he has in me. I never dreamt of becoming a minister. There are people who have been with the governor for a long time and yet he chose me, even though I had only worked closely with him not for long.
"I am happier today than when I was appointed a minister. I used to think of how I would end my tenure as minister. But seeing this mammoth crowd today, I say Alhamdulilah, I have ended well. I cannot thank my leader Governor Lamido and people of Jigawa state enough.
"Though some people may be surprised, I will like to extend my gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan who had been very supportive throughout my stay as minister. This is the first time in recent history a minister of education had stayed in office for three and half years. Most of my predecessors stayed for one and half years or two years at most."
The former minister told the gathering that the reception was a testimony that she represented Jigawa State well. She thanked her husband, Dr Ahmed Rufai for his support and understanding while she was a minister. "Most husbands would not allow their wives to go out without knowing when they would return home," she said.
Expressing appreciation to President Jonathan for appointing Professor Rufai a minister, Governor Lamido said the Jigawa State people bore neither ill-feelings nor grudges against the former over Rufai's removal. "The president has not done any wrong by firing her and there is no political dimension to the sack, contrary to popular opinion. The president has the power to hire and fire," the governor asserted.
Although both Governor Lamido and Professor Ruqqayya, in their separate speeches, shied away from inferring bitter intra-party politics in President Jonathan's sack of the ministers, most public opinions believe current developments within the PDP and the ignominious manner of the dismissal of the ministers lend credence to vindictiveness.
Ismail Adebayo, Muideen Olaniyi, Abdullahi Anako and Abdulkadir Badsha Muktar and Isiaka Wakili