PDP'S REAL GODFATHERS
Ogbulafor, PDP National Chairman
Although many weeks have passed since the Governors Forum met in Abuja and made some fundamental declarations, the last seems not to have been heard of what transpired. The governors had, after the meeting, declared support for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, as acting president.
They also declared that while Alhaji Umar Musa Yar'Adua remains president, he would neither be impeached nor forced to resign from office. They also prayed for quick recovery of the president.
Saturday Sun has learnt that while the governors were meeting, at the Kwara State Lodge, in Abuja, the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Vincent Ogbulafor and his national legal adviser, Olusola Oke, were so agitated that they had to wait in a room, at the venue, for the outcome. On that day, there was palpable tension in the country, as the Federal Executive Council, was to meet the next day, March 3, to decide Yar'Adua's fate.
It was gathered that the governors deliberately met on the eve of the FEC meeting, to preempt ministers. The declaration that Yar'Adua would not be impeached or forced to resign put paid to the plot of the FEC to settle the crisis in the President by moving for the investigation of the health condition of the ailing president. This is even more so since the governor, after their meeting and press briefing, proceeded to the presidential villa to brief Jonathan.
Also, they, thereafter, met with the PDP national leadership.
Sources revealed that the governors' declaration actually saved Yar'Adua from being forced out of office. For one, the governors' resolution sealed agitation for the investigation of Yar'Adua's health. Also, it killed the plan to invoke section 144 to declare Yar'Adua incapacitated. This did not come to many as a surprise, especially since the governors had been instrumental to the doctrine of necessity, which the Senate invoked to pronounce Jonathan acting president.
Interestingly, while criticisms trail the governors' action, they continue to justify their positions. Chairman of the forum and Kwara state Governor, Bukola Saraki, in a statement, defended the stance of the governors he had said: 'The governors recognize the greatness of their responsibility to the Nigerian nation. That's why they have not only intervened in critical and difficult moments, but have done so at the appropriate time too. And that is why it is yet again possible for all the governors to rise above partisan interest and loyalty to vote for what is best for Nigeria and Nigerians.'
Former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, agrees with Governor Saraki. He said that the belief that the governors, particularly those in PDP, have hijacked the party structure is misplaced.
'They are just being supportive. They cannot be idle; they have a role to play, as chief executives of their respective states. It is good the way they are going. Every input to resolve the impasse should be welcomed; the survival of Nigeria is paramount and it is a collective responsibility. If they do not take the steps to redress the wrongs, the crisis might consume all political players,' he said.
Many Nigerians are, however, worried that the PDP is now under the apron string of governors. The question that therefore agitates the minds of many is: How did PDP come to this sorry pass?
Build up to rot
One factor that gave the governors what could pass for the supreme authority in the PDP is the role they played in the selection of members of the party's National Working Committee. It was gathered that while Obasanjo was scheming to ensure that Dr. Sam Egwu, former governor of Ebonyi State, emerged as the national chairman of the party, the governors worked for a different candidate. Sources revealed that the governors were resolved that neither Egwu nor the former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, would become national chairman of the party.
The governors had supported Prince Ogbulafor and delivered him as national chairman. Since the emergence of their man, the governors have left no one in doubt that they wield power, not only in their respective states, but also at PDP national leadership.
George Moghalu, former national publicity secretary of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and now a PDP chieftain, however, sees something wrong in the governors controlling the PDP. He wants the NWC to claim back its authority, saying 'Though the governors played one role, or the other, to put the party leadership in place, the party leadership should be bold enough to thank them for what they have done and while at the same time, separating the powers of the party from the powers of those the party put in place.'
He warns that the party's NWC does not claim back its authority it would discover, sooner than later, that it has become totally irrelevant in the scheme of things.
'There is the need for the party leadership to be more assertive, especially when threats are coming. This is because if you don't do that your authority will be removed from you, unknowingly. Very soon, ministers up and become another power bloc. If you allow such to grow and remain, they will end up consuming the entire party leadership and with that there is no way you can guarantee internal democracy in the party. This will now affect the entire polity. Don't forget that PDP controls 30 states and whatever affects it has spill over effect on the entire nation,' Moghalu submitted.
A Saturday Sun source at PDP national secretariat disclosed that the party's leadership has not lost sight of the fact that governors are getting too overbearing. It said, however, that the NWC is being circumspect in dealing with the situation.
The source said: 'Some of the governors influenced the position taken by the National Assembly on the Yar'Adua/Jonathan debacle; they also instructed the ministers on the position to take. You must be aware that the governors nominated ministers to the federal cabinet. They produced the present leadership at Wadata Plaza and can always move against them. Don't forget that at every national convention, the governors produce the list of delegates that will participate at Eagles Square.
'Again, you must not forget that government is the biggest enterprise in Nigeria now and most of the people you see at the NWC genuflect before these governors for one contract or the other.'
Candidate of the ADC at the governorship election in Anambra, Chief Ralph Okey Nwosu, sees the development in PDP as simply power play.
'It is power play. There is nothing wrong if PDP governors come together to play their own game. National Assembly has its own caucus; there is FEC caucus and the party leaders have their own caucus too. It is okay, as far as real politics is concerned,' he said.
Nwosu added that given a free and fair election in 2011, the PDP governors would be cut to size, as the majority of them would lose their states, especially those who are not doing much, term of socio-economic and political development of their states.
'They are grandstanding, because the presidency is in slumber. Other parties must also wake up. Given a free and fair election, half of them would be swept away. They don't control the people in their states,' he said.
Filling a lull
While some Nigerians are criticising governors, others say they provided the right leadership, especially on the Yar'Adua health matter. Those in the latter group said that the PDP leadership lost its voice, and therefore there was the need for someone to fill the vacuum.
PDP governorship candidate in Osun State, Otunba Tunde Odanye, told Saturday Sun that the governors deserve accolades, not vilifications for the role they have been playing.
'Anytime there is crisis or a lull that appears to be an inertia, it is usually people who take initiatives that people respond to. When there is traffic gridlock, it is the person that seizes the initiative that people obey. The man that seizes the leadership initiative is the champion. Basically, the governors must be concerned. I think they are performing a leadership role. They deserve credit for what they have been able to achieve, regarding the acting president's take over of the mantle of leadership,' Odanye told Saturday Sun.
Director General, Governors Forum, Mr. Okauru, while acknowledging the fact that the PDP governors are in the majority, told Saturday Sun that whatever resolution taken at the governors' meeting, is anchored on national interest.
'I acknowledge the fact that PDP governors are in the majority, but the position of the 36 states governors on every crucial issue is always guided by national interest. It is not a PDP assembly,' Okauru said.
The emergence of Governors Forum
The Governors Forum, at inception, was conceived by serving governors, to deliberate on national issues and take positions, irrespective of the political divide. Its existence predated the Umar Yar'Adua administration. As the governors made Nigerians believe, it exists to articulate, harmonise and galvanise support for positions taken by chief executives of states on national issues.
Not losing sight of the overbearing influence of the immediate past president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and his grip on the PDP leadership, under Dr Amadu Ali, the PDP governors often made a recourse to the Governors Forum to pass judgment on development within the polity, since it is a body for all serving governors, irrespective of party platforms.
Under Obasanjo, the Governors Forum's major concern was how to ensure vigilance and curtail Obasanjo's threat to the practice of fiscal federalism in the amalgam called Nigeria.