by Dele Agekameh
Perhaps, only the President, for whom he was a cheerleader, will, most certainly, miss him.
In the last few months, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has been engulfed in crises. Every other day, new dimensions are added to the roiling crises. Most of the issues involved borders on contest of supremacy and arbitrary use of power through which many party faithful have either been emasculated or pushed to the back burner of party affairs. In such a dire situation, it is only natural that the bubble will soon burst.
When the bubble finally burst last week, the lone casualty was Bamanga Tukur, the erstwhile Chairman of the party. But he did not go down without a fight. He fought frantically to secure his position but he was overwhelmed by the array of opposition mounted against his person and his office. The President, Goodluck Jonathan, and his henchmen tried as much to shield him and ward off attacks against him, but at the end of the day, the President capitulated when he realised that it was better to sacrifice him and keep the fractured party together.
Since Tukur took over the reign of leadership of the party in March 2012, the party has been mired in scheming and internecine war. It started like a fratricidal war among key chieftains of the party, especially the aggrieved governors, many members of the National Executive Committee, and National Working Committee, as well as some members of the Board of Trustees. For the 22 months of his turbulent reign as Chairman, Tukur was perpetually placed on his toes as the groups perfected their strategy to unseat him.
Trouble started for Tukur when the disgruntled groups within the party started clamouring for reforms in the party. The struggle for reform later snowballed into a major conflagration last August, when some party leaders, led by some State governors, staged a walkout from the party’s National Convention ground in Abuja. Not only have the various reconciliation meetings even with the President in attendance failed to yield any fruitful result, there appears to be the presence of a certain clique within the party that is opposed to any form of reconciliation with aggrieved members. The reason for this is the fear that such reconciliation may pose a threat to their present comfort zone in the party. Therefore, they are hell-bent on maintaining the status quo.
Now that the fate of Tukur as National Chairman has been decided, there are other major issues involved in the simmering crises confronting the party, and several meetings, which attempted to resolve the knotty issues, have yielded no tangible result. Two of the issues are Jonathan’s candidature in the 2015 election and the control of party machinery in the states. Going by the body language of the party’s hierarchy, the issue of Jonathan’s candidature in the 2015 election appears to be a no-go area. In order to consolidate the hawks’ hold on the party machinery, Tukur became a willing puppet that was used to perpetrate illegality and arbitrariness in the states’ party executives.
One of the problems created for the PDP under the chairmanship of Tukur was that his leadership was particularly divisive. An example was the unilateral dissolution of the executive of the Adamawa State chapter of the party loyal to Murtala Nyako, the governor of the state which was achieved through the courts. The appointment of a new one was strongly suspected as a clear move to cripple the governor’s influence in the party and the state. In the wake of the dissolution, Tukur’s opponents had alleged that his decision to sack the Adamawa PDP executive was motivated by a selfish desire to pave the way for Mahmud Tukur, his son, who is currently on trial over his involvement in oil subsidy scandal, to become the next PDP governor of Adamawa State.
Similarly, the executive of the party in Rivers State was wrestled from the hands of Rotimi Amaechi, the state governor, through the instrumentality of a court order and replaced by a team loyal to Jonathan and Nyesom Wike, the Supervising Minister of Education. Ever since, both Rivers State and Amaechi, have known no peace as Wike has become a willing tool in the orchestrated campaign against the governor.
In the case of the South-west, the situation is more pathetic as Tukur’s arm-twisting led to the installation of some largely unwanted leaders whose credibility has been severally called to question as interim managers of the South-west zone of the party. The takeover of the South-west machinery of the party by Tukur’s men was well planned and skillfully executed like a civilian equivalent of a military coup d’état. In early February 2013, agents of Tukur cleverly lured chieftains of the party from the South-west into Abuja for a meeting. Though the ‘family meeting’ was cloaked in the façade of a reconciliation gambit, those at the meeting were dumbfounded when they discovered that they had voluntarily walked into a booby trap set for them by Tukur and his clique. In one fell swoop, all the contending groups in South-west PDP were all deposited inside the trash can. The only man left standing was Buruji Kashamu, who, apparently, had a fore-knowledge of the tsunami that was about to happen.
A few days to the Abuja parley, Tukur, through a top legal practitioner based in Abuja, went round the courts and withdrew all the pending cases instituted against the PDP by some of the groups jostling for control of the party machinery in the zone. The dummy that was sold was that the withdrawal of all the court cases would pave the way for genuine reconciliation. But this was not to be. As soon as the cases were withdrawn, the leadership of the zone was ceded to Buruji and his group. That was how the other contending groups were led to the slaughter slab. With power now fully in Buruji’s kitty, the businessman turned politician has been calling the shot with the tacit support of the party’s National Headquarters.
That was not all. On Wednesday, November 6, 2013, a Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja reinstated Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the National Secretary of the PDP. The three-man panel, chaired by Justice Amiru Sanusi, upturned the January 11 judgment of the Federal High court, Abuja, which sacked Oyinlola. One would have thought that this judgement would provide a good opportunity for the party to resolve the intractable crisis that had enveloped it, but rather than find a solution, some desperate elements within the party, led by Tukur, went ahead to suspend Oyinlola and others under puerile excuses.
The Presidency then came under heat from some stakeholders who felt that certain forces were exploiting the situation for their selfish motives. Some governors loyal to the President were also said to have made contacts among themselves and with the President to express deep concerns that the leadership of the party scuttled the opportunity for peace presented by the Appeal Court verdict. This is why Tukur may have incurred the wrath of Jonathan over his handling of the moves to resolve the crisis in the party. Since then, Tukur’s days were numbered as the President was said to be unhappy with the unilateral decision he took to suspend the party leaders, including Oyinlola, who have been reinstated to his post by the appellate court. It was clear that instead of the party creating and getting more followers and friends, the hierarchy was busy creating more enemies for the party and the Jonathan administration.
With the exit of the erstwhile Chairman who is a loyal ally of Mr. President, the battle this time around, will shift to the agitation by certain elements within the PDP that Jonathan should not contest the 2015 election. But that would be against the President’s right to vote and be voted for as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. Tukur’s tenure was characterised by intrigues and intra-party squabbles which resulted into mass exodus of prominent party leaders, five state governors, members of the National Working Committee and lawmakers in the National Assembly. Perhaps, only the President, for whom he was a cheerleader, will, most certainly, miss him.
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