PDP's War Towards 2007


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PDP’s War Towards 2007



Duro Onabule



March 10, 2006


His military background makes it predictable and expected. But added to these, the advantage of a sitting president, (self?) induced ambition and power drunkenness make Obasanjo’s war machine the most formidable, the most intimidating, seemingly invincible and yet most intriguing in the battle for succession in 2007.

This should not be a surprise because no enemy in a war ever makes his intention clear especially on where and when to strike. For example, even before he was sworn in 1999, reliable information now confirmed by current events, was that Obasanjo set in motion plans to rule rather than serve beyond not just one term but even beyond two terms.

However, he held his card to his chest. Hence, vice president Atiku Abubakar either innocently or to pressure Obasanjo into honouring the one-term agreement, embarked on his election plans to succeed Obasanjo. There might not be much to criticise Obasanjo in insisting on two terms since even if that was in breach of an earlier agreement to run for a single term, he (Obasanjo) could still find refuge in the right of an elected president to two terms under the constitution.

Despite this convenient constitutional right of Obasanjo, the possible reaction of vice-president Abubakar was sounded out the military way and totally unknown to him. Some of the state governors with long-standing reputation as security informants feigned commitment and loyalty to him (Abubakar) and pushed the poor man to nearly challenging Obasanjo for the PDP presidential ticket for the second term.

Through these state governors, Obasanjo was therefore in a good position to realise the loyalty or disloyalty of his deputy.
What was meant to be a test of loyalty or disloyally of Vice president Ababukar was still employed to boost his ego as having the upper hand especially when he (Abubakar) directed some state governors to take their feigned grievances against Obasanjo to the man face to face. Obasanjo, for all his political mightiness, went to the vice-president’s house almost on his knees to sue for peace.

Obasanjo? A soldier and a full General at that? Professing personal guilt and promising reconciliation with a bloody civilian already established to be after his job?
Ordinarily, after securing Vice President Abubakar’s support for the presidential ticket for the second term, political tempers should have cooled down to a comfortable temperature. On the contrary, hardly had Obasanjo settled down in office for the second term than he commenced “military action” against Vice-President Abubakar noticeably against normal war tactics.

The first was the occasional snipings at the Vice-President’s office in the intermittent removal of Atiku Abubakar’s personal staff including special assistants, special advisers even without informing him or despite his (Vice President’s) intervention/plea on behalf of the humiliated staff. To rebuff public concern, Obasanjo responded that only he as President has the power to appoint and remove anybody (except perhaps the Vice-President) in the presidency.

Assessing his progress, Obasanjo became more confident to raise the level of military operations to the level of artillery shelling of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s position. Even if the Vice-president still felt safe in his bunker, his foot soldiers would have none of Obasanjo’s aggression. Atiku Abubakar’s staff, so well quoted but usually unidentified in the media planted information that Obasanjo, as in 1999, was politically baseless and non-existent but for Atiku Abubakar’s Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) whose structures solely, according to them, delivered the presidency to Obasanjo.

Therefore, according to Vice-President Abubakar’s men, Obasanjo is an ingrate which, by the way, the man himself occasionally behaves to type. It was a direct hit but not surprisingly intensified the shellings from Obasanjo’s sector. Obasanjo’s reaction thereafter and till now is natural. Without ever saying so publicly, it is something like “I see. The Vice president’s PDM made me the president in 1999? Then he should make it easier to use the same PDM to make himself (Atiku Abubakar) the next president.”

In fact, the vice president’s henchmen’s derisory portrait of Obasanjo as politically baseless in 1999 was the major reason he (Obasanjo) massacred Alliance for Democracy out of power virtually throughout South Western states in 2003. Reports of the claim of a President without political home base had been reaching Obasanjo before the 2003 elections.

The major thrust of the present battle against Atiku Abubakar is to expose him (not entirely rightly) that as was in 1999, so it is now – the PDM was already a collapsed structure not well placed to deliver the Presidency even to Atiku Abubakar himself.

Another grouse of Obasanjo was that Atiku Abubakar was already an elected state governor of Adamawa in 1999 but was invited to be Obasanjo’s running mate. In doing so, Obasanjo broke a seeming religious faith with ex-Kano State governor, Abubakar Rimi. Whatever his political modesty, vice-president Atiku Abubakar soon realised the enormity of the powers of the president especially on the much trumpeted agreement.

Also, the conventional arrangement of state governors reporting to the vice-president also gave Atiku Abubakar the false sense of political strength in the states through the governors. All those governors have since rendered him derelict by dancing round Obasanjo on the third term intention. Atiku Abubakar must be wondering about the nature of fellow Nigerians.

Whether Obasanjo carries out his ill-advised third term intention, whether he is stopped by Atiku Abubakar in that bid or another person entirely benefits from the irreconcilable political differences of the president and vice-president, there is bound to be a change in the idea of governors reporting to a vice-president as both will not take the chance again.

In 1991, the political difference between the Jakande and Yar’Ardua groups which respectively nominated Professor Femi Agbalajobi (now deceased) and Yomi Edu on the platform of Social Democratic Party created the lucky opportunity for Sir Michael Otedola to win the governorship race in Lagos State, on the platform of rival National Republican Convention.
Throughout the military era, state military governors were reporting to the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters or the Chief of General Staff as the case was.

The abandonment of Atiku Abubakar by the state governors despite their erstwhile support for the poor man to confront Obasanjo raises a fundamental question. What has happened to or changed in Obasanjo to suddenly transform him into their “Lord”? Obasanjo has dealt with some state governors by unleashing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and instigating state houses of assembly men to impeach deviant governors or face jail for theft of constituency project fund of at least N100 million (One hundred million each) throughout the 36 states houses of assembly.

The only exception so far is Plateau State House of Assembly where forced revelations of expenditure of the alleged stolen money implicated and embarrassed the PDP hierarchy from top to bottom. Even the EFCC in a subtle move has rested investigations into N1.6 billion (one billion six hundred million naira) ecology fund for a fresh charge of laundering N700 million (seven hundred million naira).

Secondly, even out-going governors would rather tag along with Obasanjo to benefit from a third term instead of crashing with vice-president Atiku Abubakar.
Eventually aware of the duplicitous role of the state governors as disguised agents of the presidency, Atiku Abubakar fought off a bait for treason when approached by a military officer who offered an ethnic card for a military coup. As revealed in the current treason trial in Lagos High Court (El-Mustapha, Major, and others), Atiku Abubakar instantly informed President Obasanjo.

In so doing, the vice president must have incurred the wrath of the alleged coup plotters who were instantly arrested. But the credit for Abubakar was that he displayed loyalty, given the fact that since 1966, military coups in the country had always been along ethnic lines. But Atiku Abubakar’s risk on that occasion, even till now, does not seem to assuage his political enemies led by Obasanjo over the 2003 failed presidential nomination bid of the vice president.
Ironically, Atiku Abubakar seems to be in a no-win situation.

When and if he failed the loyalty test in 2003, he was considered treacherous and when on the second occasion, he reported the offer of military coup plot he discovered to Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar’s gesture is being treated as no big deal and self-serving to save his neck. In fact, the vice president had to alarm the nation few months ago of plot to hang a treason trial round his neck. Thank God, he spoke out.

Meanwhile, those in charge of Obasanjo’s (political) war operations have embarked on a two-pronged attack. The first is to stop Atiku Abubakar and get him out of the party, none of which Obasanjo and his men are finding easy. When the PDP embarked on re-registration of members last time, Atiku Abubakar and his supporters especially in his home base Adamawa State, were contemptuously left out.

The vice president rebuffed the development and obviously embarrassed by the reports in the media and undoubtedly worried that the incident might attract public sympathy for Atiku Abubakar, the PDP leadership had to suffer the humiliation of meeting the vice president in his official residence in Abuja not only to apologise but also to register him. For now, Abubakar stays put in the PDP.

The vice president is facing the self-realisation that the die is cast. Neither does he deceive himself that the PDP genuinely still reckons with him as a top member or heir apparent.
In fact, he remains in the party only by the day. Accordingly, the vice president has prepared a fall-back position not unknown to his political enemies. But he was more tactful. Pushing out his well-known associates, he stayed out of the move to register a new political association – Movement for Reform and Restoration of Democracy. It was a decoy for which the vice president’s PDP enemies fell.

Rather clandestinely, the real party for Atiku Abubakar was busy processing its application for registration, without any prominent member identified with the vice president. By the time Advanced Congress of Democrats was registered by the electoral commission, the real party hierarchy came out in their true colours, much to the chagrin of Obasanjo, the PDP and perhaps the Electoral Commission which could never have intended to be seen to have offered Atiku Abubakar a safe political landing.

Membership of Advanced Congress of Democrats, all erstwhile members of PDP, except a few from the AD, openly embraced their new party. A whole state branch of the PDP – Plateau– has crossed over. Former Ambassador Kwande, former Federal Minister of State Funke Adedoyin, former PDP Deputy National President Iro Dan Musa Senator Adefulu, Layi Mohammed, a former Chief of Staff to Governor Bola Tinubu, etc. In the next few months, the membership will spread.

For how long can vice president Atiku Abubakar leave his supporters leaderless? He will pick his time, obviously because he does not want to make it easy for the PDP. He may no longer be able to function or influence in the PDP but will rather subject the party to such strains and attrition to such point of being possibly expelled all with the hope of removing him as vice president. The constitution makes that option futile.

All a public office holder – president, vice president, governor or minister needs to qualify for the post under the constitution is to belong to a political party whether new or old. If expelled, Atiku Abubakar can join his party and retain his post.

What is more, under the same 1999 constitution, if there is a dispute in any party, any faction(al member) is free to join another party without losing his post. Ironically, the same PDP pioneered the test for that constitutional provision with the admission of Senator Nzeribe (from ANPP) Senator Wahab Dosunmu, Senator Seye Ogunlewe, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Senator Ogunniya, all from Alliance for Democracy. So, whatever happens in the next twelve months, Atiku Abubakar is safe as vice president.

Can Atiku Abubakar be impeached? Such attempt may be an option for the PDP but more as an act of desperation which in any case, carries the risk of ethnic inclination to determine the outcome. The survival of Ghali Na’Abba, ex-speaker House of Representatives, against prolonged impeachment move remains a vivid example.

However, this does not make it an omnibus smooth-sailing for Atiku Abubakar in the next twelve months. In fact, Nigerians must get set for what the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti prophetically assessed as “Roforofo” fight, which is a very, very dirty if not suicidal contest.
In Nigeria’s political history, it had never been successful to force a showdown with national party hierarchy. The first time was in 1956 when the erstwhile west regional minister of education, Stephen Awokoya, a very decent and principled man, had reasons to disagree with the Action Group government and leadership.

The situation seemed to be even easier to form a new party and win some seats either to a regional house of assembly, house of representatives or even a local government council. Chief Awokoya formed the Nigerian Peoples Party but failed to win a single seat in the 1956 elections to the western house of assembly. But Chief Awokoya still meritoriously served Nigeria as the pioneer principal of the Federal Government – owned Federal School of Science.

The next was Alhaji Ibrahim Imam, hitherto a leading member of Northern Peoples Congress under the leadership of Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto. Ibrahim Iman broke with the NPC and formed Bornu Youth Movement. The political impact was hardly felt until he died without any strong opposition to his former colleagues.

In 1958, after unsuccessfully leading a “ZIK MUST GO” mutiny in the NCNC, the late K.O. Mbadiwe formed the Democratic Party of Nigeria and the Cameroons (DPNC) and signed an emergency alliance with the Action Group for the 1959 federal elections.
Also in 1981, the then Kano State Governor Abubakar Rimi broke with the Peoples Redemption Party under the leadership of the late Aminu Kano. He later formed an alliance with NPP, and GNPP. Still, it was a fruitless venture.

Can Atiku Abubakar make a difference either within the PDP or on the platform of a new party? It is an uphill task and will be historic.
President Olusegun Obasanjo has two noticeable peculiarities. The first is certainly a gift or blessing from God while the second is more like self-curse or retributive justice.

That blessing from God enables Obasanjo to be at the correct place at the correct time to inherit other people’s glory especially at decisive moments of Nigeria’s political history. Both in Nigeria and abroad, the best known and most successful commander during the civil war was Brigadier-General Benjamin Adekunle. His military feats were regular features in British, European and American print and electronic media.

How such exposure endeared him to his colleagues was not clear but with only months if not weeks to the end of the civil war, Adekunle was replaced. And who succeeded him? The then Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, who as the new commander of the Third Marine Commando Division almost effortlessly received Biafra’s surrender at Owerri to bring the war to an end.

The deposition of General Yakubu Gowon in 1975 brought Brigadier Murtala Mohammed to office as new head of state and Brigadier Obasanjo next to him as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. Within six months, Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in the failed Dimka coup. God’s gift once again fell on Obasanjo as the surviving members of Murtala Mohammed’s administration elevated him as the new head of state.
Following the assassination of General Aguiyi-Ironsi in July 1966, his next in rank, Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe was not that lucky as the mutineers refused him as the new head of state and he (Ogundipe) had to resume in London as Nigeria’s High Commissioner.

Following the annulment of Bashorun MKO Abiola’s victory in the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, Nigeria knew no peace even after the death of General Sani Abacha in June 1998. And when Bashorun Abiola died a month later, civil war and indeed disintegration loomed in Nigeria. To avoid any or both of these potential disasters, northern establishment accepted the reality that the South must be conceded the presidency.
Once again, whose luck emerged to inherit Abiola’s glory? Olusegun Obasanjo against strong contenders like former civilian vice president Alex Ekwueme, and former federal minister Olu Falae.

On the opposite side of this special God’s blessing on Obasanjo is the man’s penchant for dismissing every other person except himself. Unfortunately for him, in more like a self curse, it was always a question of time for whatever critical or derisory words (Obasanjo expressed against others) to rebound on him.
Following his release from prison by General Abdulsalami Abubakar after General Abacha’s death, General Obasanjo was asked in an interview with Kayode Soyinka, publisher of AFRICA TODAY, for his views on Abacha’s plan to perpetuate himself or prolong his stay in office, Obasanjo could not restrain his bitterness against Abacha who, admittedly imprisoned him, yet was already in his grave.

The only assessment Obasanjo, in that interview, could find for the late General Abacha was a Yoruba adage, “Eni ti o ba se ohun ti enikan ko se ri, oju re a ri ohun ti enikan ko ri ri.” Yoruba will best appreciate the import of this adage, which today rebounds on Obasanjo on the third term bid which is neither confirmed nor denied especially amidst this prevailing political tension inherent in a seeming peace or cemetery silence.
By the way, the simple translation of Obasanjo’s adage on a deceased General Abacha is “any unprecedented misadventure is logically sequential to unprecedented disastrous consequences.

There is much to say for and against Obasanjo’s third term bid. The most fundamental is that he has not confirmed it publicly. Given the chance to say something last time, he dodged the question. Worse still, if there was no interest at all, Obasanjo would not even have mentioned anything about being pressured for a third term. Certainly not by the average Nigerian voter.
Indeed, Obasanjo’s personality is such that if he is not interested, nobody (born by a woman) around him will dare mention it in private or public. Obasanjo would have fired him.

On the credit side, the most authoritative, the most credible, most respected, self comporting and self-respecting voice in the presidency, Remi Oyo, Obasanjo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media Affairs, has denied any third term bid and left it at that. That is the only promising note.
Otherwise, every other person including Obasanjo with his silence and ambiguous utterances, has been fanning nuances of the imminence, necessity and indeed inevitability of a third term and even beyond.

Then there are the surrogates. Last time, they assembled at Enugu and gloated about a new found Southern solidarity. Before and after the meeting, critics exposed the so-called Southern forum as a platform intended to garner endorsement for Obasanjo’s third term bid. Did South-Southerners and South- Easterners know this and still went ahead in their communique that it was their turn for the presidency in 2007? If they did not know, they allowed themselves to be deceived and used.
Chief Matthew Mbu staked his age and political reputation to vouch that the Enugu gathering or even South-South People’s Assembly was not to drum up support for Obasanjo’s third term. Perhaps so.

Then suddenly, South Westerners led by the component state governors publicly endorsed Obasanjo’s third term. Were South-Easterners and South-Southerners (co-members of the new Southern Solidarity Forum) consulted by South-West governors before endorsing Obasanjo?
Chief Mbu must be embarrassed today as the South-South and South-East have followed South-West to endorse Obasanjo’s third term. The same cannot be said of Joe Irukwu, Presidential General of Ohanaeze cultural group who, when he extended the tenure of his leadership, was accused by rival Igbo leaders that the plan was to use the platform to endorse Obasanjo’s third term. Joe Irukwu denied any such plan. Today, the same Ohanaeze under Joe Irukwu’s leadership has endorsed Obasanjo’s third term.

In effect, both South-East and South-South have surrendered their claim to the presidency in 2007, which was predicted in this column only weeks ago when fellow Nigerians from those parts of the country were alerted on the insincerity of Nigerian politicians.
What matters on the third term bid is Obasanjo’s intention. He worships two Gods – the Almighty up there and the God of Lagos-Sagamu Expressway, Enoch Adeboye. Anytime Obasanjo runs into trouble, he always rushes to Enoch Adeboye’s Redemption Camp on Lagos-Sagamu Expressway for supplication.
About three months ago, Redeemed leader and Obasanjo’s most trusted pastor Enoch Adeboye was asked (on a television station in Lagos) for his view on Obasanjo’s proposed third term. Adeboye replied: “democracy is alien to us in Nigeria and Africa. In those days, we were ruled by kings. And once a king was enthroned, he always ruled for life.” Pastor Adeboye has now endorsed Obasanjo to rule not just for third term but for life.
If Wole Soyinka does not believe in God, especially the God of Lagos-Sagamu Expressway, Pastor Adeboye has his followers in hundreds of thousands all over Nigeria including Obasanjo.

At last December’s PDP convention in Abuja, Obasanjo raised the hope of South- South and the North. First he conceded that in 1998/1999, we addressed the principle of power shift and rotation. It was discussed extensively, debated rigorously and agreed to even without it being included in the party constitution or nation’s constitution.

He then assured the South-South: “I have read with some understanding the document issued by the South-South Assembly. What I will say to PDP members of that assembly is that while nobody will turn deaf ears to their well-made case, and well marshaled points, they should allow the spirit of dialogue, debate, tolerance, negotiation and give and take to prevail.”

While still raising the hopes of South-South, Obasanjo equally raised the hope of the North when he said “when the time comes, they (i.e. South-South) should accord me as leader of the PDP, the opportunity to interpret our policy and principle of power shift to suit the occasion which will definitely consider the seeming agitation from the North of the country.”

Remarkably, Obasanjo had no promise for the South-East. Would that account for the zone’s endorsement of Obasanjo’s third term? Perhaps so, but why has the South South dashed its hopes by also endorsing Obasanjo’s third term?
Neither must the Northern zones deceive themselves on power shift. Perhaps the South-South and South-East afterall refused to be taken in on a fruitless journey, judging by Obasanjo’s contempt for the competing zones. Read him earlier in his speech at the same party’s convention in Abuja last December while conceding that the party agreed on rotation/power shift in 1998/1999.

According to Obasanjo, “that spirit of discussion and dialogue which stood us in good stead then must now not be appropriated, manipulated, compromised, contaminated or corrupted by any individual or group no matter how highly placed. As a party, we must resist efforts by some individuals or groups to use their pedestrian understanding of power shift and power rotation to hold the country to ransom. In any case, in engaging in any political discourse or positionings we must not use it as a cover to distort, mangle, deny, rewrite or redirect history in very dangerous directions.”

When Obasanjo eventually interprets the agreed power rotation in his decree above, it is most unlikely that Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s supporters will give in. Whether the man is expelled or frustrated out of the party, his supporters in the PDP will surely follow him thereby shattering the PDP down the middle, making any necessary repair work very demanding.

Whatever happens in the future, Obasanjo has forfeited his credibility and reputation. If he goes for the third term, he has joined the ranks of African leaders who perpetuate themselves in office. If on the other hand he quits at the end of his second term tenure, he would have joined the ranks of African leaders driven out of office by people’s stiff opposition.

If Obasanjo quits because of the present tension, he would in a way also have positively contributed to Nigeria’s political development because if Obasanjo could fail in a third term bid, nobody, yes, nobody will dare it in future.

This is for the record. Every Yoruba of repute, human or organisation – Canon Alayande, General Adebayo, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Bisi Akande, Wole Soyinka, Olu Falae, Gani Fawehinmi, Segun Osoba, Yoruba Council of Elders, Egbe Afenifere, Kola Animashaun, Segun Adeniyi, Dele Sobowale, Reuben Abati – is against Obasanjo’s third term bid. The emphasis here is Yoruba (person or organisation) of repute.

South-South, South-East, North-West, North-Central and North-East should note.




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