Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko
Chuks Okocha and Reuben Buhari in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna and Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto
Obviously overwhelmed by inquiries as to why the Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, was suspended by the party, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)Thursday said the disciplinary action was taken due to insubordination on the part of the governor.
This is just as the Sokoto State chapter of the party, Chairman of the PDP North-west zone and Arewa Youth Forum (AYF) have expressed outrage over Wamakko’s suspension and warned that by the action, President Goodluck Jonathan might lose the sympathy of the north.
Confirming THISDAY’s report thursday that the governor’s suspension had to do with his repeated refusal to respond to queries and honour the invitation of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) over a comment he had made shortly after the establishment of the PDP Governors’ Forum, the party said the decision was taken after wide and exhaustive consultations and in accordance with the provisions of the party’s constitution.
The party also said that the suspension of the governor had nothing to do with the controversial Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), adding that his infractions predate the election at the forum and no member of the party should be seen to be above the party.
But THISDAY gathered that Wamakko's travails might also not be unconnected with his support for the Rivers State Governor, Chubuike Amaechi, during the NGF election.
“The NWC hereby restates that no individual or group within the party is, and must not be seen to be above the constitution and lawful organs of the party. All party members are under the rule of the constitution of the party and must so abide,” the party said.
PDP, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh, said it wanted to set the records straight on the reason for the governor’s suspension.
According to the statement, “The decision to suspend His Excellency, Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko came after very wide and exhaustive consultations, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the PDP and in the overriding interest of the party.
“It is important to note that the reason for the suspension of Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko predates the Nigeria Governors’ Forum’s election.
“Sometime in early April, the leadership of the party was concerned over the statements and conduct of the governor, whereupon the national chairman placed several calls to draw the attention of the governor to the matters concerned.”
“However,” the party said in the statement, “It was not possible for the national chairman to speak with the governor despite several attempts. The national chairman thereafter vide a letter dated 12th April 2013 requested an explanation to the NWC within seven days.
“Instead of replying the National Chairman, Governor Wamakko directed the Sokoto State secretary of the party, Mallam Aminu Bello Sokoto to reply the national chairman.
“The state party secretary, in a letter dated April 14, 2013 and on the official letterhead of the Sokoto State Government House, replied the national chairman on behalf of the governor.
“This amounted to gross disrespect and an act of insubordination to a national officer and a lawful organ of the party which is in violation of Articles 58.1 (c), (h) and (m) of the PDP constitution which prescribes sanctions for any member who ‘disobeys or neglects to carry out the lawful directives of the party or any organ or officer of the party; engages in any conduct likely to cause disaffection among members of the party or is likely to disrupt the peaceful, lawful and efficient conduct of the business of the party; and fails, refuses or neglects to treat a petition, complaints or appeal timorously.’
“Nevertheless, the NWC, vide a letter dated 17th April 2013 kindly requested His Excellency, Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko to appear before it on the 8th of May 2013 to clear the issues thereof.
“The NWC also wrote to the state secretary, Sokoto PDP, Mallam Aminu Bello Sokoto requesting explanations for his actions as a state party officer, in replying the national chairman.
“Regrettably, Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko never honoured the invitation and refused to respond in any way despite repeated invitations from the NWC, an action which is in clear violation of Article 58.1 (c) of the PDP constitution.
“In the same vein, the state secretary, Sokoto PDP, also refused to respond to the National Working Committee (NWC).
“Consequently, the NWC at its 336th meeting held on May 22, 2013 suspended the state secretary, Sokoto PDP, Mallam Aminu Bello Sokoto and communicated the decision to him in a letter dated May 22, 2013.
“The NWC thereafter extended yet another invitation to His Excellency, Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko in a letter dated May 23, 2013 in which it requested him to appear before it on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 to clarify the issues.
“Unfortunately, in complete disregard to a lawful organ of the party, His Excellency, Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, instead of appearing before the NWC travelled out of the country on Tuesday June 5, 2013 without any form of response to the party.
“The NWC frowned at this act of gross indiscipline and disrespect to the party and was therefore left with no other option than to invoke the relevant articles of the PDP constitution in furtherance of the determination to enforce discipline at all levels within the party.”
PDP noted that in taking the decision, it had the support of its elected officers, saying: “We wish to state that the leadership of the party has immense respect for all elected and appointed political office holders and in the same vein expects all political office holders to reciprocate by respecting the constitution and lawful organs of the party upon whose platform they hold office.”
Reacting to the suspension, the Sokoto State chapter of the PDP yesterday said it was solidly behind Wamakko and not worried by the suspension.
Speaking with THISDAY, Chairman of PDP in the state, Alhaji Sabo Madawakin Yabo, described the suspension as unfair, saying the party was surprised by the action, which was not in tandem with the provisions of the constitution of the party.
He maintained that Wamakko was suspended without the NWC adhering to laid down procedures.
Yabo maintained that the national headquarters of the party ought to have informed the state chapter before suspending the governor.
“It is just disheartening that Wamakko has been suspended from the PDP by the NWC. This is really strange because they did not follow laid down rules and regulations in that regard.
“In fact, we were not informed by the national headquarters before such action was taken. So there is nothing we can do about it but to wait for further directives from the governor who is currently in The Netherlands,” Yabo said.
In the same vein, Chairman of the Forum of PDP Chairmen in the 23 local government areas of the state, Alhaji Muhammad Dangogo, told THISDAY that the party was not surprised by the action of the NWC, as it was rumoured two weeks ago that some PDP governors in the north might be suspended by the party.
Dangogo, who is also the Chairman of PDP Sokoto North Local Government Area, maintained that Wamakko is the only governor in the north that delivered three senatorial seats, 11 members of the House of Representatives and all the 23 local government chairmen to PDP in the 2011 general election.
“It is on record that Sokoto is the only state in the north with three senators, 11 members of the House of Representatives, 30 members of the Sokoto Assembly, 23 local government chairmen and all the councillors in the 23 local government are as in the state are all members of PDP.
“As you are aware, Wamakko was summoned by the NWC but then he was in Saudi Arabia and could not appear before it and even now he is in The Netherlands. So the truth of the matter is that some people have hijacked the party at the headquarters and are doing whatever they like.
“How can you just wake up and suspend a governor from the party without giving him the opportunity to defend the allegations made against him?” Dangogo queried.
He dismissed insinuations that Wamakko was axed for alleged anti-party activities, saying there was no iota of truth in the matter. Dangogo said the state chapter of the party would soon convene to decide on the matter.
The PDP chieftain averred that members of the PDP in the state were solidly behind Wamakko and would not be deterred by the antics of the NWC.
“All our elected representatives in the National Assembly and members are solidly behind Wamakko and we are not bothered by the suspension. In fact, the suspension will further enhance Wamakko's popularity in the north, so we are ready to move to another party with him even if it is APGA,” Dangogo stressed.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Danladi Bako, declined to comment on the matter, stating that it was a party affair.
However, a source told THISDAY that the acrimony between the “old PDP” members and “new PDP” members in the state has reared its ugly head, as some Abuja-based politicians, namely: Senator Abubakar Gada, Yusuf Suleiman and Ambassador Ladan Shuni, among others, who are mainly of the old PDP were behind Wamakko's current ordeal and could be used by the presidency to get back at the governor.
The “old PDP” comprises mainly the founding members of the party in Sokoto since 1998, while the “new PDP” comprises those who defected with Wamakko from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to PDP prior to the 2007 elections.
Indeed, the old PDP has been at loggerheads with Wamakko in the last three years, alleging that they were being marginalised in the scheme of things in the party they laboured to build.
They had complained that all critical political appointments in the state were cornered by the “new PDP” members who joined the party with Wamakko in 2007.
The “old PDP” even battled to stop Wamakko's re-election for a second term last year, following a petition they sent to the national headquarters seeking to disqualify him from the last February 2012 governorship election held in the state.
Also commenting on Wamakko and Amaechi’s suspension, the AYF said yesterday that the decision would erode the sympathy and support the president still has in the north.
According to the President of AYF, Gambo Gujungu, the feeling in the north now is that because of the president’s 2015 aspiration, he is also looking at the possibility of suspending the governors of Niger, Bauchi and Jigawa – all in the north.
The AYF further noted that Jonathan was being misled by the NWC of the PDP for certain selfish interests.
While accusing the northern governors of unnecessary bickering, the forum said the governors should be concerned about the welfare of the people who voted them into power and not personal gains.
In his reaction, the Deputy National Chairman of the PDP in the North-west Zone, Ambassador Ibrahim Kazaure, warned that Wamakko’s suspension would have serious consequences for the party in the zone.
Kazaure, who spoke in an interview with journalists in Kaduna yesterday, noted that the North-west is the largest zone with dominant support for the PDP, stressing that it was not a zone that anybody should play with considering the role it plays in determining winners in an election.
“I am sorry for what happened but I hope the leaders (of PDP) will rethink the suspension. As far as I am concerned, I saw the thing in the agenda during an invitation to Governor Wamako. The suspension is unfortunate, very unfortunate. We should have carried out wide consultations because we have enemies within. PDP is a party, not a club; it has its constitution.
“I am not saying they are wrong, I am not saying what they have done is wrong, but all I am saying is that there should have been wide consultations before the action was taken.
“For a governor of a state where we have 100 per cent PDP supporters from the ward up to national level. This is why I am sad,” Kazaure said.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State governor has restated his previous stance that he would remain with the PDP irrespective of his ordeal.
In a statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, David Iyofor, he dismissed as outright lies and a figment of the imagination, the rumours being spread by the Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, Jerry Needam, over his claims that Amaechi had approached the ACN leadership to defect.
“Governor Amaechi has no intention of leaving the PDP. And everyone knows that he’s already fighting his purported suspension in court.
“He believes it’s a PDP issue and in due course the matter would be resolved. He has never met with anyone to discuss his leaving the PDP to join ACN or APC or any other political party,” Iyofor stated.
“Jerry Needam is a joker and jester that no one should take seriously at all. He’s just doing the bidding of his paymasters - a faction of the PDP in Rivers State - that is doing everything they can, no matter how absurd and bizarre, so they can accuse Governor Amaechi of anti-party activities.
“It is instructive to note that just a couple of days back, this same Jerry Needam was suspended from ACN for hobnobbing and working with the Felix Obuah faction of the PDP in Rivers State against the interests of ACN.
“That leaves the question: who does Jerry Needam speak for? Certainly, not for ACN. He can only be speaking for himself and his paymasters who are well known to Rivers people. No one is deceived by his antics and comical statements,” Iyofor concluded.