Nwodo's resignation: The untold story
It is no more news that last week, precisely on Tuesday, the immediate past chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo succumbed to pressure and resigned his appointment. The full details of what was obviously a forced resignation would for a long time remain the figment of the people's imagination.
Even though the media has been awash with sundry reasons for his resignation, many are yet to understand the political undercurrents that led to his removal unceremoniously.
However, for those who are conversant with the game, the travails of the former governor of Enugu State has once again proved that in the slippery turf of the nation's politics, 'it is the more you look, the less, you see'.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, his removal came as a surprise considering that he contributed immensely to the successful conduct of the primaries of the ruling party and emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan. In fact, for many, Nwodo literally became Moses in the Bible who despite his effort and contribution to liberate the Israelites from captivity in Egypt was excluded from seeing the long awaited Promise land.
However, for those who understand the fluidity and dynamism of the art of politics, what happened to Nwodo is normal because actors in such chess games do not usually bother about sentiment, morality or conventional logic. A great thinker, Ambrose Bierce in 'The Devil's Dictionary', was unequivocal that politics is nothing but 'a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage'.
So, as it is, politics the world over, is not a tea party and all the actors are like people swimming against the tide with concomitant challenges. But the question now is: Are there lessons to learn from Nwodo's resignation? Many would agree that there are.
Understanding President Jonathan
With Nwodo's removal, many would begin to liken President Jonathan to Pontius Pilate who rather than pull his weight behind Jesus to save Him during His persecution, merely washed his hands off the fate of Christ. Prior to the change of guard at the Wadatta plaza, not a few expected that the president would save Nwodo from those who plotted his fall.
Even though part of the insinuations that led to the removal of the former Enugu State governor is that he supported the candidature of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, analysts believe there was no truth in such allegation as it was clear to many that Nwodo was largely instrumental to the success of President Jonathan at the recent primaries of his party. For those who argue from the point of morality and conscience, Jonathan was supposed to have given the former chairman a shoulder to lean on when it mattered most.
But in politics, it is the end that justifies the means, hence, the president was quick to describe Nwodo's resignation as a good development to the party. His words, 'the party is working very hard to move forward and part of the necessary rituals was the sacrifice of the PDP National Chairman who had to resign his appointment. 'In every society, there are certain norms and when you observe certain aberrations, you must adjust the system. Every human system operates that way.
Just like any society, we have encountered problems and we are adjusting and there is nothing odd about it. Nwodo is still a senior member of the PDP but because of certain circumstances, we feel there are too many litigations and the party is tired of these litigations. That is why he has to step aside so that the party can manage its affairs. 'Note that at this critical period that we are to submit names of candidates to INEC that we have to be dragged into multiple litigations. We have a lot of respect for him and we always will so that he can do his work as a senior member of the party'.
But the lesson in all of this is captured by the former American President, Bill Clinton in a speech at Campus Progress National Student Conference on July 13, 2005. He said that, 'people really don't care if politicians attack one another with untrue stories. They figure if you don't want to get hurt, you shouldn't have filed for office'.
PDP: Can a leopard change its spot?
Since 1999 when democracy was reintroduced in Nigeria, the party has been a hotbed of intrigues and the seat of its chairman has literally become a consuming fire. So far, none of its past occupants left the seat without bruises. Ask Solomon Lar, Bernabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh, Ahmadu Ali, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor and now Nwodo.
Apart from Ahmadu Ali who left the seat after the 2007 general election, others were literally chased out of the seat. The most dramatic was during the tenure of Audu Ogbeh when the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo disagreed with him over subtle reforms that the former chairman wanted to introduce. On a day Ogbeh and Obasanjo were reconciled, the former chairman never suspected that the then president had another plan.
At the venue of the reconciliation meeting, Obasanjo was said to have told Ogbeh to call his wife to prepare pounded yam for them (Ogbeh and Obasanjo). The former president was said to have rode with Ogbeh in the same car to his house and they had the meal of pounded yam together and he (Obasanjo) thanked Ogbeh's wife for the sumptuous meal. The coup was yet to come. Not quite one hour after the kangaroo reconciliation, Ogbeh was summoned to Aso Villa and was given a letter and ordered to sign his resignation.
Another chairman that shared a similar fate with Ogbeh was Prince Vincent Ogbulafor. His sin: He supported the zoning arrangement of the PDP.
When his loyalty for President Jonathan's ambition was not assured, his file over corruption was dusted and sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and he is facing charges of corruption to this day.
So, for those who have been following the trend of events in PDP, Nwodo's removal did not come as a surprise. It is has become an inherent character of the PDP. To hold such a sensitive seat like that of the chairman in the party, one must be ready for the worst.
Enugu: The victor and vanquished
Writing in 'The Prince', Machiavelli states that 'Men must either be caressed or else annihilated; they will revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for great ones; the injury therefore that we do to a man must be such that we need not fear his vengeance.' The above certainly captures the mood in the camp of Governor Chime and his supporters but for Nwodo and his supporters, the change of guard at Wadatta plaza was a blow to their political fortunes.
For the camp of Chime, it came as a relief and in fact, the development called for celebration and many indeed popped champagne for the downfall of the former PDP chairman. Of course, anybody who is in Chime's camp especially those who lost their seats in the recent primaries in the state would be happy. It is stating the obvious that Chime and members of his camp eventually became the victors in the battle.
But for Nwodo, members of his camp and an average Nsukka man, it was a monumental loss.
Many believe that the former PDP chairman was on the side of the people by fighting to open the political space in the state. Though Chime is perceived as having done well in his first tenure but the majority is not comfortable with his automatic ticket policy to all the National and State Assembly members from Enugu. Political observers argue that over 80 per cent of the law makers are 'political liabilities' who cannot win elections even in their extended families.
It was little wonder that many had supported Nwodo's move for a process that would remove some of the lawmakers who obviously are enemies of the people they represent. Many insist that Nwodo lost his seat fighting the cause of people of Enugu North and the state as a whole. The calculation is that Nwodo's exit might not be felt in Enugu West and Enugu East but that cannot be said of people of Nsukka zone who regard his position on the automatic policy as a popular one.
Many argue that if the election is going to be free and fair, virtually all the law makers from Nsukka zone would be voted out. In the estimation of critical observers, only through rigging can such people come back to power. But the consensus is that the battle between Chime and Nwodo is not completely over as fielding some of the very unpopular candidates to represent the people in the next election would be resisted in the form of protest votes.
Of course, the second term ambition of Chime is not in contention because he has done well but the calculation of the majority is that he should not continue with a crop of politicians that obviously work for themselves and against the collective interest of the people.
Part of the expectations by analysts is that having worked hard for the emergence of Jonathan in the PDP, the President and indeed the party hierarchy should accommodate the interest of Nwodo and validate the primaries he held in his Nsukka senatorial zone before his removal as only that would stop those who emerged in the exercise from bombarding the party with litigations.
So, the unfolding events after the exit of Nwodo from the Wadata Plaza, would go a long way to determine whether peace would return to the PDP in Enugu State or not before the forthcoming elections.
It will be recalled that two months after Nwodo emerged as the PDP boss, his relationship with the governor became strained. The bone of contention was the party structure in the state. While Nwodo wanted the political space in the state to be opened, Chime believed that as the Chief Executive of the state, he did not have to share the PDP structure in Enugu with anybody.
It was gathered that initially, Governor Chime saw nothing wrong in welcoming Nwodo back to the PDP fold but his loyalists were not comfortable as they were said to have raised an alarm that going by his antecedents, he could be overbearing, more so as he is perceived to have more experience and exposure than the governor. A source revealed that it was against that backdrop that the governor developed cold feet in supporting the emergence of Nwodo as the chairman of the PDP until President Jonathan waded in and told the governor to back the former PDP chairman.
Governor Chime's reluctance was so strong that the issuance of party card to Nwodo became an issue. As part of the strategies to frustrate the former chairman, the leadership of the Enugu State chapter of the PDP, led by Vita Abba alleged that Nwodo was exploiting his position as the party helmsman to undo them.
The former chairman was quoted as saying that he began to foresee trouble when he could not be registered as a member of the PDP in his Ukehe Ward immediately he returned to the PDP fold, even when he briefed his home state governor, Chime on the sad development.
The battle between Nwodo and the governor escalated when the Enugu chapter of the party was dissolved and Chime's loyalists fought back from several fronts including parading a mock coffin of the former chairman.
The more you look, the less you see
The new dimension added to what led to the removal of Nwodo as the PDP National chairman was that he was fraternizing with the former Vice President and rival in the recent primaries, Atiku Abubakar. Since the information was released to the media, a lot of questions have come up. One, in a developing country like Nigeria where the power of incumbency is overwhelming, is Nwodo so naÃ¯ve politically not to know the implication of supporting Atiku?
What could he have achieved by supporting Atiku? Did he not know the role President Jonathan played before he emerged as the chairman of the party? The questions are endless.
Analysts argue that it is merely to divert attention from the substance that power brokers behind the plot want people to believe that Nwodo was removed for secretly supporting Atiku. Many believe that it will take a long time before the full details of his removal would come to the public domain. And trust Atiku, he immediately rejected insinuations that he had a hand in the chains of events that led to the forced resignation of Nwodo.
A statement by his Campaign Organisation said the former Vice President couldnot have been responsible for Nwodo's downfall when he (Atiku) himself was a direct victim of what he described as the former Chairman's insincerity, double standard, opportunism, selfishness and mischief. 'The erstwhile Chairman delivered the convention to the President but they still went on baying for his blood. That tells you there was more to it than the eye could see. Someone wants blood and you give him palm oil. Does that satisfy him?' the statement contended.
Atiku recalled that a few weeks to the PDP Convention, the former PDP Chairman did everything to frustrate his presidential ambition by making impossible a meeting intended to discuss the modalities of how the January 15, 2011 convention was to hold. He alleged that Nwodo did not agree to meet or even answer his phone calls for two months before the election. According to Atiku, Nwodo frustrated every meeting his campaign organization had requested to discuss serious issues that border on free and fair election, especially the need to create a level-playing ground in which no delegate would feel constrained or intimidated to choose their preferred candidate.
South East as scapegoat
The geo-political zone has, over the years, remained the weeping child of the nation's turbulent political development. Since 1999, the zone undoubtedly has not had a fair share of the democratic evolution in Nigeria. All the positions zoned to the South East have always been subjected to one kind of ridicule or the other. It started with Evans Enwerem as the Senate President. Barely one year in office, the former governor of Imo State was disgraced out of office and substituted with his kinsman, late Dr Chuba Okadigbo who at inception, was the popular choice of members of the Senate.
It did not take long before Enwerem's fate befell him and he was impeached with corruption charges placed on him. Many who followed political developments then would recall that he was removed for daring the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo who then was having a running battle with the National Assembly. Okadigbo was an unrepentant advocate of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary while Obasanjo coming from a military background was averse to that theory.
Okadigbo eventually fell a day after his official residence was opened with Obasanjo in attendance. He was oblivious of a plot already waiting for him and the former president had in his characteristic manner told him that his wife must give birth to another child in his then Apo Villa residence. The next day, he was impeached and replaced with Anyim Pius Anyim. So, between 1999 and 2003, power changed hands among Igbo brothers at the Senate three times.
Between 2003 to 2007, the situation continued but happened only two times. The first Senate President in that dispensation was Ebere Wabara and he was also removed unceremoniously with a stain of corruption on him. He was replaced by Chief Ken Nnamani who like Anyim did fairly well without blemish.
That bug which was in the seat of the Senate President when it was zoned to the South East has also caught the Chairmanship seat of the PDP which was zoned to the East in 2007.
When Prince Ogbulafor emerged, many had thought that based on his experience as a former secretary of the party that he was going to have a smooth run in office. It was never to be as he left the office badly bruised. But that he left was not the issue. What surprised many was that a fellow South Easterner, Ken Nnamani leading a group which wanted reform in the PDP fought Ogbulafor to a standstill and made sure he was removed from office.
When Ogbulafor left and was replaced by Nwodo, who also was a former secretary of the party, many hoped that he would be able to swim through the murky politics inherent in the seat of the PDP chairman. Like Ogbulafor, Nwodo has also been literally chased out of the hot seat. It is interesting to note that his kinsmen were the architects of the plot that removed him. In fact, the South East wing of the PDP passed a vote of no confidence in him and asked for his resignation.
Before Nwodo's sack, the South East Zonal Executive Committee at its meeting in Enugu had asked the National Working Committee (NWC) to sack Nwodo from his position if he refused to resign. They alleged that Nwodo's conduct at the PDP Special convention in Abuja almost voided the exercise following a court injunction that had barred him from parading himself as party chairman.
At the meeting were Sullivan Chime, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Governor of Imo, Mrs. Ada Okwuonu and Ebonyi State Deputy Governor, Dr. Chigozie Ogbu. Others were Senate Spokesman, Ayogu Eze, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha and other stakeholders. A communiquÃ© issued after the meeting signed by the Zonal Secretary of the party, Mr. Vincent Okpalaeke states:
'Having reviewed developments within the PDP, especially as it affects the South East geo-political zone the South East Zonal Committee of the party resolved as follows: 'To congratulate the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan on his overwhelming victory as the presidential flag-bearer at the PDP special convention;
'To restate our overwhelming endorsement of his candidacy and our firm belief that he and the Vice President, His Excellency, Architect Namadi Sambo possess the experience, education and sufficient knowledge of Nigeria's problems to be able to pilot the country to the next level of her development
'To commend the President for his exemplary conduct throughout the period of the campaigns, even in the face of glaring acts of provocation and to urge him to sustain this laudable leadership quality even as the country is set to elect him president during the general elections in April
'To condemn without reservation the ignoble conduct of the suspended National Chairman of our party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, who by flagrantly disregarding the party's constitution, disobeying a valid court order by showing up at the special convention and lying to the convention that the order had been vacated, brought shame and embarrassment to the party and therefore us, his kinsmen and women
'To apologise to the country for this calamitous behavior of Dr. Nwodo in deliberately and willfully attempting to void the special convention by not only showing up but forcibly taking over the officiating at the convention before he was overpowered and subdued
'That we hereby pass a vote of no confidence on Dr. Nwodo and ask him to resign his chairmanship of the party, and that if he fails, the National Executive Committee of our party should expel him from the party.
'To appeal to the teeming members of our party all over the country who have deserted the party, especially National Assembly members and party stalwarts in Oyo, Osun, Plateau, Anambra, Adamawa and other states, since Dr. Nwodo unleashed his high- handedness on nearly every state chapter of the party, seeking to hand-pick candidates without going through the process of primaries to return to the party
'To support the Acting National Chairman of our party, Alhaji Dr. Mohammed Haliru llo to run the party, pending the emergence of a chairman of South East extraction acceptable to party members within the zone, to finish Dr. Nwodo's remaining period in office.'