23rd March, 2012
It would be a fierce battle between President Goodluck Jonathan and the North East geopolitical zone over whose candidate will emerge the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the party hold its National Convention in Abuja tomorrow.
Governors from the region had on Wednesday, humbled Mr. President as their candidate, Musa Babayo, thrashed Alhaji Bamanga Tukur at the party’s regional congress.
Tukur, whose candidacy enjoys the support of the President, got only two delegate votes while the party’s Acting National Secretary, Babayo, got 14 votes.
After the congress, which was held at the Multipurpose Indoor Hall, Bauchi, amid tight security, 54-year-old Babayo was immediately adopted as the consensus candidate of the zone for the party’s National Convention.
The which zone comprises, Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states and PDP governors of Bauchi, Taraba, Adamawa and Gombe states attended the congress.
Though the choice of Babayo would not prevent Tukur and other aspirants, who felt dissatisfied, from contesting at the convention, Political Platform gathered that governors from the zone rejected Tukur’s candidature because of the North’s suspicion of Jonathan’s interest in 2015.
The North believes the President is considering running again in 2015, despite official denial, and fears that his ambition would sail through with Tukur at the helm of the party’s affairs.
It was gathered that the calculations of Mr. President’s advisers could be that Tukur, 74, might be a not-so-active party chairman, thus leaving the deputy chairman of the party, to be nominated from the South-South region, to run the party.
The battle-ready governors also believe that the President has shown that he can’t be trusted given the way he treated their colleague, the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva.
However, President Jonathan has returned to the drawing board with some of his strategists ahead of the convention, as Article 12.58 of the PDP Constitution stipulates that Zonal Congress has no provision for caucus voting for National Chairmanship.
The Article says: “The functions of the zonal congress shall be to (a) approve the budget of the party in the zone; (b) elect officers of the Zonal Working Committee; (c), receive the reports of officers of the party in the zone; and (d) receive the Auditor’s Report.”
Nigerians and members of the PDP had remained silent on who would fly the party’s ticket come 2015, until the leader of the disbanded Niger Delta Volunteer Force Alhaji Asari Dokubo, said Jonathan would rule for eight years.
Neither the President nor his media men cautioned Dokubo against the campaign, but at the party’s 58th NEC meeting, the President asked politicians planning to stand for elections in 2015 to stop holding strategy meetings, saying such actions were distracting present office holders.
He said: “Let me plead with us that those who are interested in the general elections in 2015, I have noticed that some people have just started some meetings, it is too early to hold meetings. INEC normally declares it open.
“The idea is that people who were elected into offices as governors and President be given some time to work. In a situation whereby a governor has not even stayed for a year, the President has not stayed for a year; you started harassing people for 2015 is another way of saying everything is about election,” he added
Already, the Coalition of Northern Leaders has said the Presidency is using the Justice Alfa Belgore Committee on Constitution Review to pursue a tenure elongation agenda for Jonathan.
But the Senior Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, has denied the allegation that his boss is pursuing a tenure elongation agenda. He also denied that the Belgore Committee was being used to give the President a fresh mandate, saying such an idea was mischievous.
Political expediency and individuals’ perceived ambition in 2015 have also made the PDP to suspend the amendment of the party’s constitution.
This followed the strong objection raised by the governors elected on the platform of the party. At the expanded National Caucus meeting of the party held at the Presidential Villa recently, the governors insisted that the amendment must be suspended.
In the alternative, the governors wanted the constitutional amendment taken to the party’s national convention on March 24.
The governors know too well the powers of NEC, as stipulated in Article 12.72(j) of its constitution. The section empowers NEC to “make party electoral regulations to govern the conduct of elections to all party offices at every level and regulate procedure for selecting the party candidates for elective offices.”
2015 is still three years away; but politicians have started the race because politics is seen as a marathon and not a sprint.
Before then, politicians are expected to throw more pebbles and stones at each other. Only those with thick skin will endure them.