Former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo
By Chuks Okocha
The debate over the one-term pact between President Goodluck Jonathan and governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raged on Monday as investigations revealed how the deal was struck.
THISDAY gathered that the deal that the president would run for one term was reached at an emergency meeting of the party governors with the then PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, ahead of a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. Twenty out of the 27 governors of the party then attended the meeting held on December 16, 2010.
Party sources said intense negotiations took place between the governors and top party leaders sympathetic to Jonathan’s presidential ambition then before the governors agreed to back the president, who was seeking the party’s ticket in the 2011 presidential poll.
The governors had earlier stalled the NEC meeting scheduled for December 15, 2010 and it was after they had been able to reach an agreement with the party leadership that the president would run for one term that the party was able to convene the NEC meeting.
Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, had stirred the hornet’s nest on Sunday when he disclosed that the president reached an agreement with governors to serve only one term in office.
Although the president has not indicated interest in the 2015 presidential race, saying it would be premature to do so now, his associates have been rallying support behind his speculated second term bid.
The president, however, said he would only speak about his next political move in 2014 as doing so now would heat up the polity.
Sources who spoke to THISDAY on the one-term pact recalled how the governors had refused to back Jonathan’s election bid until they got assurances that he would serve for only one term.
Sources said it was based on the assurance that the president would run for one term that the governors then signed an agreement to back Jonathan for his presidential bid in 2011.
The governors at the December 16, 2010 NEC meeting who signed the communiqué issued at the end of the deliberation were Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, Aliyu of Niger State, Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, Mohammed Goje of Gombe State and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.
Others were Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, Jonah Jang of Plateau State, Akwe Doma of Nasarawa State (now out of office), Sani Danladi (deputy governor) of Taraba State, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, late Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, Shaibu Usman of Kebbi State, Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State (now out of office), Aliyu Shinkafi of Zamfara, Gbenga Daniel of Ogun, Ada Okwuonu (deputy, Imo State) and Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State.
The six governors whose signatures were missing were Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Martins Elechi (Ebonyi), Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto), Theodore Orji (Abia) and Sullivan Chime (Enugu). The Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, was absent because his election was annulled and a by-election scheduled in the state.
Former NWC members who attended the meeting included the then PDP National Chairman, Nwodo; the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Mohammed Haliru Bello, who later became Minister of Defence; and the then National Secretary, Alhaji Kawu Baraje. Former Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Anthony Anenih, was also at the meeting.
The communiqué of the meeting, signed by the 20 governors and which was read by Shema, said: “At the emergency meeting of PDP governors held Thursday, December 16, 2010 and having deliberated extensively on democratic practices the world over observed as follows:
• Democratic systems all over the world recognise the principles of incumbency and continuity
• Entrenched democratic culture persistent in presidential system and our constitution entitles our president to go for a second term which the PDP governors support.
• The governors also recognise the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket and therefore hereby support President Goodluck Jonathan (GCFR) to contest the 2011 election as the PDP presidential candidate for a period of four years only.”
It was gathered that Jonathan, in acknowledging the influence of the governors, described them as “field commanders” who could not be toyed or played with.
According to him, “the governors are the commanders in the state and as field commanders you cannot play with them.”
The NEC meeting, which ought to hold on December 15, 2010, was postponed because the governors did not attend.
The NEC meeting was eventually held and was attended by Jonathan, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark and the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
Earlier in his speech at the meeting, Nwodo said the party had put its challenges behind it.
According to him, “we were faced with challenges and thank God that in the last 48 hours, we have put our challenges behind us.”
He had explained that the party’s ability to solve its problem showed the PDP’s maturity to manage the affairs of the country.
A governor from the North-west who Monday gave details of the deal with Jonathan simply said: “If there was no deal, why did the NEC meeting which we boycotted on Wednesday take place on Thursday, December 16, 2010? It was at that NEC meeting that all the guidelines for the National Assembly, governorship and presidential primaries were approved.
“There was a deal between the president and we the PDP governors. It was signed and sealed, but was not circulated to the media. What was circulated to the media was the one read by Shema. Why did the president describe the governors as the field commanders? Why did the then national chairman of PDP (Nwodo) say that there was a problem which was resolved within 48 hours? These are the questions the president should answer and not his aides.”
According to the governor, “the meeting also discussed the high turnover of members of the National Assembly. This position was raised by the principal officers of the National Assembly at the meeting.”
Two former NWC members of the PDP confirmed the meeting at which the one-term pact was reached, adding that the meeting took place at the office of the PDP national chairman.
Fielding questions after reading the communiqué, Shema had said there would still be a presidential primary election, but it was necessary to state the stand of the governors.
It was as a result of the governors’ stand that informed the Atiku Campaign Office’s reaction that “we are in a democracy. Governors have a right to make democratic choice and so do the delegates. Let there be no intimidation of delegates.”