Posted by SUFUYAN OJEIFO, Abuja on
From Akwa-Ibom State where the deputy governor, Obong Chris Ekpenyong, was impeached, and following the intervention of the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was allowed to resign, courtesy of the State House of Assembly
From Akwa-Ibom State where the deputy governor, Obong Chris Ekpenyong, was impeached, and following the intervention of the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was allowed to resign, courtesy of the State House of Assembly, which overruled itself and set aside the impeachment order, to Edo State where the State House of Assembly went gaga last week, amending a bill in a day to reduce the tenure of local government chairmen and councilors from three to two years and suspending members who kicked against the process, one thing is unmistakably evident: the growing face of rebellion by forces within.
THERE are rough tackles going on in the ruling PDP. And they are happening in quick succession. The trend has continued to reinforce a conspiracy theory that has dominated the orbit of the party’s national leadership in recent times. The seemingly growing "rebellion" in the party is seen as a manifestation of frustration on the part of the other camp that is opposed to the purported take-over of the party machinery by the President Olusegun Obasanjo camp. And in a seeming coincidental manner, even if really orchestrated to unsettle the party leadership and distract it from its focus, the offensives against the spirit of the party as typified by its national leadership have so far come in a coordinated manner from the South-South zone and from two states whose governors, Obong Victor Attah (Akwa-Ibom) and Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion (Edo State), are known to belong to the other camp.
It is no news that the other camp has lost its hitherto firm hold on the party machinery ahead of the 2005 congresses and national convention and the 2006 presidential primaries. But how coordinated is the other camp in the plot to slow down the emergent new PDP under the suzerainty of Obasanjo and his loyalists? Although, the party’s national leadership has moved to intervene in the Edo crisis like it did in the case of Akwa Ibom, the fear is that another incident might come on the heels of the Edo saga from another state whose governor is attuned to the alleged plot to destabilize the party.
The party leadership under Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd.) has been tasked in the past two weeks: It has just succeeded in intervening in the Akwa-Ibom State crisis, saving in the process the political future of the former deputy governor who would have been carrying the burden of impeachment by now if the intervention of the party had failed to yield a favourable result. A delegation of the party led by the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, assisted by the deputy national chairman (South), Chief Olabode George, national secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, a member of the Board of Trustees, Alhaji Waziri Mohammed, intervened and brokered the truce that "saved" Ekpenyong. Feelers are that the Akwa-Ibom saga was precipitated by the scramble for 2007 governorship contest in the state. Ekpenyong, who is believed to be eyeing the seat, has no doubt been dislodged from a very strategic position of influence. How does he wield influence as an ordinary member of the party?
His luck has also been that he was not originally impeached on the grounds of corruption, otherwise, the party would not have intervened at all. The party had insisted that due process was not followed and that he (Ekpenyong) was not given fair hearing. The party at the end of the day made significant showing, emerging successful as it did in the case of the impeached deputy governor of Taraba State, who was also allowed to resign following the party’s intervention.
Now, the fresh hurdle before the PDP national leadership has emerged from the home state of Anenih. As chairman of the Board of Trustees, the conscience of the party, the burden is on him to be neutral in the matter. But can there be neutrality in a situation of direct, brazen attack on his position as typified by his loyalists in the State. Before now, Anenih was the godfather of all PDP members in Edo State. The state governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion and his loyalists have decided to part ways.
But that has not weakened the influence of Anenih in the state, which is perhaps why the other camp has decided to embark on the reduction of the tenure of local government chairmen and councillors in order to bring about another election and get out loyalists of Anenih, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and Alhaji Inu Umoru, the troika that would determine the political direction that Edo Central, Edo South and Edo North senatorial districts respectively would go in 2007. However, from all indications, it thus seems that the troika would carry the day, given their massive grassroots support and the support of Abuja. This is why the swift response by the national secretariat of the party to the Edo State saga was seen as salutary to the Anenih/Ogbemudia/Inu Umoru camp.
The party has directed the Edo State House of Assembly to rescind its decisions on the passage of the Bill to amend the tenure of local government chairmen in the state as well as the suspension of some members of the House. The national secretariat of the party, in a three-page statement issued by the national secretary, Chief Maduekwe, said that the two decisions did not lie within the exclusive jurisdiction of the House. According to the statement: "The attention of the National Secretariat has been drawn to rising tension in Edo State subsequent to the suspension today (July 7) of some PDP members of Edo State House of Assembly. While Edo State Legislature, just like any other Legislature in the nation, has the constitutional right to discipline its members and consider the passage of any bill, consistent with the nation’s constitution and the manifesto and constitution of the Party, measures of the scale relating to the passage of a Local Government Amendment Bill especially as it relates to tenure and the suspension from duties of PDP members do not lie within the exclusive jurisdiction of the State Assembly.
"They should not have been undertaken without the knowledge of, and the consultation with the National Secretariat that provided all parties the platform to contest election since there is no State PDP, but only a State chapter of a national PDP. The National Secretariat hereby, therefore, directs the PDP leadership of Edo State House of Assembly, as loyal PDP members, to rescind its decisions in respect of both the Local Government Amendment Bill and suspension of PDP members in order to allow fairness and an opportunity for the National Secretariat to be adequately briefed with a view to proffering solutions to the emerging crisis. As the chief security officer of the Edo State and an important stakeholder of PDP, the National Secretariat expects His Excellency, Governor Lucky Igbinedion is to discharge his solemn responsibilities for law and order and inter-group harmony in the State without fear and favour".
The party’s intervention followed the protest written to the national chairman of the party, Col. Ahmadu Ali by members affected by the suspension. They are Hon. Peter Ekhator (seputy leader), Hon. Akhere Ugbesia, Hon. Mathew Okhia, Hon Friday Itulah, Hon. Frank Okiye, Hon. Abbas Momoh Jega and Hon. Patrick Agunede. The protest letter dated July 7, reads in part: "We hereby wish to bring to your urgent attention recent developments at the Edo State House of Assembly which is capable of heating up the polity and endangering the much desired peace in our dear State. Mr. Chairman, sir, some of us smelt a rat when on Wednesday, July 6, the "Notice of Pending Bill" was handwritten and smuggled into the Order Paper. Secondly, the sitting of the day, Wednesday, July 6, was adjourned to Thursday instead of Monday, July 11.
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