IT was a replay of past bitter politicking at critical meetings of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Executive Council (NEC) in Abuja yesterday.
What occurred was similar to the fierce battle within the party when under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the party attempted to cut to size its governors, who had become too powerful within the PDP caucus.
The meeting, which was called to review the PDP constitution, took a worrisome dimension, to the extent that a governor allegedly engaged President Goodluck Jonathan in a shouting match.
The governor was angry that the President allegedly wanted to railroad the governors into endorsing an enlarged membership of the PDP decision-making body to whittle down the numerical strength of the governors.
Under this arrangement in the formula allegedly presented by Jonathan, the governors would have to contend with 72 members from the National Assembly that would be joining the party’s power bloc.
The Guardian learnt that the President wanted the PDP to expand the membership of its power-house in order to check the influence of the governors that have often used their position to frustrate presidential powers.
Sources at the meeting claimed that the governors kicked against the decision and forced Jonathan and the PDP leadership to set up a panel to reconcile the differences.
Obasanjo had tried the expansion of NEC with support from the National Assembly to reduce the governors’ powers but failed.
Yesterday’s meeting indeed tried the soul of the ruling PDP as a crack emerged within its fold over the attempt to amend the party’s constitution
It was learnt that trouble started when the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee and the PDP National Legal Adviser Olusola Oke, presented the report of the panel, which contained far-reaching reforms. Some members’ call for its adoption allegedly threw the meeting into disarray.
According to sources, the governors of the party represented by Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who is also chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, made a submission urging the party to allow members to study the content and make input before taking it to the PDP National Convention scheduled for March 24, 2012 for ratification.
The governor was said to have pointed out the implication of the wholesome adoption of the report by NEC, stressing that it might not go down well with some members and consequently make nonsense of the entire exercise.
When tempers rose as a result of pressure allegedly mounted by some members of NEC for the meeting to endorse the report, it was suggested that a panel be raised to look at the report and make necessary adjustment before presenting it to the National Convention.
At this point, it was agreed that Jonathan should lead the team, which has Vice President Namadi Sambo, three senators to be nominated by the Senate President David Mark, three members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, state chairmen of the party, former chairmen of the party and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) to look at the proposed amendments.
Some of the items on the proposed party’s constitution include expansion of NEC to include one senator and a member of the House of Representatives from each state and creation of new organs such as caucuses at local council level, elders’ committee at the state level to advise state executives, direct primaries; adjustment of legislative congresses to increase delegates of governors to one-third of the delegates and increase in provision for women from 15 per cent upward.
The Oke panel also sought the creation of National Finance Committee, expansion of national caucus to include all NWC members and six governors (one per geopolitical zone).
Addressing journalists after the meeting, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, said the forum approved a new zoning system for national offices in the party.
“As a prelude to the smooth conduct of the forthcoming National Convention and in line with the provisions of the PDP constitution, NEC approved the zoning of offices for the NWC as follows: North East Zone (National Chairman); South-South Zone (Deputy National Chairman and National Financial Secretary; (South-West Zone), National Secretary and National Auditor), South-East Zone, National Publicity Secretary, Deputy National Secretary and National Woman Leader); (North West Zone), National Organising Secretary and National Treasurer; (North Central Zone), National Legal Adviser and National Youth Leader.”
He added: “NEC also received a proposal for the amendment of the PDP Constitution. NEC commended the Constitution Review Committee for a job well done and referred the report to a Special Committee comprising of the President, Vice President, six state governors, six members of the National Assembly, three former chairmen of the party, former chairmen of the Board of Trustees and six members of the NWC. The committee shall examine the constitutional amendment proposal and present a roadmap for the way forward.’’
Speaking before the meeting, which had all the governors, Jonathan reiterated his appeal to party members to ensure cohesion of PDP and tasked them to play according to the constitution.
On his party, the PDP Acting National Chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, commended the outgoing NWC, noting that it was able to address all the challenges that came its way. He listed victory of the party in the re-run elections and fresh elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, Adamawa and Sokoto states as the achievements of the panel.