PDP: From Ruling to Opposition Party

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The dirty fight to live!

Muazu and co: To go or not to go

Hindsight of Lar, Gemade, Ahmadu Ali, others

BY CHARLES KUMOLU

WHEN a former Tea Party leader, Jack Kimbal, emerged the Chairman of Democratic Party in Newhampshire, expectations were high that he was going to boost the party’s bid of making Barack Obama a one term President.

APC and PDP National Chairmen
APC and PDP National Chairmen

The state’s special election in 2011 presented an opportunity for Kimbal to bring his understanding of the mechanics of party leadership to bear.

But with lackluster performances at the poll and fundraising, there came concerns over what becomes of the party at a time when the state was poised to host the nation’s first presidential primaries.

The price of defeat for Kimbal was that he lost the confidence of the state’s congressional delegation and most elected leaders.

It was common to have expected that he would throw in the towel in line with the political culture in that part of the globe, but Kimbal, who was only seven months on the seat, would not hear nothing of such.

The resulting infighting was such that threatened the state’s coveted position as a swing state in the electoral calendar.

So distractive was the controversy over calls on Kimbal to resign that the Republican National Committee, America’s equivalent of the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, National Working Committee, NWC, became reluctant about funding the party in Newhampshire.

Faced with so much pressure from those who wanted him out, Kimbal, at a time when the GOP, Grand Old Party, leaders were expected to remove him, told a packed room of opponents and sign-waving supporters that he was stepping down.

“I am not going to become an obstacle for this party. I am tendering my resignation,” he noted.

A similar scenario also happened in Hong Kong in 2012 when one of its leading parties, the Democratic Party, lost the legislative council elections.

As a result, the party’s National Chairman, Albert Ho, resigned, citing the defeat and the need to reposition the party.

First defeat in 16 years

Same episode that happened in America and Asia is currently playing out in Nigeria where there are calls for the resignation of the ruling party’s NWC following PDP’s woeful outing at the just concluded general elections.

At the centre of this crisis of confidence is the party’s National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, who led the party to its first defeat in 16 years.

His emergence as the leader of the party in January 2014, at a time the party presented the picture of a disorganized group torn apart by endless strife, signaled hope.

Many were optimistic that he could rein in trouble makers and reinvent the PDP that had assumed an overbearing position in the political space.

Aside the various crises at some state chapters of the party, Muazu is seen to have ensured some level of stability since he succeeded Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.

Though that perceived achievement is still contentious among his loyalists and growing number of critics.

So noticeable was the aura of relative calm that came with Mauzu’s leadership in the often rancorous fold that he was dubbed ‘’The Game Changer.’’

Indeed, the Game Changer was loved by The Presidency, accepted by the powerful governors and admired by party faithful.

But such wholesome romance that only existed during the three-year chairmanship of Col Ahmadu Ali is now threatened or, better still, shortlived.

The trouncing of the PDP at the general elections of March 28 and April 11, ensured that the relationship existed only for about one year and six months.

Apart from losing the presidency, which it held for 16 years, the PDP lost its majority in the National Assembly and will be the leading opposition in parliament in the next four years having won only 46 senatorial seats out of 109. Same is obtainable in the House of Representatives where it lost its majority status. From being in control of most states, the party only won in 10 states having lost its traditional strongholds especially in the North.

Moves to change guard

The stark reality that all these happened, like never before under Muazu’s watch, gave rise to moves for a change of guard at the NEC even when the current leadership boasts of one year to the expiration of its tenure.

Believed to be championing the Muazu must go campaign are the powerful PDP state governors, who want him to take the path of honour and resign.

Whereas the PDP constitution stipulates a three year tenure for its NWC, which includes the Chairman and other members of the executive, apart from Ali and Gemade, other former chairmen hardly exhausted the tenure as prescribed by the party’s constitution.

Should the former Bauchi State governor resign, he would be the eleventh chairman the PDP had produced since it’s August 31, 1998 formation.

Those before the embattled chairman were: Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Solomon Lar, Sen Banarbas Gemade, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Col Ahmadu Ali, retd, Chief Vincent Ogulafor, Chief Okwesileze Nwodo,

Dr. Haliru Mohammed, Alhaji Kawu Baraje and Tukur.

In what could be considered as a trend, the tenure of nearly all these men was shaped by dramatic intra party relations which formed the core reasons for their premature exit.

Ekwueme

As the leader of defunct G34-the leading progressive group that metermophosed into PDP-Ekwueme emerged the protem chairman of the party from inception.

He held that position for only three months as a result of his presidential ambition which he stepped down to pursue.

Lar

Under Lar, the first national convention of the PDP was held in Jos. It was at the convention that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, with the backing of some powerful Nigerians, defeated Ekwueme to become the party’s presidential flagbearer ahead of the 1999 election.

The former governor of Plateau State led the new party to its first presidential election victory with Obasanjo winning at the polls over a progressively inclined Olu Falae of the APP/AD alliance. He had the rare reputation of party leader in whose tenure a successor emerged through the ballot box.

Gemade

With party’s zoning formula, which required that the chairman should come from the North Central geopolitical zone, Gemade emerged in 1999.

However, his victory did not come easy even with the backing of Obasanjo given that the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi’s participation ensured that the position was hotly contested.

Gemade’s desire for a second term in office at the end of his two-year tenure met a brick wall following Obasanjo’s opposition in addition other powerful interests that did not want him to return.

Ogbeh

The ill-fated attempt of Gemade to be re-elected at the party’s second national convention in November 2001, made Ogbeh’s emergence with the support of Obasanjo possible.

Under his leadership, the party recorded the second presidential election victory with impressive inroads in the South West where the PDP defeated the AD in the five states.

Intra party strife was not a prominent feature of Ogbeh’s tenure-a development analysts attributed to his relationship with Obasanjo.

But that remarkable calm period in the life of the party was shortlived by the sudden pressure from Obasanjo on Ogbeh to quit.

Ogbeh drew the ire of Obasanjo when he criticized the President’s unfair posture on the political crisis that had engulfed Anambra State then through a strongly worded letter. In spite of his reluctance to resign during his stand off with Obasanjo, Ogbeh later resigned in January 2005, citing threats to his life.

Ali

Succeeding Ogbeh in an acting capacity was largely welcomed, given that the controversy between Ogbeh and Obasanjo was already being distractive to the party.

At the national convention in 2005, Ali emerged the substantive Chairman.

The physician by training, who rose to become the Deputy Director of Army Medical Services, unlike others before him, got along with Obasanjo having had working relationships with him in the past.

His experience as an administrator of great repute was also noticeable from the respite that his emergence brought about in the PDP within a short time.

Coming on board at that juncture when the party was faced with several challenges across the country, placed so much responsibility on Ali, who had been the party’s campaign coordinator in the North Central zone in 2002.

In fact, no PDP leader before him inherited the party’s leadership during such a very tasking phase, but with the combination of vast experience and wisdom, he snatched the party back from the brink.

During his three-year stewardship, the rancorous relationships that existed between his predecessors and Obasanjo never played out. The party was also led to victory in the 2007 presidential poll and also putting in its kitty 27 states- a feat that remains unrivaled.

Observers attribute this resounding success to his detribalised personality and ability to build enduring bridges across different ethno-relegious divides.

These qualities conform with some distinguishing attributes expected of whoever that can lead the party at this critical juncture.

Ogbulafor

After Ali’s tenure, Ogbulafor became the chief beneficiary of the battle for the chairmanship position between Sen Pius Anyim and Dr. Sam Egwu.

The role Ogbulafor, who was formerly a chieftain of the All Peoples Party, APP, played during the controversy over the late President Umar Yar’Adua’s long absence from the country pitched him against many party faithful.

Pointedly, his stance on the contentious issues of that period were construed as being sympathetic to the purposed cabal that allegedly held the country to ransom.

With that in mind, people were hardly surprised that Ogbulafor fell from power on the account of an alleged criminal case shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office in May 2010.

Nwodo

As a former National Secretary of the PDP, Nwodo had a deep knowledge of the workings of the NEC. So the enormity of the job of Chairman were not knew to him. It was with this baggage of experience that the former Enugu State governor succeeded Ogbulafor.

Nwodo’s plans of reinventing the party along acceptable democratic practices and strained relationship with the governor of his home state, Sullivan Chime, contributed in shortening his tenure.

Mohammed

During his tenure, Mohammed, who has been in politics for more than three decades, brought his rich experience and age to bear in the management of PDP affairs.

The Kebbi State born politician had to relinquish the position upon being appointed the Minister of Defense.

Baraje

Baraje, who hails from Kwara State, was never confirmed a full-fledged Chairman, as he remained in acting capacity until he handed over to Tukur.

He later became the Chairman of the breakaway faction of the PDP alongside seven governors elected on the platform of the PDP.

Tukur

Till date, the failure of the Tukur leadership is still being listed as one of the factors that made the party’s recent defeat possible.

Under his watch, the once monolithic party imploded, leading to the defection of its key members.

Allegations against Tukur border on repression, restrictions of freedom of association, arbitrary suspension of members and other violations of democratic principles.

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