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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

New PDP: New trouble for GEJ

PDP-216x194By Rufa’i Ibrahim
Is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at last unravelling, as many across the country, and even within it, believe, or hope, it will?
Are what happened at the party’s Special Convention at Eagles Square last Saturday-the walk-out staged by the seven “rebellious” governors (of Kano, Jigawa, Adamawa, Sokoto, Niger, Kwara and Rivers states), supporters of former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar and a number of National Assembly legislators; their holding of a parallel convention at the Yar’Adua Centre; and their formation of what they christened the New PDP with its own new set of leaders-a sign or evidence of PDP’s irreversible break-up?
Was the drama in Eagle Square last Saturday a wind that sang the dirge of PDP, inviting all to the party’s burial, in a long procession which Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako, will, as he told us, be all too willing to lead?
Or is it all a storm in a tea cup, a mere sound and fury that signifies little or nothing?
In their reactions, both the PDP chairman, Bamanga Tukur, and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ)’s leading campaigner, Chief Edwin Clark, were, or appeared, dismissive of the new development. Tukur said the New PDP is an illegality which will not be tolerated. Clark dismissed it as the antics of a few that will not in any way affect the chances of GEJ getting re-elected in 2015.
But the mood was different in Aso Villa. There, it appears, the message sank much faster. And there was, as a consequence, so much indignant spluttering along the corridors that the very next morning, Sunday, invitations were sent out to all the dissenting governors for an urgent meeting fixed for that day with the president, top PDP hierarchy and the National Security Advisor(NSA) in the Villa.
It is not exactly clear what the meeting, which continued up to Monday, achieved. Perhaps it was merely exploratory, meant to afford the two sides an opportunity to take the measure of each other. But the presence and participation of the NSA at such a meeting seems to me to be very instructive, more so that Sambo Dasuki is not known to be a PDP card carrying member, though there is hardly any doubt that he shares the instincts and policy orientation of the party’s top men.
Was it merely in keeping with the prevalent but narrow perception in official circles of national security as being primarily about cloak and dagger efforts aimed at ensuring the security of the leader and the regime he heads that the NSA was invited? Was it meant as a subtle message to the governors and their supporters that their actions have serious national security implications? Or was it an attempt to intimidate them into backing off?
Whatever is the case, what is clear now is that the PDP is in deep trouble, and GEJ even more so. The PDP tent is on fire. Whether it will burn to ashes or a significant part of it will be salvaged remains to be seen. But whatever it is, with the development last Saturday, things will never be the same again in the party.
Of course, there have been disquiet, tension and problems within the PDP long before now. The party, in control of the centre and over 20 states since return to civilian rule in 1999, has been unable to manage its “successes” well. It has failed to show leadership and give the country a clear direction. It has not managed our affairs with the level of commitment expected of a ruling party. It has mismanaged, squandered and stolen our resources in a way that progressively impoverishes rather than enriches and empowers the vast majority of Nigerians over the years. Since 1999, it has been one bad government being succeeded by a worse one at the centre and in many of the states under the PDP. Today, the party has given the nation a president whose abilities have proved no match to the complexities of the job he has.
The party’s record of handling its own internal affairs isn’t any better. It has little or no respect for internal democracy. It has a mortal fear, almost, for elections- and, in fact, for anything open and transparent, preferring always what it calls the “consensus” approach, but which in reality means conducting its business in darkness behind closed doors. This has largely been the cause of the tensions and divisions within the party. It is the main reason why many powerful forces and interests within the party have felt or actually become alienated and disaffected, with a strong sense of being hounded out of the PDP tent.
With the assumption of the leadership of the party by Tukur, this process of alienation and disaffection has been pushed, both deliberately and otherwise, to such new levels that many powerful forces with control of significant sections of the PDP membership have literally been pushed out of the tent – and not for lack of pleas and entreaties by these powerful forces to the party leadership and the presidency to address their genuine grievances. The result is that these powerful figures and forces have been operating from outside the tent and pissing into it, soiling those inside and weakening further the tent’s foundation. And, now, they have formed themselves into a new outfit – the New PDP.
In leadership and politics generally, it is sometimes difficult for those at the very top to gauge correctly, and in advance, the consequences of some of their policies and actions. But even when allowance is made for this fact, it is difficult to understand why the PDP top hierarchy, Tukur and GEJ in particular, couldn’t see that their policy of alienation and exclusion would inevitably, some day, lead to the kind of revolt that we saw last Saturday. It’s no rocket science to see that those you exclude or push out of your tent will either build their own tents somewhere, or seek accommodation in other peoples tents. And there’s no shortage of alternative tents, or space for erecting new ones in the country today.
It is clearly a mark of the lack of political acumen on the part of both GEJ and Tukur that they were caught unawares, and pants down, by what happened last Saturday. Why so? It is obvious that with all their enormous powers and years of being in control, GEJ and Tukur have not been able to find ways, or develop an antenna by which they can smell danger from miles away. It is even more obvious that the PDP itself, with all its years in power, does not have an intelligent network for picking up things and reading correctly the signals being flashed by events and people in the polity.
This must be why Tukur, GEJ and the PDP top hierarchy couldn’t pick up what was coming, even though it was something that was being planned in broad daylight. An intelligent analysis of the meeting between Sule Lamido and Atiku, hitherto sworn enemies, at the latter’s house last week; public statements by Governors Kwankwaso, Babangida Aliyu and Amaechi, and the goings and comings by these governors would have shown any intelligent analyst that something of the kind of what happened last Saturday was afoot.
Now, anyway, the question is the implication of the new development, for GEJ, for the PDP’ itself and for the country as a whole.
What is obvious is that a line has been drawn deeply and sharply on the sand. And it is difficult to see a quick withdrawal by the New PDP forces. Unless, of course, their grievances are addressed and they get what they want, or as much of it as political horse trading and give-and- take in such negotiations would allow. None of the governors, except that of Kwara, is looking for a second term, which the party can threaten to block. And for those with higher ambitions, there are alternative platforms for realising such. It is almost certain that attempts will be made to bribe them with money. But it is unlikely that this will have the desired effect.
But it is instructive that the New PDP men have said they are not leaving the party, and that they will stay in it and fight from within. They know that apart from losing face and credibility, they will be dead meat if they cave in so easily and give up the fight. The country is therefore likely to witness a long battle of attrition. At battle in which GEJ may have much more to lose than those in the New PDP. And it is easy why.
For one, Tukur is at the core of the problem. The New PDP wants him sacked. And it is difficult to conceive of any kind of reconciliation or agreement between the old and New PDP in which this demand is not met. But it is a demand that places GEJ in an absurd tangle: he will be damned if Tukur stays on, and damned if he goes. For, where will he find another chairman to do what Tukur is doing for him? And how will Tukur supporters and constituency take what they are certain to see as ingratitude if Jonathan is to give Tukur the sack?
Much more important, these governors control many of Nigeria’s biggest states, with the huge voting populations that GEJ must win if he is to realize his 2015 ambition. And so does the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC). And, clearly, an alliance between the New PDP and the APC is not an unlikely thing to happen. If it does, GEJ will be in an even more difficult situation. In fact, left with only a few, and insignificant states in terms of population to rely on, he’ll be left with only two options: to give up his 2015 ambition, or to face certain defeat if he insists on contesting.
In the coming weeks and months it will be clearer how things will go. The struggle is just beginning, but it is certain to keep exciting interest till the end.


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