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PDP may punish Atiku ... for alleged disloyalty to Obasanjo

Posted by Yomi Odunuga, Sam Akpe and Musikilu Mojeed on 2005/08/31 | Views: 639 |

PDP may punish Atiku ... for alleged disloyalty to Obasanjo

The National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party will on September 9 meet to decide what sanctions to be imposed on Vice-President Atiku Abubakar for his alleged disloyalty to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party will on September 9 meet to decide what sanctions to be imposed on Vice-President Atiku Abubakar for his alleged disloyalty to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The National Secretary of the party, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who made this known at a news conference in Abuja, added that the vice-president also maligned the PDP.

Maduekwe said, "In our view, it was inappropriate for the vice-president to have made those remarks which attracted the reaction of the President.

"As a matter of principle, deputies should avoid making controversial statements about their bosses. We, on our part, are ready to defend deputies if their bosses are high-handed."

Atiku had in an interview with a national newspaper said that Obasanjo swore to him that he would leave office in 2007.

The vice-president also expressed worry about the planned postponement of the National Convention of the party which ought to hold in November.

A member of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, however, said the threat to punish the vice-president was unacceptable.

He said, “The entire National Working Committee that came into being about two months ago is unelected. Now, the body seeks to discipline a sitting vice-president who is elected by Nigerians? Where is the PDP headed for? Disintegration or dictatorship?

“We must have democracy in the party or the party disappears.”

Kaita who is also a member of the PDP NEC called on the party to defend democracy.

“This (threat) is a basic violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees the right of every citizen, including the vice-president, to hold and express opinions,” he said.

But Maduekwe told journalists that the comments by Abubakar were devoid of decorum and respect for constituted authorities.

Arguing that Abubakar could have approached the party if there was a misunderstanding between him and the President, he said that no system would encourage a vice-president to openly take on a President.

He explained that the party was interested in the matter because it could impact negatively on the smooth running of government and damage the PDP’s reputation.

Describing the comments by Abubakar as “very unfortunate", Maduekwe said the right thing for anyone who derived authority from another to do was to step aside once he felt dissatisfied.

He said, "Once your boss appointed you to be his running mate, either as deputy governor or vice-president, you have to be loyal to him.

"The moment you don't agree with him, you know what to do rather than stay inside and give the impression that there are two heads of government.”

Maduekwe added, "We are not interested in this matter because we want to defend the President. Those who work with him are capable of defending him.

"We have a particular interest in the matter because the integrity of the party was also maligned by the vice-president through his comments.

"And because we take our integrity and reputation very seriously, we have the painful task of correcting the impression created by the unfortunate comment by Mr. Vice-President.

"If you are number two, you are number two. The constitution does not give anyone who is number two any specific function. Your function is only as given to you by your boss.”

Abubakar, according to him, has never sought a meeting with the new NWC. Maduekwe said, “He has not invited us to explain what we are doing.

"It would have been clear to him that we are not opposed to having convention. What we are interested in is having a more orderly and hitch-free one.

"If he had met with us, he would have avoided making the comments he made.

"The new PDP we are working at is one that will protect every member while ensuring that there is decorum and respect.

"As to the sanctions that would be meted to anyone who is found to be in breach of discipline, that is beyond my office and position.

"It is a matter for the National Executive Committee of which the vice-president is a member to decide.

"In exercising the right to express oneself, there is need to do that with discipline and decorum.

"Inflaming passion can often occur when there is a conspiracy of silence. We will not shy away from speaking up. We have not shied away from saying this is wrong.

"The insinuation that the new leadership of the party comprises the President's men and that we will do the bidding of the President is subjective.

"One is tempted to say so. What if it is not the President’s men, who should be in charge of the party? If it is not the George Bush's (United States ) men in the Republican Party, who are those running the party?

"When Bill Clinton was president, was it not his men who ran the party? Is it not Tony Blair's men that are in charge of the Labour Party in Britain.

"We are being pushed to be too apologetic about it. We can no longer be apologetic.

"I do not think the test of my objectivity should be disloyalty to the party or to do things that indicate the tail wagging the body.”

Meanwhile, the Publicity Secretary of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Chief Osita Okeke, has said that the face-off between Obasanjo and Abubakar was healthy for the country’s democracy.

Reacting to Maduekwe’s argument that the row could affect governance negatively, Okeke said that in a normal democracy, the vice-president had the right to say his mind.

He added, "With a rift between two of them, we are sure that we are moving towards 2007 because, if they stay together, it would have been difficult for the opposition to defeat the third term agenda.

“The rift is healthy for Nigerian democracy because it will open the democratic space."

Okeke said that opposition parties in the country had always anticipated that the PDP would “explode” going by its modus operandi.

"They closed the political space. They don't obey court order; they are laws unto themselves. We have always anticipated that the PDP will explode," he said.

THE PUNCH, Thursday, September 1, 2005

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