Anyim Pius Anyim , Former Senate President
President Goodluck Jonathan is weighing his options over who becomes the next chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, it emerged Saturday night.
Former chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo , had resigned as national chairman on January 17, in controversial circumstances.
President Jonathan is considering whether to stick with the acting national chairman, Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed, till the end of the April election or work towards picking a new chairman.
He is also said to be torn between picking former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and former Foreign Affairs Minister Ojo Maduekwe for the plum job.
But the president’s dilemma is not helped by the fact that the South-east governors whom he relies on in making his pick are at present sharply divided over the issue.
Some of the governors do not want the party’s national chairman to come from their state, as they are desperate to stave off the sort of bitter rivalry that occurred between the former chairman of the party (Nwodo) and Enugu State Governor Sullivan Chime.
The source said for instance, “the governor of Ebonyi State is opposed to one of the candidates, who is seen as the likely choice of President Jonathan. The governor is quoted to have said that he will not accept any nominee from the state”.
Abia State Governor Theodore Orji was also quoted as saying that he was no longer interested in who becomes the national chairman with the exit of Nwodo.
Anyim is from â€ˆEbonyi State while Maduekwe is from Abia.
President Jonathan has been inundated with petitions from the South-east elders and opinion moulders, particularly the South-east Elders Forum led by the former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who insist the zone must be given the opportunity to replace Nwodo.
There is also a case in court at present seeking to compel a replacement of the former PDP chairman now.
As part of the pressure being mounted on Jonathan, the South-east stakeholders and elders have gone a step further to nominate two names to the president.
The South-east Stake-holders and elders through a committee put in place and headed by Prof. Anya O. Anya had nominated former Speaker of the House of Representatives in the aborted Third Republic, Chief Agunwa Anaekwe, and former Chairman, Caretaker Committee of PDP in Anambra State, Chief Dan Ulasi, both of whom are from the state for the chairmanship slot.
But THISDAY learnt the president is not favourably disposed to making a choice from the list following the crisis rocking the party in Anambra State
Some members of the party had gone to court, asking the court to declare that the position of the Acting National Chairman currently being held by Dr. Haliru Mohammed Bello is unconstitutional as there is no such position in the party's constitution.
Presidency sources said meetings have been held to pick an acceptable candidate, but the PDP governors are not helping matters because they are divided over the choice of an acceptable candidate.
The report of the screening committee headed by Prof. Anya which endorsed Anaekwe and Ulasi for the job, however, did not portray former Senate President Anyim and former Foreign Affairs Minister Maduekwe, who are also angling for the coveted office well.
According to the report, “Maduekwe indicated strong interest in the national chairmanship position. He was recently appointed Deputy Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council. On two occasions when he promised to come for screening, he had belatedly sent senior assistants to excuse himself, because of the demands of his office”.
On Anyim, the committee said: “Senator Anyim who has been in the mind of most Igbo people since there was a vacancy in the national chairmanship position in PDP, did not present himself for screening. He confided in the chairman of the forum that he feared that his showing interest in the position might jeopardize the position for the South-east.”
THISDAY gathered that the nomination of Anaekwe and Ulasi by the Anya committee has also not helped matters because of what a source described as “the indifference of the Anambra State stakeholders”.
The source said the president is worried that the state is plagued by crisis in the last 10 years, and therefore wants to avoid the situation that bedevilled Nwodo in Enugu state.
The crisis that consumed Nwodo as national chairman derived from his perceived involvement with one of the factions and this, the source said, “the president wants to avoid”.
As part of the measures to ensure that a credible name was presented to the PDP BoT, a meeting had taken place at the State House to discuss the possibility of presenting a name.
The meeting was said to be inconclusive as at Thur-sday night.
The dilemma of the president, the source said is, “how would President Jonathan carry the PDP governors along without hurting the other stakeholders and ensuring that a credible candidate is picked for the chairmanship.
According to the source, “this is becoming more difficult because the President wants to assure the South-east that they have a stake in his presidency”.
The South-east leaders had said recently that it would be dangerous to go to April poll without a South-east national chairman.
Meanwhile, the PDP Board of Trustees has directed the party’s National Working Committee to implement the decision of the National Executive Committee that Nwodo be tried for anti-party activities.
The BoT which met yesterday between 11:30am and 2pm however did not discuss the issue of a new chairman for the party.
“The matter was not tabled at the meeting. No name was presented,” said a source at the meeting.
But the meeting reviewed the party’s campaign so far and progress made.
President Jonathan, according to sources, briefed the BoT on his campaign so far and his challenges in the North-west geo-political zone.
On Nwodo, the party’s acting chairman, Bello, was said to have informed the meeting that the campaign had stall Nwodo’s trial and the process would begin soon.
Nwodo was alleged to have brought the party to disrepute at the January 13 national convention where he appeared to preside over proceedings when a court had barred him from parading himself as chairman.