Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was fully aware of plans by aggrieved Governors of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) together with some other leaders of the party to walk out of last weekend’s mini-convention as a prelude to forming a breakaway faction, it was revealed on Tuesday.
Obasanjo, according to sources, was not only involved in the emergence of the ‘New PDP,’ he indeed gave tacit support to the breakaway group, since according to him, all efforts to resolve the crisis rocking the party had come to naught.
Obasanjo, it is said, was privy to the plans by the aggrieved governors to stage a walkout if their interest was not protected.
The former President, according to sources, was not only notified, he gave his support to the move, should things go awry at the convention ground.
He was said to have been uncomfortable with the way the leadership of the party was carrying on in spite of efforts to resolve some internal crisis.
It was learnt that efforts were made by elders of the party, including Obasanjo, to get the leadership to address some critical issues raised by some aggrieved members; and assurances were given that those issues would be considered during the mini-convention.
However, there were indications that the leadership of the party was likely not going to keep to their promise, prompting the aggrieved members to hatch a Plan B, which Obasanjo endorsed.
It is said that was one of the reasons why he stayed away from the convention. When it was obvious that the party leadership was about to pull a fast one on them, the aggrieved members led by the seven governors walked out of the convention ground and headed for the Yar’Adua Centre where they declared their intension to work independently of the Tukur-led PDP.
The faction broke away last Saturday during the party’s mini-convention in Abuja in what has been variously described as its toughest crisis since its formation 15 years ago.
But curiously, as soon as this happened, Obasanjo who was conspicuously absent at the convention, flew to Abuja on Sunday to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and some of the factional members of the party, including the aggrieved Governors.
The Sunday meeting was attended by 16 Governors and Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Bamanga Tukur-led PDP, Tony Anenih.
It was reliably gathered that the former President’s anger over the treatment meted out to many of his protégés in recent times by the party has not waned, which was why, it was gathered, he directed the Governors to walk out of the convention venue to demonstrate their reservation to the way the leadership was running the affairs of the party.
Besides, the source said, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was really never in the picture when the plan to break the party was hatched.
“He was brought in few minutes before the commencement of the convention by Kano State Governor, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, who informed him about their plan,” said the source who craved anonymity.
The source added: “Atiku replied that they can always count on him in any plan, adding that he has been telling them that the party has been captured by forces against the interest of Nigerians.
“Atiku told Kwankwaso that the Governors should be bold enough to break the back of the party Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, and to move against him.
“So, as soon as it became clear that the aggrieved members’ interest was not being taken into consideration and the Adamawa Governor, Murtala Nyako, led his state delegates in a walkout, Kwankwaso gave Atiku the signal and they all walked out.”
The source, however, said the emergence of Atiku as leader of the faction, forced Obasanjo to retrace his steps from coming out to endorse the group.
“The original plan was for Obasanjo to be named the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the New PDP on Sunday. And the full involvement of Obasanjo ‘boys’ in the faction should have sent enough message that the former President was fully in the know of what was going on,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the crisis got messier on Tuesday when a group within its fold expressed readiness to file papers before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to seek deregistration of the party.
In fact the group has filed a suit at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) challenging the eligibility of the August 31 Special Convention of the party and the chairmanship of Bamanga Tukur.
Parties joined in the suit as defendants are the PDP (1st); National Executive Committee of the party (2nd); National Working Committee (3rd); Bamanga Tukur (4th); and INEC (5th).
The group gave its name as ‘PDP Stakeholders Forum’.
At a press conference in Abuja it claimed that last Saturday’s convention of the party was hosted with fake documents which they claimed is against the law, and punishable with de-registration.
Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, who read the text of the briefing also disclosed that the group would seek cancellation of the convention in the court.
Counsel to Ugochinyere, Elochukwu Nweke, in an originating summon, is praying the court to determine: “Whether the Ist defendant complied with Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) before holding the National Convention of August 31, 2013.
“Whether the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants complied with Section 85(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) in electing the officers of the 1st defendant on the August 31, 2013.
“Whether the 4th defendant (Tukur) is qualified in line with the 1st defendant’s constitution to preside over the 1st defendant’s National Convention held recently.
“Whether the 4th defendant is qualified in line with Section 10(1) of the Ist defendant’s (PDP) constitution to hold the office of the National Chairman of the 1st defendant.
“Whether the 1st defendant’s National Convention held recently is unconstitutional, unlawful, and void and of no local effect.
“Whether or by virtue of Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, the 4th defendant can validly recognise the National Convention of the 1st defendant held recently and the officers elected at the convention.
“Whether Section 32(4) of the 1st defendant Constitution 2012 as amended is unconstitutional or complied with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the Electoral Act.”
According to Ugochinyere, Tukur is not qualified to lead the party as he had earlier been expelled from its fold and was not granted any waiver by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party before he was made the chairman.
Ugochinyere said the constitution used by the party leaders in conducting the mini-convention was a forged one, a condition that qualifies PDP for outright deregistration.
According to him, PDP leaders doctored the 2012 amended constitution of the party in breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“The proof of these evidences can be seen in the approved memo by the PDP NEC upon which the amendment was done in 2012. The original version of the PDP constitution filed with INEC will as well prove these violations.
“By the provisions of Section 78(7)1 of the Electoral Act, INEC was empowered to deregister any political party which breaches any of the requirements for registration as a political party.
“The penalty for violation of the provisions of the constitutional requirements for a political party’s existence is deregistration.
“So, we will ask the court to nullify the convention as it was held with a fake document and as well as seek to deregister the party for violating the law,” Ugochinyere added.
Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State – one of the ‘rebel’ leaders also spoke on the crisis in Minna on Tuesday, saying “what happened at the special convention in Abuja was not about any faction but normal political rough weather that is not peculiar to the PDP alone.”
The Governor stated this at the Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre in Minna where he met with party stakeholders in the state.
He said though his group walked out of the convention, they remained members of the PDP and are open to reconciliation.
“We were being systematically schemed out of the party because some of us are being viewed as disloyal members of the PDP,” he told the gathering.
Attendance at the meeting included some executives of state PDP chapter.
Aliyu explained that PDP was being hijacked by a section to satisfy personal ambitions of some individuals who are interested in imposing their loyalists to do their bidding.
Meanwhile, a group in Osun State has admonished President Goodluck Jonathan to handle the leadership crisis currently rocking the party with utmost care to prevent its break up.
National Leader of Yoruba Youth Allaince (YYA), Jackson Olalekan Ojo, gave the advice in a statement in Osogbo on Tuesday.
While noting that the current crisis rocking the PDP is not too palatable, the group explained that the President needed to evolve measures and strategies to nip the crisis in the bud before it goes out of hand.