Obasanjo absent at NEC
Party chair visits Ogun Monday
Akala engages Adeojo in shouting match
THE coast is now clear for President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2011 elections. As rightly published yesterday by the Nigerian Compass, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has given the President the â€˜green lightâ€™ to continue to occupy the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, beyond May 29, next year.
The decision was taken at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting yesterday at the partyâ€™s national headquarters, Abuja.
Although the party declared that the controversial zoning formula would remain â€œfrom the federal to state levelsâ€, it said Jonathan â€œbecause of special circumstancesâ€, would use the Yarâ€™Adua/Jonathan ticket, which brought the party to power after the exit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 2007, for the 2011 elections.
Former President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua died on May 5, 2010.
But, in a swift reaction, former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) and former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said the decision to allow Jonathan use the Yarâ€™Adua ticket would not work because â€œJonathan is not a Northernerâ€.
As part of his memo to the NEC, the National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, said that Jonathan, â€œwho is part and parcel of the late Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua mandate, has a right to contest the remaining of that joint ticket in 2011″.
He explained that in the zoning arrangement, the party didnâ€™t envisage that a serving President would die in office, adding that â€œunfortunately, we lost our dear President.â€
He, however, said that the party had not discarded zoning.
He also apologised to those hurt by the reforms being undertaken by the leadership of the party.
He said: â€œToday, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, by the dictate of our constitution, is exercising the term of a joint mandate given by the people of our great country. If our late President were alive today, we wouldnâ€™t be contesting his right to run for a second term under our national constitution. It was his entitlement.
â€œBut, Dr Jonathan who is part and parcel of that mandate, has a right to contest the remaining of that joint ticket in 2011. This will, of course, not exclude any other aspirant from any part of the country from contesting the presidential primaries as it has become the custom of our party.â€
In his remark at the NEC meeting, Jonathan appealed to members to accept the memo being presented by Nwodo with a consensus warning that there was no need for members to result to fisticuff.
Jonathan also canvassed for a free and fair primaries that would be in the mould of the Jos convention held by the party in 1998.
He said: â€œ The memo that comes from the chairman, we normally use consensus. We donâ€™t stay here and box ourselves and we must maintain that tradition because that is one of the good things we must bequeath to the next generation and we will disappoint Nigerians that we will box ourselves and burn down our houses.
â€œWe will work together as a party because what happens in the PDP happens in the whole country.â€
As predicted by the Nigerian Compass yesterday, Obasanjo was absent. Also, former minister, Malam Adamu Ciroma, did not attend the meeting.
Nwodo, who said he was presenting some of the resolutions reached at the Board of Trustees (BoT) and the enlarged caucus meetings, also canvassed for membersâ€™ support on the reforms being embarked upon by the party, particularly the online-registration of members and the special convention that would be conveyed to amend the partyâ€™s constitution.
His words: â€œIn my inaugural speech, I promised to bring on board, some fundamental reforms that are geared towards restoring internal democracy in our party.
â€œI promised to bring the first administrative and ICT tools to catapault our party to internationally-accepted best practices of doing things. In this connection, we have concluded designs with our consultants on how to reposition our party administration for increased efficiency and productivity.
â€œWe have also concluded with professional artisans on how to reinvent our party ideology and the dreams of the founding fathers, based on our manifesto which is our covenant with the Nigerian people to prepare our candidates for future elections and for service delivery to our people, to bring to the fore our solutions to poverty, hunger and unemployment and submit ourselves and our party to the total improvement of the infrastructure necessary to transform our country to a modern nation that will be the pride of all black men on earth and to the envy of all nation.
â€œWe have enunciated the advantages of this earth-breaking innovations. It would not only provide the much needed data base for running our party, but it will provide us the fund to deal with the day -to- day management of our party. We have planned to run this programme for the next one year before discarding the present manual register .
â€œIt has become imperative, due to the new Electoral Act to hold a special convention and bi-annual conference to update our party constitution before the primary election. Already, the constitution amendment notices have gone out, but additional notices would follow to capture the changes in the Electoral Act and other areas.
â€œToday, we will be asking NEC to roll out these reforms as the party has discussed the issue of zoning through the organs of the party and the informed view is that PDP has entrenched in its constitution zoning and rotation of public offices in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice.
â€œThe PDP, as a responsible organisation, is responsive to the spirit and letters of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which enjoins the practice of federal character in the distribution of public offices.
â€œThe misconception, accusations that PDP has abandoned zoning is very far from the truth. When our President emerged, he chose a northern muslim as his vice president ; when the chairman resigned, he was replaced by another chairman from the South-East. Our Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker are from various zones of the country.
â€œAt the state level, we encourage rotation of our governors among the three senatorial zones in our state. How then can PDP be said to have abandoned zoning or rotation?
â€œIn the 2011 presidential primary, we are faced with unforeseen circumstances, which can only be likened to a national crisis we faced recently when our late President Umaru Musa Yar`Adua was ill and couldnâ€™t transfer power to the then vice president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
â€œThe country rose to the occasion and parliament successfully transmitted power to the Vice President as Acting President. In the zoning arrangement, we didnâ€™t envisage that a serving President would die in office. Unfortunately, we lost our dear President.
â€œToday, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, by the dictate of our constitution, is exercising the term of a joint mandate, given by the people of our great country. If our late President were alive today, we wouldnâ€™t be contesting his right to run for a second term under our national constitution. It was his entitlement.
â€œBut, Dr Jonathan, who is part and parcel of that mandate has a right to contest the remaining of that joint ticket in 2011. This will, of course, not exclude any other aspirant from any part of the country from contesting the presidential primary as it has become the custom of our party.
â€œYou will all recall that this scenario played out in the past in Adamawa State in the case of his Excellency, Atiku Abubakar and His Excellency Boni Haruna. This was when Atiku Abubakar was nominated as the running mate to President Obasanjo. Boni Haruna, in spite of the court challenge to deny him that mandate, was adjudged by the courts as the right beneficiary of that ticket and he went on to do two terms as governor of Adamawa State.
â€œI know that reforms are sometimes hard to accept, especially when we are called upon to abandon old ways of doing things.
â€œFurthermore, in preaching these reforms, we may have hurt the sensibility of some of our members. We thereby present our unreserved apology. But, we however, continue to appeal that these reforms be accepted by all our party membersâ€.
Jonathan, who said that the controversies generated by the zoning is not unusual in an emerging democracy, added: â€œWhereever two people stay, they must disagree. Husband and wife must disagree, siblings belonging to the same parents must disagree and as a party, we must disagree but what makes us strong is that we have the ability to resolve our differences. We normally resolve our differences through dialogue.â€
Jonathan said: â€œWhen we are getting close to elections, this party secretariat normally receive visitors from all parts of the country, truck loads of youths and women. We normally have cases of turbulences at the state level and even as I am coming in now, I saw a group of people with placards. It reminds me about 2003 and 2007 when we were getting close to elections.
â€œThis party secretariat normally receive visitors from all parts of the country with trucks of women and youths with placards, carrying various inscriptions. I think this year is even better as because when I listen across the country, we have to give thanks to God. We have to thank the leadership too.
â€œI know the challenges are there and they must be there. Because that is the essence of politics. And whereever two people stay, they must disagree. Husband and wife must disagree, siblings belonging to the same parents must disagree and as a party, we must disagree, but what makes us strong is that we have the ability to resolve our differences. We normally resolve our differences through dialogue. We donâ€™t come to NEC meetings and start shouting at ourselves. We have never done that and we will not do that.
â€œEvery country is controlled by their laws and their conventions. Not everything is written, not everything is documented, but in most cases, parties that are ready to move forward, when we follow the law strictly, lawyers will just be pushing you left and right.
â€œSo, whatever differences we have in our states, we have the ability to resolve amicably because we need to do that and we have no choice. We must carry all party leaders along for us to win elections. Just as we have been preaching, that the party is very supportive and the governors are supportive and the National Assembly is supportive, the leaders are supportive and everybody is supportive.
â€œOthers look at us as if we cannot conduct elections that are acceptable. To some extent, we are doing fairly well. But at the end of the elections, the number of us that go to court are so many. The way the court gives the judgement, some times, we donâ€™t understand. And certain things are in the public domain and any judgement that is given enters the newspapers and it is in the internet.
â€œAnybody that goes to court is in the papers already. The feeling is that our elections are very turbulent, even when we donâ€™t have a crisis, we have created a crisis. This time around, we conduct the elections in a way that only very few people will want to go to court.
â€œPDP has the mechanism to resolve its crisis and when we say that some people query us and I always said that if politics is all about numbers, then PDP still controls more than majority of this country and if we control more than majority of this country, then we can always predict our elections.
â€œBut in most cases, when people want us to have crisis in our elections, the faction that is disgruntled will first of all give their votes to another person. Even though, they will regret later. But in anger, they will dash their votes out. But finally, it will turn back to hit them and they will regret, but by Godâ€™s grace, we will be resolving our crisis internally. We will not argue it in the public.
â€œJust look at the issue of zoning or no zoning, it is PDP primaries, whether we zone or donâ€™t zone, it is our own internal affairs. But, the debate is even being spearheaded more by none PDP members. That shows that what happens in PDP, in fact they already conceded the presidency to us.
â€œOtherwise, they have no business coming to join our own debate. That means they have already known that the PDP will produce the President of this country.â€
The online-registration led to a rowdy session and it was eventually dropped. Nwodoâ€™s position on zoning was adopted overwhelmingly. The motion to adopt it was moved by Shema and seconded by Anenih.
The President also directed Nwodo to go to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital on Monday to resolve the crisis in the state chapter of the party.
A source at the meeting said: â€œThe Ogun State party chairman, Elder Joju Fadairo was at the meeting as the authentic chairman. Nwodo did not bring the Ogun State matter up at the NEC meeting but said the President had directed him to go to Abeokuta, the state capital to resolve the crisis on Monday.
â€œThere was a motion challenging the power of the NWC to dissolve state excos without due process but Nwodo did not allow the motion, insisting that he has not brought Ogun State matter to the NWC yet. The implication is that Ogun State exco remains intact which is victory for the rule of law and victory for democracy and the truth. You know an Abuja High Court and Abeokuta High Court on Wednesday stopped the party from tampering with the Abia and Ogun chapters.
â€œOn the proposed amendment to the PDP constitution and manisfesto, a committee was formed to look into and study it carefully.
â€œThe NEC also ratified the coming of Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State into the party and directed that all incoming members to the party, including the governor, can contest for any post. The brand repositioning of the party was also approved.â€
Also at the meeting, the festering crisis that has engulfed the Oyo State chapter of the PDP reared its ugly head as Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala openly demanded for the exit of the former Deputy National Chairman, Alhaji Yekini Adeojo.
The drama took place before the commencement of the meeting when Alao-Akala walked straight to Adeojo, who was already seated 40 minutes before the arrival of the governor, and started shouting: â€œDonâ€™t let me disgrace you. I am the governor of the state. I donâ€™t know you as a PDP member. Get out of this place,â€
After the first round of embarrassment and with Adeojo not even responding, the governor came back to Adeojo who is also a member of the BoT alongside the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Ahmed Rufai Alkali. The visibly-angry Alao-Akala asked Alkali how Adeojo found himself inside the hall.
The governor thundered again: â€œYou canâ€™t be here. You have ceased to be a member of our party. You have to leave or I will disgrace you. I am the Governor of Oyo State and the leader of the party and I donâ€™t know you.â€
Responding, Alkali simply asked the governor to take it easy and they left, just as Adeojo never uttered a word to the furious governor.
Adeojo later told reporters: â€œI am a member of BoT, a complete member of PDP NEC. I donâ€™t need to take permission from the governor before attending NEC meetingâ€.
At the meeting, security was unusually tight. State Security Service (SSS) operatives took over the venue, searching people.
Because of the heavy security, reporters were almost barred from the venue.
At the meeting were Jonathan; Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Nwodo and other members of the NWC including former chairmen Dr. Ahmadu Ali; Prince Vincent Ogbulafor; Chief Barnabas Gemade; Chief Solomon Lar; Second Republic Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekweme; Senate President, David Mark; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; Deputy Speaker Bayero Nafada; former Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih and former Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu.
Governors present included Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Martins Elechi (Ebonyi); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Sullivan Chime (Enugu); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Timipre Silva (Bayelsa); Murtala Nyako (Adamawa); Ibrahim Shema (Katsina); Ikedi Ohakim (Imo); Gbenga Daniel (Ogun); Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Akwe Doma (Nasarawa); Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun); Segun Oni (Ekiti); Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta); Isa Yuguda (Bauchi); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukola Saraki (Kwara); Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Gabriel Suswam (Benue); Saidu Dakingari (Kebbi); Aliyu Shinkafi (Zamfara); Deputy Governor Ramalan Yero (Kaduna) and Mrs. Pauline Tallen (Plateau).
Others included Senators Annie Okonkwo; Lee Maeba; Osita Isunazo; Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane; Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia; Chief Ebenezer Babatope; Professor Jerry Gana; Alhaji Adamu Hassan; Senator Walid Jibrin; Senator Stella Omu; Major-General Muhammadu Magoro (rtd); Senator Abubakar Sodangi; Shuaibu Oyedokun; Nana Aisha Kadiri; Alhaji Yekini Adeojo; Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Dr. Kashim Ibrahim Imam; Hajia Hauwa Kida; Mrs Christy Silas; Hajia Rabi Mukhtar Mohammed; Garba Matazu; Farouk Lawal and Atai Idoko, among others.
Declaring his opposition to the zoning arrangement, Babangida said his presidential ambition was not based on it.
The Minna-born soldier-turned-politician said despite the partyâ€™s position, Nigerians will eventually decide the President next year.
Babangidaâ€™s spokesman, Kazeem Afegbua, said that his boss is not bothered about â€œthe hullabaloo surrounding the zoning arrangement but in providing good governance for the teeming populationâ€.
Afegbua, who maintained that the General was only interested in how to make the country work, disclosed that his boss would not be bothered about â€œthe proviso that has no impact on the lives of average Nigeriansâ€.
â€œGeneral Babangida remains in the race. He did not join the race because of zoning; he is running because he believes he can give better leadership and has better experience and knowledge to confront the daunting challenges facing us as a nation.
â€œHe knows how to set the priorities right and practical knowledge to make things work in Nigeria. We are not interested in any proviso. We are interested in Nigeria and the electorate. We are interested in the stability and unity of Nigeria,â€ he declared.
Atiku said there was no way a non-Northerner would be allowed to use the ticket of a Northerner.
One of his aides said: â€œThe Turaki is going ahead with his presidential ambition, irrespective of PDPâ€™s stance.
â€œWhat we know is that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is going to contest next year and Nigerians will vote for him.
â€œYarâ€™Aduaâ€™s term is ending next year. Jonathan is completing that one. Another Northerner will continue that mandate, not a non-Northerner. Zoning standsâ€.
By Lateef Ibrahim, Ayodele Adegbuyi, Abuja & Victor Oriola