The campaign for the removal of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, intensified Tuesday, as the 36 state chairmen of the party and their counterpart in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) rose from a meeting in Abuja and passed a vote of no confidence on him. They also demanded Tukur's resignation.
Tukur, however, remained defiant and set up a committee to lobby governors elected on the party's platform to save him from being kicked out of office.
Speaking on the outcome of their meeting, one of the party chairmen confided in THISDAY that they were going to Aso Rock, where the national caucus of the PDP was meeting to present their decision to President Goodluck Jonathan last night. In addition to the stance taken by the state PDP chairmen, some members of the party's Board of Trustees (BoT) led by its chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, met with the president yesterday evening to prevail on him to let Tukur go.
They informed the president that his continued stay had become untenable and his removal would go a long way in resolving the crisis in the party.
Despite the gang up against Tukur, the special committee he set up to save his neck included a former Minister of Education, Prof. Jubril Aminu; a former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), General Haladu Hannaniya; Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd); and other elders of the Adamawa State chapter of the PDP.
Other members of the committee are Dr. Umar Ardo and Wilberforce Juta. The committee will lobby the Plateau State Governor and factional chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), Chief Jonah Jang and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart who doubles as the Chairman, PDP Governors' Forum (PDP-GF), Chief Godswill Akpabio, to prevail on those pushing for his ouster to back off.
Tukur, in another move to stem the campaign to remove him, denied yesterday's speculations that he had resigned, saying the rumour of his bowing out of office was the handiwork of his detractors.
The constitution of the lobby committee yesterday was the outcome of a meeting between Tukur and the Adamawa State PDP elders, held at his Abuja residence. THISDAY gathered that the inclusion of Akpabio among those to be lobbied was to fulfill all righteousness as the committee believed that the Akwa Ibom governor was one of those canvassing for his removal.
The meeting was also said to have prevailed on Tukur not to adopt a confrontational stance in fighting his detractors.
A source told THISDAY that immediately after it was set up, the committee moved into action and called the two governors to get an appointment with them.
The outcome of the meeting, according to the source, will determine the posture Tukur will take in reaction to the effort to remove him from office.
Ardo, who confirmed the setting up of the committee, said the need to approach the two governors became necessary given the positions they hold in the party.
"We decided to explore this option with the national chairman as we agreed that it would not be right to take any action without hearing from them (governors) since they hold key positions on behalf of the party and our position would be decided by the outcome of the meeting with them," he said.
Amid the push for his removal, Tukur also yesterday denied speculations that he had resigned from office.
But a coalition of stakeholders, led by a former Rivers State Commissioner for Finance, Kenneth Kobani, pushing for his ouster insisted that he must go because his "strife-ridden period at the helm of affairs of the party has witnessed a catastrophic decline in the fortunes of the party." The national chairman, who spoke when some elders from his state, Adamawa, visited him, expressed shock at the report on his resignation, which according to him, was being sponsored by those he described as desperate hawks within and outside the party.
He said he found it incomprehensible that certain members of the party could go to such extent to concoct lies against his person in order to justify their plot to remove him.
Tukur, who linked the push for his ouster to his support for the president, said he had done everything practicable to keep the PDP on track and to mobilise support for the transformation agenda of Jonathan.
He said he never planned to resign nor told anyone in confidence about his resolve to do so.
"You all met me here talking to you as the PDP chairman, yet some enemies of the party went to the media to say I had resigned. It is unbelievable that party members could be mean, vile, treacherous and vindictive while playing such a stunt.
"This is not the first time they would do this. They had sponsored media reports severally to say I had resigned. Yet the Almighty God has continued to shame them because they were not the ones who kept me on this seat.
"They went further to sponsor media reports that I was to confront our president over an issue they could not expatiate on. The agents of darkness have taken over the place. Nigeria and members of our party should beware.
"I am on good terms with Mr. President, the leader of our party. We meet often and take strategic decisions together. No one, not even the devil can make me be in needless confrontation with the president. We are one in the spirit and the enemies would be shocked to see PDP back on stream," he added.
However, Kobani reiterated the position of his group that Tukur must go as the man had passed his "sell by date".
"His strife-ridden period at the helm of affairs of the party has witnessed a catastrophic decline in the fortunes of the party. The loss of cohesion in the organisation and administration of the party at the national level and the loss of confidence by many in the state chapters of the party is more than enough reason why he should quit now when the ovation is loudest.
"His body language does not inspire party members for the battles ahead and the need to reform, reposition the party and take battle to the opposition. What the PDP needs now is a vibrant chairman who can reach out to the broad-based support which the party definitely has.
"We need a leader who can lead a counter reformation. It does not need someone whose body language has the resemblance of an undertaker," he said.
As the crisis continues to rock PDP, some NWC members opposed to the party chair have faulted the letter written by Tukur's lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede, to Jonathan. They said the lawyer had no mandate of the party to write the letter on why Tukur should not resign.
A statement signed by the National Legal Adviser of PDP, Mr. Victor Kwom, said: "For the avoidance of doubt, the National Working Committee of the PDP wishes to state as follows: that Mr. Ajibola Oluyede has no mandate or authority to issue the said advertorial.
"That the position adduced in the advertorial does not in any way represent or correspond with the position of the constitution of the PDP.
"That the PDP has a national legal adviser whose duties under the party's constitution include advising the party on all legal matters, conducting all litigation; prosecuting and defending actions on behalf of the party, including its organs and officials in so far as the subject of the litigation affects the interest of the party; and interpreting the laws, regulations and constitution of the party in the event of any ambiguities.
"We therefore warn all such characters to desist from making public statements and sponsoring publications in any manner whatsoever that distort the provisions of our constitution and the position of our party on any issue."
Meanwhile, the national caucus of the party met at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa at 9 pm yesterday ostensibly to decide on Tukur's fate, among other issues. Those in attendance included Jonathan; Vice President Namadi Sambo; Senate President, David Mark; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha; and House Leader, Mulikat Akande. Also in attendance were Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba; Akpabio; Kaduna State Governor, Ibrahim Shema; and Anenih.
Also, former National Chairman, Ahmadu Ali; Deputy National Chairman, Uche Secondus; National Women Leader, Kema Chikwe; former Deputy Chairman, Bode George; Secretary, BoT, Walid Jubril; Minister of Transport, Idris Umar; Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke; and Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, were in attendance.
The meeting which ended at 11.50 pm will continue today at 6 pm, according to the vice-president who briefed State House correspondents.