By NBF News
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Those who believe the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ship will sail smoothly into a victorious harbour in 2011 predicate their conviction  on the assumption that the ruling party has been able to decimate virtually all opposition parties in the polity.

The ANPP is a shadow of itself, its ranks riddled with bullets of defection, it's serving senators  and  governors deserting the troubled ship. The AC, which has a semblance of a national party, has been reduced to a regional group, no thanks to the exit of the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his backslide movement to the PDP along with his followers.

It is however unlikely that the PDP would have an easy ride in 2011; not because the opposition parties have become more organized, or have any ace up their sleeves to unseat the PDP .

Sunday Sun can authoritatively reveal that the battle for the soul of the party that prides itself as the largest political platform in Africa by the gladiators within its rank   may be its undoing. Findings revealed that  two major power blocs are now central to the unnerving contest  to control the party .

On the one hand are the PDP Governors which at the last convention of the party ensured the emergence of the existing members of the party's National Working Committee. On the other hand is the PDP Reform Forum, PRF, a new movement trying to upturn the status quo. The PRF is of the opinion that  the present  leadership of the party has deviated from the ideals of the founders of  PDP.

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu  Bello Maisari is one of those in the  vanguard of  the new platform which also parades stalwarts like former Senate Presidents, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani; former gubernatorial candidates of the party in Imo and Abia states, respectively, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Onyema Ugochukwu  . It also has former governor of Rivers State and presidential aspirant , Dr Peter Odili in its fold.

In a recent advertisement signed by former Speaker, House of Representatives, Honorable Aminu Masari, the objectives of the movement is four -pronged: “ to return to the founding fathers' ideals ; seek to re-engineer the party to make it more people oriented ; be more creative in the generation of party funds. Lastly, ensure internal democracy as enshrined in free and fair primaries within the party.“

Discerning Nigerians are, however, of  the view that what is at the heart of the present agitation to unseat Ogbulafor led  NWC goes beyond the normative values being bandied by the Masari group - the battle is for relevance in 2011 .

Why governors will not let go

Though beleaguered Vincent Ogbulafor may not enjoy the support of the  national vice chairmen of the party across the six geo- political zones who often accuse him of usurping their responsibilities, he enjoys tremendous support of the  governors of the  28 PDP-controlled states and virtually all  the  36 state chairmen  of the party.

During the week, the state chairmen under the platform of the Conference of  PDP states chairmen paid a solidarity visit to Ogbulafor at the party national secretariat. The governors support for the present National Working Committee that the Reform Forum wants to unseat is not doing it for any altruistic motive, but to sustain their relevance and ensure second term tickets for some of them who are seeking re-election; that can only be guaranteed by the present team at Wadata Plaza.

At the last PDP convention, it was the concerted efforts of the PDP governors that ensured that Sam Egwu, the favored candidate of the former president and the chairman of the party Board of Trustees, Olusegun Obasanjo did not emerge as the party national chairman. Both Sam Egwu, former Ebonyi governor and the former Senate President , Anyim Pius Anyim lost out in the arrangement thrown up by the serving PDP governors .

With Ogbulafor`s emergence, it was payback time for the governors  and they virtually took control at Wadata  Plaza. During the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, the governors complained, loud and clear over the former president's usurpation of the powers and responsibilities of the party's National Working Committee by Obasanjo.

According to a PDP source, at the inception of the administration of the ailing Umaru Yar`Adua, the governors were able to convince him that, for amity to be restored in the party, the president must cease to parade himself as the party leader.

Said the PDP source : “It was a suggestion that Yar`Adua bought and he  gave Ogbulafor the latitude to operate . But while the governors convinced the president to let go his presidential grip on the party national secretariat, they maintained their grip on the party secretariats in their various states and continued to parade themselves as leaders of the party in their respective states. “ The source lamented.

Why Jonathan moved in
While the polarization of the Federal Executive Council into the pro- Jonathan and Yar`Adua camps lasted, it was the initiative  of the  PDP governors  that sold the doctrine of necessity to the National Assembly, resolved the stalemate and offered the mantle of leadership to the then besieged Goodluck Jonathan, to act as acting president.

But just as they took over the control of the party from Ogbulafor, they started dictating to Jonathan on who becomes what in his cabinet.

Sunday Sun findings revealed that  Jonathan  was peeved with the declaration of  Ogbulafor who came out of a meeting with the PDP governors  at Kwara  State Governor`s lodge, Asokoro to proclaim that the  party slot for presidency would remain in the north, until 2015 , thus foreclosing the former's chance to contest the party ticket.

While Jonathan insists that he has nothing to do with the present travails of Ogbulafor and his NWC, he allegedly gave a discreet support to the PDP Reform  Forum, since he sees it as an opportunity to dislodge the governors from Wadata Plaza.

Digging Ogbulafor in
The Independent Corrupt Practices Investigation Commission, [ICPC] has filed a 16- count charge against the national chairman of the PDP and four others over an alleged N114 million fraud. Other accused persons to be arraigned with the PDP national chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor,  are a member of the National Economic Intelligence Committee, Mr Emeka Ebilah ; a former Director, Budget  and Implementation, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr Emmanuel Bosah ; Mr Henry Ikoli and Jude Nwokoro .

The case was investigated in 2001, when Ogbulafor served as Minister for Economic Matters under President Obasanjo and was running for office of national secretary of the party .

Even as the case has become public knowledge, the PDP  governors during the week at their meeting in Asokoro, dismissed the allegation leveled against their man, insisting that it has not been proved . They also called on the party NWC to sanction members of the PDP Reform  Forum for what the governors called anti-party activities. It described the Maisari-led movement as illegal as it is not recognized by the PDP constitution.

The allegation of financial malfeasance is central to the issues being canvassed by the Masari group. .

“The  PDP Reform Forum,“ Masari says, “desires  that persons of proven capability and high integrity shall be elected always to run its  affairs, especially as members of  NWC.'

Speaking further, Masari disclosed that “the Forum believes that the effectiveness of any organization depends on the personalities at the helm of affairs of that organization. The Forum , therefore, prefers that key national officers of the Peoples Democratic Party must be thinking men, people of integrity and people with proven track records of performance.“

Chijioke, Special Adviser on media to the PDP national chairman, however declared that agitation to remove his boss has nothing to do with graft , but power play towards 2011. “We don't want to answer them. This is an issue that has been cleared before. We don't know where you got the 16-count charge from. Look, this is beyond what you see and hear. The whole thing is political. It is a game towards 2011 and you should know this, “Chijioke told Sunday Sun .

A Sunday Sun source revealed that desperate efforts by certain PDP governors to prevail on the acting president to save Ogbulafor has yielded no result as Jonathan had insisted that the law must take its course.

But Ogbulafor`s men are not bemused over Jonathan's stance, as they believe that the PDP chairman has become one of Jonathan/ Obasanjo's marked men to be dealt with for taking side with the ailing Umaru Yar`Adua.

“ The issue here is not corruption. Those who supported Yar`Adua  are now paying for it. Ibori,  former Delta state governor,   Speaker Bankole  and Ogbulafor are Obasanjo's  marked men and he has instructed Jonathan to deal with them,“ an Ogbulafor sympathizer told Sunday Sun.

Masari, Nnamani,  Ararume, as Obasanjo`s  lackey ?

Allegation that the PDP Reform  Forum is doing the bidding of the former president, Olusegun  Obasanjo however leaves many PDP members confused. Can, the former Senate Presidents, Ken Nnamani and Adolphus Wabara  be  running errands for Obasanjo considering the raw deals they had under his administration ?  It was the same Obasanjo who ensured that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Masari never got the PDP gubernatorial ticket in his home state of  Katsina. It was the former president who also denied Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and former governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, their individual dreams of ruling Imo state and Nigeria, respectively..

The motive of the Reform Forum and individuals behind it will, however,  become manifest as the raw contest for the soul of PDP and the strategies of the contending groups take shape.