As northern leaders kick against the appointment of new national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rather favouring the emergence of the party chairman through a convention the South-east sings a different song, LOUIS ACHI examines the various nuances of the unfolding saga.
The echoes of the trumping of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning formular by the emergence of Hon. Aminu Tambuwal as House Speaker continues to impact the power sharing calculations of the party. Although die-hard supporters of Tambuwal readily point to the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan as the original point of departure in the rubbishing of the party’s quirky zoning mathematics, the unending hair-splitting have hardly helped the core unresolved issues.
Currently, the succession process in the top hierarchy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has pitched the National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Caucus of the party among themselves. This is as notable northern leaders continue to express their preference for the emergence of the party chairman through the national convention slated for March 2012.
Incumbent acting National Chairman of the party, Dr. Mohammed Haliru Bello is due to tender his resignation to the National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje this week, as he scales through the Senate screening as minister.
Bello who was former Deputy National Chairman of the party was asked by the Special National Convention of the party and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to take full responsibility of piloting the affairs of the party, following the resignation of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo from the post. But, succession intrigues have bedeviled the party with top shots in the party pitched against themselves on the way forward.
While the South-east zone of the party is insisting that the position should revert to the zone until March 8, 2012, the North-east zone is insisting that since the zoning arrangement of the party has already zoned the post to the side, whoever should act as National Chairman should not come from the zone.
In addition, political gladiators from the north are saying that giving the acting slot to the North East zone would give whoever is occupying the post undue advantage, should the personality be interested in contesting for the national chairmanship post.
A North-east member of the National Working Committee who is also eyeing the party chairmanship told LEADERSHIP that appointing anybody from their zone would place other aspirants to the post to great disadvantage. According to him “when you appoint one of us to the post, the person would have undue advantage and when the national convention comes and the personality is interested in the post of national chairman, the party would have no option than to simply ratify him to the disadvantage of other aspirants.
“That is why we feel that the best thing to do in the circumstance is to revert back to the South-east zone so that a neutral person will be on the seat to conduct the national convention and supervise the election into national offices”.
Another member of the NWC who also spoke in confidence while denying that the NWC met at the weekend stated that, “we normally meet on Wednesdays except there is an emergency and this time, there is none that would warrant us meeting at weekends. “Let me also remind you that it would be wrong for us to be judge in our own cause. What we have to do under the circumstance and which is what we are doing is that we are collating the opinion of our leaders throughout the country and in due course we shall convoke relevant organs of the party where these opinions would be discussed and a final decision taken.
“PDP has not changed from its usual family affair to being a lawless organ. If we make any mistakes now, the opposition will laugh at us and they would use the opportunity to cause confusion in the country and we would not give room for such opportunity to crop up,” he stated.
Another chieftain member of the party from the South-east told LEADERSHIP that the matter is a constitutional one which would be resolved constitutionally. At the end of a meeting of the South-east zone last weekend in Enugu, the zone insisted on producing the national chairman of the party until the tenure of the current National Executive Committee of the party lapses in March, next year.
National Vice Chairman of the party in the zone, Chief Olisa Metuh disclosed this in a communiqué he read after a zonal executive committee meeting of the PDP held at Nike Lake Resort Enugu.
The South-east PDP at the meeting declared that they constitutionally deserved the position based on the provisions of Article 14(5) of the constitution of the party.
They also announced that within the next two weeks, the zone would submit the name of a nominee for the post of national chairman to the national secretariat of the party.
The South-east PDP leaders demanded that one of their own be appointed to fill the vacant position of the national chairman in view of the provision of the constitution of the party aforementioned, which is already in default with the appointment of a non-South-easterner to the post.
According to the South-east leaders, Article 14 Subsection 5 of the party constitution provides that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party should appoint a substitute/replacement for the national chairman whenever the position vacated by a serving chairman, stressing that the only thing to be done in the circumstance is to ask the zone to submit its shortlisted names to the party caucuses.
They argued that the provision specifies that “the replacement should come from the zone of the immediate substantive chairman who so vacated office, and in this circumstance, South East should be the zone to benefit since the last confirmed chairman of the party was Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo from the area. The zone becomes even more qualified based on the provision of the party constitution when it is recalled that even if you put together the tenure of Nwodo and Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, his predecessor, they spent only 22 months as against 48 months specified by the constitution”.
There are even more dimensions to the current political horse-trading surrounding who emerges the party’s next chairman. Sources told LEADERSHIP that while the South-east zone was gunning for the position, the National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Baraje (North Central) is angling to usurp the two positions alluding same to shortness of time between now and the next national convention.
It further held that, not appointing anybody for now would save the party the burden of understanding the nuances of the new helmsman and also afford the party easy procedure when nominating board members, which is the next major national task for the party and which Baraje hoped to slant to benefit his people and his supporters.
But apparently, there is no let up in the intrigues that now govern proceedings in top echelon of the PDP. The twists and turns continue. The latest feelers indicate that the party is rethinking some its unseemly digressions. It appears it has decided to retract its steps and stay with its power sharing formula notwithstanding the decision of its Reps members ‘coup’ trumping the arrangement in the election of its principal officers. Clearly, as a result of the new power allignment in the House of Representatives, both the North-east and the South-west are yet to produce a candidate in the top pecking order of the Jonathan administration or the federal parliament.
LEADERSHIP gleaned that over the weekend, the Presidency and the National Working Committee of the ruling party reached an accommodation on the matter recently. By this, the North-east will produce the next national chairman of the party, while the South-west which lost the Reps’ Speakership to the North-west, will produce the party’s National Secretary.
This apparently puts an end to the agitation by both the South-east and the South-west to produce the party’s next chairman. Whereas the South-west wants the position as a compensation for the loss of the Reps’ Speakership, the mainly Igbo South-east wants it as a continuation of former chairman Okwesilieze Nwodo’s abridged tenure. It would be recalled that Nwodo was forced to quit ahead of the beginning of the PDP primaries.
Trailing the general elections in April, the PDP had made public a power sharing formular which zoned the Senate presidency to the North-Central; deputy Senate Presidency to the South-East; speakership of the House of Representatives to the South-West; deputy speakership to the North-east; chairman, North-east; and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, South-east.
While the Senate obeyed the formula by electing Senators David Mark and Ike Ekweremadu as President and Deputy President respectively; it was a horse of a different colour in the House where Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal from the North-west emerged as the Speaker and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha from the South-east as deputy speaker.
Tambuwal and Ihedioha are both members of the PDP. The president also chose Senator Anyim Pius Anyim from the South-east as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Currently, the North-east has four candidates scheming for the PDP chairmanship. These include a former National Chairman of the defunct Grassroots Movement, Alhaji Gambo Lawan (Borno); a former Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu ); a former Minister of Commerce, Ambassador Idris Waziri (Taraba); and former Governor of the defunct Gongola State, Alhaji Bamanga Muhammed Tukur (Adamawa). Meanwhile, the South-West PDP had been reportedly directed to produce a candidate as the national secretary of the party.
The North-central has the Senate Presidency; Deputy Senate, South-East; Speakership, North-West. The South-East also has the deputy speaker and the SGF.
In scheming for these positions, both old and new arguments are often rehashed. For backers of the South-west, the argument is that the North has the Vice-Presidency; Senate Presidency and Speakership of the House the Acting PDP Chairman, Dr. Haliru Muhammed, on the presidential ministerial nomination list will appear before the Senate for screening within the week.
Of course, the South-east PDP after last weekend’s meeting in Enugu maintains the zone should be allowed to occupy the position of the national chairman till the March convention of the party.
But this has triggered bitter challenges from others. The core basis for this rejection of the South-east’s demand is that if there wish is granted in this case, it would amount to overkill, notwithstanding their recourse to part constitutionalism.
An NWC member challenged strongly that it would be very wrong of the South-east zone to hold the position till March with regards to the recent developments in the party adding that haven gotten the SGF position, Deputy President of Senate and deputy House Speakership which was not originally zoned to them, this was enough.
At press time, clearly, the issues are not yet resolved. For the PDP, it still morning on creation day.