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« Confab to debate all issues, uphold justice; Edo, Kwara governors back no-go areas | Main | Why those who boycotted the conference miss the point »

March 02, 2005

Beyond Ogbeh’s ouster

Everyday, every week, every month, if you like, every year, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), unleashes, from its weird cocoon of "family affairs", a mind-boggling drama.

By Nath Omame Jr.
Posted to the Web: Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Non-party members are flummoxed as the curtain drops, casually, of course, after each act. The movers’ and ‘shakers of the party, those who make things’ happen, and acclaimed for garnishing the party with its garb of worrisome notoriety, shrug their shoulders and chuckle: "And the party gets even stronger".

Apart from what the name signifies, and the whirlwind which culminated to its formation in 1998, during the eight months political transition of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the PDP is not really an ideal political party. Although, we are neither in an ideal environment nor going through ideal times, people of the same ideological leanings or collective socio-economic and political persuasion and aspirations congregate to form a political party.

Dubbed the largest party in Africa by party members, those who control the levers of the party invariably control the heartbeat of the nation. With the Presidency; President of the Senate; Speaker of the House of Representatives; 28 state governors; 28 State Houses of Assemblies and Speakers emerging from the party, the PDP is, today, a wonderful octopodial creature with awesome powers. As a party, the PDP’s internal dynamics are guarded by unwritten rules. The party prefers election to conducting election. So, those who feel they are in control of the party’s soul foist the apparatus that runs the party on members. Anybody can be plucked from obscurity and transformed to head the party. Such a person can equally be dispensed with, without notification.

The PDP is a complex political chess game whose casualty rate is quite intriguing. The rule is simple: Don’t get involved if you are a stickler for ideals of any coloration; but strict adherence to the supreme existence of the party as it pleases the custodians of its soul. Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh, as chairman of the party, couldn’t have been ignorant of its creed. So, while some Nigerians bemoan his dramatic exit which commences on February 28, those who put him there ask scornfully: "How did he get there in the first place?" Ogbeh was a willing tool in 2001, and was used to edge out Chief Barnabas Gemade, whom the president felt had no business poking his nose into state policies and how such policies are funded. Gemade on his part was used to frustrate the efforts of Chief Sunday Awoniyi from becoming the party’s chairman in 1999, because he was considered by the presidency to be too independent minded, entrenched and largely self-made. Ogbeh’s shattering fall is instructive. He fell because he was a partisan chairman who was entrapped in intrigues and perceived by the President as no longer capable of presiding over the affairs of one united party.

Ogbeh had conveniently ensconced himself on the side of Vice President Atiku Abubukar, in the unfolding drama of combative posturing and scheming for the PDP’s 2007 presidential ticket. Ogbeh’s bilious letter to the president which consequently caused him his job was a grand plan by the Atiku camp to distance itself, from the perceived sins, and if you like, failures of the Obasanjo administration. Ogbeh’s letter was the voice of Atiku and his ubiquitous regiment of friendly governors led by Chief James Onanefe Ibori of Delta State, and the willing hand of Ogbeh. Atiku’s anger and disappointment, and the outburst of some PDP governor’s on the President’s swift and overpowering sacking of Ogbeh, is indicative of the pains of a well-oiled agenda that crumbled before President Obasanjo’s master stroke. Today, the strong wall of mutual distrust between Obasanjo and Atiku is a fallout of Atiku’s alleged betrayal of the President, egged by his battalion of friendly and loyal governors, who, for their personal interest and some sort of political relevance thereafter, keep pushing Atiku against the President.

Having picked a nomination form to contest the PDP 2003 presidential primaries against his boss, which be abandoned after much persuasion and horse trading, Atiku cannot possibly claim to be loyal to the President. How do you describe a Vice President who could not meet and talk with his boss for upward of four days, and actually refused to attend a public function where he would have met his boss, because his boss took a decision to shield himself from the slings and arrows of his Vice President? What would have happened to the affairs of state, if the Chief of Staff to the President, General Abdulahi Mohammed, and his Atiku Chief of Staff, Chief Olusola Akanmode, did not arrange a fence-mending meeting for both of them to talk through their increasingly deteriorating working relationship at the Villa? Sadly, Atiku is a victim of his vaulted presidential ambition. Atiku is currently a captive presidential aspirant willfully susceptible to the shenanigans and manipulations of his friendly governors from, the PDP, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). His erroneous belief is that these governors would put their machinery at his disposal in 2007, while he plots the gangway the judiciary would follow.

Ibori bolstered Atiku’s confidence in 2003 when he rallied 18 PDP governors and, of course, their delegates for his candidature. Ibori has currently catapulted himself by words and actions as Atiku’s chief campaigner and strategist for 2007. His January 22, Lagos reception later turned out a smokescreen, devised solely to get together Atiku’s friendly governors to shop for an alternative political platform for Atiku.

Unknown to Atiku, Ibori is scheming and committing time, energy and resources in positioning himself as General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s running mate in 2007. Blighted by his presidential ambition, Atiku has been repeatedly disloyal to the President. A serving Vice President who is willfully shopping for a platform to contest the presidency other than the one with which he came to power in a joint ticket with his boss can neither be loyal to his boss nor wholeheartedly support his policies.

What a blunder? Atiku showed his strength too early. The lesson is instructive: power devoid of humility is misleading. President Obasanjo will hand over to a president produced by his party. And most importantly, a man who believes in his reforms; a man who will continue and build on those reforms; strengthen the economic restructuring programme and deepen privatization to the greatest good of Nigerians. You cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hound! Now, listen to the President’s Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Matters, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, on the abilities and capabilities required of President Obasanjo’s successor.

"We are looking for a person who will continue with the reform agenda; it is very, very necessary, otherwise, we would have wasted time, which would have been eight years in 2007. It would have been eight years down the drain. If we have a president who will reverse the reform process whether in terms of economic restructuring programme, the issue of privatization, the issue of returning the economy to the Nigerian people and, indeed, the issue of due process and transparency, we will be in trouble."

"If we have a president who wants to go back to business as usual, who believes that governance is about lining up his pockets and those of his friends and that governance is about cronyism or nepotism or ethnic empowerment as against other groups, then we will be in trouble." And President Obasanjo, quite frankly, does not want to be in trouble after 2007. If you were in Obasanjo’s position, what would you do?

Posted by Publisher at March 2, 2005 05:51 PM

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