Anenih, Goodluck and Obasanjo
In this report, Chuks Okocha reviews the issues that would shape the emergence of the next chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees The Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees chairmanship election scheduled for January 8 next year is significant for many reasons. The election of a new chairman to steer the affairs of the board will to a great extent determine how the presidential candidate of the party will emerge ahead of the 2015 general elections. Secondly, the emergence of a new chairman of the BoT will be a huge statement on PDP’s readiness to rebuild the negative image and perception of the party among Nigerians. The BoT is the custodian of the party and works to ensure the highest standard of morality and discipline among members.
It was due to the significance of the BoT leadership that the PDP stakeholders agreed to adopt a standard of election that would ensure that whoever emerges the chairman of the board would command the respect of members. The strategy is to do adequate consultation so as to arrive at a consensus before the election.
Many factors, including the image of the aspiring candidates, will shape the election and outcome of the election. President Goodluck Jonathan had appeared to be neutral on the question of who emerges the next BoT chairman. But events have seemed to prove that he may be rooting for one of the candidates for reasons of political expediency. How the new chairman of the board emerges will greatly shape the 2015 PDP presidential primary election. Analysts say Jonathan’s views on where the chairman should come from will count on the level of support for his second term bid from the zones.
South-east Demand for Equity
PDP members from the South-east believe the zone is not well represented in the party hierarchy. Under the current geopolitical arrangement, the national chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, is from the North-east; and the national secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, is from the South-west, the same zone that had the office of the chairman of BoT, before the holder, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, threw in the towel in April.
Vice President Namadi Sambo and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal are from the North-west, just as the national treasurer of PDP, Bala Kaoje. The Senate President, David Mark, is from North-central; Jonathan and the national deputy chairman of the party, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, are from the South-south zone.
South-east politicians insist that they have been consciously left out, despite the fact that persons from the zone occupy the offices of Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. To try to iron out the issues, South-east leaders in PDP had in their meeting of November 16 mandated the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to arrange a meeting between them and the president. They want the BoT chairmanship to be zoned to the South-east. They want the president to support their bid.
Contrary to reports, the South-east leaders did not support any of the aspirants to the chairmanship of the BoT. According to the minutes of the South-east leaders on November 16, “No decision or resolution was taken as to who the zone should support for the position.”
PDP insiders from the South-east believe the president’s views on who becomes the next BoT chairman would be a test of his sense of balancing and equity. One of the members of the board said, “It is not enough for the president to ask that the South-east throw their support for him to contest the 2015 presidential primary election. This is the time for him to ensure that there is equity and balancing within the various organs of the party. The South-east should not be left out of the leadership of the organs of the party.”
The member expressed delight at Obasanjo’s resignation, saying, “This is the time to right the wrongs done to the South-east in the sharing of offices within the party.”
The Candidates and the Odds
So far, over five aspirants have emerged for the post of chairman of PDP BoT. They are the former national chairman of the party, Dr. Ahmadu Ali from Kogi State in the North-central; former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyawnu, and Senator Onyeabo Obi, three of them from the South-east; former Minister of Works, Chief Anthony Anenih, who was chairman of the BoT, from Edo State in the South-south; and the former All Nigeria Peoples Party Board of Trustees chairman, Chief Harry Akande from Oyo State in the South-west.
Anenih: Known in political circles as “Mr. Fix it” for his extraordinary ability to influence electoral outcomes, Anenih was national chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party. He rose to become the chairman of the BoT during the presidency of Obasanjo, who also empowered the former police officer and made his tenure tumultuous. It was during Anenih’s time as BoT chairman and Ali’s tenure as national chairman that the infamous “garrison politics” was popularised in PDP. It was a style of politics that greatly undermined internal democracy in the party.
The odds against Anenih are many. Many believe it is not by sheer coincidence that he was summoned by the House of Representatives almost 48 hours to the earlier scheduled date for the BoT election to explain his role in a suspected road contract fraud. Apparently, it was aimed at reducing his acceptability before the BoT members and the party generally. That was before the BoT election was shifted to January 8 next year.
To many political observers, PDP lost the Edo Sstate governorship election largely due to the power play in the state. That Action Congress of Nigeria won the governorship election meant a minus to Anenih’s influence in the state. He had wanted to use the election to improve on his political influence after some devastating outings in recent times. To many, the victory of Adams oshiomhole was a direct minus to Anenih.
It is believed that Anenih aims to use the chairmanship of the BoT to shore up his sagging political influence, but coming from the same zone as the president may be a minus for the Edo-born politician.
Besides the factor of his zone, there is also the internal wrangling in Anenih’s home state. The Chief of Staff to the President, Mike Oghiadomhe, is from Anenih’s state and in the political supremacy battle between the two men, the election of Anenih as BoT chairman will certainly give him an edge over the Chief of Staff. It is doubtful if Oghiadomhe would fold his arms and allow Anenih to have the added advantage of BoT chairmanship.
According to inside sources within the BoT, “The first tenure of Anenih as the BoT chairman was tumultuous and full of controversial decisions which did not go down well with members of the then board.”
But Anenih is widely believed to possess the kind of strong character needed to hold the party together.
Nnamani : He was Senate President between 2005 and 2007 and was instrumental to the death of the alleged third term ambition of Obasanjo. This role in the third debate greatly enhanced his image as a principle legislator that helped to improve internal democracy. His candidature could help to boost the cold relationship between the National Assembly and the Presidency.
As a former senate president, Nnamani has unrestricted access to the leadership of the National Assembly, and he could use his influence to improve the relationship between the president and the National Assembly.
Nnamani, who runs Ken Nnamani Leadership Centre, has a flourishing relationship with civil society that can be of great advantage to the party.
The former senate president is close to both the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. Both agencies are known for their support for democracy in Nigeria. He led the NDI in 2007 to observe the presidential election in Sierra Leone, and he was a member of the Carter Foundation observer group to the election of late Professor Atta Mills of Ghana in 2008. Nnamani has also monitored elections in Tanzania and Botswana. His political and activist pedigree gives him some advantage over the other aspirants.
Besides, Nnamani commands respect among the members of the board.
Ali: A Second Republic senator, Ali is a medical doctor from Kogi State. He is the architect of notorious “garrison politics” of the Obasanjo era under which internal party democracy was seriously undermined. His headship of the BoT may hurt PDP’s image before the public.
But Ali has another challenge in the secretary to the BoT, Senator Walid Jubril. Both of them are from the same zone. Jubril is from Nasarawa State. The party may not likely allow both the secretary and chairman of its BoT to come from the same zone.
Akande: From Oyo State, South-west, Akande was the ANPP BoT chairman. He is yet to clock two years in PDP, having joined the party only last year after losing the battle to become the ANPP presidential candidate. At the moment, the major odd against him is that PDP is yet to give him a waiver to contest for any office in the party. Many feel it is nearly impossible for him to secure the waiver at this time.
Iwuanyanwu: Contrary to reports, Iwuanyanwu is not the adopted candidate of the South-east. But he is a candidate of note. The publisher of Champion Newspapers is a well-known politician in the South-east. He had contested the PDP national chairman position in 2008, but failed. If the BoT chairmanship is zoned to the South-east, Iwuanyanwu will have Nnamani to contend with.
Information available to THISDAY reveals that while Jonathan may not show open interest in who becomes the BoT chairman, he is not unmindful of the significance of the South-east’s support. Pundits believe that it would be difficult to secure the support of the South-east for the president’s future political ambition without zoning the BoT chairmanship to the area. Many in the zone feel that is the only way to ensure equity and balancing in the PDP at the moment.
Among Jonathan’s associates, Oghiadomhe may not support an Anenih chairmanship of BoT because that would be giving “Mr. Fix It”more powers and influence over him in Edo politics.
On his part, Chief Bode George is seriously rallying support for Anenih, who was ousted from office by Obasanjo in 2007. But George’s action is mainly to undermine Obasanjo’s attempt to have an upper hand in determining his successor.
But going by what happened penultimate Friday at the Banquet Hall of the State House, in Abuja, it is evident that the north would not be favourably disposed to Anenih’s chairmanship of the BoT. Some of them made it clear that they will not support him. In fact, with the mood in the hall that day, it seems election is what would settle the matter.
Though, it was agreed that any person interested in becoming the chairman of the board, should send his letter of intention, sources said that was aimed at reducing the names of those jostling for the post. In actual fact, the members of BoT would not like an election, because that may divide the board. Traditionally, they prefer the emergence of a chairman through consensus. So the period between now and January, observers say, would be used to try to persuade some members to step down their interests in the BoT chairmanship.
Odds Favour South-east
Some senior members of the BoT from the north are said to be more disposed to the South-east producing the next chairman of the board. A source lamented, “The president is from the South-south, the vice president is from the North-west, the national chairman of the PDP is from the North-east, the national secretary of PDP is from the South-west.
“Where is the South-east in all these? It is the belief of some of BoT members that the South-east should be given the chance to produce the next chairman of the BoT.”
On the position of Obasanjo, who resigned as the chairman of BoT, the source said, “He will prefer anybody as a BoT chairman, but certainly not Anenih.” He said it was in connection with the BoT chairmanship that the former president was in the South-east recently.
The BoT has influential members from the north, like Mallam Adamu Ciroma, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Ghali Na’Abba, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and by the composition of the board, the north has more members.
The board is made up of 102 members, comprising serving and past presidents and vice presidents who are still members of the party. Also in the board are all serving and past national chairmen of PDP, national secretaries, all past and serving senate presidents and speakers of the House of Representatives who are still members of the party, all founding fathers and mothers of the party, two women selected from each of the six geo-political zones, three members, at least one of who shall be a woman from each of the six geo-political zones, and members of the party not exceeding six who have contributed immensely to the growth of the party
The PDP constitution also says that the membership of the BoT shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the quorum shall be two-thirds of the membership.
As PDP moves towards the election of a new chairman for its BoT on January 8, there is no doubt that issues around the 2015 presidential election are what would dominate discussions.