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With an ally like this…

The real reason why Chairman Bamanga did not call a PDP NEC for a year was because he had alienated its most important voting bloc,…

The real reason why Chairman Bamanga did not call a PDP NEC for a year was because he had alienated its most important voting bloc, i.e. the PDP governors and their appendages, the state party chairmen. This voting bloc could get almost anything it wants at a NEC meeting provided it sticks together. That’s the rub, because some grand manoeuvres by the president and Bamanga in recent months broke the governors’ once united front and has presently reduced them to the status of squabbling pupils.  

From his first day in office after less than an exciting win at the party’s convention in March last year, Bamanga identified the governors as men whose Condor-sized political wings were deserving of a clip. The governors have got the party’s state branches in their pockets. They have the state assemblies in their pockets; every state assembly speaker is but a political extension of his respective governor; they nitpick local government officials and their treasuries; they insist on nominating ministers and ambassadors from their respective states; they control most National Assembly members from their respective states; the national secretariat is beholden to them for monetary donations; and they dominate NEC meetings together with their proxies the state party chairmen.
In one short calendar year, Bamanga had suspended two governors from the party; incapacitated another one by snatching the state party structures from him, and he has alienated most of the others with a combination of arrogant handling, threats and strong arm tactics. This was a feat never achieved in NPN, the only other party that ruled Nigeria at the Federal level since we adopted the presidential system of government in 1979. Throughout  the days of the Second Republic, no NPN governor openly rebelled against the party [except Cross River’s Clement Isong, who was denied a return ticket], none ever had a hot public exchange with the chairman, none ever organized a defiant rally against the party chairman, none ever publicly called for the chairman’s sack and none was ever suspended.
Now, the overwhelming clout of governors on the Nigerian political scene may not at all be desirable; former FCT Minister Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar once described them as “emperors.” Yet, the situation has been like this since the commencement of this Republic in 1999, so why was Bamanga in a hurry to change it? Officially, it is in order to restore the principle of party supremacy over state officials elected on its platform and in order to instill discipline in the party. That is only the ideological cover. The real reason for Bamanga’s wishing to upturn the applecart and to put sand in the governors’ garri is in order to further President Goodluck Jonathan’s personal goal of ruling the country beyond 2015. Many lethal opponents are already lining up against Jonathan’s 2015 ambition; some are popular while others are elitist. Certain developments on the political scene since the 2011 elections have convinced the president that he will have a difficult fight on his hands in 2015. The last place he wants this battle to start is at the party primary election stage, hence the need for a very amenable party chairman.
The biggest change in the political calculus since 2011 has been the strident move by three opposition parties and a faction of a fourth to form a single party, APC. No one knows if this improbable alliance will ultimately work, given the complexities of Nigeria’s political history, the improbability of some ethnic configurations and the volatile character of some of the alliance’s most important leaders. Otherwise, if it is simple arithmetic on paper, Jonathan is in trouble ahead of 2015. Assuming that General Muhammadu Buhari will be able to deliver to APC all the 12 Northern states that he won in 2011 and assuming that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is able to yank off the 6 ACN controlled states–all but one of which voted for Jonathan in 2011–and add them to APC’s voting bloc, then that makes for 18 states, exactly half of the country’s 36. The political danger is even more than that because these 18 include some of the most populous Nigerian states—-Lagos, Kano, Oyo, Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Bauchi and Sokoto.
Based on this arithmetic, Jonathan is left with 18 of the 24 states that he won in 2011, so any further dent in this camp presents a grave existential electoral danger. Don’t forget, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, one of the East’s most effective politicians [he finished second to Umaru Yar’adua in the 2007 PDP presidential primary] will be working to add Imo to the APC column, a state where Jonathan controversially reaped millions of votes in 2011. Add to that the danger that Governor Rotimi Amaechi will work to remove the state that holds the largest residue of votes in the winning 2011 formula—-Rivers—from Jonathan’s haul. No wonder that the Jonathan presidency has deployed almost all its political and governmental arsenal against Amaechi. Besides, of the 7 PDP governors that defied the presidency’s orders and supported Amaechi at the last Nigeria Governors Forum [NGF] election, two of them, i.e. the governors of Adamawa and Kwara, control states that are outside the Buhari 12. The danger exists that these two could also end up in the opposition’s haul. Jonathan is in a dicey situation politically and it is Bamanga’s task to rescue him at all costs.
As it is, Bamanga is compounding Jonathan’s problems rather than ameliorating them. I do not know whether this is due to advancing age or the conflict with personal goals; otherwise, Bamanga Tukur was one of the most effective politicians of the Second Republic who evolved a personal organization, BMT that took the old Gongola State by storm in 1983. The snag this time around is that even while he is doing the president’s bidding, Bamanga is determined to use this God-sent opportunity so late in his political life to achieve some personal goals of his own. The first one is to punish Admiral Murtala Nyako, another volatile element who used his governorship of Adamawa State since 2007 to sideline and humiliate state party elders such as Bamanga. The chairman’s second goal is to install his son as Nyako’s successor in 2015.
The attempt to clip the wings of governors may look like the best strategy to ensure that Jonathan does not face any major obstacles in his desire to get the PDP’s 2015 presidential nomination. Yet, it also threatens the ultimate goal of victory in the general election. Probably more than the president, governors are PDP’s top electoral asset. In all the elections held thus far in this Republic, governorship incumbency is the most reliable indicator of party performance in any state. There have been notable exceptions, such as PDP’s capture of several ANPP and AD states in 2003 and 2007; ACN’s [court-assisted] recapture of the South West states from PDP after the 2007 elections; Buhari’s winning 9 PDP and 3 ANPP controlled states in the 2011 presidential elections, as well as ACN’s capturing Oyo and Ogun states from PDP in 2011. Apart from these, the story of Nigerian elections is the story of party victories in states where they have incumbent governors.
A chairman’s proper role would have been to marshal the ruling party’s total power at the federal, state, local and international levels in order to win as many elective seats as possible. By making Dr Jonathan’s personal ambition and his own score-settling as the main goals, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur could be writing PDP’s epitaph.

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