Inside Politics: By T U N D E R A H M A N, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Things have taken a frenzied pace since last week Saturday when former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, seven People’s Democratic Party governors and their supporters announced the formation of a breakaway group from the ruling party called the New PDP. I love that name New PDP. Why? You can accuse Atiku and the seven governors of factionalising PDP; you can hardly accuse them of forming a brand new party as it were.
The rampaging Northern state governors who had earlier been junketing across the country, meeting prominent PDP leaders, plus Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi have always insisted they would not leave PDP. They said they would stay in the party and fight from within. They made good their pledge last week Saturday, but their staying and fighting from within is of a different hue. They formed a splinter group, which derived its name from the main PDP. Which PDP is now the original one and which is the counterfeit? For effect, at their press conference in Abuja where they announced the birth of the New PDP, they warned PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur and the National Working Committee members, some of whom were elected at the special national convention in Abuja that same Saturday, to stop parading themselves as officers of the party. Two days later, the group led by former acting National Chairman Kawu Baraje filed a suit at a Lagos High Court seeking to bar the Bamanga-led executives from parading themselves as the authentic executives of the party. And you can’t help but wonder: the group has broken away from the old PDP and formed a new PDP, why bother about the old PDP then?
Truth is the Baraje group, or is it the Atiku group, is moving to hype the game and up the stakes in the power negotiation. For me, the matter is all about negotiation and bargaining in respect of the big 2015 cake. I don’t think the brains behind the New PDP are under any illusion that they could be the real PDP, the main PDP. I don’t think they will approach INEC for recognition as the real PDP or expect INEC to so recognise them as the real PDP. That would be a tall and tough one. I think they are just out to create a crisis situation in PDP and cause enough confusion within the party as to force President Jonathan and the PDP leaders to the negotiation table on matters of 2015. The governors are opposed to President Jonathan’s second term ambition in 2015 and at least three of them have been linked with the 2015 presidential race while at least one of them has been linked with the race for the vice presidency. Yes, the rampaging governors are aggrieved; they have a big grouse as attested to by the Chairman of PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, who has taken the battle upon himself to quench the fire.
There will always be grievances. Tell me, which party is completely devoid of aggrieved party men? Their main grouse, as I see it, is around the issue of 2015. Everything that happened at the Eagle Square; the walk-out, the formation of New PDP, had been pre-determined to achieve the aim of forcing President Jonathan to the negotiation table, to let him know 2015 is not done and dusted for him yet. Just imagine the speed with which they walked out of Eagle Square, regrouped at the Yar’ Adua Centre, about a kilometre away, and how the lengthy speech Baraje read could have been ready within that short time.
But I have two lingering fears about this dissension, this growing rebellion in PDP. One, the rebellion is taking a life of its own. The dissenting governors at the weekend opened their own secretariat in Abuja. I’m afraid they must be wary, so that what happened when the Solomon Lar and Shuaib Oyedokun faction of PDP tried to open a factional office in Utako district of Abuja during then President Obasanjo’s reign as PDP overlord does not repeat itself: security forces quickly moved to dislodge them.
But no doubt, the rank of the present dissenters is growing by the day. We had initially taken it for granted that in the seven states controlled by these recalcitrant governors, a majority of the Senators and House of Representatives members would follow their governors to the New PDP. Not only have most of them declared support and allegiance to the New PDP, some others from other states not in the original seven are also declaring solidarity for the new group in a way that the opposition may snatch the majority from the ruling PDP in both houses of the National Assembly. And this could be dangerous for PDP and President Jonathan. It must be borne in mind that those Senators and House members if they move to the New PDP, in my view, seems to be covered by Section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) on the matter of defection.
The second point is that I hope President Jonathan and PDP Chairman Tukur are on the same page on how to contain this rebellion. Both seem not to be operating on the same page in my opinion. A thoroughly embarrassed and terrified President Jonathan is talking peace, waving the olive branch, with his Man Friday Chief Anenih scheduling one meeting after another with the renegade governors. His party chairman is calling the governors traitors, saying they are treacherous and threatening to declare the seats of the Senators and House members backing the New PDP vacant. Will that help quench the rebellion? There is a need for a synergy of approach to contain the crisis.
In the final analysis, I said the rebellion is taking a life of its own. The New PDP is gaining more converts. The group has also realised it has gained the upper hand so far, as far as the crisis is concerned, which is why it spurned last Tuesday’s date for another round of meeting with the president and PDP leaders. The meeting between the two groups was deadlocked at the weekend. It seems the resumption of discussion and negotiation is on the group’s term now. How does that play out? If the streak of support and allegiance to the group continues in the present fashion, I hope the wrapper sown to cover the body does not become the real dress, according to a popular adage by my Yoruba kit and kin.