Alhaji Bamanga Tukur
Omololu Ogunmade and Onwuka Nzeshi
The 79 lawmakers who have openly declared their loyalty to the Kawu Baraje-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Thursday called the bluff of the party’s national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who had on Wednesday threatened to declare their seats in the National Assembly vacant.
Following the factionalisation of the ruling party last Saturday, 22 senators and 57 members of the House of Representatives had respectively congratulated the emergence of the splinter group and pledged their loyalty to the New PDP.
In their reaction to Tukur’s statement, the 57 lawmakers in the lower chamber, faulted the threat by Tukur, insisting that all relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution as well as several pronouncements by the Supreme Court do not support the declaration of anybody’s seat vacant, especially when the party is embroiled in a crisis.
In a statement issued late yesterday, the group described Tukur's comments as unfortunate, adding that it was this “garrison attitude” that had been responsible for the travails of the ruling party.
The statement issued by Hon. Sokonte Davies (PDP/Rivers) on behalf of the 57 House members, accused Tukur of being a stranger to the party and was working towards its destruction.
According to the group, Tukur could afford to do whatever he likes with the party because he was not there at its formative stage and does not share the visions of its founding fathers.
The group defiantly reiterated its loyalty to the Baraje-led National Executive Committee (NEC) recently installed last Saturday by the faction, saying Tukur had ceased to be the chairman of the party.
The G57 also chided Tukur over the threat to arrest members of the faction, stating that such a culture of repression of dissenting voices belonged to the military era and not to a democratic setting.
They warned security agencies not to allow themselves to be dragged into the political arena and advised them to reject the invitation to support impunity.
The statement read thus: “It has been brought to our attention the statement credited to Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the erstwhile National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Indeed, it is unfortunate if he really made the comments credited to him.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we state that it is this type of garrison attitude that has brought the PDP to where it is today and that is why we shall spare no effort to redeem it from those who are bent on destroying it, like Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
“You know, it is easy to destroy a thing and since Bamanga Tukur was not a founding father of the party, he does not understand the underlying principles and reasons why it was founded in the first place. PDP was founded on the principle of national consensus building and to be a platform to unite the various sections and interests in the country.
“The nation was going adrift and well-meaning leaders and patriots decided to form this all-embracing political party which every Nigerian will be proud to belong to and to provide a nexus for nation building. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was not one of those patriots.
“Again, as he had operated the constitution of the party mostly in breach, he thinks that he can also do the same with the Nigerian constitution and the Electoral Act. From all relevant sections of these laws and as severally pronounced by the Supreme Court, you cannot declare anybody’s seat vacant, especially when the party is in factions.
“Moreover, since he has not been a member of the party, he does not also know that PDP is the greatest beneficiary of party factionalisation in the present dispensation of our democratic journey.
“Furthermore, we don’t know when political disagreements within a political party became a state offence such that the former chairman of PDP should ask the security agencies to harass and arrest his opponents. We thought this was what the military and the political cowards did.
“However, we are not surprised, nonetheless, because a drowning man can hold on to anything he thinks will help him stay afloat and survive. Weaklings and losers always seek to use whatever powers they think are at their disposal, irrespective of how inappropriate that may be, to shore up a lost cause.
“On this note, we also hope that the relevant authorities will call him to order because when this is not done and they are accused of supporting impunity and being complicit, the usual mantra of being dragged into a matter they are not involved in shall surface again.
“We want to believe that the presidency and security agencies are not about to participate in illegality in order to preserve a drowning man.”
On the part of the 22 senators who have joined the New PDP, the group said they would not dignify Tukur by responding to his threat. Instead, they asked him to carry out his threat if he feels he has the capacity to do so.
A member of the group of 22 senators told THISDAY in confidence yesterday that they would not publicly comment on Tukur’s statement until the outcome of the meeting of the party next Tuesday where the issues are expected to be put in their proper perspectives.
The senator said they were satisfied that their counterparts in the House of Representatives had aptly told Tukur that his threat on Wednesday went a long way to underscore his level of ignorance of constitutional stipulations about the recall of lawmakers.
He said Tukur needed to be educated that only constituents could recall lawmakers.
He further said despite the degeneration of the crisis in the party, Tukur has refused to identify himself as the main problem.
He observed that by issuing the threat at a difficult moment like this in the history of the party, Tukur was not helping President Goodluck Jonathan, but rather, was compounding the problems confronting him.
He added that the threat also implied that Tukur and members of his camp are still ignorant of the grave crisis they have on their hands.
According to the senator, when the group is ready to respond to Tukur's threat, the whole world would know, even as he challenged the PDP chairman to declare their seats vacant without further delay.
He pointed out that if some members of the party were emboldened to walk out on the president during such an important event of the party last Saturday in Abuja, the situation showed that the president and his loyalists were only being told to do their worst, adding that the crisis had gone beyond the threat of recall.