This Day (Lagos)

2 January 2014

Nigeria: Tukur - My Removal Is Not Part of PDP NEC Agenda

The crisis within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shows no sign of abating, as the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, has said his resignation or sack will not be on the agenda at the National Caucus, Board of Trustees (BoT) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings scheduled for next week.

Also Tukur said members of the party, including the governors who have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) will sooner than expected, come back to the PDP. But despite Tukur's assurance that he was not going anywhere, critical stakeholders of the party have started shopping for his replacement.

Tukur, who spoke yesterday in a phone interview with THISDAY from Huston Texas, United States, said: "I summoned the National Caucus and the NEC meetings to be held on January 6 and 8 and I can assure you that the agenda of these meeting has no leadership change. My resignation or ouster by the NEC is by no means part of the agenda of these meetings.

"I summoned these meetings for us to address some of the issues affecting PDP as a political party and to make PDP come out stronger after these meetings. There is no leadership problem or crisis in the PDP.

"The NEC meeting will focus on how to strengthen our party as one united family. It is the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party that prepares agenda of the NEC meeting and I can assure you that change of leadership is not part of the January 8 meeting." For several months, governors of the PDP have pushed for Tukur's ouster, accusing him of highhandedness and running the party like his personal estate.

Before the defection of five governors of the party to APC last November, they had demanded Tukur's removal as a prerequisite for peace.

However, Tukur has continued to enjoy the backing of President Goodluck Jonathan who has refused to bow to the demands of the governors.

Tukur, in his interview, pointed out that all the talk about his resignation and change of leadership was nothing but a mere distraction to get across to the leader of the party, the president, adding, "We will not give them the opportunity to do so. "These people making these allegations are merely trying to get to their main target, who is President Jonathan. They know that my loyalty to the president is absolute and therefore they want to get at me first and make the president vulnerable.

"I was the person who raised his hand in the north during the presidential campaign and they know that the first target to get to before Jonathan is me. This is why they are doing what they are doing because of my absolute loyalty to President Jonathan. "All these are mere distractions, all they want to do is to destroy me and then get across to Jonathan. This is because they know I will not agree to betray the president. This is why I am the target now."

Also, Tukur allayed fears over the defection of some members of the party to APC, boasting that those who had left the party would soon come back to PDP. According to Tukur, measures are being put in place in the PDP, in conjunction with the president, to enable those who have defected to return to the party in the nick of time.

Tukur, who spoke when a team of Nigerian professionals based in Europe, led by Dr. Edwin Olabamiro visited him, said: "The PDP remains the party with the largest spread and tested strength to win elections any day, any time. I thank you all for this visit, while I urge our members all in Nigeria not to be brow beaten by images of political delusion that confront them everyday from different quarters. "The PDP is at home to contain all forms of harassment by the opposition, either vaunted or intended. If it is a game of numbers in any election, you can always count on the fact that the PDP would have it greater. "The good thing is that if five people moved out of PDP to the other party, even by a dint of propaganda, the party takes in more than 500 at a time, as replacements. This means that the electorate in Nigeria trust the PDP more than many people are aware.

"As the chairman of PDP, let me say that we may not have smooth sailing in the party at the moment, but the party and Mr. President are not relenting in holding consultations with the aggrieved members. At the end of it all, PDP would be the better for it and more prepared for greater exploits. "Our members should therefore savour the period of the yuletide season and not allow any issue to keep them distracted and depressed."

However, despite Tukur's insistence that he would not resign or be removed as the PDP chairman, some stakeholders of the party, including members of its NEC and BoT told newsmen that they have been on the lookout for a credible person from the North-east who would unite the party and curtail APC's encroachment and efforts to lure its members.

One NEC member from the North-east, who did not want to be named, said: "Names like the former National Administrative Secretary, Habu Fari, from Taraba State and the former acting National Secretary of PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo from Bauchi State, have been mentioned as possible replacements for Tukur.

"Some members are also suggesting a replacement in the person of the former governor of Bauchi State, Adamu Mauzu, while some are rooting for the former Minister of Defence, Abdullahi Shettima. "We don't know what will happen at the NEC meeting, but everything depends on the leader of the party, President Goodluck Jonathan."

Also, the name of the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abba Gana, from Borno State is another person who has been touted as a possible replacement for Tukur.

When reminded that the issue of change of leadership was not on the agenda of the meeting, the NEC member said: " It depends on the president, if he wants a change of leadership, the agenda of a meeting means nothing to the NEC meeting. It can come under AOB (Any Other Business)."

In addition to the current search for Tukur's replacement, the governors who have been pushing for his ouster are insisting that the next chairman of the party should come from a non-PDP controlled state. They have premised their position on the fact that most chairmen of the party end up in power tussles with sitting PDP governors. So they see this as a measure to prevent differences that might arise between a chairman of the PDP and a governor elected on the platform of the party.

Jonathan, in this regard, has been meeting with the party's governors on an individual basis during the yuletide period to sample their opinions on whether Tukur should go or not.

In recent days, he has meet with Governors Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta) and Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom).

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