By Austine Uche-Ejeke
Until recently it was a thing of envy and pride to be the chairman of People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Why you may ask me as some may contend that the position is one of the hottest political seats in the universe. But who will not love to preside over the chairmanship of the once biggest political party in Africa and indeed the whole of the black world.
When you add to that resume the avowed boasting and predictions from pundits of like minds that PDP will rule Nigeria for at least sixty good years and in which the party just ruled for sixteen years, a politician that is worth its salt will like to be the chairman of that great party.
With the above painted scenario one can only but envision the supposed powers of the chairman of PDP before the cookie crumbled. In normal circumstance many will be prostrating before him on a daily basis as he may be the most powerful politician probably after the former president has taken his slot. No need to add here that the chairman must be a very good ally of the ruling president and will all things being equal always have the ears of the president. Logical deductions postulates that a politician, governor, senator, house of representative member and others that want to maintain his relevance and position in office must pay allegiance to the chairman for him to survive the intrigues of party politics.
If the office of the chairman of PDP is so powerful and revered, why are party members and indeed Nigerians not seeing it in that light? In fact many now see the high position as the most risky and dangerous political undertaking in the country today. People in this line of thought base their argument on the fact that PDP chairmanship has the highest turnover and casualty in the occupants of the position. Just to think of it, in the sixteen years of extant democratic experiment, PDP has turned over a record number of ten party chairmen.
This is in sharp contradiction to other elected positions like the president, governors, senators, house of representative members, local government chairmen. Except during the draconian regime of Obasanjo where we had a high turnover of senate presidents no other political office has witnessed just magnitude of turnover than that of PDP chairmanship
Check out the list of mostly disgraced chairmen of PDP right from inception. They include late Solomon Lar, Audu Ogbeh, Barnabas Germade, Ahmadu Alli, Vincent Ogbulafor, Okwezilieze Nwodo, Kawu Baraje, Mohammed Haliru and Bamangar Tukur. In fact Obasanjo was the one that messed up, trivialized and politicized the position of PDP chairmanship. He is reputed to have used and dumped a record of about four chairmen in his two term presidency. And each chairman is supposed to serve a minimum of four years term! In fact he discards them like filthy rag at the slightest provocation and in most cases in very questionable manner. The case of Audu Ogbeh readily comes to mind. The unconfirmed story had it that he together with Ogbeh ate a sumptuous pounded yam in Audu Ogbeh’s house in the spirit of reconciliation of a long standing dispute only for Obasanjo to sack him the following day!
If there are another set of people who don’t help matters in ensuring early mortality rate of PDP chairmen, they are the state governors. In actual fact the governors see the chairman as potential and real political foe that must be pulled down or destroyed at all cost. They mount opposition on assumption of any incumbent and in fact make the seat unbearable until the occupant finally throws in the towel. The ‘cold war’ has become so pronounced that no sane governor ever wants his state to produce the chairman.
They see such chairmen as real enemy that will undermine their hegemony and dominance of the local state politics which they will not want any infiltration or intrusion. So they do all within their power both physically, spiritually or otherwise to ensure that national chairman of the party does not come from their state. They don’t mind going as far falling out with the president or any other person for that matter in their fight to make sure that the chairman does not emanate from their individual state.
A case in point was the war of attrition that the PDP in the south-east region governors mounted to ensure that the chairman did not come from any of the states when the slot was allocated to the zone after the fall of Okwezilieze Nwodo in recent past. All the governors of Enugu, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi swore and ensured that their state never produced the chairman. And of course they had their selfish way, irrespective of any perceived or supposed benefits of such position could attract to their state or even the south-east region as a whole. They traded the supposed benefits away on the altar of political selfishness instead of having a global picture of such position to the people of the state or region.
But why must any one denigrate the highly exalted position of party chairmanship, what are the things that some of these chairmen do that make them a very bad market instead of acting as huge political benefit to states. Some of these chairmen have been accused of corruption by state governors. In fact one PDP governor openly accused one past chairman of tasking them to remit huge amount of money to him. Of course most governors paid in the money which they saw as mere extortion. Trust our governors they later used it to check-mate the chairman and ensured that he was shamefully hounded out of office. Also some of the chairmen never see that position as political appointment at best unlike the president, governors, senators who are elected by the electorates.
As such there should be a limit to their exercise of power, knowing that they can be discarded as badly stacked cards at the slightest provocation. On assumption of office some of them will unnecessary meddle into the state chapters of the party structure trying to impose their whims and caprices or discard the existing structure on ground. You see some of them dissolving state excos at the flimsiest excuses and in some cases imposing their candidates. Most of the catastrophes bedeviling the party stems from the problem caused by some of the past national chairmen of the party.
To make matters worse for the PDP chairman is the unbridled penchant of the presidency to have a domineering influence on who emerges or who does not emerge as the chairman. Again former president Olusegun Obasanjo featured prominently in the category of former presidents that will do anything humanly possible to ensure that his preferred candidate emerges as the PDP chairman. One of the troubling and festering issues of PDP can be situated at the door post of Obasanjo’s insistence that late Sunday Awoniyi never emerged as the chairman of the party.
Awoniyi was believed to be the preferred candidate of majority of party stalwarts. May be because of his perceived unbending principles that may not be in sync with the antics of foxy Obasanjo, he made it impossible for him to emerge as the party chairman, rather his lackey was foisted on the party and since that time till now PDP has never had peace of mind.
Why will the presidency insist to have its way in the choice of PDP chairmanship? Perhaps that may be the underlying factor behind the hurried exit of Vincent Ogbulafor as the party’s chairman at the heat of the suitability of Goodluck Jonathan emerging as the presidential candidate of the party at the demise of Yardua. Ogbulafor was reputed to have vehemently insisted on respecting the sanctity of the purported unwritten law of zoning and rotation of the presidency which from all intents and purposes was supposed to have gone to the North in the 2011 presidential elections.
But president Jonathan and his cohorts never saw it in that light and ensured that Ogbulafor was not only removed as the party’s chairman but the case of corruption on his neck as a former minister was resurrected. Nigerians know better that after almost four years of his exit, nothing has been heard of the trumped- up charges on him or his eventual conviction. He is walking about a free man enjoying his supposed loot while the cardinal purpose of ensuring his exit was achieved and the presidency was happy about it.
Same scenario played out in the case of emergence of Bamagar Tukur. Feelers from several quarters indicated that Tukur was a spent force being a civilian governor as far back as 1979! As such many pundits saw him as having nothing to offer and may not be able to deliver the supposed dividends of modern day party headship of the biggest political party in Africa.
To most people they were of the view that the party then needed a vibrant young political technocrat that will manage the party out of troubled waters. But that was far from what president Jonathan and his traducers were ready to hear. They insisted in producing Tukur as the party chairman. All the governors then ganged up and insisted on their rejection of Tukur but Jonathan cajoled, threatened, and even appealed to them to have his choice of chairman since he doesn’t meddle in the governor’s choice of state chairmen of their individual states. Even when a mock election by the North-East where the chairman was zoned was conducted it produced a popular candidate of their choice but a political abracadabra was conjured and at the end of the day Bamagar Tukur still emerged as the party’s chairman.
True to tradition and permutations of many, Bamangar Tukur lived up to the initial fears of those who vehemently opposed him as he did not perform to their expectations. Instead it has been one crisis or the other. Notably, from his home state, Adamawa he dissolved the exiting executives and imposed his own candidates. Also he was in serious war of attrition with his erstwhile and impeached state governor Murtala Nyako. To cap it all he was reported to be using his position to influence a possible imposition of his son as the party’s gubernatorial candidate.
Now with abysmal performance of PDP at the just concluded general elections, the sledge hammer is set on the head of Adamu Muazu, the much touted game changer! Accusations and counter accusations have trailed his supposed role in the monumental defeat of the party at the elections. Signs of division and bickering started emanating during the electioneering campaigns were the chairman had open confrontation with his Bauchi state governor Issa Yuguda to the extent of physical confrontations and assaults! As that is not enough many governors and other big wigs in the party have been calling for his resignation or outright sack for his chameleonic role in the elections.
Muazu, the PDP chairman is been accused of not campaigning vociferously for the president and the party to ensure the victory of the party at the polls. In fact some people like indomitable Ekiti State Governor; Ayodele Fayose has threatened to expose the behind the scene deals of the chairman as he worked assiduously for the victory of the opposing political party APC to ensure power is returned to the North! Hard core pundits has voiced out that there is no party chairman of the PDP since 1998 that has led the party to such a disastrous outing. As a result they are of the view that the party chairman should consider himself one of those that have to give way for the new party to come up. In fact they are telling him in his face that he doesn’t need to be told to turn in his resignation.
But Muazu on his own is not keeping mute as he is fighting the political battle of his life to retain his seat as the chairman. In doing this he is boasting that his exit from the party will sound a death knell for the PDP! He is of the opinion that PDP should jettison the developing culture of using and dumping party chairmen which has attained fratricidal and alarming proportions. To Muazu PDP cannot be changing its chairmen every now and then as if they are changing their under wears!
Will the wind of change blowing across the country eventually sweep away another PDP chairman in the person of Adamu Muazu, only time will tell and it will also be on record and confirmation about the volatile and instability in the retention of the position of chairmanship of the party!
Why are all these altercations in the chairmanship of PDP not replicated in other political parties? In contrast and comparative analysis of some parties like former ACN and ANPP, Labour party, there has been some level of stability and sanity in the tenure and office of their chairmen. Bisi Akande was the chairman of ACN for many years and we hardly heard of any rancor from their quarters, neither was he replaced until he metamorphosed to the chairmanship of All progressive Congress.
Same situation was the case of ANPP where Ogbonnaya Onu held sway as the chairman for many years, thereby maintaining the sanctity of the party. Also in Labour Party Nwanyanwu was the chairman for a long time without any squabble until recently when he personally relinquished the position. Where we have a semblance of what is happening in PDP is in APGA as there has been series of tussle for the soul of the chairmanship position.
And who says that the exit of Adamu Muazu as he has now resigned from being PDP chairman will resolve the problem of perennial instability of chairmanship position of the PDP. Who says that the powers that be and indeed other contending interests will not insist on producing the chairman of their choice that will only be used to actualize their individualistic enlightened self interest?
Never will they allow probity and merit to play the determining factor in producing an acceptable candidate that will advance the cause of the party. Primordial interest and conflicts will still play out to ensure that a better candidate never smell that exalted position and this will be too bad for the development of political parties in Nigeria since PDP is widely acclaimed to be one of the true national political parties in the country.
Austine Uche-Ejeke, a Public Affairs Analyst wrote vide email@example.com
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