By ANAYOCHUKWU AGBO “To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing end them.” – Shakespeare in Hamlet
Last week ended for President Goodluck Jonathan and his 2015 re-election ambition on a note of uncertainty as the war in his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, went viral. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it was a week he may have considered whether it was better to suffer “the slings and arrows of outrageous” politics “or to take up arms against a sea of troubles.” At first it looked as if the President would acquiesce but by last Thursday he appeared to have recovered enough to leave for three days official visit to Kenya. Like the Shakespearean stag, sources close to him say he cannot be frightened out of the race; rather he would fight his ‘enemies’ head-on, and either win, or go down fighting like a man.
The Kenya trip would offer Jonathan the window to consider, clearly, his best moves and options when the critical meeting of the feuding parties in PDP holds on Tuesday this week, say the Presidency sources. The meeting was to have held last week but the raging angst over the ill-fated August 31 special national convention in Abuja made the postponement imperative as the aggrieved splinter group was in no mood for a meeting. Efforts to stall the fatal fission in the party through a quick reconciliation of the warring factions failed due to the conflicting signals from the different camps.
Party insiders said the walkout of the splinter group came as a shock. Some were further shocked that a plot of such magnitude could be planned and executed without Jonathan getting a whiff of it even with all the intelligence agencies at his disposal. As that initial shock subsided last week, the utterances of the Jonathan group became more militant and less reconciliatory. The initial reaction by Tony Anenih, chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, was sober and diplomatic. After the first scheduled meeting failed, he stated: “I believe some of them have genuine grievances, but I have hope that once the grievances are addressed they will come back. I am happy that the PDP has an internal mechanism for effective conflict resolution, and, at the end of the day, the problems will be addressed and the PDP will come out of the crisis stronger.”
Coming from Anenih, known as ‘Mr. Fix It’, for his practical and unemotional approach to politics, this suggested a significant departure from what had become an in-house brawling standard of the ruling party and an olive branch. A member of one of the splinter groups, however, said that knowing the antecedents of the octogenarian, they suspected he was up to some tricks and so did not take his reaction on face value.
The next action of the New PDP, as members call themselves, was to approach a federal high court in Lagos to declare Tukur’s special convention null and void. They further asked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, not to recognise Bamanga Tukur as chairman of the party. The Jonathan camp was further alarmed when it dawned on them that they had unwittingly provided their opponents with the ideal conditions for a true fractionalisation of the party as provided by the Electoral Act. The division occurred during a party convention as a protest against their exclusion from the convention. The party denied those said to be ‘genuine’ delegates from Adamawa State accreditation. They announced that delegates from Anambra and Adamawa would not vote, except statutory delegates. Even at that, the statutory delegates were not accredited, making a protest legitimate. Anambra delegates exchanged blows to register their dissatisfaction with the party, announcing the Tony Nwoye faction as the one acceptable to the party. Officially, INEC recognised the chairman of the Andy Ubah faction as the authentic faction.
To cap what was clearly seen as the height of impunity, the Electoral Committee screened out some candidates which paved the way for their preferred candidates to emerge unopposed. The splinter group was particularly angered by the deliberate exclusion of Sam Sam Jaja, former deputy national chairman of the party, who along with 17 others were sacked by INEC because the primary contest that produced them was not consistent with the Electoral Act. Jaja was a victim of the conflict between Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and the Presidency. He was to slug it out with Uche Secondus, a former national organising secretary and former Rivers State chairman during the Peter Odili regime, who was the party’s preferred candidate.
The position of the deputy national chairman was seen as too strategic to leave in the hands of Jaja, an Amaechi associate. With the persistent demand of some governors that one of the conditions for peace must include the removal of Tukur, the thinking is that in the event that the President is forced to trade off Tukur, the vice chairman who will step in as acting chairman should not be Jaja, who is not known to be a friend of the President’s camp. This is because he may then be saddled with the task of presiding over the presidential primary of the party. That will run against the scheme spearheaded by Anenih for an automatic ticket for Jonathan. This has caused a stir, with northern aspirants, including Atiku Abubakar, arguing that the party’s constitution does not provide for automatic ticket.
Babangida Aliyu, governor of Niger State, revealed that they had made efforts to save the party but the Presidency made it impossible. He said that the President was informed that if the Adamawa delegates were not allowed to enter the convention venue, “it could lead to a problem.” He said he and some other governors went to the state box to again inform Jonathan that the delegates were still locked out. After another one hour, it then dawned on them that it was official and they decided to walk out.
Last Thursday, the mudslinging worsened when Rivers State government alleged a plot to assassinate Governor Chibuike Amaechi. In a statement signed by Ibim Semenitari, commissioner of information, the government revealed that Joseph Mbu, the state commissioner of police, is acting in a manner that compromises the governor’s security. He redeployed Amaechi’s escort commander who could not comply with an alleged directive to “furnish (the CP) with prior information of the movement of the Governor.” After redeploying the escort commander, Mbu also requested the camp commandant of Government House, Port Harcourt, to give him prior briefing of the Governor’s daily movement. “This sudden interest of Mbu regarding the daily movement of Governor Amaechi cannot be borne out of love. If his intentions were noble and above board, CP Mbu has Governor Amaechi’s telephone number and could have reached him directly to make the request of prior briefing of his movements. Alternatively, he could have written officially to the Secretary to State Government to make the same request,” argued the Rivers State government.
Perhaps in order to not be tagged a troublemaker, Amaechi stayed away from the special convention in Abuja, because he had earlier been suspended from the party. However, Rivers State PDP executive led by Felix Obuah later blamed Amaechi for the split at the convention.
Obuah’s camp and others sympathetic to the course of Jonathan are not looking inwards to realise that most of the actions taken by the Jonathan camp have reduced what was initially seen as a probability to an increasingly difficult possibility. As former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was drafted into the peace initiative was busy troubleshooting, some associates of Jonathan concluded that the crisis had gone beyond the point of reconciliation and that it was better to fight to the finish. “It dawned on us that some people were scheming to ease off Jonathan exercising his right to re-election in 2015; to them, that is reconciliation. That is clearly unacceptable to us,” a member of Jonathan’s inner circle confided in TELL last week. These hawks see Obasanjo’s efforts as the equivalent of mercy killing. To them, it may have provided the wily general, known for cold revenge of ills done to him, an opportunity to take his pound of flesh on Jonathan. “He looks like the innocent flower now but is more of the serpent under it; it might hurt Jonathan badly to trust Obasanjo,” said one of his aides last week.
Eighty-six-year-old Ijaw strong man, Edwin Clark, appears to belong to this school, as instead of talking peace or being circumspect like Anenih, he went for Obasanjo’s jugular, accusing him of fuelling the feud in PDP. “He was the one who said that he wanted Lamido the governor of Jigawa State and Rotimi Amaechi the governor of Rivers State to contest the 2015 election as presidential candidates…sometime ago, he said in Switzerland that this administration does not have the courage to eradicate corruption in the country,” Clark pointed out.
An enraged Clark further accused the former president who single-handedly appointed Jonathan as the presidential running mate to the late Umar Yar’Adua in 2007 of being the cause of the crisis of PDP in the South-west. Clark argued that it was too late for Obasanjo to become a peace envoy. “All I am saying is that for him creating these problems and belatedly jumping into the bandwagon of reconciliation without being invited by the party because new zonal congress has to be held in the (South)-west, and because he will like to have his favoured candidate to win the gubernatorial election in Anambra State, and also because he has now seen that the party has not fallen apart after his resignation from the chairmanship of the party’s Board of Trustees, is improper.”
Clark found affinity in Tukur. The 78-year-old chairman went on the full offensive and called the bluff of the splinter group. He declared them ‘imposters’ and threatened to declare the seats of the National Assembly members in the splinter group empty. “We shall ensure that any person who is not duly elected into any leadership position in our great party and has not been duly assigned any role but goes ahead to arrogate such to himself will be made to face the full wrath of the law. Similarly, all persons elected on the platform of our great party at all levels who identify with these enemies of the oneness and greatness of our party shall have their seats declared vacant as required by law. We shall leave no stone unturned to ensure that such persons and indeed any other individual who attempts to subvert the leadership of the PDP shall reap in full the consequences of such actions.”
Likewise, The Media Network for Transformation, an NGO led by Ebelo Goodluck which supports Jonathan, blamed Obasanjo for the impasse. “We call on former President Olusegun Obasanjo to call his associates to order. Apart from being their sponsor, the rebel governors draw their inspiration from him. Apart from numerous clandestine meetings, President Obasanjo started his public romance with the rebel flank when he became unavoidably absent at this year’s Democracy Day celebration in Abuja, but vigorously participated in the day’s activities in Dutse, Jigawa State. That was followed by the rebel governors’ visit to his Abeokuta home. Then came last Saturday, and Chief Obasanjo’s mischief literarily flew over the Eagle Square venue of the Special Convention. Unavoidably absent, again, he was to turn up the next day in Church, at the Presidential Villa. Made a few platitudinous remarks on the need for a peaceful resolution of the crisis and thereafter called a meeting. His meeting failed and will continue to fail.”
Abubakar Baraje, a former national secretary of the party, now the national chairman of the splinter PDP, said Tukur’s outburst confirmed their assessment of him. “With what he said, it shows that Tukur is unfit, incapable and totalitarian. The earlier they take him out, the better for Nigeria and PDP. As far as we are concerned, there is no person or thing like Bamanga Tukur again in PDP. By saying that they want to use the security agencies to deal with us, Tukur has also confirmed the level of impunity, lawlessness, recklessness and ignorance in PDP. With his declaration, it means the police have become puppets in the hands of his group. Let them come and deal with us; we are waiting for them. As far as we are concerned, the court has recognized us and directed that the status quo be maintained.”
Tukur’s leadership style, to some insiders, is believed to have pitched him against the governors, who hitherto called the shots in the party. Indeed, some Jonathan hawks are wondering if Tukur is an insider working for the North in their bid to deny Jonathan a second term. His persecution of other party stakeholders in Adamawa has reunited three former political foes – Abubakar, Nyako and Jubril Aminu – against him and Jonathan. TELL’s investigation showed Tukur cannot win Adamawa for Jonathan against the united force of these three politicians. That is if he survives the storm. Because the four conditions given for peace by the splinter group include the removal of Tukur as chairman of the national working committee, NWC; resolution of the stalemate in the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF; and the Rivers State crisis. Being fully aware of this, according to insiders, Tukur appears set to fight a scorched battle. Aside from Adamawa, few serving governors in the North will have the confidence to canvass for vote for Jonathan in 2015. Many of those who supported him in 2010 feel disappointed that he has allowed his people to reduce his presidency to an Ijaw presidency, thereby missing the opportunity to unite the country. They also feel his performance is not eloquent enough.
Where do all these leave Jonathan? They leave his 2015 re-election bid in the lurch. Concerned stakeholders in PDP appear to feel that it was time he was eased out of the 2015 race if the party will retain the presidency in 2015. They feel the party is not only at a crossroads, it is perhaps at its lowest ebb since its formation. Something has to give and they appear to feel that has to be the President. Another group seen as national stakeholders, it was gathered, is also of the view that Jonathan could have handled the insecurity in the country more competently. They feel that the country needs a new president to save it from disintegration. Some foreign allies of the country also appear to be unhappy with how Jonathan has handled the Boko Haram insurgency, with what they described near casualness, until it spun out of control. The story is told of how one of Nigeria’s foreign allies on its own carried out intelligence on the insurgents and then the President, sent an envoy to Nigeria with an offer on how to end the insurgency. The visitor was said to have been shocked when he was referred to a female minister who was introduced as a ‘confidant’, and not a competent security professional, or even the defence minister. As a result, he politely returned to his country with whatever solution was in his briefcase.
Again, Nigerians are not happy that Jonathan is not ready to fight corruption, beyond using the anti-graft agencies as tools of political deals. Under his watch, the worst looting of the national treasury occurred in the subsidy scam. Some of the suspects are children of party officials and fundraisers and this has made justice for the country an uphill climb. Similarly, the worst case of crude oil theft in the history of Nigeria is ongoing in the Niger Delta under his watch without an effective solution. An estimated 400,000 barrels daily are being lost to theft and shut-ins due to crude oil theft. This is happening when Nigeria is spending a sizeable budget on an elastic amnesty programme, which was supposed to secure the oil production belt. It is also happening when some of the ex-militants are given mouth-watering pipeline protection contracts. All these have made some people feel that officials of government may be behind the massive oil theft currently said to be nearing 50 per cent of national earnings. This has impacted badly on the image of the ruling party, widely maligned as “PDP: share the money!”
So some of the questions of many critics are: how long can Jonathan hold on to the party? And if he wins in the bourgeoning crisis through the strong-arm tactics being canvassed by Tukur and Clark, how much of the party will be left? Will he be able to win the presidential election in 2015 on the platform of the rump of the PDP?
As at last week, the emerging political map of the country appeared gloomy for the ruling party and Jonathan. With seven out of the 23 states under its control forming the ‘New PDP’, the party’s electoral assets have shrunk to 16 states. And many of the 16 are said to be biding their time before they decamp. In the National Assembly, the voting pattern will no doubt change when both chambers resume from their annual vacation. Twenty-two senators have pledged allegiance to the splinter group in a chamber of 109 where opposition parties have 39. If the New PDP votes alongside the opposition in the passage of bills and motions, they will have a joint strength of at least 61 against old PDP’s 48. This will turn the ruling party into the new minority in the red chamber. In the House of Representatives, 57 members have pledged allegiance to the splinter group. This is in a House that has all along acted as an opposition even when the ruling party has a two-third majority, will constitute a greater nightmare for the Presidency.
In the arena, this also tilts the voting demography against PDP. With the most populous states out of its control, it would be difficult for PDP to win the presidential election in 2015. Lagos is under All Progressive Congress, APC; Kano and Rivers are under the New PDP. There is increasing doubt if Vice President Namadi Sambo can deliver Kaduna State. Though Katsina State under Ibrahim Shema is with Jonathan, it will be impossible for Jonathan to beat Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election in his home state if he becomes the candidate of the APC. In Borno State, 15 state executives of the PDP have defected to the APC. In Taraba, a PDP faction led by Abudulmumuni Vaki, former state chairman, last week declared support for the New PDP. According to him, “It was unfair to deny Sam Sam Jaja opportunity to contest for the position he previously held.”
Of the 11 states in Jonathan’s home base – South-south and South-east – he is not sure of the votes in the four states of Edo, Rivers, Anambra and Imo. Edo and Imo are now APC. Rivers is New PDP, and as they move towards the November 16 governorship election, Anambra is torn between APGA, PDP and APC.
Faced with this grim scenario, how can the PDP be salvaged to win the 2015 election? Some party members strongly feel that Jonathan may see the writing on the wall and decline to run. Some also think that the party might advise him not to run to save the party from a possible defeat. Ben Nwabueze, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and leader of the Patriots, who led the group to visit Jonathan about three weeks ago, to urge for a national conference to discuss how the country’s peoples can live together in peace and harmony, has advised Jonathan not to run in 2015. He acknowledged the President’s constitutional right to a second term, but urged him to waive it and concentrate on implementing the Transformation Agenda and other constitutional reforms to sustain democracy.
The signs really weigh against sticking to the actualisation of an ambition. It is like a repeat of the scenario in 2010 when this magazine, in an editorial then, pleaded with President Jonathan to consider trading his ambition for the general good of the country. As it turned out, the President was not persuaded by the appeal [see box], but events that followed his election vindicated the stand of the magazine. Soon after he took office, again his aides started to campaign for 2015, thereby creating problems for him. The consequence, according to Ango Abdullahi, former vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, is that “virtually everything is collapsing under him.” Yet some of his associates see this as completely out of consideration. A presidential aide maintained most fervently last week that the President would run, come what may. Abu King Shuluwa, a founding member of PDP from Benue State, blamed the quartet of Obasanjo, Anenih, Clark and Tukur for taking advantage of Jonathan’s “political naivety to mislead him and pursue persona agenda.”
Last week, supporters of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, started putting up billboards in Abuja in support of his 2015 presidential ambition. Abubakar’s media office has denied his having any connection with the billboards, one, which has the picture of the sponsor boldly embossed on it. He had walked out with the group at the convention and noted that the party lacked transparency and internal democracy, and that there were issues that had to be addressed. If Jonathan insists on running, it is inevitable that Abubakar will have to pursue his ambition under another party, may be PDM. However, the splinter group may likely hang on to PDP till the platform is considerably incapacitated.
Elsewhere, some other people feel that Nigeria should be aware of United States, US, doomsday prediction that Nigeria may break up in 2015. Despite the widespread condemnation of the prediction by the US State Department analysts, some critics still feel that the country should be carefully guided out of that possibility with the drums of political war currently gathering momentum. Last week, US Council on Foreign Relations sustained the previous prediction with its analysis of the split in PDP. According to them, it “highlights Nigeria’s North-South dichotomy; most of its members are northern and Muslims.” They noted, “PDP is not a political party in the western school because it has neither a distinctive political platform, nor ideology.”
However, one of the people who believe that there is hope for the country is David Mark, president of the Senate. He has therefore urged Nigerians to stop the drums of war: “The strength of Nigeria is in our unity, not in our division. Let us all work for the unity of this country rather than beating the drums of war.”