Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and governors of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) met on Monday night to find ways of resolving the crises in the party and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).
Before it was adjourned to last night, the meeting also discussed the struggle for the party’s structures in the states and the question of automatic tickets for elective office holders eligible tocontest for a second term in office, especially for the president and governors.
The meeting, which was inconclusive and was expected to continue yesterday, provided an avenue for the governors to bare their minds on the crises in the party and the NGF.
THISDAY gathered yesterday that the Monday meeting was a cathartic session, as the governors spoke frankly and strongly about their perceptions of the crises and the way forward.
According to a source, everyone at the Monday meeting agreed on the urgent need for reconciliation in the PDP in the light of the threat it portends for the future of the party.
Chairman, PDP Governors Forum (PDP-GF), Chief Godswill Akpabio, also alluded to the essence of the ongoing reconciliation effort in the party, as he noted that the marathon peace meetings were giving the All Progressives Congress (APC) concern.
One of the governors, who spoke to THISDAY, described the meeting as “tough”, adding, “We told ourselves the bitter truth.”
It was gathered one issue that was hotly discussed at the meeting was the NGF crisis as some of the governors were concerned with the dimension it had assumed.
The consensus was that the NGF started and snowballed when the party’s position on who becomes the forum’s chairman was disobeyed.
They described the disobedience of the party’s directive that the PDP should be allowed to present a consensus candidate to chair the NGF as an act of indiscipline.
They also linked the disobedience of the party’s directive on the NGF chairmanship to what happened in the House of Representatives in 2011 when PDP lawmakers ignored the party’s zoning formula that ceded the speakership to the South-west by electing Hon. Aminu Tambuwal from Sokoto State as the speaker.
According to the governor, “The discussion at the meeting centred to a great extent on party discipline. PDP has 23 governors as members of the NGF and the party should be allowed to present the chairman as the party with the highest number of governors and therefore allowing an election in the first place was a misnomer.
“What happened at the NGF election was the same thing that happened in the House of Representatives when the PDP members disobeyed the party’s directives on the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the deputy speaker.”
It was gathered that as a first step towards resolving the NGF crisis, the party might pressurise the two claimants to the chairmanship position, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State and Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, to resign to pave the way for the emergence of a neutral person to chair the forum.
THISDAY learnt that the governors are mounting pressure on their Adamawa State counterpart, Murtala Nyako, given his age and experience, to summon a meeting of all the governors, where both Amaechi and Jang would be made to step aside in the larger interest of the NGF.
“The crisis in the NGF is affecting us, the governors. We cannot speak with one voice on the ongoing constitutional amendment and at the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting. The states have not been paid their expected allocations and now we cannot speak with a voice,” the source added.
However, it was gathered that Amaechi has sworn that he would not step down as chairman of the NGF, making it clear to his loyalists that doing so would amount to succumbing to anti-democratic forces in the party who know that he won the election fair and square.
In discussing the matter of automatic tickets for elected officials seeking a second term in office, the meeting agreed that those affected should contest the party primaries as stipulated in the PDP constitution.
THISDAY gathered that the meeting agreed that since President Goodluck Jonathan is the national leader of the party, it is equally right that the governors should be seen as the leaders of the party in their respective states.
Before the meeting between Obasanjo and the governors began, it was learnt that the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, held a closed-door meeting with President Jonathan between 9 pm and 11 pm on Monday.
However, contrary to earlier reports, THISDAY confirmed yesterday that the president was yet to meet with the governors on the ongoing reconciliation in the party.
The PDP-GF yesterday lauded the moves to reconcile the warring party members, saying PDP’s efforts were giving the opposition cause for concern.
Akpabio, who is also the governor of Akwa Ibom State, made the observation when he visited Jonathan to brief him on the forthcoming party congress in the South-west.
Akpabio, who is also the chairman of the Finance Committee of the South-west Congress, said: “One thing I can assure you is that there are jitters in the camp of the opposition with the meetings of PDP governors.”
However, the governor admitted that more still needed to be done to consolidate the unity of the party, saying another issue that is keeping the opposition camp awake is “the national convention that is coming up because as soon as the PDP puts its house in order, you know the result.”
“The result is that Nigerians will follow suit because that is a truly national party in Nigeria. That is the only party without cleavages of ethnicity or tribalism and that is the only party without a godfather. All of us are there because it’s a national party and it belongs to all Nigerians,” he added.
He expressed satisfaction with the progress being made to ensure total reconciliation, adding, “I am very hopeful that at the end of this exercise Nigeria will continue to enjoy good governance.”
On the purpose of his visit to the president, he said: “I have just met with the president to report on the progress we are making towards the South-west congress that is coming up on the 24th of August and also the national convention that is coming up on the 31st and you know I am a member of the planning committee.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the PDP National Reconciliation Committee (NRC), Hon. Seriake Dickson, and members of the committee met officials of the 13 non-PDP states yesterday to get their input into the fence-mending initiatives of the party.
Dickson, who doubles as the Bayelsa State governor, in his opening speech, told the gathering that since PDP is not a regional or religious party, it does not believe in the concept of minority.
He said it was for this reason that the party picked “Obasanjo from the South-west as its presidential candidate in 1999 and he won the election despite the fact that the zone did not support him.”
He added that it was in the same resolve that PDP presented Jonathan from the Niger Delta.
He told the party leaders to feel free to air their grievances, as the party has an internal mechanism for solving its problems.
Also Tuesday, Tukur assured women of more slots in both elective and appointed positions.
Tukur, while receiving a delegation in his office in Abuja, said the party was bringing in women to participate in all areas.
He said: “People are asking for women to be given 30 per cent; to me, I believe you need more. We are going to bring more and more women in. Is there any man who is not born by a woman?”
He advised the women to brace themselves for the challenges ahead, saying PDP being the biggest party translated to biggest responsibility, noting, “We have to work hard; we have to be focused to earn results in whatever we are doing.”
Speaking earlier, the acting National Women’s Leader, Hon. Oyibo Nwaneri, said the women were on a solidarity visit to Tukur to express their support for what he has been doing and to encourage him to do more.