16th January, 2014
President Goodluck Jonathan has dramatically announced the resignation of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur at the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP National Executive Committee meeting in Abuja, still in session Thursday afternoon.
Jonathan told the national executive committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that Bamanga Tukur had stepped down, seen as a move to try to calm competing factions and heal divisions.
“For us to make sure that we put to rest these issues, the party chairman agreed to step aside,” Jonathan told delegates at a meeting in the capital, Abuja.
Tukur had been considered an undemocratically appointed place man for Jonathan within the party, with critics using his presence to bolster their opposition to the president.
In November last year, five influential state governors defected to the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) while 37 members of the lower chamber of parliament crossed the floor a month later.
The lawmakers’ actions lost the PDP its parliamentary majority, raising the prospect that it could lose power for the first time since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
At the heart of the dispute is the perception that Jonathan will ignore an unwritten party rule to rotate the presidency between a candidate from the Christian majority south and mainly Muslim north.
Jonathan is a southern Christian.
The president said he had given Tukur “a new assignment” to “market this country and market the PDP”, without going into details, and that his replacement should be from the north and named next week.
Jonathan also said he was unperturbed by the party defections, dismissing them as “normal” and vowing that the PDP would get “stronger and stronger”.
“Before the end of March, people will just relax and say, ‘it’s over’,” he said.
“As long as we do things the way we should do, I believe, and I’m convinced, that (the) PDP will continue to be the number one party in this country,” he added.
After announcing that the National Chairman has indeed indicated his intention to leave his post, the President dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out a letter written to him to that effect by Tukur, an action which was greeted by thunderous ovation.
The President handed over the letter to Professor Wale Oladipo, the National Secretary of the party and Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State was directed to move a motion for acceptance of the resignation.
All members of the party present at the meeting accepted the resignation.
Tukur had battled all week to retain his position as chairman of the party, amidst speculations about his resignation. Several times, he denied resigning. Several times, the news mill continued to churn out his purported resignation.
Wednesday night, Tukur still denied he had thrown in the towel when he spoke with State House correspondents on his arrival at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, for the party’s Board of Trustee (BOT) meeting.
“I am not somebody who will resign and you will not know. I have not resigned,” he said.
But the signs were there that the Adamawa born politician was isolated already in the party, as he was excluded from a national caucus meeting of the leaders of the party presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The meeting was attended by the Senate President, Sen. David Mark and his Deputy, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and his Deputy, Mr Emeka Ihedioha.
Also in the meeting were the BOT Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih and other party leaders, excluding Tukur.
Tukur was also missing at another meeting the President held with some PDP governors before the BOT meeting.
The governors were, Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Theodore Orji (Abia), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta) and Ibrahim Shema (Katsina).
Governors ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) and Ramalan Yero (Kaduna) also attended the meeting.
Suswam told State House correspondents after the governors’ meeting that the discussion was centred on the need to re-strategise and restore the dwindling glory of the party.
“The issues discussed with the president was basically on how to re-strategise and re-position our party and how to move forward as a party.
“The second meeting is the national caucus and I am not in the position to comment on that,” he said.
He said the meeting did not discuss the issue of resignation of Tukur.
Suswam said the decision on Tukur’s fate would be taken at the BOT and the National Executive Council meetings of the party on Thursday.
Bayo Okunade, a professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, said Tukur’s resignation was inevitable to avoid the destruction of the PDP.
“It is a good thing for democracy. It is a triumph for democracy that the party was able to force him out,” he told AFP.
“His leadership of the party was already affecting the machinery and internal workings of the party.”
But he warned that trouble may still loom for Jonathan depending on the reaction of Tukur’s supporters and whether his replacement enjoyed broad support in the party.