Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
By Chuks Okocha
The emergence of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hastened the resignation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), THISDAY has learnt.
The old rivalry between Obasanjo and his erstwhile “Mr. Fix It”, Chief Tony Anenih, over the chairmanship of the BoT is at the centre of the latest intrigues, according to party sources.
Obasanjo displaced Anenih as the chairman of BoT in a “palace coup” in 2007 with the amendment of the party’s constitution which stipulated that only a former president elected on the platform of the PDP could occupy the position.
However, another amendment was effected in 2009 which threw the chairmanship open, thereby terminating Obasanjo’s monopoly.
According to party insiders, Obasanjo was interested in running for another term after the five-year tenure ends in July this year, but would now have to contend with other candidates.
Anenih, THISDAY learnt, is still interested in holding the position and was the main brain behind the emergence of Tukur as the new chairman of the party.
Obasanjo was said to have launched subtle moves to stall the election of Tukur, working closely with his ally, Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, who mobilised the North-east delegates against Tukur.
Former acting national secretary of the PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo, was then propped up as the candidate of the zone for the national chairmanship and had actually defeated Tukur in the “consensus” congress held in Bauchi State ahead of March 24 convention in Abuja.
However, Anenih was said to have rallied round Tukur and forced other contestants, including Babayo, to withdraw for him.
Tukur was eventually made chairman, effectively ending Obasanjo’s proxy war to checkmate Anenih.
According to a source who spoke with THISDAY Wednesday, “Chief Anenih who was removed courtesy of the amended constitution is still interested in becoming the next chairman. He is seen as the political enemy of Obasanjo as far the former president continues to preside over the board.
“Anenih was one of those who nominated Tukur. Unfortunately, Tukur is seen as someone with a strong will. Obasanjo knows him very well. The likelihood of Obasanjo retaining the BoT position without rigour is very thin. Obasnajo chose the easy option of quitting to avoid embarrassment.”
Since Obasanjo controversially became chairman in 2007, he and Anenih had been avoiding each other, and had been barely on speaking terms.
According to the source, “Since Obasanjo became chairman of the BoT, both he and Anenih have not attended the same National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting. It is either Anenih would be in attendance and Obasanjo would not be or the other way round.”
Apart from this, the source said that Obasanjo is aware that the office of the chairman of the BoT could be zoned out of the South-west and there is no way that he would be sitting as a member of the BoT as a floor member, hence “his decision to resign is seen as a way to save himself from embarrassment and defeat”.
The source said: “Obasanjo is being economical with the truth when he says he wants to focus on international issues. This was a man who last week was playing a reconciliatory role to bring back the South-west PDP into the mainstream of national politics.
“At what stage did he come to observe that he wants to play the role of a statesman when he single handedly ensured that the candidate for the office of the National Working Committee (NWC) allotted to the South-west was picked by him?”
In his resignation letter, Obasanjo had said: “I have formally sent in my letter of resignation as the Chairman of BOT of PDP to the National Chairman of the party as prescribed in the party’s constitution.
“I have formally requested the President to allow my bowing out and to issue a short statement to that effect.
“By relieving myself of the responsibility for chairmanship of BOT of PDP, I will have a bit more time to devote to the international demand on me."
He said the step would give him time “to give some attention to mentoring across the board nationally and internationally in those areas that I have acquired some experience, expertise and in which I have something to share”.