Jonathan Goodluck and PDP Presidential Primaries: Issues and the Probable Outcome

by Adebiyi Jelili Abudugana

As political parties are bracing up for the 2011 general elections, the obvious is that happenings within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have more than ever occupied the minds of pundits. Doubtless, this owes to the drastic and far-reaching changes in the political chemistry and physics of the PDP arising as a result of the death of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

This article, which though is one of the series on the 2011 elections, navigates in the specifics, and within the broad spectrum of electoral mathematics cum political calculus, how, on the one hand, the issues or better put, the consequentials arising from the aforesaid might affect the political mathematics of the PDP primaries. On the other, it uses the elements of political calculus to argue how the political fortunes of Jonathan Goodluck might suffer a terrible set back during the PDP presidential primaries. It is essential that point out that the line of thought argued in this article is also based on the psychology of political party and political elites, and the question of power and its sustainability.

A number of factors, incidental and accidental, contributed into the selection or more appropriately, coronation of the indisposed late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the 2007 Presidential flag bearer of the PDP.

It is worth recounting that prior to Yar’Adua’s imposition and subsequent coronation as the PDP flag bearer in early 2007, there was the then paramount ruler, Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, who, after he was enthroned based on certain concessions, compromise and consensus wanted to manipulate his ways in order to stay beyond the constitutionally permitted eight years in office. It should be also reiterated that such political maneuvering was also against the PDP’s North-South principle of power shift and power rotation, whose first beneficiary was Olusegun Obasanjo.

In order to achieve his dictatorial whims and subversive caprices of tenure elongation, Obasanjo’s first joker was to discredit and ditch the PDP’s principle of power shift and alternation, which, in the first instance, produced him. To this extent, Obasanjo treacherously raised the hope of the South-South that it was theirs to produce the President of the country in 2007. To achieve this elusive feat, the South-South People’s Assembly was formed to energetically advance the debate, and extensively explore how the realization of the 2007 South-South Presidency could be expansively prosecuted through the use of dialogue, debate, bargaining and compromise.

The above development drew the irk of the North who felt shortchanged, therefore, the reactions and counter steps taken to make sure that the PDP’s gentleman agreement was honoured. The late Sunday Awoniyi was saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the North was not shortchanged by the almighty Obasanjo. Awoniyi’s Arewa Consultative Forum was also faced with the herculean challenge of unifying the North as Obasanjo had succeeded in pitching on the one hand, the core political North against the minority political North and on the other, the predominant Muslim north against its Christian dominant section. Obasanjo’s instigated tension within the North got to a stage that pundits unanimously declared that gone were the days of the united monolithic North.

Hoping to reap from Obasanjo’s “large-heartedness,” the South East also queued up for the Presidency, hence, joining the South-South in teaming up against the North.

With the ensued regionalizing and dichotomization of the politics of succession, Obasanjo deftly manipulated the PDP political chemistry and perhaps, the entire political landscape, thereby, inducing the political tension which gave birth to the pre-2007 elections’ South-North dichotomy. As it was anticipated by Obasanjo and his cronies, the North-South succession struggle would create a deep-seated political mistrust and sow a seed of enmity between the North and the South such that the only way this would be resolved would be to accept Obasanjo’s bid for tenure elongation.

It was therefore not surprising that while the North-South rift was deepening, the plan to doctor the Constitution in order to allow Obasanjo stay beyond the legally permitted term was launched. Obasanjo was hoodwinked as to think that things were working in his favour as support poured in from the political bigwigs in the South and the North who declared public supports for his undemocratic bid to stay put in office.

But events that ultimately led to the decisive and humiliating collapse of Obasanjo’s self-perpetuating tenure elongation agenda showed that the North-South rift was not as anticipated Obasanjo latter, able to destabilize the polity and paved way for Obasanjo’s agenda to sail through. In fact, the death of the tenure elongation agenda was plotted by both the combined forces of Northern and Southern politicians, among whom were those who had pledged public support for Obasanjo’s self-perpetuating agenda.

In the aftermath, Obasanjo who was forced to eat the humble pie made a swift volte-face by reverting to the PDP zoning arrangement which he had fruitlessly planned to ditch. Based on this and the need to split the Atiku-led People Democratic Movement (PDM), Obasanjo unilaterally chose Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the PDP 2007 Presidential flag bearer. Obasanjo also made sure that nearly all of those who stood in his way were either disgraced to defect from the PDP or relegated from height of political significance to the fringe. Some were humiliated by the EFCC and some, were removed from office through militarized-democratic process. There were also a sizeable number of the anti-Obasanjo forces that were denied return tickets.

Obasanjo who was well aware that his militaristic handling of the party’s affairs would affect the outcome of the 2007 elections, resorted to use the do-or-die approach to manufacture the outcome of the 2007 elections which produced the late President Umar Yar’Adua. In fact, Obasanjo at his vengeful best, made sure that most of those that opposed sank with him. For the records, it was this political spectre, neither the records nor the political experience of Goodluck Jonathan that saw him emerged as the running mate of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. One is least surprised that in the leaked US diplomatic cable, Jonathan himself owned up by pronouncing that, “I was not chosen to be Vice President because I had good political experience… I did not… There were a lot more qualified people around to be Vice President.”

Realizing the near irreparable havoc which Obasanjo vengeful politics has caused the PDP, upon his “emergence” as the President of the country, the late President Yar’Adua facilitated the inauguration of the post 2007-elections’ PDP National Peace and Reconciliation Committee that was chaired by Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

The scope and the subsequent recommendations of the reconciliation Committee provided the need to re-admit aggrieved stake holders/members of the PDP who as a result of the Obasanjo’s instigated palaver ‘were either forced to leave the party or those who left out of frustration.” It also provided for the party’s leaders, who, based on Obasanjo’s intrigues were not allowed to re-register during the PDP 2005/2006 registration exercise, and aggrieved party stakeholders/members, who, based on the arrangement that produced Yar’Adua as the President of Nigeria were relegated to the background. It was only by re-admitting these members and institutionalizing certain mechanisms needed to deepen internal democracy within the PDP that the party can be strengthened and positioned for greater heights, Ekwueme’s Committee concluded. This proposal was and after the death of the late President Yar’Adua implemented and it is still being implemented. It was on th

is basis that amongst others, Atiku Abubakar was re-admitted into the Party, and granted waiver to seek election as one of the Party’s Presidential aspirants. To also safe himself Obasanjo’s liability, the late Yar’Adua also made moves which before his death, made him to keep and sustain distance with the former and also render him somehow insignificant in running the affairs of the Party.

Despite the fact that some aggrieved stakeholders made a comeback into the Party before Yar’Adua’s death, for one reason or the other, the reconciliation effort did little to abate/ fix the problems that were rocking the Party.

Some of the reasons why this happened include the fear of reappraisal attack from perceived foes- old and returnees, refusal to effect changes in the party hierarchy-state and federal that was foisted by Obasanjo and his lackeys, personality clash between aggrieved stakeholders and those who emerged against the backdrop of the crises, pedigree factor, mutual mistrust and acrimony, refusal of returnees and those on ground to shelve their factional affiliations/loyalties, outcome of the 2007 election, insistence that party congresses be re-conducted at all levels and that Obasanjo be either relieved as the BoT Chairperson or his influence whittled down.

While Yar’Adua was battling to fix these seemingly irreconcilable problems and other pig-headed ones, his fragile health incurably plummeted; hence, he was rendered incapacitated to carry out any responsibility expected of him as the President of the country and leader of the PDP.

Most active players who knew Yar’Adua would not survive the illness started strategizing on how to make political mileage out of the situation, therefore, the intrigues that trailed the period which lasted between the sickness and eventual death of the latter.

The politicking that lasted this period created multiple centres of authority within the PDP, and hence, the evolution and consolidation of new power blocs within the party. In the consequence, the crisis within the party escalated and instantaneously took a new turn as the question of whose turn is it, within the geopolitical zones in the PDP, to produce the party’s Presidential flag bearer in the 2011 elections. This was one the fears why the transition of power to Jonathan as acting President was somehow delayed. Jonathan who did nothing to douse the apprehension also misguidedly heightened the tension arising from this Zonal/PDP Presidential flag bearer question by making moves which strongly indicated that he was not ready to follow subsisting party’s arrangement. Again, the party became polarized, now, along two major lines – pro-Jonathan and pro-Zoning camps and many other sub-interest axes which are directly or indirectly attached to the two dominant streams.

Obasanjo and some of his boys are known to be on the side of those who wanted zoning jettisoned so that Jonathan can run for the Presidency of the country under the PDP. This singular factor, that is, Obasanjo’s support for Jonathan also spiraled the in-party crisis as aggrieved stakeholders and all of those who were once victims of Obasanjo’s iron-fisted and draconian hold on the party re-grouped to salvage their political careers from suffering another nightmarish set back.

The factors that have been so far briefly highlighted have brought about gargantuan and across-the-board changes in the political physics (balance of forces) and chemistry (stability) of the PDP. It is only the politically naïve that can challenge the veracity of the fact that this developments are to a large extent, responsible for the crises which are affecting almost all chapters of PDP.

At this stage, that is the second part of this article, attention will, on the one hand, now be focused on how the above factors will affect Jonathan’s political fortune during the PDP primaries. On the other, some indexes of political calculus- political desire, political cover, political cost, political risk, and political commitment will be used to the same effect.

To start with, one may be tempted to ask this leading question, why is it that the Ibadan PDP chapter is embroiled in a serious inter-party crisis that has largely unsettled and making it electorally weakened? As history and nature of the current Oyo PDP crisis suggest, the root of the problem is indisputably associated with the politics that led to the dethronement of Ladoja and how Alao Akala was against the wish of founding fathers/gladiators of the Oyo PDP imposed by both Obasanjo and late Lamidi Adedibu. The aggrieved gladiators which comprises ex- Governor Rashidi Ladoja, High-Chief Lekan Balogun, former Deputy-National Chairman, South of the party, Alhaji Yekini Adeojo, and a former Minister for Special Duties, Elder Wole Oyelese, have constituted selves into a united strong power bloc whose main pre-occupation is to scuttle Akala’s second term agenda. This strong anti-Akala power bloc has a poor opinion about the PDP national leadership for its inability to enforce the implementation of the Ike Nwachukwu-led National Peace and Reconciliation Committee on the Oyo PDP crisis. The Nwachukwu’s report recommended that the way out of the Oyo impasse was to dissolve the existing party structure and replace it with a new one whose composition will be based on a sharing formula that allows for even representation of all major camps that were involved in the crisis. The execution of this resolution which was welcomed by all was however rejected and frustrated by Akala who feared all other camps can easily unit together and effectively takes over the party structure from him. In the consequence, it dawned on him that his second term bid would become a political mirage, hence, the desperate search for a way out of this political dilemma. As a way of this political fix, Akala felt the only way he could beat those opposing him to the 2011 PDP guber race is to align his interest with Jonathan’s own and to his grace, he was able to sell his dummy to the latter. Since Alao Akala is enjoying the backing of Jonathan Goodluck, it is only natural that both would work hand-in-hand for the realization of each other’s gubernatorial and Presidential aspirations. This Akala-Jonathan partnership is not without its consequences because it is such which has generated its own opposite. This opposite, which includes the anti-Akala forces in Oyo state and anti-Jonathan camps would coalescence together to slug it out with Alao Akala at the state level and Jonathan, at the federal level. In effect, this will affect the number of Oyo delegate votes that Jonathan can swing in his favour during the PDP Presidential primaries.

The PDP camp in Ogun state is also enmeshed in internal crisis which has pitched against one another, party stakeholders. Governor Gbenga Daniel who is the South-West Coordinator of Jonathan’s campaign is at the centre of this crisis which has amongst others, Olusegun Obasanjo, Dimeji Bankole, the Minister for Commerce and Industries, Chief Jubril Martins Kuye, as political foes. The crisis has divided the Party into two state-factional leaderships, and split the State’s House of Assembly into camps with each having its own Speaker. There are the G-16 lawmakers with Mr. Tunji Egbetokun as its Speaker and the G-9 lawmakers whose Speaker is Mr. Soremi Coker. Both camps want to produce Gbenga Daniel’s successor and one would surely fight back if the other gets the ticket at the expense of the other. As expressed Chief Babatunde Fadun, the Public Relations Officer of the Ogun People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who exonerated Nwodo of any wrongdoing, Jonathan has done little to solve the crisis. Chief Fadun is reported to have said, “I was at the meeting where the leaders of the party met with the President and he said he would do something about the situation. But that is yet to materialize. So, if anything happens in Ogun State, it is the failure

of the leadership to make things work.” Fadun has spoken what is known to observers of events as the feelings of most of the stakeholders in Ogun state PDP. Given this impression and that interest is the only permanent thing in politics; therefore, it is stating the obvious that this will considerably affect the number of Ogun delegate votes that Jonathan can swing in his favour.

The PDP leadership’s inability to manage internal crisis as expressed by Gbenga Daniel is one reason why they also lost Ekiti. Accordingly, he submitted, “the worst disaster is losing Ekiti State. If we are not careful, and God forbid, it could be the end of our party in the South West. The capacity of our party to manage crisis is nil. We are all endangered species. There is no doubting the fact that the internal crisis within Ekiti PDP stakeholders and their poor opinion on the party’s national leadership won’t encroach on the delegate vote Jonathan can garner from this state. Similar trends as it is with the foretasted exist in other chapters of the South-West PDP state chapters. Therefore, it may be argued that contrary to media claims and the perceived endorsement of Jonathan, the latter, it may be argued, is not in the real control of the PDP delegates’ votes in the South-West.

Same observation as it is with the South-West may not be the case with the South-South where Jonathan hails. He is the favored candidate and the probability is high that he might probably get nearly all the delegate votes from this region. However going by the recent outburst of Pa Anenin, there is possibility that some forces within the South-South might be working underground against the interest of Jonathan in this region. Anenih, one of the game’s veterans said that “Anybody from the South-South who does not vote for this ticket (Jonathan/Sambo), God will not give him good luck. That day, we have the boxes, Bayelsa, Edo, so when you put your ballot paper inside the box, we will know what you have done. Akwa Ibom box will be counted, Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan! We don’t expect to be here, not even by mistake, somebody is saying Atiku. We will identify the handwriting of that person. If it is a finger print, we will trace it. I hope you know I was a Commissioner of Police! We will trace that person who made that terrible mistake!” I leave readers to ponder on why Anenih issued this threat and how probably, this correlates with the real and not the sensationalized South-South PDP delegates’ voting pattern? Is this not suggestive that some delegates and forces are known not to be disposed to Jonathan’s dream? By issuing such threat in the public, does is it not implies that Jonathan’s challengers are exerting increasing presence in the South-South?

The South-East one may safely conclude, would surely trade off Jonathan in order to realize their 2015 presidential dream. In other words, the South-East PDP will trade their vote for the North so that the latter can support them in claiming the same mandate in 2015. One way to look at this issue logically is from the prism of a South-East running mate, which from all indications, is a possibility foreclosed to Jonathan. By refusing to settle for a South-East running mate, the obvious is that Jonathan will be trading the North for the South-East based on an understanding that by 2015, he, Jonathan, will offer his support for the 2015 Northern presidency agenda. Therefore, based on the political mathematics of concession, the foreclosure of the Igbo running mate option by Jonathan strongly indicates the foreclosure of the 2015 Igbo presidency. Therefore, a step towards realizing the 2015 Igbo presidency is the running mate question as this is a bargaining strength upon which the foundation of the 2015 can be built and allegiances traded. On the basis of this, it is wise to predict that Jonathan will lose a considerable number of delegate votes from the South-East.

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