In the ongoing internal crisis in Peoples Democratic Party, two groups are engaged in what is now a cutthroat rivalry to vanquish one of the other.
The first group believes Goodluck Jonathan must go and the party will continue ruling, while the other group believes that Jonathan must stay and fight to keep the party ruling. While the first group collectively seems to be executing its battle plan with well-prepared and committed men, Jonathan completely relies on his men to read the compass for him.
Prospects of the political survival of the Aso Rock landlord, therefore, depend on the accuracy or otherwise of those reading the compass for him. As the captain of the ship in the storm, Goodluck Jonathan may need to have a second look at the route being laid out for him purportedly for a guaranteed safe landing or he may hit the rocks.
The first caution for Goodluck Jonathan is not to see himself as a Zik (never mind Azikiwe as one of Jonathan’s names) or Awo in fighting off the challenge to his presidency. Jonathan is neither of the two men, who were in a class of their own. The collapse of every challenge to their leadership at various stages had to do more with their political invincibility, a status they attained not only over decades but also from popular following. Also, from every challenge to their leadership, Zik and Awo increased in political stature because of their towering personality recognised at home and abroad.
In a way, Zik made NCNC and Awo similarly made the Action Group. When the NCNC was founded under the leadership of Herbert Macaulay, the party was mainly a Lagos affair. Macaulay died later in 1946 during a planned nation-wide tour. Zik succeeded Macaulay and spread the party to the whole country especially the east and the west.
Dominating the east, the party also gave Awo’s party Action Group, the strongest opposition in the West, with Zik winning in Ijesha, Oyo and Mid-West. In fact, in the 1954 federal elections to the House of Representatives in Lagos, Zik’s NCNC won in east and western regions. Hence, along with ministers from the east, NCN also produced federal ministers from the west, Adegoke Adelabu, Kola Balogun, Festus Okotie-Eboh and J.M. Johnson.
That was the Zik challenged for his NCNC leadership in 1953 and 1958. Hence the challengers had no chance.
Equally, Awolowo started with Adeyemo Alakija’s Area Council, which was also a mainly Lagos affair. But in 1950, Awolowo and his lieutenants formed the Action Group at Owo and within a short time dominated the entire western region (today’s South-West, Edo and Delta). After the dispute over the 1951 elections to Western House of Assembly and loss of the 1954 federal elections to Zik, he (Awo) thereafter eroded NCNC’s sbonghold in the West and opened area of support in minority areas in the east, hitherto, Zik’s stronghold. As Zik opened up the North in alliance with Aminu Kano’s NEPU, Awolowo equally established support in the Middle Belt in alliance with Joseph Tarka’s United Middle-Belt Congress.
In 1956, Awo established his party’s stronghold in the west beyond reasonable doubt by winning the regional elections. Also, in 1959 federal elections, Awo regained the west from Zik. Again, that was the Awo who successfully defeated the challenge to his leadership in 1962.
Noticeably, Zik and Awo expanded the support base of their respective political party and increased in political stature more than that. When both Zik and Awo defeated their challengers, none of the two was head of a regional or federal government. Political popularity and popular support were their weapons of war. When Professor Eyo Ita in 1953 (as leader of government business in eastern region on the platform of NCNC) and the sit-tight ministers challenged Zik’s leadership, he (Zik) was leader of opposition in the west. Equally when Awo’s leadership was challenged in 1962, he (Awo) was leader of opposition in federal parliament in Lagos.
None of Zik or Awo had the advantage of state apparatus like the police, the EFCC, the SSS, even the judiciary with which to clobber challengers of their leadership. In short, Zik and Awo survived challengers to their leadership purely on merit.
In contrast, the PDP which Goodluck Jonathan inherited in 2010 is today less popular. Indeed, the party has lost control of many state governments since that time, not the least South-west zone. Also, unlike Zik and Awo who survived on personal merit, Jonathan’s main strength against his challengers for the PDP leadership derives from his (mis?)use of state apparatus like the EFCC, the police, the SSS and the judiciary with which he intimidates his opponents. Even then, he can still be defeated, judging from history. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo despite EFCC, the police, SSS and judiciary was defeated in his third term bid, even by PDP members of National Assembly. As a matter of fact, out of office and without weapons of intimidation listed above, Obasanjo has lost control of PDP at the local level in Ogun State. If equally stripped of the aforementioned weapons of terror, Jonathan will also become a paper tiger.
In no way, therefore, can the solid and personal dominance of Zik and Awo in their days of political storm be compared to Jonathan’s current problem, such to automatically guarantee his political survival. Whether Professor Eyo Ita, the sit-tight ministers or K.O. Mbadiwe were justified in their challenge to Zik’s leadership or whether Chief S.L. Akintola was not entirely wrong in facing up to Awo was just of no importance to the passionate supporters of Zik and Awo. The backing for their heroes was natural and unsolicited.
On the contrary, the PDP had never been a genuine political party or an aggregation of political compatibles. Obasanjo, as an incumbent elected president on the platform of PDP openly acknowledged that fact.
To worsen matters for Jonathan in his survival prospects is his dismissal of mine ministers whose possible offense might be guilt by association or sponsorship. In their days, Zik or Awo would have strengthened their position with their measure. The same cannot be said of President Jonathan largely owing to entirely different political atmosphere. Today, almost half of PDP; Jonathan’s National Assembly members have either openly disowned him or are waiting to land the knockout punch.
The slightest further push by either side for a showdown may reduce Jonathan’s support among PDP members in National Assembly to less than half. It was not clear whether a kite was being flown with the recent media speculation on a planned impeachment of the leadership of both chambers in the National Assembly. In the present political circumstances, such a move, even if not instigated by President Jonathan, will be tactless, will fail and be sourced to Aso Rock. Hawks in Jonathan’s opposing camp may even seize on such a gamble to commence counter impeachment proceedings against Jonathan.
The charges will be the same as overlooked in the past, like violation of or failure to implement the finance act, disrespect for constitutional provisions or series of non-payment of public funds to the federation account or expenditure without National Assembly approval. Impeachment attempt against leadership of National Assembly is therefore like a hot iron that must not be touched.
Post-mortem of the dropped ministers vividly illustrates Jonathan’s survival/electoral risk. Quite a number of the ex-ministers are from the North, especially the North-west, the zone with the largest solid votes in the 2011 presidential elections. Jonathan (however he got the votes) attracted that support not on personal basis but because the governors of those states, relying on an alleged agreement that Jonathan would not run in 2015, delivered the votes for the PDP. It is most unlikely that dropping those ministers would enhance prospects of resolving the PDP crisis.
The situation is not better in South-west. Before the current crisis, PDP was solidly represented in Osun State by former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and his former deputy, Erelu Olusola Obada, recently dropped as federal minister of defense. With the emergence of ACN (now APC) administration in the state, it could be conceded PDP might have lost some ground.
Whatever semblance of PDP support in the state rested in the former first two citizens of Osun. When the PDP crisis erupted especially with the emergence of former governor Oyinlola as National Secretary of the NEW PDP, Erelu Obada was caught in the middle but still with her following as a PDP Federal Minister. Her removal as a Minister now creates a threefold opposition for President Jonathan in Osun State – the APC group and the Oyinlola/Erelu Obada group.
APC’s goof on Labaran Maku
Quite unusually, the normally ever-pungent opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) shot itself on the foot for criticising acting Defence Minister, Labaran Maku. The party accused Maku of deploying troops to Nasarawa State (the minister’s state of origin) to protect his religious/ethnic interests in the violence being perpetrated by the Ombatse sect.Ordinarily, the APC might have had a point if its homework on the development met the party’s usual high standard. After all, the same Ministry of Defence when General Theophilus Danjuma was in charge during Obasanjo’s presidency, deployed troops to Zaki-Biam in the civil strife between the Tivs and Wukari. The massacre, noted for its one-sidedness, was almost unprecedented in the history of inter-communal violence in the country.
However, in the recent case of Nasarawa, as the APC was demanding the re-deployment of Labaran Maku from the Ministry of Defence, the same APC Governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura, was claiming credit for requesting President Jonathan to send troops to contain the Ombatse violence.
Why then should the APC have accused Labaran Maku, as it turned out, unfairly for abusing his office to send troops to protect his religious/political/ethnic interest?
APC should be humble enough to publicly withdraw its accusation.