The long-awaited meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ended in an anti-climax Thursday without a single word of dissent against the beleaguered national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
THISDAY gathered that Tukur was able to retain his job due to the last minute horse-trading and lobbying that took place throughout Wednesday to ensure that the chairman was not removed.
Sources close to the presidency said the governors loyal to President Goodluck Jonathan ensured that they had most of the G84 members, especially the state party chairmen, locked in by Wednesday night, with most of them pledging not to upset the apple cart at yesterday’s NEC meeting.
One presidency source said it was easy to get the commitment of most of the members because the anti-Jonathan governors such as Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Babangida Aliyu (Niger), were rudderless without the support of opposition governors from other parties.
He said: “The truth is that these so-called anti-Jonathan governors are in the minority in the party. During the election of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), they derived their support from the opposition.
“But without them (opposition governors), these governors could not muster the numbers to remove Tukur.
"They had made Tukur’s removal a pre-condition for them to support Jonathan. But after what happened during the NGF election, it was best to err on the side of caution as they could not be trusted.”
He said Aliyu Wamakko, the Sokoto State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, and the deputy governors of Jigawa and Kano States were all at yesterday’s NEC meeting but failed to utter a word with respect to Tukur during the 45-minute meeting.
However, there was tension prior to the meeting as members walked in to take their places. But the governors who had perfected the plans for the meeting’s outcome did not arrive the venue until about 30 minutes to the time it was scheduled to commence.
Following their arrival, the president arrived at about 2.06 pm and was received by Tukur and other party officials. Delegates who were expecting a heated debate at the meeting were disappointed as the NEC meeting was conducted without anyone raising a single eyebrow.
Instead, the NEC meeting accepted the resignation of the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and their deputies following a report of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that their election did not comply with the party’s guidelines.
The NEC, in accepting their resignation, immediately instituted an interim NEC to help Tukur manage the affairs of the party till July 20 when a special national convention would be conducted.
Briefing the press after the NEC meeting, the Chairman of the Special Convention Committee, Prof. Jerry Gana, said the new interim members comprise the acting Deputy National Chairman, Hon. Chibudom Nwuche, who was deputy speaker in the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003; acting National Secretary, Dr. Remi Akintoye; acting Deputy National Secretary, Senator Emma Agboti; acting National Organising Secretary Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar; acting National Publicity Secretary Tony Ceaser Okeke; acting National Legal Adviser Simon D. Jok; and acting National Youth Leader, Mr. Tanko Beji.
Others include: acting National Woman Leader Oyibo Nwaneri; acting Deputy National Legal Adviser Yau Kwadon; acting Deputy National Youth Leader, Hon. Peter Adefunmilayo; acting Deputy National Auditor Nasiru Ibrahim Birchi; acting Deputy National Women Leader, Mrs. Torkwase Ajoh; acting National Treasurer Mohammed Dandari; and acting Deputy National Organising Secretary Onyemaechi Ikechukwu Jideofor.
Other interim members are acting Deputy National Financial Secretary, Hon. Awalu Gwalabe; acting Deputy National Treasurer, Chief Augustine Lugbenwei; acting Deputy National Publicity Secretary Calib Yahaya; acting Ex-Officio, Chief Akin Taiwo; acting Ex-Officio Tope Ademiluyi; acting Ex-Officio, Chief Mike Akinfenwa; and acting Ex-Officio, Hon. Gbenga Oduwaiye.
Gana, who announced that the special national convention would take place on July 20, said he had been appointed chairman of the convention committee, with Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio as deputy chairman. He also said Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu will serve as the secretary of the special convention.
He added that zonal congresses would take place only in the south-west on July 11, while all the delegates of the national convention of March 24, 2012 would remain delegates to the July 20 special convention.
Gana said other members of the special convention would be announced later.
According to Gana, “The committee will by Friday write a letter informing INEC of the decision of the PDP NEC-in-session and also write to inform the commission of the special national convention in line with the Electoral Act, Section 85 states that any political party holding convention must give 21 days notice.”
The former Minister of Information added that the former deputy senate president, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, moved a motion of vote of confidence on the president’s successful mid-term report, adding that the motion was successfully adopted by all the delegates at the NEC meeting.
In the confidence motion moved by Mantu and unanimously adopted by all members at the NEC meeting, the party commended Jonathan’s “resolute and decisive tackling” of Nigeria’s security challenges which, it said, had curbed terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria, particularly in the north-east geo-political zone.
“The PDP also applauded ongoing reforms and development in the country, especially those in the agricultural, aviation, transportation, and education sectors,” he said, adding that it was apparent that the president’s agenda for national transformation was being diligently implemented and that Nigerians were better for it.
The party also commended Jonathan’s strict adherence to the rule of law as well as his protection and defence of the constitution.
“The president is discharging his mandate to the appreciation of Nigerians that overwhelmingly voted for him in the 2011 general election.
“It is therefore in view of the above that members of the National Executive Committee of our great party do hereby pass a vote of confidence on the President, Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR,” the motion stated.
One thing that was evident from the body language of the NEC members was that the NWC members and their deputies who had resigned would most likely get re-elected on July 20.
Confirming this, a source said: “What we did by accepting their resignation is to abide by the INEC report and allow them to go back and re-contest.
“This is why the NEC approved that all the delegates of the March 24, 2012 national convention be ratified as delegates for the July 20 convention.”
The NEC meeting was attended by the governors of Akwa Ibom, Sokoto, Kogi, Taraba, Kaduna and Niger States, and deputy governors of Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Kwara, Kebbi, Gombe, Bauchi and Cross River States.
Only the governors of Enugu, Ebonyi, Adamawa and Benue States were absent, while the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, was absent because of his suspension by the party.
Nyako was also not at the meeting, while the state faction loyal to the governor and led by Kaugama Mujinjwa was not allowed in, as only the Joel Madaki faction was allowed into the meeting.
Other members of PDP in NEC at the meeting included the Senate President, David Mark; Ekweremadu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; and Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, among others.
Meanwhile, at the commencement of the meeting, the president had advocated a two-party structure in Nigeria, explaining that it would help stabilise the polity and end the unnecessary quest for the registration of new political parties before elections.
The president said: “We will encourage political parties to come together more. We want a situation where it is PDP versus one. In that case, the polity will be more stable.
“Even our members will be more loyal to the party because you will have nowhere to go, because right now, immediately we disagree in PDP, somebody is picking a form in one PPP or DDD party and contesting for the state House of Assembly or House of Reps or Senate.
“But when we have only two parties, before you get there, other candidates would have occupied that place. So, even if we disagree, we will make up our differences at the end of the day and it will even help to build a stronger party.
“So Nigerians should commend PDP. If PDP were weak, people wouldn't have gathered together. There wouldn't have been any reason for parties to come together to fight PDP.
“But when you have so many parties on their own, they know they cannot face us until they come together, then you know that we are formidable.”
The president said the party has to work to ensure that it has more than 23 governors in the next election, saying: “We must build up. At the time of formation of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the focus was slightly different. In every organisation, over the years, there must be some change in direction.
“So looking at the number of PDP governors vis-a-vis the total number of governors, it became very clear that the PDP needed to have its own forum because we realised that some of the other political parties, their governors used to meet before coming for general NGF meeting.
“But PDP being the elephant did not really bother much. But over time, we have realised that there is need for PDP governors to also meet because politics is politics. Politics is a game of interest.
“I remember the first time I read Obasanjo's book, My Command, in 1981 and he said in the book that in politics, there is nothing like permanent friends or permanent enemies but permanent interests.
“I believe even in local politics, interests matter a lot. There is no permanent friend; no permanent enemy but permanent interest and as long as people have different interests, there must be disagreements.
“But as a member of a political party, we must know that no matter what, the party's interests must supersede any other interest. At the end of the day, all our interests will converge to one interest, that is the interest of PDP.”
The president promised that he and his deputy, Namadi Sambo, as well as members of their team, would not disappoint the party.
“We must make sure that anytime PDP has any reason to campaign, we must have a reference point, we have solid materials to show. We have not reached where we want to go, no doubt about that. But we are totally committed that we must move this country to where we want our children to be and we need the maximum cooperation of every member of our party,” he said.
Tukur, in his welcome address, charged members of the party to ensure discipline at all times and rededicate themselves to the affairs of the party.
He said: “In our efforts to achieve success, we must rededicate our genuine political beliefs, change our attitudes and identify our political needs.
“These good values cannot be realised without accepting the supremacy of the party constitution as a key instrument that ensures progress, stability and internal discipline.”
Tukur, whose speech was interrupted with applause, added: “We must strengthen our democracy through determination not personalisation, correction not manipulation, collectivism not individualism, and sacrifice not disservice.
“If these pronouncements are substantial, then, the party should quickly take urgent steps to achieve higher levels at least by coming to terms with democratic norms and practices.”
On the challenges facing PDP as a political party, Tukur said: “It is important to note that the party all this while struggles for support to effect the necessary changes that can stop cases of disrespect to party decisions, which has become the norm.
“Internal communication has considerably declined over the past few years. Glaring apathy to party funding by members is rife and I hope it is not a deliberate attempt to weaken the party leadership.
“Open confrontation with political administration exposes our political weaknesses. Fighting the party from within is unhealthy and dangerous for our image and aspirations. Overheating the polity because of inordinate ambition contradicts our perception for democratic orderliness.”
Tukur lauded the president, describing him as “our symbol”. He said the president must be respected and treated with dignity, as “undermining the leader for no just reason cannot bring us good results.
“This observation is necessary to remind PDP members that we owe ourselves a duty to protect, project and support our president to leave behind a lasting legacy for Nigerians.”
In his speech, Akpabio assured Jonathan of the support of all PDP governors, explaining that as the governors respected the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, so the respect must be extended to him.