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PDP hawks move to expel Atiku

Posted by Olusola Fabiyi (Abuja), Olayinka Oyebode and Taiwo Rasak on 2005/09/03 | Views: 397 |

PDP hawks move to expel Atiku

Hawks in the hierarchy of the Peoples Democratic Party are pressing for the expulsion of Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the party over his alleged disloyalty to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Hawks in the hierarchy of the Peoples Democratic Party are pressing for the expulsion of Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the party over his alleged disloyalty to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

This is coming as indications emerged that the 27 governors elected on the party’s platform were divided over the September 9 meeting of the party’s National Executive Commitee (NEC) to decide Atiku’s fate.

Saturday Punch gathered on Thursday that hawks in the party were pushing for Atiku’s expulsion in a bid to save Obasanjo’s image from plummeting as a result of his face-off with the vice president.

They reasoned that the vice president had shown the world in various public comments that Obasanjo became Nigeria’s president largely because of Atiku’s political influence. This is being interpreted to mean that Obasanjo would not have won the presidency in 1999 and 2003 without Atiku’s support, a scenario which, in the view of the hawks, was a dent on the president’s leadership profile.

Secondly, there is the feeling among the hawks that Atiku’s expulsion would present itself as the best opportunity to finally push members of his bloc, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), out of the party.

The party’s National Secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, had announced at a news briefing in Abuja on Wednesday that the NEC would meet next week to decide on appropriate sanctions against the vice president.

Checks by our correspondent at the party’s headquarters at Zone 5, Wadata Plaza, Abuja on Thursday revealed that PDP’s leadership was secretly considering the best strategy to throw the vice president out of the party, with the alleged tacit approval of The Presidency.

The party’s constitution stipulates in Article 16(C)(5) under the heading “Punishment,” that a decision “to expel a member of the party whether an office holder or not, taken or confirmed by the National Executive Comittee shall become effective upon ratification by the national convention save that a member so expelled shall cease to enjoy all privileges of membership until such ratification.”

Anambra State Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, and Senator Bode Olowoporoku from Ekiti State are the most prominent office-holders who have been expelled by the party since it was formed in 1998. The party has refused to honour a court ruling nullifying Ngige’s expulsion.

Speaking on the alleged move to expel Atiku, a member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) said on condition of anonymity that the leadership was tired of the incessant wrangling between the president and his deputy.

“The best way to settle this is that the party will ask the vice president to leave, or in the alternative, expel him from the party.

“We have had cause to call him to order based on his numerous inflammatory statements that bothered on governance. He keeps provoking the president. I don’t know why, but he has to go. Afterall, his supporters have always said that they have PDM to fall back on,” the party chieftain said.

He stated that the newspaper interview where Atiku reportedly stated that Obasanjo swore to support his 2007 presidential bid was not the only example of the vice president’s alleged provocative stance.

The source alleged that at another forum in Abuja, the vice president declared that the 36 state governors told the president before the 2003 elections that they would support his re-election bid in 2003 because Atiku was on the card as the running mate.

“You think the president would be happy to hear that? The implication of that is that the president is not popular. No serious president would hear that and keep quiet,” he said.

However, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Dr. Usman Bugaje, denied the allegation, insisting that Obasanjo’s desire for a third term was the reason why he said on national television last Sunday that there was no need for him to deny that he had such an ambition on oath.

Bugaje told Saturday Punch on Thursday: “Nobody is in doubt that the president has a third term ambition. He said that he did not actually swear and my understanding of that is that since he has not sworn to go, then it means he is still on.

“May be he said it inadvertently or may be he said it, quite oblivious of the implications of what he said. But if anybody was in doubt, I think he would have cleared that doubt by that particular interview.”

The lawmaker said on Thursday in Abuja that Obasanjo was ready to take on anybody he perceived as a stumbling block to the alleged third term bid.

“No, the president would fight anybody whom he views as a threat to his ambition to continue in office. The vice president is his (Obasanjo’s) most serious threat.

“By 2007, he (Atiku) would have spent eight years in office. With all the experience he has acquired, with all the things he has done for the president, he is the most natural successor. So, this is the dilemma. Unless he (Obasanjo) can injure the man (Atiku) and find some way to damage his image, how else can he get him out?”

Tracing the root of the current face-off, Bugaje said it was the president who demonstrated bad faith on the day they jointly announced their second term bid in 2002 in Abuja when he attempted to downplay his deputy’s role in the quest.

He said, “Loyalty begets loyalty. When the president came to announce his declaration for a second term, he excluded the vice president’s name. The vice president was there physically when the president read his speech without mentioning him (Atiku).

“The vice president, being a statesman, thanked the president in his own speech. And yet the president had the audacity to read a speech on that particular occasion and refused to even mention the man who brought him to that office. We shouldn’t forget that even his own local government did not elect him.”

Saturday Punch learnt that PDM would determine the next step to be taken on the face-off at a meeting this weekend at an undisclosed location.

It was gathered that there are moves to stop the process to wreck Atiku’s political profile. The process against Atiku, a source said on Friday, is allegedly being championed by a former senator, an erstwhile military administrator and an official of The Presidency but added that there were secret moves by the vice president’s loyalists to ensure the plan fails.

Contacted on the plan to expel Atiku, PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. John Odey, said he would not want to pre-empt the party’s decision on the vice president’s alleged disloyalty.

Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, however, refused to react to Bugaje’s comments, saying on telephone on Thursday, “I will not dignify that with a response.”

In a related development, pro-Atiku governors have intensified their bid to rally some of their colleagues, believed to be loyal to Obasanjo, to the vice president’s side.

Saturday Punch gathered that moves were being made by the pro-Atiku governors to get all the state chief executives elected on the party’s platform to take a collective stand against punishment for the vice president before the NEC meeting.

An aide to one of the governors, who did not want to be named, said some governors had also indicated that they didn’t want to be part of the process.

“But the pro-Atiku governors are convinced that a collective stand by the governors will be a stitch in time,” the aide said.

Atiku controls a considerable following in the party and it would be difficult although not impossible to expel him.

The party’s constitution requires that the “quorum for the meeting of the National executive meeting shall be one-quarter (1/4) of the members of the commitee.”

Members of the NEC include the president, vice president, national chaiman, president of the Senate, his deputy, Senate Leader, Deputy Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Chief Whip, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker, the Leader, Deputy Leader, Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip.

Others are the 27 PDP governors, the two Deputy National Chairmen (North and South), the six zonal chairmen, chairmen and secretary of the Board of Trustees, all state chairmen and party officers.

SATURDAY PUNCH, September 03, 2005

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Comments (23)

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