Tongues have continued to wag in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the lackadaisical attitudes of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo, towards the affairs of the party.
By virtue of the positions they occupied, the duo are seen as the national leaders of the main opposition party in the country. Both of them were in charge of the country’s affairs from 2010 to 2015 on the platform of the party before losing the 2015 presidential election to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
During the last weekend’s national convention of the party in Abuja, Jonathan and Sambo were absent. There have been reports that they are romancing with top shots of the ruling party.
Many were not shocked when Jonathan was absent during the just concluded national convention of the PDP as the former president has been shunning functions of the party that brought him to limelight. In the last two years, he has not been seen at functions of the party, both in Abuja and Bayelsa.
Daily Trust on Sunday observed that Jonathan was last spotted at the PDP function in Bayelsa State in April 2019. During that stakeholders meeting convened at the Government House to deliberate on the party’s primary ahead of the last governorship election in the state, he warned that the party may lose the election if it did not put its house to order.
A PDP chieftain in Bayelsa State who spoke on condition of anonymity, urged the party to look beyond the former president, but put its house in order to win the next general elections.
He said, “Our challenge now is not whether former President Jonathan attends our meetings though his presence could be an encouragement to the party. I believe we should put our house in order and ensure we win the confidence of Bayelsans and Nigerians to win the 2023 general elections.
“That is why the incoming leadership of our party has a lot to do to ensure that they resolve any grievance from our members and ensure that all stakeholders are consulted before certain actions are taken in the party.
“Jonathan is not contesting any election in 2023. At least for now he has not told us. So I believe we should not waste our energy to continue to worry about whether he attends our meetings or not.”
A pro-democracy advocate from Ogbia Local Government Area, same area with Jonathan, Comrade Wisdom Oniekpar Ikuli, queried why the PDP, which he claimed betrayed Jonathan during the 2015 elections, would be grumbling over his absence in the party’s activities.
He, however, maintained that Jonathan, as a former Nigerian leader, now belongs to all political parties, tribes and religions, saying the leadership of the PDP should be ashamed of themselves for betraying their party in 2015.
“Over the years, Jonathan has successfully institutionalised his name. Majority of Nigerians, Africans and millions, if not billions of people all over the world, including institutions, want to identify with his name, which has become a global brand and symbol of democracy.
“I say this because it is public knowledge that it was the PDP that betrayed Jonathan during the 2015 elections. I do not hold anything against the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership for whatever roles they played. They did what every person in opposition would do,” he said.
Reacting to the issue in a statement, the spokesman of the former president, Mr Ikechukwu Eze, explained that before the last PDP convention, Jonathan had already been booked as ECOWAS mediator to speak at the African Union High Level Retreat, focusing on ways of improving coordination and harmonisation of impactful mediation.
“As ECOWAS mediator and chairman of the regional body’s Council of the Wise, Dr Jonathan gave his commitment to attend and speak at the retreat. This is an international assignment that has a direct bearing on the former president’s peace efforts and the job he is currently handling for the West African sub-region and the entire continent.
“I am aware that three governors paid him a courtesy visit as he was preparing to leave Abuja for Kenya in line with the programme,” he said.
A source from Jonathan’s former office, who declined to be named, told Daily Trust on Sunday that since the former president left office in 2015, the PDP had not shown him enough respect as a leader. He alleged that the former executive members of the party, led by Uche Secondus, disrespected the former president and never consulted him on the activities of the party.
He said, “During the last birthday of the former president, it was APC governors that visited him in his house in Abuja; no PDP governor showed that respect. If you were him, would you have rejected the request from the APC governors to visit you?
“When Jonathan was in power, he appointed most of those governors in the APC into key positions. He helped some of them who were with him in the PDP to become governors before he left office; so he is a leader of all,” he said.
Former Vice President Sambo is the most senior ranking member of the PDP in Kaduna State, but he is certainly not the most influential, if one is to deduce from the outcome of the just concluded national convention of the party.
Sambo’s candidate for the position of the national youth leader of the party, Othman El-Kudan, got a humiliating defeat from a 25-year-old Mohammed Kadade, said to be sponsored by the camp of a former governor of the state, Ahmed Makarfi.
Sources from the party told Daily Trust on Sunday that the defeat of El-Kudan, and by extension, Sambo, was a strong message to the former vice president that leadership and respect are earned and not forced on people.
Sources from the party said that at a time every ranking member of the party was consolidating on sacrifices made since 2015, Sambo was trying to reap where he did not sow.
“This is the time to pull up your sleeves and flex muscles within the PDP family, but you can only do that when you have made sacrifices. Namadi Sambo has almost abandoned the PDP since 2015,’ a high-ranking member of the party said in Kaduna.
Some members of the party told our correspondent that since the defeat of the PDP in 2015, Sambo had become a recluse, avoiding and ignoring invitations to several party engagements.
Another member of the party said that because former Governor Ahmed Makarfi was accessible, all members in Kaduna State rally round him as the most senior member.
“Sambo is inaccessible, but Makarfi is always accessible. If you call Makarfi today he will pick your call. If you tell him you want to see him, he will give you an appointment and wait for you. He listens and his doors are always open to us. But a lot of people will tell you that they cannot remember the last time they saw Sambo. In fact, we were surprised when he threw his weight behind El-Kudan because we thought he had left the party,” the party member said.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered from some members that in 2015, after the party lost the presidential election, as well as the governorship seat in Kaduna, several groups and individuals visited Sambo to urge him to put the defeat behind him and work towards rebuilding the image of the party, but the former vice president allegedly said he was no longer interested in politics and needed to focus on his health.
“Shortly after, we began to notice that he was hobnobbing with Governor Nasir el-Rufai. That was really painful to members of the PDP,” a senior member of the party said.
Party members also accused him of throwing his weight behind the former director-general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Sani Sidi in 2015 for the governorship seat of the Kaduna State. After Sidi lost to Isa Ashiru at the primary election, many became suspicious when he and some key loyalists of Sambo decamped to the APC.
Sambo has also been accused of avoiding meetings of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP, as well as those of the North-West zone, as well as state and local governments since 2015.
“He doesn’t contribute financially, materially, morally, or even by his presence to the party. During the just concluded local government election in Kaduna, he didn’t attend a single meeting. He did not also attend the extended meeting that was called after the first phase of the election,” a party official alleged.
Efforts to get a reaction from the camp of Namadi Sambo through his spokesperson, Umar Sani, did not yield results as he did not answer calls to his phone lines and a text message sent to him.