Alhaji Bamanga Tukur
Chuks Okocha examines the connection between the absence of most PDP governors at the recent birthday ceremony of the party’s National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and the politics of 2015 election
The book launch organised penultimate Saturday to mark the birthday of the Peoples Democratic Party National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, featured many remarkable highlights. But, perhaps, the most important was the absence of 20 of the party’s 23 governors. It was surprising that only three of the governors elected on the party’s platform – Governors Theodore Orji of Abia State, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, and Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State – attended the event.
The absence of the governors was so conspicuous that the governor of Abia State had to openly apologise for the absence of his colleagues. Their absence at the book launch and birthday of the party’s national chairman was questionable and embarrassing because it was obvious that most of the governors were in Abuja during the event. Even more embarrassing was the fact that most of the PDP governors attended the dinner hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan for the Paralympics medallists that same Saturday in Abuja.
Tukur was said to have expressed surprise when he saw most of the governors, who were not present during his birthday events earlier in the day, at the dinner.
The nonappearance of the governors at the book launch held in honour of the PDP national chairman has given rise to several questions and speculations. Why did the PDP governors decide to stay away from their chairman’s birthday festivities when only the week before, the wedding of the Bauchi State governor’s son to the daughter of the former National Secretary of PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo, had attracted the presence of 24 governors?
The absence of the PDP governors has attracted several interpretations. According to sources within the party, it is a sign of what to expect during the battle for the presidential ticket of the party ahead of the 2015 general election. It also a sign of an inside war within the party, especially among members of the National Working Committee, some sources say.
Perhaps, the wrangling in the party was obvious when at the interactive media session hosted by the PDP national chairman’s family as part of the activities marking his 77th birthday, no member of the NWC was present. Though, the media briefing was poorly organised and some observers felt the NWC members might even not be aware of the session.
Tukur told newsmen later that he did not have prior knowledge of the media briefing, as it was organised by members of his family. He claimed that while he was busy with the affairs of the party, his wife, Fatima, was in charge of organising the media briefing.
But a member of the NWC, who preferred anonymity, countered. “How could a public book presentation by the national chairman become a family affair? Can any event concerning the national chairman be treated as a family affair?”
Inside sources said that the absence of the members of the NWC at Tukur’s book launch was an indication of the infighting within the NWC.
According to a source, “It is on record that members of the NWC of the PDP always meet on Tuesday heralding the Wednesday NWC meeting to take a position against the national chairman. It is also on record that Bamanga Tukur is the only chairman of the PDP that his memos to the NWC are being turned down by other members of the NWC. So, there is no unity within the NWC. Their non-active role in the birthday of the national chairman, therefore, may not be unconnected with the party not playing a major role.”
The nonchalant attitude of the NWC members to the birthday and book launch marking Tukur’s birthday shows that the governors and the national chairman are not on the same political page.
Analysts say the absence of the PDP governors at an event that was supposed to be their own signals the bitter battle expected during the presidential primary of the PDP. Three governors – Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, and Babangida Aliyu of Niger State – are said to be nursing presidential ambitions and believed to be struggling to become the presidential candidate of PDP.
Their absence at the national chairman’s birthday festivities might, thus, be as a result of the underground battle for the presidential ticket of the party come January 2015.
Just like the absence of the PDP governors at Tukur’s birthday and book launch is believed to signal conflicting political positions between the governors and the national chairman, it is also generally seen as an indication that the PDP governors are not on the same page with Jonathan, particularly, on the question of the 2015 presidency.
But there are some who think that the absence of the governors at Tukur’s birthday ceremonies might be due to the poor financial position of PDP. The party is said to have been unable to meet its financial obligations. A source within PDP told THISDAY, “How do you expect the governors who have not been able to redeem their financial obligations to the party be able to look at the face of the national chairman, when they are in financial default in their responsibility to the party.”
By and large, Jonathan at the occasion of the book launch in honour of Tukur called on writers in the country to document the life history and achievements of outstanding Nigerians for the benefit of future generations. He said that the success story of outstanding Nigerians like Tukur will serve as a source of inspiration to the younger generation.
The president praised the national chairman for his courage, saying as a young man, he had the courage and foresight to go into the marine business which as at the time was regarded as the exclusive preserve of expatriates and multinational companies. Referring severally to Tukur as “our father”, Jonathan reminded Nigerians that Tukur did not suddenly become wealthy overnight but had to toil day and night to get to the high point of his business career.
He commended the role Tukur had been playing in promoting African unity and business through the African Business Roundtable.
“We need to write and read more stories of successful Nigerians to serve as an inspiration to younger Nigerians,” Jonathan stated. The president stressed that one of the greatest attributes of Tukur, who clocked 77 that Saturday, was his lack of bias and advised him to continue to build on his accommodating disposition.
Also speaking, former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, said the high profile Nigerians that gathered at the Congress Hall of Transcorp hotel were there “to honour a man of excellence, a pan-African businessman, a colossus and first Nigerian indigenous port manager.”
Gana described Tukur as “a tremendous man of courage” who took a lot of risk during the military era, when he joined former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Chief Solomon Lar, and others to form the G34, which eventually metamorphosed into the PDP.
The former minister went down memory lane to recall the role played by Tukur before the formation of PDP and how he was incarcerated by the military after the Second Republic was truncated through a military coup. Gana noted that Tukur had always been an advocate of good governance, saying the PDP national chairman and the president will make a good team for the transformation of PDP and Nigeria. Describing Tukur as “a builder of Nigeria”, Gana said Tukur was a strong advocate of a united Nigeria.
The politics of the 2015 presidency was visible in the attendance and speeches at Tukur’s 77th birthday ceremony. No one knows how the issues will play out. But as the country goes towards another presidential election in 2015, many believe PDP risks an implosion if the current divisions are not well managed.