What do five Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors from the North hope to achieve by constituting themselves into a ‘consulting group’ and challenging the leadership of the party and the Presidency at a time they should be working as a team to move the party forward ahead of the 2015 elections? The action of the governors has, indeed, rocked the boat of the ruling party.
By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
It’s a bump that nobody expected to erupt so soon. But it descended like a volcano on the landscape all the same. The torrents flowing from the ill-feelings of the men have tended to disfigure the political landscape, which has been under the firm grip of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP., for the past 14 years.
There’s irony in the emerging scenario: Five PDP governors, who had hitherto been celebrated as the beautiful brides of the party, staged a ‘coup’ at a time they were all expected to fall in line and mime the mantra of the ‘biggest party in Africa’ to douse rising discontent among the members, who appear to have grown bigger than the ‘’umbrella”.
Unlike the claim of unanimity of strength of the past, which they flaunted to ward off the opposition parties, the aggrieved five seem to be united in their battle against what they consider as injustice perpetrated by the leadership of the party against them.
Their audacity flows from the fact that they are serving out their second term and may not be desperately looking out for something more. Apart from Governor Sule Lamido (Jigawa), who is said to be nursing presidential ambition, Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) may just be trying to prove a point to the leadership of the PDP and the Aso Rock Villa that they have borne enough of their ‘dirty politics’.
While Nyako has been stripped of the party’s structure in a state he has administered for over six years by the Abuja forces loyal to the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and President Goodluck Jonathan, Wamakko and Aliyu had a turbulent relationship with the Presidency and the party leadership.
After wielding the big stick against the Sokoto governor for allegedly ‘disrespecting’ his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Chief Godswill Akpabio, who doubles as the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Wamakko spurned several attempts by the powers-that-be to make him recant his verbal remarks about the ‘uncommon transformation’ governor of Akwa Ibom State and a core loyalist of Jonathan.
He got a warning sign from the party which suspended him. But angry supporters of the governor raised the alarm and threatened to dump the PDP if the clampdown on the man was not lifted.
When it dawned on the party leaders that they had committed a gaffe by axing Wamakko while the ripples over the suspension of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was still generating ripples, they recalled the governor of the Caliphate. The party cited the intervention of Akpabio, who ‘pleaded’ for Wamakko’s pardon, as the reason for his recall. But the Sokoto governor appears unimpressed by the afterthought of the PDP leaders to bring him back to the party’s fold without first addressing the fundamental cause of his gripe.
Wamakko is yet to make any avowal either applauding the leadership for his recall or vilifying those responsible for his suspension. The recalcitrance by the governor seems to have left those who wanted his recall to be seen as an act of benevolence tongue-tied and somewhat frustrated.
But the real trouble lies in the realisation that rather than pushing him towards reconciling with his traducers, Wammako is bent on taking a pound of flesh from them by aligning forces with those within and outside the PDP, who share his political thinking.
Not even his party men can decipher his next game plan, a situation that has now put him at loggerheads with the PDP and also put paid to any genuine peace move. The disappointment of Abuja with Wamakko stems from the fact that until the party moved against him, he was among those the PDP frequently hailed as having the magic wand to win elections for it in the North-west, after he secured two straight victories for the party in 2007 and 2011.
The first victory though remains shrouded in controversy, a subject of litigation and has truncated the career of the former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami. In effect, the 2007 ‘victory’ of Wamakko in Sokoto has produced its victor and victims.
The PDP, which controls 23 of the 36 states, has proved that it is not in a hurry to let go the governance of the country and does not pretend that it can stomach any voice of dissent, especially from its belly. That is why Aliyu, who is also the Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, NSGF, may pay a price for trying to prove that he is not only stubborn but also outspoken.
One term deal
It is not likely that the forces within the PDP will forgive him for his audacity in broaching the controversy that President Jonathan signed a deal with some northern governors and political stakeholders to do just a term and hand over to the North in 2015. Although the Presidency has continued to skip any discussion on the rumoured Jonathan’s second term bid, Aliyu’s temerity in challenging him over the matter will not go unreplied by the forces loyal to the Presidency.
The reason is not far-fetched: The governor’s expose has not only embarrassed the Presidency but has also triggered a barrage of negative reactions against the President and fuelled opposition against his suspected second term bid.
But the Niger governor bulges not, insisting he had to speak the truth no matter whose ox is gored. The system not only frowns at that ‘betrayal’ by a man considered as a member of the inner caucus but also sees the governor as a pawn being raised by some political elements to foment avoidable political crisis.
He is even lucky that the forces have not confronted him on the scale of the treatment meted out to his Rivers counterpart, Amaechi, who they voted for on May 24, 2013 as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF.
While it is difficult to understand how Kwankwaso, the Kano governor, boxed himself into the bad book of the PDP and the Presidency, Lamido’s rumoured presidential ambition is the main cause of his crisis with the Presidency and party loyalists.
And, just as Jonathan has not officially made his ambition known, the Jigawa governor is keeping his game plan close to his chest. So far, it is unlikely that the Presidency and its minders will just stand and watch anyone considered a threat or even a potential one to the return bid by Jonathan come 2015.
That is why it has been fighting to keep Amaechi at bay over the NGF chairmanship but failed. After the defeat at the NGF polls, the Presidency and the PDP suspended the Rivers governor and attempted to change the leadership of the state House of Assembly preparatory to sacking the governor from his seat.
Meanwhile, the northern governors have taken their battle against the Presidency and the PDP to different parts of the country. After meeting with Amaechi in Port Harcourt in a show of solidarity with him, the quintuplet approached General Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar and reported their frustration in the PDP to the two former Nigerian leaders.
Robbing the North
Although the details of their discussions have not been made public, it was understood that their complaint centred around the purported attempt by Jonathan to jettison the agreement to run for one term, thereby robbing the North of the opportunity to take over the Presidency in 2015.
While that remained the subject of their meeting, the governors came out in the open to say that they merely went to the Hilltop Mansion to ‘consult’ with the former leaders. “We have held consultations with former heads of states on the need for them and other major stakeholders to save the party from dying”, they said.
“We will continue to make our efforts to save the party. But if our efforts do not work, we have no alternative than to fold our arms, and see PDP die and we help in burying it.” The Presidency has not taken the governors’ confrontation lightly especially given the warm welcome granted them by IBB and Abubakar in Minna.
IBB even added more trouble for the governors when he described them as real patriots in search of genuine answers to the nation’s crises.
“I just want to commend the governors and some of their colleagues. I am very impressed because they see the problems of this country as their problems and they have taken the right steps to make sure that they consult widely in trying to find solutions to some of the nagging problems. It shows they are real patriots and I am very happy with them,” IBB said while receiving the governors in his palatial home in the Niger State capital.
‘Never truly PDP govs’
The Presidency does not believe that the governors visit to the former heads of state and Amaechi was for mere consultation and altruistic purposes. The Political Adviser to President Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, described the five governors as agents of the opposition in the PDP. Gulak also said that two of the governors-Wamakko and Nyako – were never truly PDP governors.
Describing them as All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, governors, who were admitted to the PDP with open arms, the presidential adviser lamented their lack of respect for the President and the PDP leadership, which gave them the platform to run for office. He accused the governors of trying to instigate the people against Jonathan with the aim of getting him out of office so that one of them would take over.
“The grandstanding of the five governors is nothing but a ploy to chase out President Jonathan so that one of them can take over. But I can assure you that their agenda has already failed since the Nigerian people are aware that they have nothing to offer the nation,” Gulak said.
“They (the five governors) cannot bury PDP, as the party is above them.
“Their agenda is not to bury PDP but to get President Goodluck Jonathan out, but they will certainly fail. I can assure you that all those in that group and sharing their agenda will also fail woefully, as Nigerians are wiser.”
The presidential aide insisted that the President never signed any agreement with any governor or group to do one a term and challenged those who claimed to have been part of the deal to produce the minutes of any such meeting where the pact was made or shut up forever.
“If there was any such agreement, I would have been part of the process given my position as the SA Political to the President”.
Although Gulak admitted that Jonathan was unhappy over the action of the governors and the seeming implosion within the party, he is said to be optimistic that the party was solid and capable of surmounting its challenges ahead of the 2015 polls.
The only worry of the President, according to the aide, is the wrong signals and image problems the PDP crisis was sending to the international community at a time Nigeria was battling to ward off its corruption toga.
Many have predicted that the PDP, which has been running the affairs of Nigeria since the return to popular democracy in 1999, may be on its way to doom given the high level of intrigues and manipulations that has, of recent, attended its ranks.
The irony of the emerging drama is that while the five governors, who are all from the North, may be seen as pursuing personal interests, they may actually be spearheading a holistic agenda of the region, which has not hidden its disdain for being shut out of power for over a decade.
Whether they are pursuing a personal agenda or group interests, events in the next few months leading to next year, when Jonathan is likely to formally announce his second term bid and possibly be adopted as the sole candidate of the PDP, would clear any doubt as to where the governors and their teeming supporters would be heading in 2015.
When the chips are down, Jonathan and his loyalists are sure to carry the day or kiss the dust. But in reality, what the governors have succeeded in doing is a shot fired from the least expected quarters that is set to jolt the overstretched ‘umbrella’ as the gathering political storm reaches its crescendo.