Chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) moved yesterday to resolve the internal wrangling that has rocked the party, starting with renewed efforts to improve the relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
This is just as the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, and the five northern governors, who have been holding consultations with eminent Nigerians on the crisis in the party, also met last night with the president at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The peace initiatives coincided with the statement by the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, that the registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will not affect the ruling party’s electoral chances in 2015 as the party does not require a merger to win.
Preparatory to the resolution of the feud between the president and Obasanjo, Jonathan had held a closed-door meeting with some PDP governors on Sunday night till the wee hours of yesterday morning at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It was gathered that at the meeting, which ended at about 4.08 am yesterday, the governors advised the president not to create the impression or perception that he has a problem with the former president.
In furtherance of the peace initiative, the former president was billed yesterday night to meet with the governors in a bid to address all the issues that have contributed to the cold war between the incumbent and one of his predecessors.
Less than a year after the 2011 general election, which Jonathan won with the active support of Obasanjo, the relationship between the men soured, often resulting in public spats.
The point of disagreement is widely believed to be Obasanjo’s perceived opposition towards Jonathan’s undeclared second term ambition. Things came to a head in April last year when the former president resigned as chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT).
As a result of the simmering feud, the former president has tacitly stayed away from taking part in party activities and some state functions, including a mid-term report dinner which the president organised on June 26 to celebrate his second year in office.
As part of efforts to paper the cracks in the relationship, Jonathan during a visit to Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, on July 20 to condole with his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, over the death of his mother, had visited the former president at his Owu home.
However, it was gathered that yesterday’s peace talks with Obasanjo explored how to strengthen the relationship between the president and the former president.
One of the governors involved in brokering a truce between the two party leaders told some reporters in Abuja that contrary to insinuations, the aim of the meeting was not about 2015 elections but how to foster better ties between Jonathan and Obasanjo, adding that “the cat and mouse” relationship between them was affecting the affairs of the PDP.
THISDAY gathered that Obasanjo, in accepting the peace deal, wrote to all PDP governors slating a meeting for yesterday.
The former president informed the governors that the meeting would not end without a resolution of other issues affecting the PDP as a political party.
According to the source, the peace deal was as a result of several consultations initiated by Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and his Cross River State colleague, Senator Liyel Imoke, who had met Obasanjo both at his Ota residence and in Abuja to explore the possibility of reconciling Jonathan and the former president.
“It was a combination of these meetings that eventually led to the summoning of the Monday night meeting between Obasanjo and all the PDP governors to discuss the shape and fate of the PDP in the face of the emerging challenges,” the governor said.
Obasanjo, in his letter to the governors, said none of the PDP governors would leave the meeting until all the contentious issues that led to the crisis in PDP had been thrashed out “even if it takes us from 8 pm to 8 am the next day”.
Giving details on why the PDP governors stepped into the face-off between Obasanjo and Jonathan, the source said: “We are worried by the body language of the former president. The refusal of the former president to be part of the May 29 activities was very worrisome for us.
“Also, the perception that President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Obasanjo are fighting is not helping the party and the presidency.
“PDP as a party is shaking with the registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and therefore we need to put our house in order.
“We want Baba (Obasanjo) to help douse tension within the party by openly identifying with the party and the presidency. We expect the former president to talk to the four governors from the north, because they are all his boys.
“The meeting is not about the presidential election coming up in 2015, but the party. There must be a party first and foremost before any other thing.”
According to him, the meeting with Obasanjo would discuss the situation in the PDP because “none of the party’s governors is on speaking terms with the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
“Since the national chairman assumed office in March last year, there has not been a single meeting between him and governors. We think that this is not a good signal and something has to be done about this. These are some of the main items on the agenda of the meeting.”
However, Tukur yesterday reaffirmed that the party is solid enough to win subsequent elections without merging with any other political party.
Tukur told journalists in Abuja yesterday that he was leading a formidable political organisation that would not be intimidated by the opposition.
“PDP as a united and formidable political organisation under a big and unshakable umbrella does not require a merger or coalition with any political organisation to face any other political party in the country to implement her genuine economic programmes aimed at alleviating the sufferings of Nigerian masses under the transformation agenda of our dear president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan,” he stated.
Speaking on the activities of the five northern governors of Kano (Musa Kwankwaso); Jigawa (Sule Lamido); Niger (Babangida Aliyu); Sokoto (Aliyu Wamakko); and Adamawa (Murtala Nyako), who have been engaged in nationwide consultations, the party chairman said: “They are still consulting and when they finish consulting, we will know.”
He reiterated his commitment to pursue the ongoing reconciliation in the party and enforce discipline.
He explained that the purpose of setting up both the national reconciliation committee and the national disciplinary committee was to adopt a carrot and stick approach.
On the face-off between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the party over the chairmanship of the Anambra State chapter of the party, Tukur said there was no cause for worry as the issue in question was being resolved.
Meanwhile, Jonathan last night met with Amaechi and the five PDP northern governors who have spent weeks consulting with highly placed Nigerians.
A source intimated THISDAY that Amaechi, Aliyu, Kwankwaso, Lamido, Nyako and the Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, were at the villa for the meeting.
Ahmed is a new face among the five northern governors. Prior to this, Wamakko was the fifth person in the group that had met with former Presidents Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Shehu Shagari.
The group had also met with former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme and former Minister of Defence, Lt.-Gen Theophilus Danjuma.
Although all the previous meetings were held behind closed doors, it was gathered that the consultations were made to find ways of resolving the crisis threatening to tear the PDP apart.
In addition to this, the meetings sought ways to end the protracted conflict between Jonathan and Amaechi.
As at the time of filing this report the details of the governors’ meeting with the president were not known.