NWODO AND GOVERNORS BATTLE OF WITS
Between the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo and Governors of his party, a game of who blinks seems to be ongoing since he assumed office barely two months ago.
The game seems to revolve round the question: Should the PDP continue with the Status quo or go for some kind of reform? While the former National Secretary of the party supports a holistic reform, the governors on the other hand are more comfortable with continuing with the status quo.
But many are tempted to believe that while Nwodo is determined to open the PDP window of opportunity to all members, the governors are not ready to play ball as that would affect their towering relevance in the party.
There are still other critical observers who believe that the seeming disagreement between the political forces around Nwodo and the governors is beyond the issue of reform or interest of the governors. The argument of people in this school of thought is that the primary reason remains the 2011 presidential ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan.
But whatever the argument, it appears the battle for supremacy climaxed on Thursday with the meeting of the National Executive Committee of the party where many far-reaching decisions were taken. Some of them include retaining zoning but allowing President Jonathan to run, reversal of some dissolved PDP chapter executives and halting the online registration of members.
Analysts reason that while Nwodo won on some grounds, he lost on others. But in the opinion of critical observers, the former governor of old Enugu State has the support of President Goodluck Jonathan, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and a greater percentage of power brokers in the party except the governors who undoubtedly constitute a formidable power bloc in PDP.
Since Nwodo assumed office, it has been a ding dong affair with the governors. While he has been fighting to assert his authority to reposition the party, the governors on the other hand have obviously been bent on proving that they call the shots.
It was following the power struggle that several meetings of the top organs of PDP took place last week. In all of the meetings, the issue of zoning took pre-eminence. Both the National Caucus, which met on Monday night at the Presidential Villa and the Board of Trustees (BoT), which met on Tuesday failed to recommend either the removal or retention of the zoning formula which obviously remain the most contentious issue ahead of the general election.
The National Caucus and BoT called for wider consultations before a decision was taken on the matter but for the governors, they had various areas of disagreements. For instance, on Tuesday, August 10 at their meeting at the Kwara State Governor's Lodge, Abuja, the governors emphatically rejected the online registration basing their argument on the level of literacy in some states, computer availability and internet in some other states.
They were also believed to be allegedly worried that the reform by the national chairman will whittle down their powers and influence, and also expose their tickets for the 2011 general election to grave danger.
In the estimation of critical observers, the e-registration would have whittled down the powers of the governors but would have provided a relatively level playing field in the party. If it sailed through, the state chairmen would have been in control of what happens within their jurisdiction. With the e-registration, affairs of the party would have been conducted at the party secretariats as it should be and no longer in the offices of the governors as used to be the case.
Part of the grievances of the state Chief Executives includes the dissolution of some state executives by Nwodo and guidelines for party primaries. Added to all these is the fact that the governors are also said not to be comfortable with the radical posture of the PDP boss especially his utterances in recent time that governors are not welcome in his house. He was quoted as having issued a stern warning that governors and aspirants should stay away from him and concentrate on their campaigns ahead of 2011 general elections.
At a dinner with journalists in Lagos, he was emphatic that anyone who hoped to influence him or the National Working Committee to upturn the will of members should expect hard time under his leadership saying he had started the revolutionary moves from the national secretariat where gratification had been forbidden.
But analysts argue that Nwodo is up against a formidable group which could determine the political tide in the coming election. Since 2003, the state chief executives have called the shots in the party and have determined who became president of the nation.
Many argue that neither the governors nor Nwodo could be said to have won the battle. The thinking is that while the state chief executives won on some grounds, the party's national chairman has succeeded in some areas too. However, the PDP at the NEC meeting on Thursday finally laid to rest the controversial debate on the issue of zoning as it affects President Jonathan's right to run for the presidency in 2011.
The party declared that Jonathan has the constitutional right to run for the office of the President in the forthcoming 2011 general elections. According to the national chairman of the party at the meeting, 'The misconception, accusations that PDP has abandoned zoning is very far from the truth. When our president emerged, he chose a northern Muslim as his vice; when the chairman resigned, he was replaced by another chairman from the South Eastern zone. Our Senate president, Speaker, deputy senate president and deputy speaker are from different zones of the country'.
Declaring that President Jonathan can contest the 2011 presidential poll, Nwodo said, 'Today Dr Goodluck Jonathan by the dictate of our constitution is exercising the term of a joint mandate, given by the people of our great country. If our late president were alive today, we wouldn't be contesting his right to run for a second term under our national constitution. It was his entitlement . This will of course, not exclude any other aspirant from any part of the country from contesting the presidential primary, as it has become the custom of our party.