With crises rocking the Peoples Democratic Party on all fronts, the party's ability to withstand the stress is again threatened, writes Chuks Okocha
Perhaps, for the first time since it was formed in 1998, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is enmeshed in so many crises than it ever could have imagined. Always taking the pride in its avowed ability to manage crisis, the party now appears to being buffeted by crises from many fronts that even true blue PDP members nurse doubts if it could overcome the challenges ahead of the 2015 polls to maintain its primal position in the nation's polity.
It is common knowledge that PDP’s membership is unwieldy. It boasts 23 governors out of 36. It has comfortable majority in both chambers of the National Assembly. The situation is the same in many of the state Houses of Assembly. But in all parts of the country, the party is in one crisis or the other, most of which are self-inflicted. Many of the crises are so daunting that they also pose serious threats to the party's chances in the 2015 general election.
From the South-west to the South-east, down to the South-south and many parts of the North, the party is wobbling from one crisis to the other. Some of the crises, including the crisis of confidence among PDP governors on the one hand and the lingering face-off between the governors and the party leadership on the other hand as well as the crack in the party over President Goodluck Jonathan's undeclared second term ambition are potent threats to the party's electoral fortune in 2015, if not well managed.
The recently concluded zonal reconciliatory tours embarked upon by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had done nothing but further exposed the underbelly of the crisis confronting the PDP as a political family.
Take it from the South-west. In Ogun State, for instance, the party has remained factionalised for many years even though the development manifested clearly during the last elections. The party is divided alongside many factions. There is a faction loyal to the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, against the Buruji Kashamu group. The first toll had been taken. It has consumed Chief Bode Mustapha as the national auditor of the party.
The new national auditor, Olawale, is from the Kashamu group. The state executive committee hitherto loyal to Obasanjo had been sacked and another committee put in place. It was the hopelessness of the in-fighting that compelled former governor Gbenga Daniel to form his own party, Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), which eventually contributed to the unseating of the PDP by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2011 governorship election in the state.
At the South-west zonal level, the Olusegun Oni committee had also been sacked by the NWC and a caretaker committee led by Mr. Ishola Filani, installed. Oni is still fighting hard to regain his office as the national vice chairman of the party. Also, former Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was suspended as national secretary of the party. His removal from office following a court order is fallout of the crisis in the Ogun State chapter of the party. The office that was zoned to the South-west is presently being occupied by Mr. Onwe S. Onwe from the South-east, although in acting capacity.
From Ekiti State, PDP is yet in crisis. There is a popularity contest between former governor Ayo Fayose and Oni over the former’s planned return to the PDP. The Oni faction is however not happy over the return and admittance of Fayose into the party.
The same thing is playing out in Oyo State. It was a similar in-fighting within the party that led to the party losing the state to the ACN in 2011. PDP was a party divided against itself in Oyo. A former governor, Rasheed Ladoja, had left the party under unfavourable situation and formed his own party, the Accord Party, which is a major contender in the state today.
In Ondo, the crisis in the PDP was believed to have led to the Labour Party maintaining hold on the state. The former National Legal Adviser, Olusola Oke, was allegedly sabotaged from winning the October 20 governorship election in the state. Elders of the party in the state were alleged to have campaigned for Labour Party at night and in the day, stood behind the PDP. At the end of the day, Oke lost the election.
Lagos PDP is also not at peace with itself. There are different factions in the party. While the former Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party, Chief Bode George, leads the dominant faction; former Works Minister, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, heads the other faction. But the party is striving hard to play down its crisis and present a facade of peace.
However, in the whole of South-west, it might be safe to infer that Osun maintains an executive with a semblance of peace. With the party machinery comfortably in the hands of former Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore, the executive in the state has left the league of crisis-ridden executives.
Attempts by the PDP Governors' Forum to wade into the crisis in the South-west, met a dead end. Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State and his colleagues from Benue, Delta, and Ebonyi States tried in vain to resolve the crisis. At the end of the day, they advised the zone to go and resolve the crisis amongst them and report back to the committee. This was because all entreaties for them to embrace peace failed.
In South-east and the South-south, the party is also not at peace with itself. Here, wars are being waged daily over the planned return of the former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu. The incumbent governor, Theodore Orji, led a delegation of the stakeholders from the state and stormed the national secretariat of PDP where they protested Kalu’s return bid to the party.
In Ebonyi, there is a simmering cold war between the PDP stakeholders and the governor, Martins Elechi. Almost all founding members of the party in the state are now observing a ‘siddon look’.
The same scenario applies in Enugu, where a war is gradually brewing between the Nsukka and Awgu zones in the state over whose turn it is to produce the party's governorship candidate in the next general election.
The bone of contention is that the Agwu zone where Governor Sullivan Chime hails from would be completing eight years in office and the same zone wants to continue in office with the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, contesting. The Nsukka zone is therefore alleging marginalisation.
The spectre in Anambra State is worrisome, especially that a governorship election is billed to take place in December. Presently, there is no recognisable state chairman of the party in the state. The state has always been in crisis and there are several factions loyal to the various godfathers that dominate the turf of Anambra.
The South-south crisis has peaked lately. It is another high wire popularity contest between the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Godswill Akpabio. The acrimony between the two governors came to a head recently, when Amaechi and his Delta State counterpart, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, were accused of walking out on the zonal reconciliatory meeting of the party that held in Port Harcourt.
However, contrary to the spin given the incident, nothing of such happened. Rather, Amaechi had excused himself to see off Uduaghan who was leaving early because he had a flight to catch and that the Asaba airport was billed to close early.
Interestingly, this happened at a time Akpabio was making his speech. Though, both Amaechi and Uduaghan would later issue separate statements, denying insinuations that they walked out on the national chairman; their actions were largely misinterpreted. Thus, whether or not the PDP admits it, there is serious crisis in the zone, especially because of the circumstances that led to the formation of the PDP Governors' Forum with Akpabio as its chair.
But certainly, how well the party handles the many crises it is facing is critical to its survival. This is especially so given the ongoing moves by the north to reclaim the presidency. As some of the proponents of the idea had put it, “this is our turn, presidency must move up north”.
The development manifested early, following the claim by the Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Mu'azu Aliyu, that there was an agreement with Jonathan that he would serve just one term. This had sparked crisis in the party.
The crisis festered further when most of the northern governors boycotted the zonal reconciliation tour set in motion by the NWC. From the reconciliatory train moving from the north-east, through the north-central, to the northwest, some of the governors of the party declined to show up at the meetings.
The absence of 21 governors of the PDP at the grand finale of the reconciliatory tour in Abuja had also set the tongue wagging.
However, amid the rumour doing the rounds that their absence was a demonstration of their grievances against the party, the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, explained the absence of the governors. He said that the governors were not meant to be present at the grand finale tour, while Akpabio in his defence of his colleagues said that there was not enough publicity for the party’s governors to attend the meeting.
At the moment, there is also crisis within the NWC over the conduct of Adamawa State congresses of the party. For some reasons, the party is divided on the holding of congresses in the state, even when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had written to say that there were no democratically elected congresses in the state and nine others.
What was particularly surprising was the division within the NWC as members, after supporting and working for congresses to hold in the state from ward to the state level, turned round to disassociate themselves from the decisions they took as a group. The situation appears to be getting out of hand as the national chairman, in a letter co-signed by the acting national secretary, recognised a faction allegedly loyal to Tukur. This faction is led by Joel Madaki, the first state chairman of PDP in Adamawa state.
But PDP members in the state claimed not to have seen any such letter. Also, in Taraba, two serving senators are up in arms against the convalescing Governor, Danbaba Suntai, who is abroad for medical treatment after surviving a plane crash. The bone of contention is the struggle over the state PDP structure.
There is also crisis on the Plateau as the governor, Jonah Jang, did not want some members of the party who defected from the party to return to the fold. As a result, he, like Orji, also led a delegation to the national secretariat, seeking to prevent the return of some members.
The National Legal Adviser of the party, Victor Kwom, who was nominated by the governor, described those seeking to return to the party as ‘snakes and reptiles’, who would not be allowed to return to the PDP.
At the National Assembly where the party has majority in the two chambers, there is no peace between the lawmakers and the president, both of whom were elected on the same party platform. The expected cordial relationship that was supposed to exist between the presidency and the legislators is not there.
As expected, the PDP produced the leadership of the National Assembly, yet, this does not show in the relationship between the two arms of government as the Senate and the House of Representatives are never on the same page with the president.
For instance, the crises that often herald the passage of budgets in the country are worrisome. It has almost become an annual ritual. It is either that the government refuses to implement a duly passed budget and subject same to selective implementation to the anger of the lawmakers or that the lawmakers embark on actions seen as an encroachment on the powers of the executive.
In 2012, the implementation of the 2012 budget did not start till late April, at the end of which the budget did not achieve up to 70 per cent implementation. This, automatically, set the tone for the 2013 budget presentation as the crisis of confidence between the National Assembly and the presidency manifested significantly over alleged poor implementation of the last budget as a result of poor releases.
Jonathan, while presenting the 2013 budget, had put the oil benchmark at $75 per barrel. But this degenerated into serious controversy as the Senate benchmarked it at $78 while the House put it at $80. Observers, therefore, queried the influence of the PDP as the party that produced both the president and the National Assembly members, noting that such needless bickering was unhealthy for the economy and the politics of the nation.