This week, the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, marks his first 100 days in office. Reflecting on the controversy that trailed his victory at the PDP National Convention and the memorable events that followed. In this piece, Sa’adatu Shuaibu, examines the reasons why Tukur must sit up if he must steer the course of the PDP in the months ahead.
Bamanga Tukur is one of the most powerful and influential men in the country today being the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Within his first 100 days in office, has Tukur been able to leave a lasting impression on his party or has he succumbed to the old ways of the PDP where the President’s wishes outweigh the democracy of the party?
Looking at specific events starting from the promises he made during his acceptance speech, it appears that Tukur is having trouble with finding his own voice in the resounding orchestra that is the PDP.
To the surprise of a few and the shock of many, on March 24th 2012, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur emerged as the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party.
Although, the days leading up to the PDP National Convention were said to be filled with uncertainty and rumours of an alternative victor winning the spot, Tukur had no cause to worry as it turned out the job was given to him on a platter of gold.
The race for the referred powerful position was tense and competitive as the other 10 candidates were made up of highly qualified and experienced Nigerians including the former acting National Secretary of the party, Musa Babayo, who was also chosen as the consensus candidate during the North-East Zonal Congress held in Bauchi, the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Professor Jibril Aminu, and the former PDP National Publicity Secretary, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali. Bamanga Tukur was tipped early on in the race to be President Goodluck Jonathan’s favourite and therefore, most likely to win.
On the day of the PDP National Convention, while the nation was waiting to hear the results of the votes casted by the party delegates, it was announced that the 10 candidates for the National Chairman position had withdrawn their candidature for Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. Many political observers, including members from within the PDP, voiced their disappointment with the perceived “undemocratic” practices of the PDP.
General Ibrahim Babangina, a PDP member, did not hide his disapproval of the method in which Tukur emerged as the party National Chairman. He made his views clear on the Voice of America Hausa Service when he said, “A situation where some people would sit and select someone by consensus is undemocratic”.
The Arewa Youth Forum also mirrored the General’s concerns as they announced in a statement signed by their leader, Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu, “It is a shame to the PDP Northern Governors for mortgaging the future of the North by allowing themselves to be dragged into an undemocratic means that imposed a septuagenarian leader of their party”.
In Tukur’s victory speech, he acknowledged that there are problems which exist in the party; he warned that the PDP will be unable to move forward with its tasks until it tackles its present challenges.
He stated, “There are problems of constant engagement through dialogue over policies, strategy and tactics; problems of openness, inclusivity, fairness and fair play; problems of respect for the constitution, rules and laws of Nigeria, separation of powers, checks and balance; problems of internal democracy. We cannot reposition our party and prime it for the task ahead, unless these issues and challenges are effectively addressed” he said.
Furthermore, during his speech, he seemed to have included a message to President Goodluck while stating that he aims to help refocus the President’s attention on the economy rather than partisan politics. He stated, “We have come to transform and build a great party; not to play politics.
We have come to help politicians play a decent politics, politics based on fairness and level playing field. We have come to be those neutral referees the PDP needs right now. We have come to ensure that both executives and the legislature are on the same page- which is to make Nigeria great economically, socially and politically. We have come to help the president focus more on the economy than on partisan politics”.
Although Tukur’s acceptance speech indicated that he wanted to cure the PDP of all its ailments particularly problems concerning its internal democracy, his first few months in office prove that he is having some difficulty in achieving that goal.
In April, the comments made by the National Security Adviser illustrated the internal differences of opinion and outlook of the members of the PDP. While some politicians praised Azazi for his honesty, others were outraged by his statement, viewing it as a betrayal to the party and called for his resignation.
In May, Tukur was in hot water over a statement he made regarding the social issues which served as a catalyst for Boko Haram’s attacks in the North. The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, questioned where Tukur’s loyalty truly lied.
In June, the President’s decision to sack the NSA and Minister of Defence further proves that while Tukur indicated his desire to strengthen the internal democracy of the party, the President may not be as keen to let go of the reigns of the party just yet.
April: Azazi’s zoning statement
The internal cohesion of the party was put to the test when it was reported across the country that the National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi, who had been appointed by the President, attributed the zoning policy of the PDP as part of the cause for the emergence of the Boko Haram sect.
Speaking on the second day of the South-South summit in Asaba, Delta State, Azazi stated, “How come the extent of violence did not increase in Nigeria until the public declaration of the people that were going to contest election by the PDP? And I would also like to say this, though the PDP people will not agree with me, they would like to attack me, but I hope they do it in private.
“PDP got it wrong from the beginning by saying Mr. A can go and Mr. B cannot go and these decisions were made without looking at the constitution”.
While some groups agreed with Azazi’s statement, others were angered to the point of demanding for his resignation or for President Goodluck to relieve him of his duties. The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) heartily agreed with Azazi’s statement while adding that it stands as proof of the PDP’s culpability with the emergence of the Boko Haram.
Through the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Engr Rotimi Fashakin, the CPC said, “The statement by the National Security Adviser, Gen Andrew Owoye Azazi is evidence of the culpability of PDP in the Boko Haram activities. It typifies what happens when falsehood and subterfuge have run full course and there is no more hiding the truth”.
Azazi also received a nod from Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, who blamed the prevalence of violence in the country to the “undemocratic” leadership of the PDP and also referred to the party’s recent National Convention as a “sham”.
El-Rufai stated, “Azazi merely confirmed the three things that we have known all along about the PDP and Jonathan administration, that the PDP is the root of all politically-related violence and terrorism in the country. It was the extra-judicial murder of the Boko Haram leadership during the Yar’Adua’s PDP regime that laid the foundations of our current insecurity.
“The way the party disrespects its constitution, rules and regulations as confirmed by the last sham and show of shame that it called national convention has completed the emergence of an exclusionary, undemocratic party controlled by Jonathan and the governors”.
Azazi’s unintentional criticism of the PDP showed evidence of the internal friction within the party and prompted a few politicians to call for his resignation. Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, former Special Adviser on National Assembly to former President Shehu Shagari, expressed his disappointment with Azazi’s statement and declared that he was no longer fit to hold his position.
He stated “For such high-ranking official to demonstrate total ignorance of the terrain of the political party which he is supposed to have been advising in maintaining the security, that statement has automatically disqualified him from retaining that position. It demonstrated that he was not competent and knowledgeable enough to hold that position”.
Azazi’s statement undoubtedly caused a rift within the PDP as the internal cohesion of the party was questioned through his statement. Azazi had unwittingly put the leadership of the party, including Alhaji Tukur, in the line of fire.
May: Tukur In Trouble With CAN
Concerned by the persistent attacks on Northern states by Boko Haram, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur aired his views about the insecurity crisis and described the Boko Haram as people who feel aggrieved and are seeking for justice.
While receiving members of the PDP from Gombe State in Abuja, Tukur stated, “We can’t even travel again because of the insecurity in the region. Boko Haram is fighting for justice. Boko Haram is another name for justice. People feel aggrieved. They are angry because they are hungry. Unless we remove the hunger, we too may not be able to rest”.
In response to Tukur’s statement, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) expressed their dismay at Tukur’s choice of words in describing the religious sect.
The National President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, stated, “I am surprise none of you journalist has picked him up to explain to Nigeria whose justice he is talking about, because in a sense he is a spokesman for Boko Haram. The Chairman of PDP, the largest party in Africa, he is a spokesman for Boko Haram.
“What justice is Bamanga Tukur talking about, 1000 of people who have been killed so far in Maiduguri, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Kaduna, Jos, Kano, who is showing the family of those killed justice”.
Reacting to the CAN President’s statements, the PDP, through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, clarified Tukur’s position on the insecurity issue and reassured him that Tukur is indeed a patriot of Nigeria. Metuh stated, “Over the decades, he has built bridges of friendship across religions and regions of Nigeria, etching his name as an African statesman.
It is on record also, that since he was elected the national chairman of our great Party, his message has been consistent on the imperative of unity, equity and justice for every Nigerian.
“He has never hidden his resolve and determination to use the historic opportunity offered by his leadership of the nation’s ruling party to champion the ideals of the founding fathers of the country that irrespective of our tongue, tribe and creed, Nigerians are one and that our diversity is our greatest strength”.
June: Jonathan Sacks NSA, Minister of Defence
In a sudden move on June 22nd 2012, within less than two hours of President Goodluck returning from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he attended the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development, he made the decision to sack the National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi, and the Minister of Defence, Dr Haliru Bello.
The NSA was replaced by Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), a one-time ADC of former military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babanginda.
The President later on explained his choice of action during a presidential media chat on June 24th 2012. Noting that he based his decision on the need to change his administration’s tactics towards resolving the security crisis, President Goodluck stated, “Those people who have held these offices have done well.
If you look at the evolution of Boko Haram, they change their tactics every day. The interest of a terrorist is to destabilise government. If one thing doesn’t work, they change to another. So, you must also begin to change your personnel, change your style, change your strategy”.
While some observers have commended the President’s decision to sack the NSA and the Minister of Defence, others are concerned that it might indicate a sign of the weaknesses of the internal structure of the party.
However, what is clear is the President’s decision shows that he is not ready to let go of his strong grip over the PDP and Tukur has not taken a tough stance against the President venturing into political waters.
Forging Ahead: Tukur’s Legacy
At 77, Tukur has much experience and wisdom to lend to the PDP; however, is the party ready to take on the prescriptions made by him especially when he has been unable to steer the President away from partisan politics neither has he been able to shield the public from the obvious internal friction within the party as indicated by Azazi’s controversial statement.
In the months ahead, while Tukur confronts challenges both within the PDP and outside it in the form of opposition parties and the insecurity raging in the North, Tukur must channel the leadership skills he adopted as Governor of the defunct Gongola State and the General Manager of the Nigerian Ports Authority to take a firm stance on guiding the PDP as a party while also diplomatically urging the President to put more of his attention on the affairs of governance such as the insecurity crisis and the mismanagement of public funds by government officials than meddling in partisan politics.