PDP burst: Forces tearing ruling party apart

THE SUN Newspaper- Taiwo Amodu

Athough the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) eventually held a peaceful National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Tuesday, the war is still not over. Forces in the party, which are fighting for its soul, are still bent on having their way. The target is the control of the party, ahead of the 2011 elections.

Saturday Sun gathered that the tendencies in the party have only retreated to the trenches, plotting another strategy to adopt to break the back of their opponets. It is, therefore, believed that the outcome of the NEC meeting was a smokescreen, as the current peace is that of the graveyard.

A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, which was almost aborted as a result of a court injunction procured by one of the warring sides, the PDP Reform Forum, commended Dr Goodluck Jonathan for his ability to pilot the affairs of the nation, successfully since his assumption of office as acting president. It also passed a vote of confidence in the Prince Vincent Ogbulafor-led National Working Committee of the party. Also, it had kind words for members of the party in the National Assembly, some of who are also members of party’s NEC.

The communiqué was, however, silent on the fate of 19 members of the party, who belong to reform movement, earlier suspended for alleged disrespect for the NWC. However, while the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Professor Ahmed Rufai Alkali, told newsmen that the party had resolved to forge ahead and put its act together, for the 2011 elections, there were indications that the war has only been suspended, for the forces to recharge and return to the trenches.
To show that the war is not over, Saturday Sun can authoritatively reveal that while the NEC meeting was going on, members of the PDP Reform Forum held their own retreat at an undisclosed location in Abuja.

The PDP is not also treating the Reform Forum with kid gloves. National Chairman of the party, Prince Ogbulafor, who has the support of almost the PDP governors, gave indication that he was not ready to yield ground to the group, in his opening remarks at the NEC meeting, before it proceeded to a closed-door session. He told the gathering of governors, principal officers of the National Assembly and members of the state executives of the party, who constitute the NEC: “…Let me use this medium to remind us that civility is not a sign of weakness. Notwithstanding their antics, NWC will not shirk its responsibilities. Rather than being critical, it is time for our great party to take clear role in further advancing good governance that will guarantee our successes at the coming polls.”

Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who had to allow the NEC meeting to hold as a result of subtle threats from the governors, admonished PDP gladiators to always allow the party constitution to guide their activities and utterances. He had said: “These frictions could have been avoided if we watched our actions and subjected it to the dictates of the party constitution and guidelines.”

Jonathan expressed disappointment over what he called the reckless antics of some PDP stake- holders. “Some of our members indulge in peddling rumours to cause disaffection within the ranks of party leaders. They say what they are not supposed to say and do what they aren’t supposed to do,” Jonathan declared.

His admonition to party faithful to make recourse to the PDP constitution in this trying period, may go a long way to save the party from self-destruction, even though the acting president is allegedly funding one of the combatants fighting for the soul of his party, the PDP Reform Forum.
The constitution of the PDP, as amended, frowns at some of the unsavoury tendencies that have threatened the party’s existence. It expressly discourages members from making critical comments about the party in the media, or belonging to any group, without party authorization.
Sections 9.1(g) of PDP constitution, under the code of conduct, says: “A party member shall refrain from publishing or distributing to the media, any article which purports to be the view of any faction or tendency within the party, (without due authorization).”
Under the same code of conduct, sections 9.1 envisages acts that may undermine the PDP and cautions members not to step out of line to avoid reprimand.

It said: “No member of the party shall bring to public attention disagreements and conflicts within the party unless expressly authorized to do so. No member of the party shall publicly make critical comments about the policies of any government elected on the platform of the party. No member of the party shall align with other parties or groups to undermine the party or any of its elected governments.”

The real situation
Despite the respite that came the way of the party’s National Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, sources say that his problems are not over. It was gathered that the forces that want him out would, sooner than later, revisit the matter, especially using case against him before the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), over finances of the party, as cannon fodder. Those who want him out, it was gathered, would make a case for his removal, with the argument that the corrupt charges against him is bad public relations for the party.

Saturday Sun learnt that Ogbulafor’s real enemies are elements working for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, with its arrowhead being former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The group, it was learnt, wants to take control of the party before the party’s presidential primaries, so that it would be easy to influence the outcome.

A party of anything goes
Going by what obtains in the PDP constitution, it is obvious that the founding fathers of the party meant well for it, to have embellished normative rules and ideas that will see to amity and camaraderie within the ranks of its members.

Saturday Sun investigation, however, reveals that members the party organs, the NWC and NEC, which should indulge in trouble shooting efforts observe the party constitution in the breach.
Governors in PDP have their own group, the PDP Governors Forum, through which they articulate their interest and ensure that they are realized, irrespective of party position and larger interest.
Before the creation of amorphous groups like the PDP Integrity Group Forum and the PDP Reform Forum, there had been other platforms, not recognized by the party constitution, which exist in states to take care of entrenched interests. Besides the governors forum, PDP state chairmen and secretaries have their own conference mainly for self-preservation.

Peeved by revelations that the party NWC had been emboldened by the PDP Governors Forum to move against the PDP Reform Forum, former Health Minister, Professor ABC Nwosu, had declared, last Thursday, in Abuja, in apparent reference to the existence of the PDP Governors Forum, that the party NWC could not decree the reform movement out of existence.

Prof Nwosu said: “If we, the PDP Reform Forum, should cease to meet, why must others be meeting? Why should there exist within the party any other forum except as specifically stated by the party constitution? What makes one forum legitimate and the other not?
“The party management needs to be reformed, in consonance with the founding ideals of our great party. What is ordered for one forum should be good enough for another forum. This is what is called constituency and principle.”

Saturday Sun investigation revealed that while the party constitution, under article 21(1) allows the party leadership to frown at acts capable of undermining the progress of the PDP and cause disaffection within its ranks, it does not empower the party NWC to reprimand, but to refer such acts and perpetrators to the PDP Disciplinary Committee. This is why, it was gathered that Jonathan faulted Ogbulafor for acting unilaterally in suspending members of the Reform Forum.
However, Ogbulafor, had told the party’s NEC why he took the actions. He had said: “Our invitation was rebuffed, but a letter was sent to us by their counsel, Chief fa*bemi, stating that his clients would not be able to honour the party’s invitation.

The NWC deliberated on this matter extensively and concluded that the PDP Reform Forum’s calculated disregard for lawful directives of the party was aimed at ridiculing the party, contrary to Article 21(1) of the party constitution.

“Thereafter, after a careful and thorough review of the matter, and considering the grave nature of the case against these members of the PDP Reform Forum, the NWC resolved to suspend, from the party, the members listed in accordance with article 21 (4) of the party constitution.”
The 19 suspended members are kicking, claiming ignorance of NWC invitation, as they only read it on the pages of newspapers. Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and chairman, steering committee of the Forum, who was also suspended, told Saturday Sun on phone that Ogbulafor knew his residence in Abuja and has his telephone numbers but decided to communicate with him on the pages of newspapers.

Indeed, Article 21(5) and 21(6) state disciplinary procedure to be adhered to by the party Disciplinary Committee before erring members could be sanctioned. It said: “Where an allegation is made against a member of the party, the Disciplinary Committee shall inform the member in writing of the allegations made against him, or her and the place and time of the hearing the case against him or her.

“A member who appears before a Disciplinary Committee shall be given opportunity to present his case or her case orally or in writing, either in person or through a counsel of his or her choice and shall be allowed to call witnesses. A decision taken against a member who has not been informed of the charges against him or her has not been given any opportunity of defending himself shall be null and void.”

Godfathers loom large
The PDP constitution has been subordinated to the whims and caprices of political godfathers who observed the party rules in breach and emboldened their protégés to do same. Nigerians would not forget, in a hurry, what transpired in states, where governors emerged not from the party primaries, but because godfathers manipulated the processes. Former Anambra State governor, Dr. Chris Ngige and his political godfather, Chris Uba, almost ran the state aground over who should control the treasury. He managed to retain power until the court sacked him. Former Oyo State governor, Rasheed Ladoja, was not so lucky, as his godfather, the late Lamidi Adedibu, ensured that he was removed from office until the Supreme Court pronounced his impeachment as illegal and restored him to office.

Dr. Doyin Okupe, former Senior Special Assistant and Media to the immediate past president and chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Olusegun Obasanjo, blamed the current impasse to the new godfathers at states and national levels of the party. He blames the PDP governors, who now dictate to the party national secretariat and also parades themselves as party leaders in their respective states

“The governors are the greatest problem of PDP today,” Okupe told Saturday Sun.
It is understandable why the NWC listens to the governors and other powerful forces in the party. It was the governors who ensured that Ogbulafor became chairman through consensus. Obasanjo is also a force to be reckoned with because of the role he had played in the party. The process that threw up the ailing president, Umar Yar’Adua and his deputy, Jonathan, was also not transparent, as Obasanjo ensured that leading aspirants, like former Rivers State governor, Dr Peter Odili, were arm twisted to withdraw from the race.

While all these are going one, the advice of Senator Nnamani comes handy. He had urged Nigerians to take more than passing interest in what becomes of the PDP, if Nigeria is to make head way.

“The electoral reform we are talking about will not be achieved if the PDP, the party that controls the central government and 28 states in the federation, does not reform itself. If PDP gets it right, certainly, Nigeria will get it right,” Nnamani submitted.


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