Walk up to the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur any day and ask about his vision for the party, his response will be to reconcile all its aggrieved members. It is a sermon he is not tired of preaching. At every occasion, he preaches it. He tells visitors to his office at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja that the party’s National Working Committee will not look back in its efforts towards bringing those who left the party in annoyance back into its fold.
To show the seriousness with which the party is desirous of the reunion, the NWC swung into action on Sept. 12, with the re-admittance of a former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose. The decision to readmit him was taken at the meeting of the NWC. Already, he has started enjoying the privileges of being a member of the party since Friday, Sept. 14. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said Fayose had been granted a waiver in accordance with Article 17.2 (g) of the party’s constitution.
The article reads, “There shall be a minimum of two years membership span for a member to be eligible to stand for election into any party or public office unless the appropriate executive committee rules to the contrary. Where appropriate committee rules, it must be approved by the immediate higher executive committee save National Executive Committee is final authority.” Metuh said that with this, Fayose was free to enjoy all the privileges of members of the party.
Fayose left the party shortly before the governorship election rerun in some parts in the state. During the rerun, Fayose aligned with the rival political party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, against the then ruling PDP in the state. It was alleged that this enable the ACN to defeat the then governor of the state, Mr. Segun Oni. However, Fayose later had a disagreement with the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, when he was not allowed to run on the ticket of the ACN as its senatorial candidate. This made Fayose to move to the Labour Party, where he was defeated by the ACN in the election. He later signified his intention to return to the PDP, after being instrumental to the emergence of the new state executive committee of the party in his state. Fayose is said to be among those nursing a governorship ambition in the party.
If Fayose had a smooth return to his once-despised political party, the same cannot be said of his co-traveller, former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Kalu. His former Chief of Staff, who is currently the state governor, Chief Theodore Orji, led some prominent leaders from the state to the party’s national headquarters in Abuja to protest Kalu’s planned return to the party. The governor and members of his entourage met with the members of its NWC, led by Tukur, insisting that Kalu should not be allowed to return to the party, which gave him the privilege to serve as a governor for eight years before leaving to form the Progressive Peoples Alliance.
Apart from the governor, the three senators from the state – Nkechi Nwogu, Uche Chukwumerije and Enyinnaya Abaribe – were also in the entourage. Others are the former National Chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor; Vice-Chairman of the party in South-East, Col. Austin Akabundu (retd.); members of the House of Representatives and some other prominent members of the party in the state. Akabundu read a petition addressed to Tukur on behalf of those he referred to as “Abia Stakeholders.”
Entitled, “The position of Abia Stakeholders on the re-admission of Chief Orji Kalu to the party,” Akabundu said that the doors of the party remained open to any member. He said, “His presence will add neither quality nor quantity. His comprehensive defeat in the 2011 Abia senatorial race exposed his lack of electoral value. It was only after he left the party that we were able to win all the seats we contested. His exit from the party seemed a settled matter from the beginning and there is no need to revisit it without the real risk of destroying the foundation of harmony and progress upon which the party currently stands.”
Apart from the Abia people’s revolt against Kalu, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State has also expressed his anger against the reconciliation process. Jang said those who had defected from the party to contest election in other political parties should not be allowed to return, adding that their blocking would help to deepen the country’s democracy. Jang advised Tukur and other members of the NWC to allow the defectors to remain in their new parties and nurture it. Jang’s deputy, Mrs. Pallen Tallen, was the governorship candidate of the Labour Party during the 2011 election in the state. Jang said it was wrong for members of the party to see it as a mere platform to contest elections.
He said, “Reconciliation relating to the issue of membership is the commendable efforts of the national chairman towards reconciliation and for harmony in the party. Only members of the party, who still identify with it and who are aggrieved because of some actions or inactions of the leadership, can seek to be reconciled. It may not be appropriate to discuss reconciliation with people who are jumping from one party to another, seeking only election platforms.” Jang, who was a former member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, called on Tukur and members of his NWC to counsel those that left the PDP to contest elections against the party to remain in those parties and provide constructive opposition and multi-party platforms. This, he said, would be beneficial to the country’s type of “liberal democracy.”
The open display of resistance by these two governors may be an indication that governors are averse to the ongoing reconciliation in the party. The governors, according to an investigation, are said not to be ready to allow the aggrieved members of the party in their states to return. Already, governors in about four other states are said to have kicked against the planned return of former members of the party to its fold in their states. The states are Taraba, Enugu, Kaduna and Kano. A member of the NWC of the party told our correspondent that there were fears that the reconciliation may be heading for the rocks. The member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “Our governors are not helping us in this reconciliation exercise. These governors don’t want the party to open the political space in their states. They block every move to bring back members that have left the party. They use the influence of their number to intimidate the NWC.”
For instance, the NWC member said Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna and the National Organising Secretary of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha, are blocking political associates of the former Governor Ahmed Makarfi, from returning to the PDP. It was also learnt that the Governor Musa Kwankwaso of Kano has blocked access to the Chief Alabo Graham-Douglas committee set up by the NWC to reconcile aggrieved members of the party in his state. It was learnt that Enugu’s Sullivan Chime, is against the reconciliation between associates of former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani and the former National Chairman of the party, Okwesilieze Nwodo, to return to the main stream PDP in the state. The NWC member said, “As we talk, the associates of Nnamani and Nwodo are still left out in the reconciliation exercise, yet we say that PDP is reconciling its aggrieved members.”
Tukur may have bowed to pressure from the governors as he says the party will not go against the wishes of the majority because of reconciliation. He told our correspondent on the telephone, “We don’t want reconciliation through imposition from the national secretariat of the party. Is this not an indication that the reconciliation has failed?” Maybe, as the party says, it will not because of reconciliation re-admit those it described as ‘snakes and reptiles.’ Besides, it adds that it is not in a hurry to re-admit those who will be of no value to it. The National Legal Adviser of the party, Mr. Victor Kwon, said among those who had left the party, there were those, if re-admitted, would come with the intention to destroy it.
He said, “This party is large enough to accommodate everybody, but just because you want to accommodate everybody does not mean you accommodate snakes and reptiles.” Do those rejected belong to this category? Either right or wrong, Kalu says nobody can force him out of the party he claims to be one of its foundation members. However, the Abia State chairman of the PDP, Senator Emma Nwaka, says Kalu is day-dreaming. He says any member who has defected and wants to return to the party needs to pass through his home base, arguing that Kalu cannot be an exception.
Whether the reconciliation will be achieved eventually or not is a question that only Tukur and members of his NWC can answer. Their body languages, however, signify that they are determined about what to do.