The crisis in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may have assumed an irredeemable dimension with strong indications last week that some top leaders have been meeting to discuss plans to form a new political party.
The plans, it was reliably gathered, are being spearheaded by the trio of former governor of Kano State and former Education minister Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of Jigawa State Sule Lamido and former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu.
Others mentioned in the scheme include former minister of the Federal Capital Territory Senator Bala Muhammed, former deputy governor in the old Sokoto State Ahmed Muhammed Gusau, former governor of Bauchi State Isa Yuguda, former governor of Cross River State Donald Duke, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, Senator Ibrahim Ida, Adamu Maina Waziri, Ibrahim Idris, Aminu Wali, Abba Dabo, John Odey and Aniete Okon. A former Senate president, Ken Nnamani, is said to be the interim leader of the group.
Mallam Shekarau was understood to have last week hosted 23 members of the group in his house in Abuja while there had also been meetings in Nnamani’s office.
“Yes, we are trying to rebrand and weed out bad eggs in the party and it is the process that will lead to the formation of a new party,” said aide close to Shekarau. “Initially, we had two options, that is, whether to rebrand the PDP or form a new party.
“Arguments are in the favour of the formation of the party, hence resolution of our bigwigs. The direction now is the formation of a new party but we will definitely draw for the resources of the PDP to make headway,” he said.
While many of the names disclosed to be on the list did admit that they gathered to discuss the crises in the PDP, they all denied that the focus of their meeting was to form a new party. But some of the bigwigs gave enough hint to indicate that some like-minds in the party are regarding other members as no longer worthy to fraternize with politically.
Shekarau’s media aide, Sule Yau’Sule, when asked on his principal’s hosting of PDP leaders in Abuja, promised to get back but never did.
The PDP has degenerated to a bedlam since the party lost the general elections to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 elections. It didn’t take long after its defeat that the PDP crisis began to fester. On May 20, 2015, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu resigned his position as the party’s chairman after he had been under pressure from some members who accused him of treachery and held him responsible for the party’s defeat.
Mu’azu wrote a letter to the Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, saying that due to the abysmal performance of the party in the elections, it had become necessary for him to leave for peace to reign. He suggested in his letter that Secondus step in as Acting National Chairman in line with the party’s constitution. Secondus’ assumption of the acting chairmanship office, however, left the PDP without a principal officer from the North-East zone in its top hierarchy.
Secondus’ reign as Acting National Chairman has been bedevilled with centrifugal developments which culminated in a faction led by a former Political Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, storming the Wadata House headquarters of the PDP last Wednesday to oust Secondus and claim leadership.
Gulak, from the North-East, had gone to court last year to challenge Secondus’ leadership and successfully gained victory on December 15 when an Abuja High Court declared Secondus’ acting leadership illegal and ordered him to vacate the office within 14 days.
But Secondus went to court praying for a stay of execution. Gulak said on taking over last week that the stay had since expired.
What would later further divide the party are disclosures on the $2.1 billion the Jonathan administration was alleged to have misappropriated on arms deals through the office of the National Security Adviser in Jonathan’s administration, retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki. The nation has been treated to many mind-boggling stories of how the NSA office shared huge sums to some top officials of the PDP and Jonathan’s supporters.
An angry PDP top shot who craved anonymity said that the arms deal revelations had exposed the party’s leaders like Jonathan, Dasuki, the former chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees Chief Tony Anenih and the party’s spokesman Olisa Metuh, on how they were spending the nation’s finances without the knowledge of other leaders of the party who, he said, were living in foolery that they belonged to the leadership caucus. The top shot swore that many leaders of the party did not benefit from the arms deal handouts.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Abdullahi Jalo, spoke the mind of many party leaders when he declared that the party should not be expected to provide sureties for Metuh, who the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged to court for money laundering. Metuh is alleged to have collected N400 million from the Dasuki arms deal.
He is also being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly tearing the statement he made to the commission while under interrogation.
Jalo declared, “Metuh didn’t represent the party in the alleged crimes for which he’s being prosecuted. The party didn’t benefit from the alleged crime. So, he is going to look for sureties himself. We won’t be involved. He would carry his own cross alone, without the party being involved.”
Indications that many leaders of the PDP, infuriated by the arms deal scandal, have been meeting to distance themselves from the old order have since heightened. Moreover, as some of them said last week, that many of the members are of no cheer about the party’s chances in the 2019 elections, saying unfurling corruption scandals are seriously killing whatever credibility and integrity it may still claim.
“There is so much disaffection in the PDP and therefore, many chieftains, ranging from former governors and former and serving members of both the National and state Assemblies across the 36 states to former ministers are looking for an alternative platform,” a senior official of the PDP who did not want to be named, said.
“Apart from the internal wrangling that is threatening the existence of the party and the ongoing probe of top officials of the party, even the name ‘PDP’, is now synonymous with the word ‘scandal’. Nigerians have been made to hate it and unless someone is planning to remain in the back seat, he or she must look for another option”, he said.
It was gathered that beyond the prominent names in the PDP who were confirmed to have been meeting on the party’s crisis, some leaders in the APC unhappy with certain developments in their own party, as well as leaders from other political parties, were also understood to be on the mark to cash in on the possibility of a new party from the PDP stable.
A former national chairman and presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the 2015 general elections, Rafiu Salau, said in Abuja yesterday that some top politicians in the country who believe in the mission, vision and core values of politics as demonstrated by the founding fathers of Nigerian politics have begun moves to form a new political party.
Salau went further to disclose that the politicians, drawn from different political parties, had already come up with a name for the proposed party – the National Progressives Congress for Advanced Grassroots (NPCAG).
“I don’t think the PDP will bounce back in 2019 because a new party is in the pipeline. The name of the party is NPCAG. One of the reasons for the formation of the party is the belief that politics should be more of service than business. For now, it is a political party association and efforts are currently being made to get the support of Nigerians to be able to register it.
“One of the strategies to ensure mass membership is to give free expression of interest and nomination forms to aspirants tested and proven to be credible and those who cannot betray Nigerians and the party. They will not contribute more than 10 per cent of the campaign funds,” he said.
An aggrieved APC member also said that many people staked their ‘’necks” and worked assiduously for the success of the APC in the build-up to last year’s election, but from all indications, the train has departed and left them.
“It’s now over seven months since the coming of this government, but from all indications, the issue of compensation, party-building and other political considerations are not actually in the books of those at the helm of affairs of the party”, he said.
It was also gathered that the former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, is part of the plan to form a new party, but it is not clear whether it is the NPCAG or another party.
Others also said to be looking towards a new party are the former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives Austin Opara, former Minister of Transport Abiye Sekibo and former governorship aspirant in Rivers State Sergeant Awuse.
Similarly, a House of Representatives member in Osun State, Wole Oke and the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf, were also said to be eyeing a new party ahead of the 2019 general elections.
It was learnt that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his camp will join forces to form the new party.
A source said: “I have it on authority that some youths of the PDP met to fashion a new strategy which is for them to change name and merge with small political parties and some of the progressives. I want to tell you authoritatively that in Osun State for example, the Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yusuf, is leaving the APC to join the PDP so that he can run as governor because there is no chance for him on the platform of the APC. So he wants to join the PDP but after joining the PDP they will join a new party and it is that new party that they will use in 2019”, he added.
The source, who said he had been approached to join the new train, said that Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State has also commenced moves to leave a tattered PDP.
“The one happening in the PDP is so open now, but there are aggrieved persons in the APC too. So the aggrieved people from ‘A’ and ‘B’ will come together to form a mega party to run for presidency in 2019. I was approached to be part of the big game plan, that is why I have the details,” he said.
“Adamu Mu’azu is part of the move, Gulak that just took over the secretariat today (Wednesday) is also part of it. What they are doing is to justify leaving the PDP. They want to mutilate the PDP. When the PDP is scattered, they will now go on the basis of inter-personal relationships to form another party,” he said.
None of the PDP’s top figures has, however, admitted putting together a new political platform, although the words of some of them dripped with the possibility. One responded that it was too early to disclose anything specific.
Barrister Bashir Maidugu, the Deputy National Legal Adviser of the PDP, was emphatic in his denial. “That’s mere speculation, mere imagination. I cannot remember any meeting where this kind of discussions was held,” he said.
When pressed further, he added: “As I told you, as a country, we must have choices of political parties whereby the average Nigerian will decide to vote for whoever he likes in any political party.”
Also, a former Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu, denied being part of any process aimed at forming a new political party.
“I have been attending series of meetings. I have been attending meetings both within the PDP and within the Save Democracy Group. As a member of the PDP constitutional review committee, I have been attending its meetings. I am also a member of a reconciliation committee of the PDP and a member of the northern leaders within the PDP. I’m a member of many groups and I am chairing many committees so I don’t know which one you are referring to really,” Mantu retorted.
When told he was seen at a meeting with Lamido, former minister Ahmed Gusau and Professor Jerry Gana among others, he replied: “I know that there was a meeting in the office of the former Senate president Ken Nnamani. All these names you mentioned were members of that meeting. The objective of that meeting was to position the PDP in the right direction, look at what went wrong and how we are going to correct the mistake in order to reposition the party before the Nigerian people. That was the essence of that meeting. There were issues like things that needed to be done, including the election of a new chairman and that of the board of trustees so that we can do it in accordance with the provisions of our constitution. That was the meeting at Nnamani’s office”.
On the current imbroglio in the PDP where three people are laying claims to the chairmanship of the party and which is believed to be leading to an irredeemable split of the party, Mantu explained: “It is just a storm in a tea cup, there’s no problem in the PDP. The whole issue is simply because the North-east zone should have elected or nominated somebody from that zone to replace Adamu Muazu as national chairman of the party. But since Muazu exited, the North-east did not do that but before that the deputy national chairman of the party naturally should occupy that position because nature abhors vacuum. So you can see it is a very simple matter, but the problem is that the North-east zone did not send somebody early enough so the acting chairmanship of Secondus became longer than necessary.
“But the point Secondus is making is that the North-East has not fielded anybody for him to vacate the seat for. So there’s a kind of confusion because the other people have not done what they should do and nature abhors vacuum. Now with the court matter coming in, they are now fast-tracking the process and I understand that by Tuesday there will be a caucus meeting in Gombe for the North-east zone of the PDP to come out with somebody who is going to take over from Secondus. When that is done that puts an end to the whole problem, so like I said, the whole issue is not a big deal.”
Nnamani also said yesterday that though they had been meeting, the gathering had not taken any decision on a new party. The former Senate president, however, noted that those PDP leaders who had been meeting were aware that those who led the PDP to its present situation are bent on retaining their grip on the party.
Did what Nnamani say not hint on those angry with the elements truly ready to form a new party if those he described as having a stranglehold on the party are not willing to let it go? To the question, the senator said he would not respond explicitly now.