Chuks Okocha reviews the nationwide reconciliation effort of the Bamanga Tukur-led National Working Committee
The recent reconciliation attempt embarked upon by the National Working Committee of Peoples Democratic Party at the six geopolitical zones has exposed the soft underbelly of the party. At least, it has shown that all is not well with the so called largest political party in sub-Saharan Africa. Some people are not happy with certain developments in the party.
Reconciliation became a top priority of the party after its national caucus identified the need for immediate reconciliation, especially ahead of the 2015 general election.
In the beginning…
Following the advice of the national caucus, the NWC held an emergency meeting to commence a national reconciliation tour of the six geopolitical zones of the country. Though, reconciliation is not new within the PDP, as the former vice president, Alex Ekwueme, had once led a reconciliatory team of the party to try to reunite aggrieved members. The Ekwueme report has since become a kind of template for reconciliation within the party. But the problem has been the party’s inability to implement the various recommendations of its reconciliatory attempts.
The reconciliation embarked upon by the Tukur-led NWC has tended to expose PDP as a disunited party. The six zonal reconciliatory tours witnessed poor attendance by the governors of the party, ministers and other government officials. In each of the zones, the tours exposed the varying degrees of crisis among the stakeholders.
South Zonal Tour
In Ibadan where the tour started, the NWC team met the South-west leaders of the party. The zone complained about marginalisation and absence of internal democracy in the affairs of the PDP. During the meeting with the stakeholders, the zone complained that the South-west had been sidelined in the affairs of the party.
Though, not in explicit terms, the zone complained about how the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives that was originally zoned to it was denied the zone and that the office of the National Secretary is currently being held by the South-east in acting capacity.
The South-west also asked for the organisation of congresses that would restore the South-west zonal executive of PDP, which is currently held by a caretaker committee.
At the South-east flank of the national reconciliation tour, held in Enugu, the major cause of trouble in the party was identified as imposition of candidates by some self-acclaimed godfathers during elections. Party elders at the members also decried the increasing popularity of the opposition merger, All Progressives Congress, in the zone. The stakeholders concluded that the only way to check the popularity of APC is to ensure fairness and justice for all and avoid unnecessary godfatherism.
The stakeholders vowed to control all the five South-east states in future elections by reclaiming Anambra and Imo states, which are currently under the control of All Progressives Grand Alliance. They boasted that the newly- formed APC would not make any impact in the zone, in spite of the recent formation of the party’s elders’ committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and steering committee headed by Senator Chris Ngige to mobilise the zone for the party.
To address their complaints, Tukur pledged the readiness of the party under his watch to stop any form of imposition of candidates in future elections in the country.
Surprisingly, the entire talks in Enugu did not address the case of the former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu. His absence at the meeting and the silence on his readmission into the party has also cast a serious doubt on the NWC reconciliation.
In Port Harcourt, venue of the South-south meeting, the seeming petty envy among the PDP governors manifested. Two governors from the zone, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, reportedly, walked out of the meeting that was supposed to work out modalities for peace. Analysts believed that was not a good omen for peace in the zone.
Though, Amaechi, who was the host governor, was said to have seen off Uduaghan, the truth remains that there is no unity among the governors.
North Zonal Tour
The northern leg of the reconciliation started in Bauchi, for the North-east states. One noticeable feature of the peace tour was the absence of the PDP governors from the zone. Apart from the host governor, Isa Yuguda, other governors either sent their deputies or did not send any representation. The situation was so worrisome that Tukur threatened that in future no minister would be appointed into the Federal Executive Council without being a member of the party.
The situation was almost the same in Makurdi, venue of the North-central meeting, and even worse in the North-west, where three governors of the zone did not attend. In the North-central, the Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu, and others did not attend the reconciliatory meeting. In the North-central zone, many issues were swept under the carpet.
For instance, the Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, like his Abia State counterpart, Theodore Orji, have been trying to block the re-entry of some stakeholders into the PDP. Orji had led a delegation to the PDP national headquarters to block the return of Kalu to PDP, and in Plateau State, Jang had led a delegation to Abuja to stop the National Legal Adviser of the party and others he described as “snakes and reptiles” from returning to the party.
There are wide speculations that the absence of the governors from the reconciliation rallies was the consequence of unresolved grievances within the party.
To make matters worse, the grand finale of the reconciliatory tours was a near disaster, as the PDP governors from the zones did not attend. Only two governors – Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and Idris Wada of Kogi State – attended out of 23 governors. Also, President Goodluck Jonathan, despite being in town, was absent. Senate President David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal were equally absent. Their absence has elicited various interpretations.
Tukur tried to explain the absence of the major stakeholders from the reconciliation meeting in Abuja. But not many took him serious.
Tukur said the governors were not expected to attend the grand finale reconciliation, having attended the zonal meetings. But the truth of the matter was that most of them did not attend the zonal rallies.
Akpabio said the absence of his colleagues was due to poor publicity. He even said that he was not billed to attend, until he was called by National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh.
One person whose absence was very noticeable was the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, Tony Anenih. Secretary of the board, Senator Walid Jibrin, represented Anenih whom he said was on a reconciliatory tour in the northern states.
Enter Anenih and BoT
The reconciliatory tours have opened up a can of worms on the PDP crisis. Allegations of marginalisation, absence of internal democracy, and allegations of sidelining of some states are among the major issues that have come up. It was to try to address the misgivings arising from the NWC zonal reconciliatory tours that Anenih moved in quickly to meet the governors of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, and Governor Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State, who were absent at the zonal rally.
Before Anenih stepped in, there were reports of the northern PDP governors doing a hide-and-seek relationship with the opposition parties. The famous Mr. Fix It, as Anenih is known, is gradually touring the northern states with former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former national chairman of the PDP, Barnabas Gemade, and others to try to resolve the issues.
THISDAY gathered that it was Jonathan that mandated Anenih to embark on a reconciliatory mission to assuage any bitter feelings among the North-west governors who feel marginalised in the affairs of the party.
Specifically, Jonathan was said to have mandated Anenih to have one-on-one talks with Kwankwaso and Lamido because of the growing complaints of neglect by the two states at the national secretariat of PDP.
According to a source that spoke to THISDAY, the president was worried because of the penetration of the opposition camps into the North-west states.
The source said, “The Presidency is not comfortable that in 2011 the president lost in Kano and that the state voted massively for the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressives Change, General Muhammadu Buhari.
“To make matters worse, the NWC of the PDP set up a committee headed by Chief Graham Douglas to mediate in the crisis rocking the Kano State chapter of the PDP and the governor told the committee on their inauguration that they were not wanted in the state.”
The source disclosed further, “The president and his think-tank feel that leaving out Kano and Jigawa states without attending to their feelings would be dangerous, as both states are seen are the hub of opposition in the country. This was why the president hurriedly asked Anenih and his team to move to see and discuss with the governors and report back to him on how to settle whatever their grievances may be on time.”
But questions have been raised by some members of the PDP NWC about the funding of the BoT tour. This is against the backdrop of the poor funding of the party by the governors and the president.
A chieftain of the party, who pleaded not to be named, alleged that the governors and the president had something they do not want the NWC to know in the funding of Anenih’s tour and the speed with which it is being attended to.
Tukur said the zonal reconciliatory tours will be followed by a tour of the states. He explained that the states tour was aimed at addressing identified grievances.
According to him, “The zonal tours have opened our eyes on what is on ground and this would be followed by state reconciliations to address what we discovered.”
How seriously PDP members are prepared to take the reconciliation efforts will be known in the period ahead.