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PDP’s House of Discord

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Wadata House, the National headquarters of the People’s Democratic Party, is boiling over a personality clash between Bamanga Tukur, National chairman and Olagunsoye Oyinlola, national secretary

When the Bamanga Tukur-led national executive of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP,  emerged in March, this year, there was great expectation that it would usher in a new era of a united leadership for the party.  But the politics of 2015 is already tearing the leadership of the party apart. The party has been polarised, with the national chairman leading one faction while the other is led by Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the party’s national secretary.  Onyinlola, a retired military general was the former governor of Osun State.

Newswatch learnt that the issues at stake were moves to come up with strategies for the choice of candidates ahead of the 2015 presidential election.  On the surface, it appears it’s a fight between the national chairman and the national secretary. But the political undercurrent is the 2015 presidency. It is learnt that the chairman and the secretary may have been working at cross purposes ahead of the 2015 elections. While the national chairman is believed to have opted to support President Goodluck Jonathan for the PDP presidential ticket, the national secretary who is a loyalist of former President Olusegun Obasanjo is opposed to it.

Tukur was not Obasanjo’s candidate for the position of the national chairman of the party, although the former president did not openly oppose his candidature. But barely a month after Tukur assumed office, Obasanjo who was chairman of the Board of Trustees, BOT – a position regarded as the conscience of the party, resigned.

Obasanjo’s resignation did not come to many as a suprise. It was the former president during his reign that caused the expulsion of Tukur, Sunday Awoniyi and a few other stalwarts from the party when they insisted on internal democracy in the party. Although in his letter of resignation, Obasanjo stated that he was leaving the position because he wanted to devote more time to international engagements, many feel that the former president did that to avoid a clash with Tukur.

A staff at the national headquarters of the party who asked not to be named, told Newswatch that the division has permeated the party hierarchy down the line, with two separate groups lining behind the two gladiators in supremacy battle. Kema Chikwe, national woman leader and, Obasanjo’s former minister, is alleged to be on the side of Oyinlola.

While Tukur before now chose to fight through Habu Fari, former national chairman of National Democratic Party, NDP, who was his chief of staff, Oyinlola chose to fight the battle directly. Oyinlola had complained that the chief of staff, who was appointed by the chairman, had been trying to usurp the administrative duties of the national secretary, particularly in respect to correspondences to chairmen of state chapters of the party.  According to him, these were being directly communicated by Tukur through Fari without input from him.

The former Osun State governor cited a letter written by Fari and addressed to the National Assembly, introducing Abdullahi Gumel, as the PDP national chairman’s special adviser to the National Assembly as one of such infractions.

In a memo to the chairman on June 8, 2012, Oyinlola had stated that the position of chief of staff did not exist in the party’s administrative structure, stressing the need for Tukur to impress it on Fari to be guided by the in-house establishment manual in the discharge of his duties as an appointed aide.

To Oyinlola’s dismay, it was Fari who replied his memo, thus setting a stage for a grand tussle. Fari in his response on same day queried Oyinlola’s action, stating that every assignment he (Fari) undertook on behalf of the party was at the instance of the national chairman.

Part of Fari’s response reads,: “I want to visit your persistent emphasis on the establishment manual and your attempt to recognise it far above the constitution of the party. In order to educate you substantially, the constitution comes first above the establishment manual and any regulations governing the party. The establishment manual which we produced in the year 2000, before you joined the party, was with the singular intention to run the national secretariat smoothly. The said establishment manual is currently under review. It was reviewed by the immediate past National Working Committee without its adoption by the National Executive Committee, hence, its present review status.”

“For the fact that the document is to be reviewed has given room for consistent input to accommodate new ideas for the best interest of our great party. I would like to remind you that my appointment as the chief of staff to the national chairman was strictly at his (Tukur’s) pleasure. I do not think there is any guiding regulations or law that prohibits the national chairman from doing so.

“All letters written by me, including the one you mentioned, were done and dispatched on the authority of the national chairman. I sincerely believe that the correspondence was in good faith and without any calculated attempt to undermine your office as you misrepresented. For your information, there was no correspondence in effect carried out by me without the directives of the national chairman. You may need to cross check in order to ascertain my source of authority.”

Newswatch gathered that Tukur did direct Fari to respond to Oyinlola’s memo with the aim of setting the record straight.  Copies of the letter were sent to President Jonathan, the Vice-President, the Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives and the Chairman of Governors Forum.

Olisa Metuh, national secretary of the party, while briefing journalists, admitted that there was indeed a crack in the party but added that the leadership of the party had resolved the differences amicably.

 According to him, the crisis arose as a result of contending interests scrambling for the attention of the national chairman.  Metuh stated that it was resolved at the highest level that the national chairman was at liberty to delegate official responsibilities to any of his aides or anybody of his choice.

Ironically, a few hours after Metuh’s briefing in which he said, “it was resolved at the highest level that the national chairman was at liberty to delegate official responsibilities to any of his aides or anybody of his choice,” Fari was sacked. Newswatch learnt that Tukur was compelled to sack Fari following the intervention of President Jonathan.

Before Fari was shown the way out, Metuh, had regretted what he described as administrative lapses, and swore that such would not happen anymore. “There have been administrative errors in the party because this is a new NWC. When a new administration comes on board, it takes some time to settle. The commotion has made everybody to sit up. We are totally committed to ensuring that this does not happen again. We have learnt our lessons but will not allow party faithfuls to be embarrassed again. There is no question of division or camp in the NWC. All members are completely loyal to the president.’’

According to him, “PDP is the largest party and we have our problems but we have internal mechanism. We have a father in the chairman who has waded into the matter. We are propelled to be more united than before.’’

Besides that, Newswatch learnt that a recent memo from the office of the national chairman, directing certain directors in the party to move from their present departments to new portfolios, had been rejected by the NWC members, who described Tukur’s purported reform process as needless as another source of crisis in the party.  Some of these directors, it is learnt, have spent up 10 years at the secretariat.  A source told Newswatch that the planned redeployment is being seen with suspicion that it is aimed at easing these directors out so as to pave way for Tukur’s 2015 agenda. “We suspect the chairman wants us moved so that he can bring people he can use to achieve his 2015 agenda of giving the presidential ticket to Jonathan.  He wants people he trusts can do his bidding,” the source said.

Suspicion is so rife within the party leadership to the extent that the creation of a 50-man advisory committee recently inaugurated by the national chairman with former Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme, as chairman, has met with stiff opposition from Oyinlola and certain members of the NWC, who have seen it as usurpation of their roles. The national secretary boycotted the inauguration of the Alex Ekwueme committee.

Despite the discord within the leadership of the party, Tukur has expressed the determination of the new leadership to reposition PDP, amidst reservations of a few strong members standing in the way of the PDP.  Inaugurating the Ekwueme-led committee in Abuja recently, Tukur said the committee would advise the leadership of the PDP on the best way to return the party to the people as envisaged by the founding fathers.

He vowed that it would not be business as usual. “I believe this is a call for you not only to serve the PDP, but also a service to the nation as well. As most of us are founding fathers of this party, you are best suited to offer reasonable advice that will help in promoting the objectives of our party. “I have no doubt in my mind that quality advice will come out of this high powered committee, and for that reason, PDP will continue to serve and provide high quality democratic dividends to all the states under our control as well as those under the opposition parties since our umbrella is big enough to contain all. “The PDP has nurtured democracy to maturity; the party has an unbroken 13 years of democratic governance, which is a great credit to the party of its standing in Africa, particularly in the West African sub-region,’’ he said.

Tukur admitted that the PDP- led government was in great difficulty but expressed its resolve to address the issues through reconciliation, rebuilding and reforming. “At a time like this, when the country is facing a number of challenges, we require all hands to be on deck. With our governments at federal, states and local government levels, the party must tap from the fountains of knowledge of its leaders to assist in finding lasting solutions to our national problems. “We as members of the party must not be seen to be lamenting on issues but must be seen to be participating actively in finding solutions to these problems, hence my decision to bring all of you to assist us in not only repositioning our party but also proffer solutions  to these enormous challenges facing our nation.”

Ekwueme is not new in this role. In  2007, Ekwueme-led a panel that worked on the way forward for the party but the report, acknowledged by different regimes in the party to be a worthy one, has outlived all administrations but without implementation. The summary of the report is that internal democracy should be given premium in PDP as envisaged by the founding fathers.

Ekwueme, one of the founding fathers, has remained a recurring figure in the efforts of the national chairmen to reform the party or reconcile aggrieved members. But whether his efforts have yielded the results or have been implemented is a different matter. And whether that attitude would change under the present leadership of the party remains to be seen.

Reported by Haruna Salami

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