THE emergence of Adamu Mu’azu as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) early 2014 was celebrated by the party’s leadership and members with fanfare. He became an instant poster boy and the party’s “game changer”. So, Mu’azu was ushered into office in a blaze of glory. But it did not take long for the reality to dawn on the chairman that he indeed inherited a tattered party. Morale was at its lowest ebb and party loyalty was generally tepid. Undeterred, the new chairman reeled out the credo upon which he intended to preside over the now fractured party.
For starters, he charged elective office seekers to seek support from among the grassroots in their immediate localities. “Don’t come to Abuja to seek endorsement for your political aspirations because nobody will give you that support here. For you to get the party’s ticket to contest any election, you must be able to get support and nomination from your various constituencies”, Mu’azu had stated. However, the code he attempted to instill in the party was clearly at variance with the system he met on ground. Party supremacy and cohesion had long taken flight of the ruling party. The governors were deeply entrenched and were in control of party machinery at both the state and national levels. It was a system Tukur waged a futile war to reverse but which eventually consumed him.
Mu’azu came in at a time President Jonathan’s body language suggested he wanted re-election, even as some powerful elements in the party felt the ticket ought to be zoned to the North. A handful of the party’s leading lights of northern extraction, including Governor Sule Lamido, were perceived to be eyeing the presidential ticket. The momentum died down when Lamido, at a well attended party function at the party’s secretariat, identified with Jonathan’s second term aspiration. That made Mu’azu’s task easier, as there were no contending aspirations to contend with. But that was the beginning of the party’s headache. Jonathan was coronated as presidential candidate of the PDP in November 2014. There were still muffled indignation within the rank of the northern power brokers in the PDP.
The 2015 presidential campaign was run with the President’s loyalists in the frontline. Ethnic warlords of different shades and character added the side-kicks with extreme and provocative utterances. They were joined by the President’s wife, Dame Patience Jonathan. The vitriolic attacks, mainly targeted at the opposition, ricocheted off target several times over and splinters came hitting the party’s northern collectives in the face. Tempers were subdued and indignation muffled. The unchecked commissioned and hired crowds of the President’s campaigners seized the show, to the detriment of their principal. Major party stakeholders were shoved to the background. They took their seats at the spectators’ column and adopted a wait-and-see posture.
The campaign took a rabid turn from start to finish. After a series of rigmarole of shift in poll dates, the presidential election finally held on March 28, leaving in its trail recriminations and dashed expectations. With the election won and lost, major stakeholders in the PDP are back on the drawing board, too seek a way forward for a party, which some insiders consider to be on a journey to the eclipse. But emerging permutations suggest a re-engineering strategy without any significant role for Mu’azu. As far as some of the arrowheads of the “rebranding” mission are concerned, the party chairman has outlived his relevance. Identities of members of the rebranding team appear to be hazy for now, but names like Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido; his Niger State counterpart, Babangida Aliyu; President of the Senate, David Mark; his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan; his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayo Fayose; Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko; Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke; and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godwill Akpabio among others have continued to dominate discussions. Mu’azu does not enjoy the sympathy of most members of the reformist group who still regard him as Jonathan’s anointed candidate. Moreover, investigation by our correspondent indicates that the party would settle for a northern presidential candidate, as counter force to the cult-like popularity and mass appeal commanded by the President-Elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Based on this calculation, the group is said to be shopping for a new party chairman from a geopolitical zone outside the North. The reformist group is said to have resolved to show Mu’azu the exit door after its positions must have been harmonised and consolidated. The party chairman is being blamed for the poor outing of the PDP at the polls. Many cited what they described as his lukewarm attitude and lack of commitment to the party’s quest to retain power at the centre. Already, not a few members across the various blocs have called for his resignation, citing the abysmal failure of the PDP in the last general election. The power blocs may not also be disposed to working with the present crop of elected National Working Committee (NWC) which Mu’azu presides over. But a contending force, made up mainly of a few radical elements cut across the six geopolitical zones, have asked Mu’azu’s accusers to look inwards in their search for scape goats. According to this group, rather than blaming the party chair for the crushing defeat at the poll, Jonathan and the PDP governors should be ready to take the blame.
A member of the group who volunteered information under cover, contended that there was no way the party could have recorded any meaningful success at the last election. According to him, under Jonathan, the governors had a free hand manipulating the nomination process and imposing candidates at will. The source said: “Let them stop blaming Mu’azu for the failure they invited upon themselves and the party. At every available opportunity, the chairman had warned against imposition of candidates for elections, be it at the state or national level. Just look around and see how these governors engaged in reckless imposition of candidates in PDP controlled states. The story was the same in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Jigawa, Delta, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Adamawa and others. In states where the PDP is not in control, some party chieftains, with the active backing of the President, decided to impose their preferred candidates to the detriment of more popular and acceptable aspirants.
“While just a few of these imposed candidates were lucky enough to win, majority of them were roundly defeated. Even at that, a few of them that won their elections by whatever means, may still have it rough at the various tribunals and courts when litigations begin. So these latter day saviours of the PDP should look elsewhere for reasons for the party’s failure. Thy should leave Mu’azu out of it”.
In the history of the PDP, the chairmanship position lost its soul right from inception. Party supremacy got subsumed the moment Chief Olusegun Obasanjo assumed the presidency in 1999. Obasanjo had crowned himself “leader of the party”, thereby relegating the chairman and the leadership of the PDP to the background. With the party in his breast pocket, Obasanjo, in his eight-year presidency, single handedly decided when to hire and fire the party chairman. So the pioneer chairman, the late Chief Solomon Lar was tactically yanked off the seat. Chief Barnabas Gemade that succeeded him was also thrown out when Obasanjo was done with him. Then came Chief Audu Ogbeh who dared to speak the bitter truth to the “leader of the party” when things were taking a wrong turn. Obasanjo, in not-too-nice a manner, showed Ogbeh the exit door in what many described as a “gun point” approach. Dr. Ahmadu Ali that succeeded Ogbeh was well versed in the command system, apparently owing to a shared military background with Obasanjo. With the full backing from the then President Obasanjo, Ali was able to navigate the slippery terrain till the end of the Obasanjo presidency in 2007. By precedence, the late President Umaru Yar ‘Adua who succeeded Obasanjo, inherited the “leader of the party” nomenclature. But he was not as domineering as his predecessor in the affairs of the party. Seeing this lacuna, the governors elected on the platform of the PDP quickly hijacked the control of the party machinery. So when the party was shopping for a replacement for Ahmadu Ali in 2008, the governors had little problem in selling Prince Vincent Ogbulafor to Yar A’dua as party chairman.
Ogbulafor’s choice was a fluke. Although the party had zoned the position to the Southeast geopolitical zone, the choice was zeroed down to two states in the Southeast -Imo and Ebonyi. Ogbulafor’s home state, Abia, was not in the calculation but it did not matter to the PDP governors who wanted a supple party chair. And against the principles of party supremacy, Ogbulafor,as party chair, subordinated himself to the governors who brought him in. Throughout his tenure, he never addressed any of the governors without adding “Your Excellency Sir”. The pliant Ogbulafor enjoyed the protection of his benefactor governors until shortly after the death of Yar A’dua in 2010 and the coming of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as President. The miscalculating Ogbulafor unwittingly stirred the hornet nest under Jonathan when he declared that the presidency remained zoned to the north, in continuation of Yar A’dua’s tenure. He was talking about the party’s presidential candidate ahead of the 2011 general election.
That was his undoing. Unknown to him, Jonathan was not only interested in completing what was left of Yar A’dua’s unfinished tenure, but was also interested in the 2011 presidential ticket of the PDP. And Ogbulafor too, got a kick in the rump from Jonathan, the President and leader of the party. The party at the time, decided to retain the chairmanship slot in the Southeast. And through familiar arrangements, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, an old political horse from Enugu State, was brought in as Ogbulafor’s replacement. But Nwodo also got the boot a few months after, when he was perceived to be too close to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who had indicated interest in the party’s 2011 presidential ticket. One false step led to another and Nwodo was forced to relinquish the chair on the party’s convention ground in 2011.
At this point, the party started shopping for a new chairman of Northern extraction, with proof beyond reasonable doubts, that Jonathan was interested in the 2011 presidential ticket. The lot fell on Dr. Mohammed Haliru Bello Haliru who was appointed chairman in acting capacity before he got appointed Defence Minister shortly after. He was succeeded also in acting capacity by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje whose tenure witnessed relative stability before the March 2012 national convention of the party. Apparently to dim the chances of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the 2015 presidential race, power brokers in the party decided to zone the chairmanship to the Northeast geopolitical zone. In what many saw as a counter stroke, Jonathan settled for Alhaji Bamanga Tukur among the array of contestants. Incidentally, Tukur is from Adamawa State where Atiku also hailed from. Other contestants were sandbagged into endorsing Tukur as consensus candidate and the convention simply rubber stamped his candidature. Tukur came in as a cane wielding headmaster, an approach that did not sit well with majority of the power brokers within the party, particularly the PDP governors. Existing crevices kept widening by the day as some of the elected party officials whose loyalty appeared to be in doubt were being forced out.
The party became polarised along the ranks and discipline became a rare commodity. Several moves initiated by the party leadership to reconcile aggrieved members achieved very little, leading to deep seated disenchantments among the various divisive caucuses. The festering crisis took a new twist when Atiku and Baraje eventually led seven of the party’s governors and many other chieftains to form a parallel New PDP in 2013. The breakaway faction was however short lived, as Jonathan and his PDP harassed its members out of town. Five of the governors eventually defected to join the APC late 2013. A good number of the PDP’s serving members in the National Assembly, as well as other prominent chieftains also started deserting the ruling party in droves. The party was breaking at the seams and key stakeholders, particularly the governors, were able to convince President Jonathan that Tukur had become a liability to the party.
At that point, the PDP appeared to have had enough of Tukur’s two-year-old turbulent tenure as chairman, with various stakeholders and power blocs within the party calling for the resignation of the 77-year-old politician. By the time the old man was being eased out, he had succeeded in sending a good number of party chieftains, including a few governors, on indefinite suspension. That marked the beginning of the intractable internal crises that brought the PDP to its present state of disarray. As events gradually unfold, within the party, heads or tail, Mu’azu may no longer find comfortable accommodation in the emerging scenario. He may as well be on his way to political hibernation. Some say, it’s a matter of time. Confronted by the stark reality of fighting from a disadvantaged corner as opposition party, at least for the next four years, can this fallen behemoth called PDP rise above the rubble? Time will tell.
Via The NATION