President Goodluck Jonathan
By Chuks Okocha
Faced with a gradual erosion of their influence in the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following covert moves by loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan to take over the party machinery in states, governors elected on the party’s platform have launched a bid to reassert their influence.
THISDAY gathered Tuesday that the governors would meet Wednesday in Abuja to brainstorm on the strategy to adopt in ensuring that they gain the upper hand in the impending showdown that is looming between them and Jonathan as well as his foot soldiers in the party.
The president and the governors have been at loggerheads over attempts by Jonathan and his associates to wrest the control of the party from the hands of the governors ahead of the 2015 general election.
According to sources, the president’s associates are not sure they could count on the support of the executive councils of the state chapters of the party should Jonathan decide to run for a second term in office in the 2015 presidential election.
In states where the PDP is the ruling party, the executive councils are peopled by party officials loyal to the governors.
It was the quest for the party control at state level that led to the lingering crisis in Adamawa State chapter of the PDP which led the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) to dissolve the state executive council of the party on October 17, 2012.
The council, headed by Alhaji Mijinyawa Kaugama, which was loyal to the state Governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako, was replaced by a caretaker committee headed by Ambassador Umar Damagun.
The Damagun interim committee was saddled with the responsibility of organising congresses that would lead to the emergence of a new executive council for the party.
Attempts by the governors, who rallied round Nyako, to stave off the attempt to wrest the control of the party from him, failed as the caretaker committee, despite the setting up of a presidential committee, headed by Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, to mediate in the crisis went ahead with the congresses from the ward to state levels in Adamawa.
In furtherance of the efforts by the president and his associates to whittle down the influence of the governors, the party NWC, acting on the January 11 order of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, which ordered the immediate sack of the then PDP National Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, replaced him with his deputy, Mr. Onwe S. Onwe, as the acting national secretary.
The governors played a major role in ensuring the emergence of Oyinlola as the party’s national secretary at the last national convention of the PDP.
Since then, the party’s national secretariat has stood in the way of Oyinlola’s bid to get a court order to stay the execution of the judgment pending the determination of his appeal at the Court of Appeal.
It was gathered that the plot by the presidency was to gradually take over the control of the machinery of the party in the states and either side line or remove national party officials perceived to be loyal to the governors and replace them with those loyal to the presidency.
The NWC, purportedly acting under another court judgment, last week, also sacked Chief Bode Mustapha as the national auditor of the party and replaced him with Abiola Adeyanju.
It also dismissed the South-west zonal executive of the party.
At Wednesday’s meeting in Abuja, which is billed to hold after a meeting of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), the PDP will discuss the leadership crisis rocking the party and how to stem it.
THISDAY gathered that the PDP governors’ meeting would also review the sack of Mustapha and his replacement by Adeyanju.
Also on the agenda of the PDP governors are the Adamawa State PDP leadership crisis and the sack of Mr. Segun Oni as the national vice-chairman of the party in the South-west.
To show how crucial the PDP governors’ meeting is, THISDAY gathered that the notice of the meeting indicated that only governors are mandated to attend.
This will exclude the acting governors of Taraba and Cross River States whose principals are currently not in the country.
Meanwhile, at the NGF meeting, the governors of the 36 states of the federation are expected to deliberate on the continued deductions from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and receive the report of a committee set up by the forum on constitution amendment.
The governors, according to a source at the NGF secretariat, are to review their stance on the ongoing constitution amendment process and the country’s security challenges with a view to proffering solutions.
Besides, the governors would likely discuss the forum`s litigation against the Federal Government on the management of ECA.
The governors are presently challenging the Federal Government’s deductions from the ECA to offset fuel subsidy, as they are of the view that the deductions negate the principle of federalism and violate the 1999 Constitution.
They are asking the apex court to compel the Federal Government to adhere to the provisions of the constitution on deductions from the account.