THE nation-wide tour currently being embarked upon by five Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors, namely Murtala Nyako, Aliyu Babangida, Sule Lamido, Aliyu Wamakko and Musa Kwankwaso, is fast assuming a life of its own in the polity. Although the governors have, to date, refused to link their visit to ongoing intense horse-trading and political manoeuvres relating to the 2015 elections in both PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) circles, the fact that they are perceived to be anti-Jonathan by the leadership of the party, on the one hand, and pro-Rotimi Amaechi, on the other, has tended to fuel the suspicion in many quarters within the ruling party that they are out to upset the apple cart. It is widely believed that the Bamanga Tukur-led National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP is favourably disposed to a post-2015 Jonathan presidency, but the G5 recently handed down a warning to the national chairman that there would be no automatic tickets in the party. In addition, two of them, Lamido and Wamakko, are frequently touted as possible 2015 challengers of the incumbent president. Given this scenario, political meanings are being read to their tour, particularly as they are yet to articulate a coherent agenda.
On July 15, the G5 were in Rivers State on a ‘solidarity visit’ to Amaechi over the ongoing political crises in the state which has pitted him against the Minister of State for Education, Mr Nyesom Wike. Initially, there was an alleged commotion, with thousands of youths believed to be loyal to Wike reportedly throwing stones and other objects at their convoy. The anti-Amaechi rabble had reportedly stormed the Port Harcourt Airport at about 7am and waited until about 11.40am when the governors and their host arrived. The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, stated that a Government House bus was damaged by some youths, describing the incident as a ploy to cause confusion in the state. This created a lot of tension in the polity and accusing fingers were pointed at the Presidency. But Aliyu later denied any attack on their convoy, confirming the position of the state police command on the issue.
However, the Port Harcourt visit put the G5 in the Plateau governor, Jonah Jang’s line of fire. Reviewing the conduct of the state Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu, in the political crisis in the state, the governors had thrown their weight behind the agitation for state police in the country. “Arising from the actions of the police and Mr Joseph Mbu in Rivers State, the call for state police as a constitutional provision has become a necessity,” they had said. Dismissing their call for state police, however, Jang said: Those calling for state police now are doing so as an after-thought and not for nationalistic reasons. Their calls are stemming from their own induced interpretation of certain events beyond their political control, and so they would wish to see a state police that is readily available to handle a delicate political operation.”
A few days later, the presidency also reacted angrily to the Port Harcourt visit. Presidential aide, Dr Doyin Okupe, while addressing a press conference in Abuja, stated: “Insinuations and statements suggesting that Rivers State is on fire are grossly unfounded. So far, as is it evident to every discerning observer of political developments, the state is calm and peaceful. Residents of the state continue to go about their various businesses, religious, social and political activities, under a peaceful atmosphere. Governor Amaechi, the Chief executive and Chief Security Officer of the state, felt confident enough to travel to the United Kingdom on official assignment. It is doubtful that he would have had the luxury of leaving the country if his state is in turmoil as is being canvassed.
“Since our return to democratic rule in 1999, It is on record that not less than 12 states have witnessed incidents of attempted impeachment of Speakers of Houses of Assembly in Nigeria and none has posed any threat to peace and security in the country even when our democracy was not this established.”
A few days after the G5 visited three former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar, the Presidency again lashed out at them. Speaking with a national daily, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, described the activities of the governors as lacking in patriotism. His words: “The action of the four or five governors from the North, to say the least, is irresponsible because they have abandoned the constitutional mandate which the people gave them, and are now junketing, seeking undue political relevance and trying to cast aspersions on innocent persons but conferring status on themselves. They cannot be seen as patriots but people with ulterior motives, trying desperately to hijack the mandate of the party and those of the other organs of the party.
“The party did not send them to consult with anybody and it does not even understand what they went to consult about in the first place. The party has its internal mechanism to solve its problems; it has committees and subcommittees for reconciliation. It has its constitutional organs such as the national caucus, the Board of Trustees, the NEC, which deal with issues affecting the party and its members nationwide. Let me tell you that the move of the four or five governors is not about getting at President Goodluck Jonathan.”
Last Wednesday, Tukur sought a rapprochement with the governors. In a statement read by one of his aides, Shuaibu-Gara Gombe, Tukur stated that he was in total support of the governors’ visits to President Goodluck Jonathan, former presidents, ex-heads of state and other Nigerians who could contribute to reconciling aggrieved members of the party. However, this surprised political observers, because a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Oliver Okpala, had tongue-lashed the G5 on Tuesday. The fact that Tukur’s newfound love for the G5 came shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registered APC, was thus perceived by some analysts as being instructive.
Again disowning the statement by Okpala, PDP’s Acting National Secretary, Dr Charles Akitoye, claimed that the thoughts of Okpala did not in any way represent Tukur’s.‘’The national chairman was infuriated particularly when the Media Assistant singled out five Northern governors who were invited by Mr. President for consultations in Abuja recently. He is hereby once again saying that the press statement by the Media Assistant is regrettable and does not contain his thoughts or his position on the 5 Northern Governors and asked all those who feel embarrassed to over look the overzealousness of his Media Assistant.”
Whatever the politics behind trading off Okpala on the altar of political expedience, the motives of the G5, whom an angry analyst described as “self-appointed emissaries in the political drama unfolding in Rivers,” have been largely shrouded in secrecy. First, there seems to be a widespread feeling among political observers that they have been keeping Nigerians guessing as to their real intentions. Do they really have ulterior motives and what are these? Is the agenda to prop up one of them for a 2015 Northern presidency? Or is it to weaken PDP and create a parallel platform to checkmate Tukur, on the one hand, and the presidency on another?
Sequel to their meeting with former Vice President Alex Ekwueme on Saturday, as part of geo-political balancing, Kwankwaso felt compelled to refute the rumours doing the rounds that he, Aliyu and Nyako were planning to dump the PDP, arguing that that their meeting with President Jonathan penultimate week was as a result of their resolve to rescue the PDP.
However, this latest admission raises the question why their colleagues in Yobe and Borno, elected on ANPP platform, accompanied them to the Presidential Villa, following which advertorials appeared in the newspapers, lambasting them for ignoring Jang in their so-called reconciliation effort, and shirking due protocol by failing to interface with President Jonathan before any other leaders of the party. It is in this connection that insinuations that they are only concerned about actualising a 2015 Northern presidency will continue to fester.