Posted by ROTIMI AJAYI, Abuja on
LEADERS of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are always quick to glorify themselves over the bigness of the party.
LEADERS of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are always quick to glorify themselves over the bigness of the party. Their claim is that the party is the biggest in the whole of Africa. According to them, the membership strength of the party is such that no other party could rival. In 1999, the PDP demonstrated that it is indeed a big party by the number of seats it won in the National Assembly and by 2003 elections, they were able to win most state governorship elections in the country.
Now, the party has embarked on a new membership registration drive that is very controversial as it is ambitious. According to the national secretary of the party, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, the membership drive was to reposition the party properly for the 2007 electoral contest on which many opposition parties have been meeting to ensure that the hold of the PDP on Nigeria is broken. Maduekwe noted that when he took over the secretariat of the party, the party had no reputable membership register consistent with its profile as the biggest party.
"When the new national working committee came into place less than three months ago, there was no adequate documentation of PDP membership. And this is a party that is consistently referred to as the largest party in Africa! Membership cards had expired in 2004. Membership registers were cornered by political entrepreneurs and remorseless plutocrats. To register, you had to comply with their conditions. To liberate the party and free the process, the National Working Committee (NWC) decided on distributing new membership cards updating our membership as well as the membership register."
This is the apparent motive behind the ongoing registration exercise. However, there is a camp within the party which is feeling that behind the logic provided by the party’s scribe, there lies some frightful plan to edge out some powerful politicians from the party. These politicians perhaps are the plutocrats and the political entrepreneurs that Maduekwe referred to above. This camp is where Vice President Atiku Abubakar belongs. Many of his political associates believe that more than what the PDP scribe is telling the world about the need to keep proper register of the membership of party, there is an ulterior motive to ensure that the political base of the vice president is sufficiently weakened.
At the time the National Working Committee of the party decided in August to embark on the new membership registration exercise, there was no reason for anyone within the party to suspect or raise objection to that decision. In reality, a political party always derives its strength from the number of members it can parade. However, as the exercise began, the Atiku camp began to see some hidden plans behind the whole exercise. The first sign seen by the camp was the timing of the exercise.
According to a source within the political laboratory of Atiku in Abuja, it was not healthy that the exercise was being conducted before the state congresses and national convention of the party. The source pointed out that the camp had thought that the congresses and the national convention would have been conducted before the party would embark on new membership registration exercise. The belief within the camp is that the congresses and the national convention would produce new set of party officers whose first duty would be conducting of registration exercise. So when the NWC decided that the exercise would come prior to the congresses and the National Convention, the camp smelt something fishy.
Then the decision of the National Executive Committee of the party to hold non-elective congresses and convention further reinforced the fear within the camp. The fear was finally confirmed at the onset of the exercise itself when petitions flooded the vice president’s political office that the party executives were distributing the cards to the exclusion of those seen to be loyal to Atiku. These petitions prompted the vice president to visit the national chairman of the party, Ahmadu Ali in his office to lay the complaints before him. It was learnt that the vice president spoke of the need for the party to carry every one along in the party. Indeed it is believed that the present disagreement between the vice president and President Olusegun Obasanjo has put the political interest of Atiku, who is eyeing the 2007 presidential race in jeopardy. Thus the NWC members are seen to be out to whittle down the perceived influence of the vice president within the party.
Indeed, one of the founders of the party, who is equally a close ally of Atiku, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, warned that the moves being made by the party officials could lead to the collapse of the PDP in such a way that the party would be irrelevant in 2007, which is the main declared reason the party is conducting the registration exercise. Perhaps the fear of the Atiku camp over the registration was underscored by the fact that many of those in control of the registration cards in the states are those seen to be disinclined to Atiku’s presidential interest. In his home state, Adamawa, against all expectations, the cards are being distributed and controlled by Senator Jubril Aminu, an erudite old political figure who is believed to detest some tendencies of the vice president and Governor Bonnie Haruna, seen as political minion of Atiku. Indeed, at the opening of the registration exercise last Tuesday, Aminu warned that he would not tolerate moves being made by the governor and his team to frustrate the successful conduct of the exercise in the State.
Although the vice president and indeed the governor would be individually registered in the on-going exercise, the setting is that both have been denied a situation where they could influence the registration exercise in such a way that would confer advantage on them in the political situation of the state. From the look of things, the days of the duo being in charge of the PDP in the state might have gone with an assemblage against them, of politicians such as Brigadier-General Buba Marwa, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Admiral Murtala Nyako and Alhaji Adamu Modibbo, a very intelligent and courageous politician, who contested the 2003 governorship election with the sitting governor in the state and almost upturned the table against him. Atiku, himself should have seen it coming as these politicians had been consistently against him since 2002. The scenario in Adamawa is almost the same in most of the states of the Federation where the ministers in the Federal Cabinet and some ministers seen to be still loyal to Obasanjo are fully in charge of the exercise except in some states where the governors are seen to be in the good book of the Presidency. The way the exercise is structured, it is quite easy to expect that the vice president’s hold on the party would wane thereafter. Each ward has been given equal number of cards, 1150. This number is too easy for a political leader in a state to properly supervise to achieve a set agenda.
According to a Presidency source, the president is interested in the exercise as a leader of the party mainly because of his desire to route out most politicians who see politics as avenue to grab personal riches. The source said that Obasanjo believes that the PDP is big enough to rid Nigeria of corruption and enthrone good governance to the benefit of Nigerians. The exercise is the beginning phase of innoculation.
Already with the registration exercise underway, Atiku should expect that there may not be opportunity to change the result of the exercise until perhaps after the 2007 elections. Although the spokesman of the party, Mr John Odey, disclosed that the exercise would be a regular activity, the regularity of the exercise is what he did not specify. "So far, it is very peaceful and I want to urge Nigerians to know that this registration exercise is an open-ended one. It is an eternal process as people will keep coming in and out of PDP. We are updating and re-validating the membership register of the party. We are not de-registering members." Although the party is not out-rightly de-registering members, the truth is that the present membership cards have expired since 2004. Thus anyone who is not able to get the new card simply becomes a non-member until he or she is able to get the card. This is a very technical move which speaks much of what may happen in 2007 elections.
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