The Albatross of PDP Chairmanship-Austine Uche-Ejeke

It must be 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 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, 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. In normal circumstance many will be prostrating before him on a daily basis as he may be the most powerful politician probably after the 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 fourteen 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.

Check out the list of mostly disgraced chairmen of PDP right from inception. They include Solomon Lar, Audu Ogbeh, Barnabas Germade,  Ahmadu Alli, Vincent Ogbulafor, Okwezilieze Nwodo ,Kawu Baraje, Mohammed Hadiru, 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 confirmed 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 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 does not come from any of the states when the slot was allocated to the zone after the fall of Okwezilieze Nwodo. 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 head of state 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 emerges 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 two 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 conducted an election and produced a popular candidate of their choice, 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 is living up to their initial fears and not performing 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 has been in serious war of attrition with his state governor Murtala Nyako. To cap it all he is reported to be using his position and influence to foist his son as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the coming elections.

Today one of the intractable problems besetting the party is centered at the table of the chairman .And some of the party members are insisting that PDP will know no peace except Tukur is shown the way out.
Why all these altercations in the chairmanship of party 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 has been the chairman of ACN for many years and we hardly hear of rancor from their quarters. 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 iwuanyanwu has held the chairmanship position for a long time without any rancor. Where we have a semblance of what is happening in PDP is in APGA where there has been series of tussle for the soul of the chairmanship position

 From all indications Tukur may be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency, but how that will resolve the party’s myriad of problems is yet to be known.

In the aftermath of a meeting by elected governors under the big umbrella of PDP with former president Obasanjo, there was an insistence on the part of the governors that Tukur must go! Quoting a highly reliable source it hinted that “The consensus is that Bamaga Tukur should no longer be the chairman of the party”.  

But those sympathetic to Tukur are also insisting that even if he is to go that he must not be disgraced out of office but be given soft landing. He has just served two years out of his four years term! Towards achieving that it was concocted that he will be asked to resign on account of old age since he has clocked 77 years.

 But like every other Nigerian that will like to cling to office he is not folding his arms as he is also fighting the political battle of his life. He is reported to have raced to former vice-president Abubakar Atiku and other political juggernauts to save his impending exit from the hottest political seat of the biggest political party in Africa and indeed the black race!

 And who says that his exit will resolve the problem of perennial instability of chairmanship position of the PDP. Who says that the presidency 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 political 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 Anayst wrote vide
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