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Is PDP Chairmanship Cursed?

Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo may have thrown in the towel as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, but his ouster again brings to the fore the question about the manner PDP removes its chieftains. Stanley Nkwocha writes on the unending saga.
That the PDP, between 2009 and 2011 has had three national party chairmen may be surprising, but perhaps more stunning is the fact that between three electioneering years , no less than eight chairmen have ran the show for the party. And  yet? Not one of them left the seat a hero.

Penultimate week, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo resigned, amidst controversy, from the exalted chairmanship position of the ruling party. Nwodo’s days at the Wadata Plaza got numbered just as he stepped in. The number one seat is one that academic qualifications and experience may not influence in terms of longevity. It has become a ‘cursed’ seat that not even the chief priest of the party’s oracle may  say with certainty how long an individual may last.

Despite the crises, the party has continued to remain well structured in other spheres. While the party should be chastised for its many chairman, its comparison with other political parties renders others almost useless, except the Action Congress of Nigeria, which has risen to the call for a serious opposition in the country, the All Nigerian Peoples Party, hitherto expected to give the PDP a run for its money is today a shadow of itself and in April may just be finally intered as its fortunes continue to diminish by the hour. For the ANPP, it may just be a case decided.

That the PDP has been engulfed in a leadership tussle is no fluke. A rundown of its past chairmen and their exit out of office clearly depicts a disconnect between the powers it wields in the polity and the internal power play that characterizes the party sometimes.

Chief Solomon Dashep Lar, after the PDP’s transformation from G34, became the party’s first national chairman. Within a year he had to oversee the party’s  national convention in Jos that produced the flag bearers for the 1999 general election.

Soon after the party’s convention and subsequent winning of elections, President Obasanjo emerged the party’s leader and subsequently got immersed in the intrigues of power. Lar, who was instrumental to the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 fell out with the former president because of the latter’s alleged overbearing attitude. Indeed, Lar’s disdain for the military, after his experience in jail, has always made him dine with the military with a very long spoon. It was therefore a matter of time before his ideology differed from  Obasanjo’s even as it was alleged that he was arm twisted into supporting Obasanjo at the convention as then chairman of the convention, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, and he had opted to be neutral.

It was therefore, not surprising that the former governor was not re-elected at the party’s convention in 2000. He was succeeded by Chief Barnabas Gemade, as he took up the position of the party’s board of trustee’s chairman.

Barely a year afterwards, Chief Gemade was removed as the PDP national chairman in 2001. Like Chief Lar, the Benue – born chief was becoming too independent minded for then President Obasanjo. Again the  ideology difference didn’t take long to manifest as both went separate ways with Gemade being ditched by the Otta farmer  when the party organised a convention that led to the emergence of a Second Republic minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, as his successor. Ogbeh’s tenure was the most dramatic of all the chairmen as he  brought a novel approach to the ruling party with his intellectualism. But for having the audacity to criticise injustice and lawlessness in the PDP, the former minister’s relationship with former President Obsanjo turned sour. It was widely reported that President Obasanjo asked Chief Audu Ogbeh to resign as PDP chairman while both of them were having a meal of pounded yam. Another account has it that it was at gun point.

Dismayed by the crisis in Anambra when Dr Chris Ngige held sway as governor and was abducted , Ogbeh had written to the President to intervene or risk truncating the nation’s democracy.

In a letter to the President dated December 6, 2004 entitled Anambra and Related Matters, which was leaked by the presidency, Ogbeh said; “About a month ago, the nation woke up to the shocking news of a devastating attack on Anambra State resulting in the burning down of radio and television stations, hotels, vehicles, assembly quarters, the residence of the state Chief Judge and finally, Government House, Awka.

‘Dynamite was even applied in the exercise and all or nearly most of these in the full glare of our own police force as shown on NTA for the world to see. The operation lasted three days.

“That week, in all churches and mosques, we, our party, and you as Head of Government and Leader of this Nation came under the most scathing and blithering attacks. We were singly and severally accused of connivance, inaction and so forth. Public anger reached its peak.

“Mr. President, if I write in this vein, it is because I am deeply troubled and I can tell you that an overwhelming percentage of our party members feel the same way though many may never be able to say this to you for a variety of reasons.

“But the buck stops at your table and in my position, not only as Chairman but also as an old friend and loyal defender of your development programmes which I have never stopped defending, I dare to think that we can, either by omission or commission, allow ourselves to crash and bring to early grief, this beautiful edifice called democracy.

“On behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party, I call on you to act now and bring any, and all criminals, even treasonable activity to a halt. You and you alone, have the means. Do not hesitate. We do not have too much time to waste,” Ogbeh wrote. Needless to state that it was the last letter Ogbeh wrote as PDP chairman.  He was forced out in 2005 and succeeded by Dr. Ahmadu Alli.

Done with the seeming indiscipline of civilian party chairmen, Obasanjo after Ogbeh’s resignation, went for the broke and recruited Ahmadu Ali to run the affairs of the PDP.

It didn’t take Ali weeks to settle down before he was dubbed the ‘Garrisson Commander’ . As far as Ali was concerned, the PDP had to be run in a military – fashioned style if discipline was to be instilled in the party. In the process, rather than instill discipline, Ahmadu Ali left the PDP a shadow of itself. His was a tenure of notoreirity. Instead of re –registering party men, Ali’s hallmark included the de-registration exercise he embarked to chase way ‘perceived enemies of the party.

Unlike his predecessor, however,  Ali’s relationship with Obasanjo remained cordial as he kept ‘saluting’ Obsasanjo . He stayed till the end of the former president’s tenure and conducted the convention that brought Obasanjo’s successor, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, to power in 2007..

With Yar’Adua’s entry, the PDP chairmanship post got zoned  to the South-East, as Chief Vincent Ogbulafor from Abia State succeeded Ali. After a three-year reign, Ogbulafor was forced to resign under controversial circumstances. The former chairman ran into troubled water over his comment on zoning. At a time, the zoning debate was raging; Ogbulafor said that the presidency had been zoned to the North. When it was time to push him away, his excess baggage was emptied and in it, amongst others, was found the allegation of fraud.

May 2010 saw Ogbulafor discarded, as the 60-year-old medical doctor and former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Okwesileze Nwodo stepped in and initially differed from his predecessors as he promised to reinvent the party. While Ogbeh battled government and Ogbulafor had a graft allegation hanging on his neck, many believe that Nwodo was partly the architect of his misfortune. His inability to manage crisis in his state, Enugu, led to his exit.After just seven months of service, Okwesilieze Nwodo’s journey as the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came to an abrupt end on Tuesday Januray 18, 2011.

Nwodo’s troubles, some say, was self induced as he tried to poach in areas where no one dared; from his antecedent as an ANPP chieftain who in 2003, contested elections under the ticket of the All Nigerian Peoples party (ANPP) and later, as an Action Congress (AC) party agent in 2007, before he returned to the PDP in 2009; as well as corruption charges hanging on his neck for which the Independent Corruption Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) instituted a legal action in the court, Nwodo’s was a ‘bag full  of sins’.

Not minding eligibility issues and eligibility concerns regarding holding party office, as stipulated in the party’s constitution, Nwodo churned out reforms aimed at giving the party a rebirth.

Though the drama that played out before Nwodo bowed out need not be replicated, it is believed that his inability to manage the crisis, in his home state of Enugu, cost him his seat. Again another chairman is out, leaving the PDP with an acting chairman. The question on the lips of many a Nigerian politicians is : Is the PDP chairmanship cursed?


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Posted by on Jan 30 2011. Filed under Party Politics, Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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