How Governors Compelled Jonathan to Convene NEC Meeting

2010-04-30
THISDAY Newspaper


Chuks Okocha, in this report, highlights the intrigues and compromise that heralded the 50th edition of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), concluding that it is not yet time to shout uhuru

Intrigues, horse-trading and compromise were the best words to describe the conveyance of the just concluded National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But for compromise between PDP governors and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, the NEC meeting would not have held in the first place. For instance, many still wonder how a restraining order from a high court was vacated within 24 hours after the order was issued. Observers believe that it will go down in the Guinness Book of Records that an order was issued on Monday, served on the respondents around 6 pm same day and vacated by 10.30 am the next day. This, according to them, was nothing but another manifestation of the power of compromise. This is moreso that nobody expected that the NEC meeting would hold in the first instance.

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party was thrown into confusion, when news filtered into the nation’s capital, Abuja, that the court had restrained the party from holding the NEC meeting. In a swift reaction, executive members of the party went into a closed door meeting. Minutes later, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prof. Ahmed Alkali, came out of the meeting, promising that the party would obey the order if it was served. He claimed that the party was not aware of the restraining order, insisting that such an order couldn’t have been served through the television or newspaper.

But the confusion pervading the party did not abate when the bailiff from the Abuja High Court eventually arrived at the national secretariat of the party, as he was prevented from entering into the party office. He was only allowed to see the National Legal Adviser of the party, Olusola Oke, at about 6.30 pm.

As this drama went on, PDP governors led by their chairman, Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, was holding a series of meetings with the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. After the meeting, the chairman of the Governors’ Forum announced that the meeting would go ahead as planned. This announcement again threw the party and the observing public into further confusion, owing to notions that it would mean a bad precedent if the party disobeyed the court order.

After the meeting with the Acting President, the governors were not done yet. They entered into another round of meeting at the Kwara State Governor’s Lodge. By the time the meeting came to an end around 10.08 pm that day, Saraki told reporters that there would be further briefings. But it was gathered that the PDP governors set up a four-man committee to meet again with the Acting President. It was at this meeting, THISDAY gathered, that the highest level of consensus was reached.

Inside sources said that governors elected on the platform of the party had after its meeting on Monday night, agreed to set up a four-man committee headed by Saraki with the Governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, his Bauchi and Rivers states’ counterparts, Isa Yuguda and Chibuike Amaechi respectively as members. The committee met with Jonathan in the early hours of Tuesday.

According to a governor who spoke with THISDAY in confidence, the PDP governors passed across to Jonathan, their resolution, threatening that the governors would not attend any other NEC meeting, should Tuesday’s meeting fail to hold. The governors insisted that the NEC meeting must hold with insistence that entreaties should be sent to the Chief Justice of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to ensure that the order was vacated. They were also said to have threatened that if the PDP collapsed, it would be on the head of the Acting President.

According to the anonymous governor, Goje sought to know why the Acting President was supporting members of the Reform Forum, querying also to know the weight of their electoral value.
After the meeting, it was agreed that the party should seek the vacation of the order.

But early in the morning, Police had sealed up the national secretariat of the party, leaving tongues wagging on the implication of over 200 police officers as well as officials of the State Security Service (SSS) taking over the entire location of PDP secretariat. At about 10.30 am, news filtered again into the town that Justice Abubakar Talba had vacated the order on conditions that issues relating to suspension of members of the Reform Forum should not be discussed at the NEC meeting. Following the confirmation that the order had been vacated, officials of the SSS from the Presidential Villa began to arrive at the PDP secretariat, an indication that the Acting President would attend.

At the meeting, the expected guideline for the election of delegates which was the main cause of the crisis was shelved. Members of NEC complained that it was an anomaly for a smaller number of delegates to elect the governorship candidates when compared to the number of delegates for the election of members of the National Assembly.

However, after several arguments, it was agreed that to correct the observed inequality in the election of delegates for the governorship and the National Assembly positions, the NEC of the PDP approved the proposal for the amendments of Sections 12:14, 12:46 and 12:48 of the party’s constitution. Accordingly, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alkali said after the meeting that “NEC received and approved proposals for the amendment of Sections 12:14, 12:46 and 12:48 of the PDP constitution which deal with the number of delegates to elect flag bearers of the party at various levels. NEC observed that the current provision which makes the number of delegates in a senatorial congress more than those electing a governorship candidate is an anomaly.”

It was observed that for instance, in a state with 20 local governments, only 900 delegates would elect a governorship candidate, whereas between 1,200 and 1,500, delegates are expected to elect a member of the National Assembly. This, the NEC considered unfair. It therefore mandated the National Working Committee to set up a committee of nine to harmonize the delegates’ list of the party. Members of the committee would comprise one member from each zone, while three other members of the committee would come from the NWC. Thus the party amended its constitution to reflect a reduction in the number of the delegates.

By implication, the party will have to hold a special convention to amend its constitution. The general opinion at the NEC meeting canvassed a return to the 2006 constitution of the party, where delegates will elect officers that will elect candidates at all levels. As a result of this, the guidelines for the primary election was put on hold.

With the compromise reached, the NEC meeting eventually passed a vote of confidence on Jonathan and the National Chairman of the party, Ogbulafor as well as members of the NWC over “their roles” in stabilizing the polity and the party respectively. The NWC was commended and asked to continue with the way it has been managing the affairs of the party.

Though the meeting could be described as a victory of sort at the moment, the danger is yet to be averted. This is bearing in mind that NEC members did not discuss what was supposed to be the main business of the day. They all shied away from it, a situation which some observers described as nothing, but merely postponing the evil day.



 

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