OGBULAFOR'S MANY SINS
For Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, the vote of confidence passed on him at the 50th meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have served as a breather, albeit temporary.
Trouble was believed to have started for Ogbulafor owing to what other stakeholders within the party perceived as his deliberate attempt to completely hand over the structures of the party to the governors and alienating other functionaries and key leaders of the party.
At the emergence of the embattled PDP National Chairman, he was initially seen as someone that was to bring his experience to bear having served as National Secretary of the party under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. This is in spite of the fact that he was unceremoniously booted out of office to pave way for the emergence of the Col. Ahmadu Ali led National executive Committee of the party.
His emergence was believed to have been at the behest of the PDP governors who convinced President Umaru Yar'Adua on the need to go for a neutral candidate to avoid the factionalisation of the party along the two forefront Chairmanship candidates namely former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim and former Governor of Ebonyi State, Dr. Sam Egwu who were being sponsored by different forces and camps within the party.
Ogbulafor according to party observers started on a good note with his setting up of the Dr. Alex Ekwueme reconciliation Committee aimed to create the needed harmony and unity of purpose required to propel a party as big as the PDP. His move attracted a lot of commendation from people within and outside the party.
However, as soon as the report of the Ekwueme committee was presented to the leadership of the party, Ogbulafor was now seen by the same people that initially praised his foresight as adopting a chameleon approach to the implementation of the report.
It was the noticeable unstable decisions of the leadership of the party that was believed to have made ailing President Yar'Adua to have shunned him. Prince Ogbulafor was reportedly being denied access to Yar'Adua ostensibly on instruction at that time.
The situation started degenerating from bad to worse with the defection of two governors hitherto on the platform of the All Nigeria People Party (ANPP) namely Mahmud Ahmed Shinkafi of Zamfara state and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State (both sons in-law to President Yar'Adua). The embattled PDP boss was alleged to have single handedly and without recourse to the provisions of the PDP constitution dissolved the duly elected State Executive Committee of the PDP in the two States owing to what was described as an agreement he secretly reached with the two governors. The dissolution of the PDP State Executive was vehemently opposed by members of the State executive who threatened to go to court to upturn such an unconstitutional act.
While the development in Zamfara and Bauchi States were yet to simmer down, Ogbulafor again proceeded to Owerri, the Imo State capital to receive into the party Governor Ikedi Ohakim who defected from the Progressive People Alliance (PPA) under which platform he got the ticket in 2007 to contest election that eventually got him to government. At the rally to welcome Ohakim, the embattled PDP chairman again to the chagrin of other leaders of the party announced the immediate dissolution of the Imo State PDP Executive and the constitution of a Caretaker Committee made up of the list allegedly presented to him by Ohakim without reference to the constitution and other organs of the party.
Prince Ogbulafor did not just end at the dissolution of the party executive but went ahead to announce the consolidation of leadership of the PDP in Imo State on the shoulders of Ohakim, a development that took many other party leaders in the state by surprise. Many questioned the rationale behind the decision considering that Ohakim was just returning to the party.
However, two days after the National leadership returned from Owerri, a member of the Board of Trustees of the party and former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani wrote Ogbulafor in a letter dated July 30, 2009 accusing the PDP boss for taking unilateral decision in the dissolution of the party executive in Imo.
He had said that the PDP National chairman needs no one to remind him that the constitution of the party did not authorize anyone to dissolve an elected state executive whose status is so secured in a state congress that elected them for a tenured position except the National Executive Council (NEC) being the highest policy and lawmaking organ of the party suspends or dissolves the State Executive Council for good cause and for not more than three months.
Accordingly, Nnamani referred Ogbulafor to Article 12.72 (e) of the PDP constitution 2006 as amended which states; 'The National Executive Council shall where necessary, suspend or dissolve a State Executive Council and such suspension or dissolution of a State Executive at the State level'. Nnamani therefore stressed that apart from the article, there is no other provision relating to the dissolution or suspension of elected officers of the party adding that as a regular member of the Board of Trustees and the National Executive Committee of the PDP, he knew for sure that the two advisory and policymaking bodies respectively did not meet at any time to consider any allegation against the State executive Council in Imo State just as the bodies did not take any decision or offer any advice.
The former Senate President described the dissolution as a gross violation of the of the constitution of the PDP and amounted to fragrant abuse of the powers of the National chairman saying that the actions of Ogbulafor have completely destroyed the credibility of his commitment to internal democracy just as it has further destroyed the reputation of the party as well as reinforced the general perception that the party is irredeemable from its lawless ways.
As if that was not enough, the embattled National Chairman was believed to have put so much interest in party matters even at the Local Government levels thereby denying the state officers from carrying out their responsibilities. An example was the recent case of the FCT Area Council election during which he was believed to have rejected the list of candidates that won the party primaries and personally substituted them with other names. The court eventually upturned his decision.
Prince Ogbulafor was believed to have not bothered relating with the Acting President when he was still Vice President even on matters in which he (Jonathan) was directly superintending over.
It was this perceived attitude of his that led to his not relating with Dr. Jonathan even when it became obvious that President Yar'Adua was critically ill and was likely not going to be in a position to resume office in the near distant future. It was Ogbulafor who was not known to easily grant media interview that quickly announced to the world that the presidency remained zoned to the North giving the impression that Jonathan was not qualified to contest the PDP presidential primaries.
Political watchers believe that the statement credited to Ogbulafor was not only politically naive but a tactical blunder as he was expected in his position as National Chairman to have been vast with the rules of the game since even gamblers know what to throw and what to keep at critical moments.
It was further gathered that on one of the rare occasions when Ogbulafor went to meet with the Acting President, at a point he got a call from one of the governors and right in front of his host, he was shivering while answering the call by constantly answering 'sir' all through the conversation. Immediately the Acting president realized that it was a governor he was speaking with, he felt disappointed and had to excuse himself and from then knew that there must be more to it for a National Chairman of the Party to be so subservient to a governor.
It was not long for the government to dust up some files on Ogbulafor for his early exit from his exalted position as National chairman of the party as some of the members of the Board of Trustees and National Executive Council believe that he may have over compromised himself with the governors beyond the fact that they were responsible for his emergence.
Rather than attempt to proffer explanation on the issues being raised, Ogbulafor went for the big stick in dealing with the matter by describing members of the Reform Group as people who have found a new past time holding meetings and spreading falsehood about his person and that of the National Working Committee in the bid to destabilize the PDP family.
Ogbulafor in trying to convince and win the sympathy of the PDP NEC members said that he is innocent of the allegations in his alleged involvement in the N104 million contract fraud for which the ICPC has dragged him to court.
According to Ogbulafor; 'I was a Minister of Economic Matters in the Presidency while the National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) was an agency of government in the Presidency. It had a Chairman and Committee members. I was not a member of the Committee. I never attended their meetings. Moreso, decisions were solely made by them.
'My role was limited to accompanying them to the Presidency to present the reports of the committee. I know that these allegations are politically motivated, and I am absolutely sure that justice will be done, and I will be vindicated'.
Meanwhile, it was further gathered that as part of the new vision for the party as was negotiated to allow for the holding of the NEC meeting of the PDP on Tuesday, the application of the zoning formula which Ogbulafor had earlier drummed may be discarded before the 2011 general elections.
It was gathered that Ogbulafor has started consultation with the governors and other stakeholders of the party to accept the proposed change as part of his own soft landing as he is aware that the ICPC has further tightened the noose around him with the alleged return of some money by two of his accomplices that may be used as principal witnesses against him. This is in addition to the pressure brought to bear on the National Working Committee of the party by those who feel strongly that with the way the party is being run under the control of the governors, it might only be a matter of time to get it killed and buried.
If the proposed cancellation of zoning arrangement of the party scales through, the political hurdle put in the way of Acting President Jonathan to contest 2011 Presidential election would be over. It was however not clear how the North that is insisting that it still has four years to complete its eight years Presidency would accept it.
Acting President Jonathan alluded to this on Tuesday during the PDP NEC meeting when he said that anybody can run for the office of the President irrespective of the zone he comes from stressing that there is nothing wrong for people to have ambition even as he cautioned against the destabilization of the unity of the party in the process.