PDP Chairmanship: Jonathan anoints Kawu Baraje; Jubril Aminu, Gambo Lawan, Bamanga Tukur, others, draw Daggers
Nigerians might not yet know it as a fact, but it appears President Goodluck Jonathan is not the kind of president who shuns political controversy and hot-button issues. Indeed, the President is said to even go out courting controversy. After unnecessarily heating the polity with his so-called single mandate project, the president has planted the seeds of an open warfare in the North East zone where a fierce battle is currently underway over the chairmanship of the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP).
In this battle for succession, Huhuonline.com understands that at the last NEC meeting, President Jonathan 'for the sake of peace' threw his weight behind the current acting PDP chairman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje. But other postulants to the post have pulled punches and vowed to challenge the President's choice, arguing that the decision as to who succeeds Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed (appointed Defence Minister) should be left to the North East where the position has been zoned by the leadership of the party to decide.
'I think the President's decision to take sides in what is apparently an internal North East affair is inconsistent with the practice of democracy and contrary to the spirit of fair play in the PDP,' said a close aide to Alhaji Gambo Lawan, who had made public his intention to take over the chairmanship. The aide who elected anonymity for obvious reasons insisted that Gambo Lawan was the best candidate for the job owing to his young age. 'Although the old brigade have the constitutional right to aspire to the position of chairman, the time has come in the life of the party for a generational change, if the party must position itself to confront 21st century challenges. Young men are ruling all over the world; the PDP cannot be an exception, the young must be allowed to grow.'
Among prominent PDP members from the North-East, who have lined up to succeed Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed as the eighth PDP chairman includes: Dr. Shettima Mustapha, Ambassador Idris Waziri, Ambassador Hassan Adamu, Senator Jubril Aminu, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and PDP acting National Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo. The post of the Chairman of the ruling PDP is a highly revered one. Apart from having unhindered access to Nigeria's President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and the seat of power, he also has influence on all the governors elected on the platform of the party.
With a fleet of exotic cars, and a retinue of aides including five advisers, the chairman of the PDP also goes about with seven riot policemen and a sizeable number of detectives from the SSS - State Security Service. Anyone who doubts the powers of the PDP chairman should look at the PDP constitution. The chairman summons and presides over the meetings of the national convention, the National Executive Committee, the National Caucus and the National Working Committee (NWC). He also provides effective leadership and directs the activities of the party under the overall supervision of the NEC.
Undoubtedly, every NWC member is equally important. Huhuonline.com has learnt that apart from the chairman, other NWC members are said to be equivalent to federal ministers. They have their official jeeps and also collect monthly salaries equivalent to that of a minister. Predictably, the chairman does not come out of office a poor man, especially if he had the fortune of being in office in an election year. Apart from this, some are also made ministers, like the former chairman, Dr. Haliru Mohammed, who now calls the shots at the Defence Ministry. This explains why the contestants will do almost anything to get the seat because of the perks attached to it.
Asked why the chairmanship position is so much envied even by business and political gladiators like Bamanga Tukur and Sen. Jubril Aminu, a source at the PDP headquarters in Wadata House told Huhuonline.com that barely hours after the former chair, Dr. Haliru Bello, handed over to Kawu Baraje, then permanent secretary in the Kwara State civil service, the aura around Baraje changed. Baraje, who hitherto was without a police detail attached to him, became unreachable as the security operatives swiftly moved to give him protection expected of the man presiding over the largest party in Africa.
But some of the postulants are not just up against the President; they still have to overcome objections from their own backyard. The PDP Governor of Adamawa State, Governor Murtala Nyako has come out openly to say the party would block the efforts being made by Sen. Jubril Aminu, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Ambassador Hassan Adamu to become chairman. This move by Governor Nyako and the state party leadership which he firmly controls has heightened tension in the local PDP. The Senior Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Governor, Mr. Aminu Iyawa, said that the state government and party would frustrate the efforts of the three contestants because they did not work for the PDP during the last general elections in the state.
Iyawa said, 'As far as the government and the Adamawa PDP are concerned, we will work against attempts to give the position of the National Chairman of the PDP to Aminu, Tukur or Adamu. Our reasons for taking this decision are simple. The trio never worked nor identified with the PDP before we achieved the victory in the presidential, national and state assembly elections last April.' He further accused the aspirants of staying put in Abuja instead of joining forces with other party members to ensure that the PDP excelled in the elections, adding that the government and the state chapter of the party would prefer someone, who worked tirelessly for the party in the last elections.
Political analysts told Huhuonline.com that such bickering is the purveyor for controversy and scandal by whomever eventually emerges PDP chairman as the majority of ex-chairmen are forced to cut deals that usually got them stuck to some special interests or enmeshed in one controversy or the other. From the days of the first chairman, Chief Solomon Lar, to Okwesilieze Nwodo, the position of the chairman of the party has always been a searing one as revealed by the turbulent tenures of Senator Barnabas Gemade, Chief Audu Ogbe, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo.
Of all these men, only Ali left the office on his volition, but not without a scar as his attempt to make his wife a senator on the platform of the party was truncated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in connivance with the then Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori. Ogbulafor on the other hand, is still keeping dates with the court where he is facing a corruption charge. Nwodo, who was the previous casualty, was asked to leave when he attempted to reform the party. Within three years, the PDP has had three national chairmen. The question on the lips of many is if the incoming chairman will be able to succeed where his predecessors failed.