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Party crisis: How PDP, APC national chairmen lost their seats since 1999

The recent sack of the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Iyorchia Ayu, did not come as a surprise to many observers.…

The recent sack of the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Iyorchia Ayu, did not come as a surprise to many observers. It merely conformed to a grim tradition that has haunted the party and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the years. In this piece, Daily Trust on Sunday takes a retrospective look at the circumstances that led to the unceremonious exit of national chairmen of both partiess over the years.

 

PDP

Pince the inception of the PDP in 1998, only Senator Ahmadu Ali completed one term in office. The other chairmen had witnessed the same fate like the embattled Ayu and were forced out in battles for the soul of the party.

Among factors responsible for their unceremonious exit included plot to control the apparatchiks of the party by occupants of Aso Rock, as well as the struggle for the control of state chapters of the party between governors and the national chairman.

In the case of the current travails of Ayu, his alleged refusal to honour an agreement on the zoning of political positions, the fallout of the last elections, and his daring move to summon his state governor, Samuel Ortom, before the disciplinary committee of the party, were some of his sins.

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Before Ayu, former PDP national chairmen like Chief Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Chief Audu Ogbe and Uche Secondus had been booted out of office for one reason or another by the powers-that-be, depending on who was in charge at that point in time.

Solomon Lar

Chief Lar was the pioneer PDP national chairman from 1998 to 2002.

After spending months in the saddle, he was said to have fallen out with the then-President Olusegun Obasanjo over the control of the party.

Lar, a foundation member of the PDP, was alleged to be involved in a battle with Obasanjo over the control of the party structures, especially the National Assembly. Obasanjo sought to wield control of the party from its founding fathers, represented by Lar.

Lar was to lose out in the supremacy battle as he was replaced by Barnabas Gemade, the Benue-born politician.

Barnabas Gemade

The power romance between Obasanjo and Gemade blossomed as the presidency took charge of the National Assembly between 2000 and 2006, deciding who got what, including Senate presidency, speakership of the House of Representatives and other principal officials.

As part of efforts to maintain the party and ensure that they retained power in the 2003 general elections, Obasanjo felt that Gemade might not have what it took to hold the party together and was said to have asked him to go.

To assuage the people of the Middle Belt and Benue in particular, Obasanjo replaced Gemade with Audu Ogbeh, who stakeholders said the president then felt would have the power to galvanise the party to win the 2003 elections.

Meanwhile, Ogbeh’s tenure was even more dramatic as his effort to assert independence, different from his predecessor, landed him in trouble. He was allegedly forced to resign at gunpoint after he advised President Obasanjo to take action over the crisis rocking the party in Anambra State, where Chris Uba, an ally of the president, was said t have caged Governor Chris Ngige and forced him to resign, amidst other issues.

Ogbeh was eventually booted out in December 2004, following which Obasanjo was said to have drafted Ahmadu Ali, a long-time associate with a military background like him.

Ahmadu Ali

Till date, Ali was the only PDP chairman that completed his first tenure and vacated office. He was later appointed the chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA.

Prince Vincent Ogbulafor

Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, who took over from Ali, was also forced to resign following squabbles between him and his state governor, Theodore Orji.

The struggle for the soul and structure of the party in Ogbulafor’s state was so intense that he had to resign after he was slammed with a corruption allegation of about N100million state fund when he was a minister.

He was replaced by Okwesilieze Nwodo, who also got sacked by a court in Enugu in controversial circumstances after a dispute with his then state governor, Sullivan Chime.

An Enugu High Court ruling sacked him on the ground that he was not a card-carrying member of the party.

Bamanga Tukur

Bamanga Tukur’s troubles also started from his home state, Adamawa, where his control of the party structure  was challenged by former Governor Murtala Nyako.

Ahead of the 2015 elections, several governors, including Nyako, asked for his removal, fearing that Tukur, a key ally of former President Goodluck Jonathan, would lend his support and turn over the party’s machinery to Jonathan, should he seek re-election.

Uche Secondus

In the case of Secondus, some southern forces, led by his state governor, Nyesom Wike, were said to have drafted him to lead the party and protect their interests. But when the centre could no longer hold, Wike was among those that allegedly encouraged the executive in ward 5, Ikuru town in Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State to suspend Secondus. He followed it up with his ouster.

The case of Ayu is, therefore, viewed by analysts as following a laid down tradition.

How APC’s five national chairmen fared in 10 years

The All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed in 2013 with the main agenda to wrest power from the then ruling PDP.

It came on the political scene as a result of a merger of other political parties, which collapsed their structures to form a strong force against the PDP.

The political parties that collapsed their structures, popularly called the legacy parties were the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a breakaway faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).

In 10 years, the APC has had five national chairmen.

Bisi Akande

The decision to appoint Akande as the interim national chairman of the party was reached during a closed-door meeting of stakeholders in Abuja, well-attended by politicians across the legacy parties.

A former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, had told newsmen shortly after the meeting that the appointment was part of the requirements for the registration of the new party.

Sheriff said the appointment of Akande was a consensus decision among the merging parties, while the national secretary of the ANPP, Tijani Tumsa, was appointed as the interim national secretary.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had directed the merging parties to put in place a national executive as part of the registration procedure.

John Odigie-Oyegun

Oyegun, a former governor of Edo State, became the first substantive national chairman of the APC after its registration.

He succeeded Bisi Akande following intense negotiations and horse-trading among various contending forces in the party.

His nomination was subsequently ratified by delegates at the first national convention of the party held at the Eagles Square in June 2014 in Abuja.

Oyegun’s candidature was promoted by the national leader of the party and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, now the president-elect.

He served for only one term and couldn’t stand the pressure but withdrew his second term ambition.

Adams Oshiomhole

Oshiomhole, also a former governor of Edo State, took over from Oyegun in June, 2018.

Oyegun, who was in the race for a second term, however, stepped down. He made his decision known at a press conference at his Abuja residence.

His decision paved the way for Oshiomhole to emerge as the next national chairman of the party. The former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and governor of Edo State had the support of President Muhammadu Buhari and other top leaders of the party.

But his tenure was characterised by intense crisis in the party, which led to his sack and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC).

The National Executive Committee (NEC), which is the second highest decision-making organ of the party, sacked the Oshiomhole-led NWC on June 25, 2020, over an alleged abuse of office and failure to unite the various interests in the party.

Oshiomhole and his team had just spent two of their four-year term when an existential crisis hit the party over the control of its structure.

 

the Oshiomhole-led NWC on June 25, 2020, over an alleged abuse of office and failure to unite the various interests in the party.

Oshiomhole and his team had just spent two of their four-year term when an existential crisis hit the party over the control of its structure.

A series of litigation, which led to Oshiomhole’s suspension via a court order followed, and several members of the NWC began to lay claim to the chairmanship seat.

Sensing the danger this could pose for the survival of the party, President Buhari acceded to a request by the then factional national chairman of the party, Victor Giadom, to convene a NEC meeting, where the decision to sack Oshiomhole was finalised.

Mai Mala Buni

The NEC had, after dissolving the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC, constituted a National Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, chaired by the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, to run the party.

The Buni-led committee was first given six months, beginning from June 25, 2020, within which to organise an elective national convention for a new crop of the NWC to emerge.

But the committee’s tenure was later extended in December, 2020 by another six months to enable them reconcile aggrieved party members before the convention.

At the expiration of the six months, the committee did not complete its assignment as it had embarked on nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise, which ended on March 31, 2021.

President Buhari had single-handedly extended the timeline of the committee from December 2020 indefinitely.

Its inauguration gave a huge relief and hope to party members after a period of intense crisis and acrimony. Stakeholders of the said the party under Oshiomhole was gradually going into extinction as it was neck-deep in crisis.

The Buni-led committee, on assumption of office, commenced the process of reconciliation nationwide and constituted a national reconciliation committee headed by a former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.

The APC had, within the period, harvested PDP bigwigs, including Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, David Umahi (Ebonyi), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, former national chairman of the PDP, Chief Barnabas Gemade, senators and other chieftains of the party.

Daily Trust on Sunday, however, reports that the Buni-led committee had a serious headache as there were protests by party members over its delay in organising the national convention.

Abdullahi Adamu

Adamu emerged as APC national chairman during a national convention organised by the Buni-led caretaker committee at the Eagles Square in Abuja in March, 2022.

Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State, was President Buhari’s preferred candidate, and by virtue of this, other contenders for the position of national chairman were asked to step down for him.

But Adamu’s chance of exhausting his first tenure of four years in office is already shaky as some stakeholders of the party are calling for his resignation for balance of power along religious lines.  For instance, the national vice chairman of the party (North-West), Salihu Mohammed Lukman, recently asked Adamu to step aside for a Christian to take over his office.

Lukman argued that there was no equity, fairness and justice as president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima and Adamu, the party’s national chairman, are all Muslims.

Although Adamu has not reacted to this, pundits said this power play and scheming had the potential of plunging the party into a deep crisis and eventually forcing Adamu out of office.

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A lecturer in the University of Abuja, Dr Abubakar Umar Kyari, said lack of internal democracy in the parties was responsible for the crises and frequent sack of national chairmen.

In a telephone interview with Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday, Kyari said the parties had been hijacked by some powerful forces, who determine what should be done and who gets what; hence they can sack any official they are no longer pleased with.

He said, “It is an evidence of lack of internal democracy in the parties. The APC and PDP have been hijacked by notorious individuals called godfathers in the presidency, and governors.

“It is the president and his cohorts that determine who gets what at the national level. So when these godfathers are fed up with them, they are removed unceremoniously.

“That is why there are endless crises in the parties. The solution is for them to be democratic.”

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