On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m., they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m., Lincoln delivered an address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. According to him, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
These, indeed, are not the best times for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Its major headache appears to be coming from within. And the struggle for power appears to be tearing the party apart. PDP is a collection of strange bedfellows whose main interest in the association is what they can get. And whenever that interest ceases to be served, they jump ship. That has been the way of the party since 1999.
A party at war with itself
Although the party has the highest number of lawmakers in the National Assembly and also 24 governors out of the 36 governors in the country, it has not been able to maximise the advantage of that majority. The presidency, federal lawmakers and governors on the party platform appear to be working at cross purposes.
The recent establishment of a parallel PDP Governors’ Forum headed by Godswill Akpabio, governor, Akwa Ibom State, was a clear indication that all is not well with the party. The national leadership of the party felt it was not getting the best from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum under the chairmanship of Chibuike Amaechi, despite the fact that he is of the PDP fold.
Ahmed Gulak, special adviser to the President on Political Matters, said the party’s leadership was not happy with Amaechi’s style of running the NGF. He accused the Rivers State governor of piloting the affairs of the group as a “trade union and without having recourse to the laid down party mechanism in resolving issues.”
He further said that Amaechi’s actions in NGF were “completely contrary to what the PDP leaders expected from a governor elected on the platform of the party.”
In recent times, many PDP governors under Amaechi’s NGF have not been enjoying cosy relationship with
Before the election last year of Bamanga Tukur as the party’s national chairman, many governors had opposed his emergence. They had wanted an independent mind who would not pander to the whims of the Presidency.
Recently also, following the crisis in Adamawa State believed to be fuelled by Tukur, some PDP governors threw their weight behind their colleague governor, Murtala Nyako, insisting that Tukur must be shown the way out of Wadata Plaza, headquarters of the PDP in Abuja. On many occasions, the Amaechi-led NGF had clashed with the President over one issue or the other.
At the National Assembly where the PDP controls the greater population of lawmakers, and also leads the bicameral legislature, the executive arm sweats it out to get its requests approved.
During the election of the speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011, although the party had zoned the slot to the South-West and had anointed Mulikat Adeola-Akande for the position, members of the party shunned the party elders
who were at the gallery of the National Assembly to witness the voting. The PDP lawmakers aligned with the opposition to vote for Aminu Tambuwal to the chagrin of the Presidency and PDP national office.
In October 2012, David Mark, Senate President, pointedly told President Jonathan that the National Assembly was not “a mere mechanical rubber stamp that must robotically pass budget estimates as presented.”
Only a few days ago, the Presidency raised the alarm that the National Assembly was laying some mines for it by presenting supplementary budget as soon as he assented to the 2013 Budget.
History on the playback
The cat-and-mouse relationship of those voted into power on the platform of the PDP with the Presidency did not start with the current dispensation.
During the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, he did not enjoy a cordial working relationship with Ghali Umar Na’Abba when the later presided over the lower house as speaker. Na’Abba insisted that the House would not be a stooge of the executive. His not-too-good relationship with Obasanjo was the reason he did not seek re-election in 2003.
Anyim Pius Anyim, current Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGN) and former Senate president who rode to the position on the PDP platform, did not agree with Obasanjo’s style of leadership and refused to pander to his whims. The Senate, during Anyim’s tenure, worked without executive meddlesomeness.
In the days of Ken Nnamani as Senate president, the upper legislative chamber maintained its soul without extraneous influences. It is on record that Nnamani refused to give a stamp of approval to Obasanjo’s ambitious third term gambit.
PDP and reconciliation gambit
Although Tukur had embarked on reconciliatory mission of all estranged members across the country, the party’s present onslaught against Amaechi appears inconsistent with the spirit of the olive branch. There are also those the party considers not qualified for reconciliation. These are notable members who have issues with the party who are, however, considered too powerful, who are capable of wresting the machinery of the party from Jonathan’s grip if they are allowed to come back to the fold. Such individuals include Na’Abba and Atiku Abubakar.
The failure of Aso Rock to control the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has thrown up a fierce battle to decimate the association. The divide-and-rule tactic being employed by the Presidency to get at the leadership of the NGF is one in the line of similar strategies likely to be adopted to break
the rank of internal rebellion.
The Anenih factor
The party hid under the confusion created by the NGF crisis to ‘elect’ its new chairman for the Board of Trustees (BoT). The election had severally been postponed. The inability of various interests to arrive at a consensus candidate had delayed the emergence of Obasanjo’s successor about 10 months the seat became vacant following Obasanjo’s unceremonious exit. The leadership of the PDP may have settled for Anenih to stabilise the party’s ship drifting ashore. Tukur said this much when he confessed: “The PDP is a repackaged political party to really face all the challenges ahead of the party as the 2015 elections draw nearer.” Pundits have described Anenih’s emergence as a frantic move to mobilise the necessary forces to douse opposition’s strategies. Anenih, it is believed, will deploy his political sagacity that earned him the nickname “Mr. Fix It” to ensure Jonathan’s return.
2015 behind the wheeling-dealing
Although President Jonathan has not openly declared his intention to join the fray in 2015, pundits say the possibility is as clear as day and night. Following the appearance of posters in Abuja in January which paired Sule Lamido, governor of Jigawa State, with Amaechi for the 2015 presidency, Aso Rock became jittery. The fight by the PDP appears to suggest that the party does not need the vote of Nigerians to retain Aso Rock.
A pundit said: “What is baffling me, however, is: in all these where does the vote of the electorate figure in? Is this no longer a democracy? Is it no longer about one man one vote? Watching the way the President and his opponents are wooing, cornering and taking control of one body after the other, you’d be tempted to conclude that 2015 presidency would be conducted on the basis of electoral colleges or that the voting would be done by a select few- like in an aristocracy or even a plutocracy.”
What to watch
-The Presidency may send the EFCC after Amaechi as was done against Peter Odili in 2007.
-The magnitude of internal combustion going on in the party may force some members to jump ship
-The emergence of PDP Governors’ Forum is likely to weaken the NGF