2011: PDP governors’ Schemes against Jonathan Goodluck


  • plot to choose Yar’Adua’s successor

While Nigerians are still grappling with the curious reality of the emergence of an Acting President, the politics of selection for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has started in earnest.  At a time when the PDP governors and members of the ruling party ought to be assisting the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to consolidate power, they have upped the ante by setting the tone for the scramble for the party’s 2011 presidential ticket.

Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor of THE NATION writes on the scheming against Goodluck Jonathan so far and the role of the party’s governors.


Having been in power for 11 years running, any political development within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) cannot be ignored either by the opposition or Nigerians in general. When the PDP governors invited the leadership of the party to the Kwara Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro District, Abuja, for a meeting on March 2, 2010, it was expected that the agenda would focus on the health situation of President Umaru Yar’ Adua and his return to the country from the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Saudi Arabia.

However, the party’s National Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor took a remote-controlled route by asking Jonathan to forget any ambition to run for the Presidency on the PDP platform in 2011. He said the party’s presidential ticket will be retained by the North till 2015. According to him,”We felt that the zoning of the presidency of the party as enshrined in the party’s constitution should be maintained and therefore the zoning arrangement in the constitution should hold for the next four years.”

At a time when the PDP governors and members of the ruling party ought to be assisting the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to consolidate power, they have upped the ante by setting the tone for the scramble for the party’s 2011 presidential ticket.

Why the governors/PDP leadership made March 2 declaration

According to sources, the March 2 declaration by the PDP leadership was the handiwork of some governors of the party and members of the cabal in the kitchen cabinet of President Yar’Adua. Out of the 30 PDP governors, fewer than five had actually backed the emergence of Jonathan as Acting President until it became obvious that they could not run against the popular will of Nigerians. By ambushing the Ogbulafor-led National Working Committee (NWC), it was learnt that the game plan of the governors was not only to divert the attention of Nigerians from the ailing President (whose health has attracted major headlines in the last three months) but also to checkmate the ambition of the Acting President. There were fears that the allure of power (as in most African countries) might force Jonathan to take a shot at the Presidency and such a desire might alter the zoning formula of the party in 2011 and set the North against the South It was gathered that the pronouncements of some prominent leaders of the South-South, especially the fiery war-drum beats from Chief E.K. Clark, made the governors to become suspicious of a hidden agenda.

A highly-placed NWC source said: “The political game during the countdown to the emergence of Jonathan, especially moves by the Federal Executive Council to invoke Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution to declare Yar’Adua as permanently incapacitated, posed a serious worry to the governors and Yar’Adua’s men such that they had to pull the strings.

“The gradual detachment of Jonathan’s presidency from that of Yar’Adua also fuelled the plot by the governors to stampede Ogbulafor to make the declaration.

“With their control over the majority of the members of the National Assembly, the governors succeeded in halting the invocation of Section 144 by advising Jonathan against it.

What the governors/ PDP have achieved so far

By setting the agenda for 2011, the governors, the ruling cabal and the PDP leadership might have permanently foreclosed the emergence of Jonathan as the substantive President. According to findings, the grand plot is to increase the tempo of the jostle for the presidential ticket within the party and make nonsense of agitation for either the invocation of Section 144 or the removal of President Yar’Adua. Therefore, for his tenure, Jonathan will remain an Acting President and may not be able to join the league of ex-Presidents.

The governors have also succeeded in demonstrating that they are still in control of the party machinery. When the party was almost split by Obasanjo/Yar’Adua camps over the choice of either ex-Governor Sam Egwu or ex-Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim as the new National Chairman for the party, the governors broke the tie by settling for Ogbulafor. Right from his days as the National Secretary of the PDP, Ogbulafor has been an ally of Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki, a member of Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet and the present Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum. Also by design and a proactive plan, Saraki’s loyalist, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje became the National Secretary of the party. With the governors in control of the party, they are at advantage to determine the next presidential candidate of the PDP without sweat through the primaries where, by virtue of the PDP constitution, the governors will control most of the delegates to the National Convention to pave the way for the tyranny of the majority.

Unlike ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who, through political arm-twisting imposed his successor by manipulating PDP primaries, the Acting President (judging by the high-wire politics of the governors) may not have a say in the choice of the next presidential candidate of the PDP other than allowing the ballot process to be transparent and fair during the primaries.

And this might prove dangerous for Jonathan’s political career because once Yar’Adua’s cabal is able to return one of their own to Aso Rock, the Acting President might face what a source described as ‘political nemesis.’ All his policies and actions will be reviewed to prove a point that he cannot upstage the present cabal in power.

Jonathan’s continuous acquiescence in the governors’ demand for the sharing of funds from the Excess Crude Account without tying it to far-reaching projects has further empowered the governors to prepare for 2011. In what appeared a matter of political expediency, Jonathan had in the last one- and a-half- months approved disbursement of $3billion (including the $1billion shared to states on Friday) from the over $6billion left in the Excess Crude Account.

The most significant aspect of the governors’ shuttle, at least thrice in the last two weeks, is that they have kick-started the presidential campaign going by the level of consultations in Abuja by major political players.

On Thursday night, the PDP governors went a step further by agreeing that any of the zones in the North (North-Central, North-East and North-West) could produce the next presidential candidate. Although their decision (without recourse to elders like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo) has caused disquiet in the party, the governors are losing no sleep over their plan.

A top member of the party’s NWC, said: “The party does not want to be caught napping or unawares that is why it is unfolding its electoral programme now, including zoning. We disagreed with some of our elders that our preparation is early.”

Asked if the party’s presidential candidate will emerge in September, the source said: “We are working towards that but I won’t tell you which of the geopolitical zones in the North will produce our presidential candidate. We will be exposing our electoral tactics by mentioning the zone where our candidate will emerge from.”

Why more presidential aspirants will emerge

The party had in 2007 zoned the presidential slot to the North-West leading to the election of President Umaru Yar’Adua. But with the latest antics of the governors, more presidential aspirants/materials will surely emerge from North-Central, North-East and North-West.

The roll-call of some possible candidates is as follows: Ex-President Ibrahim Babangida; ex-FCT Minister Nasir el-Rufai; ex-Governor Adamu Muazu; Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Governor Danjuma Goje, ex-Governor Abdullahi Adamu; Governor Isa Yuguda; Senator Adamu Aliero; SGF Mahmud Yayale; EFCC former Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Governor Bukola Saraki.

If the antecedents of the PDP are anything to go by, reluctant people might still be dragged into the race. That is why Governor Ibrahim Shema is being peddled as one of the materials to bridge the remaining four-year presidential gap left for the North.

The Northern Youth Coalition (NYC) has reservations already that there might be a conspiracy against el-Rufai, Ribadu and Muazu. In a recent statement, the coalition said: “NYC is also aware of the problem associated with their choice of candidates who are at the moment antagonists of many power blocs in the North.

“Ironically, it is for this same reason that the NYC has placed much premium on the candidature of these people, believing that their independent nature would serve to sever the umbilical cord that has limited the scope and vision of those politicians beholden to established power blocs and groups in the largely conservative North.

“With the possible exception of former Bauchi State Governor Ahmed Adamu Muazu, Nuhu Ribadu and Nasiru el-Rufai are known antagonists of the PDP. In addition, they are also antagonists of most Northern governors who control the party machinery.

“To preserve their hegemony, the governors will take every step to block the possible nomination of this trio. Thirdly, Nasiru el-Rufai’s major problem leading to his current exile originated from his travails with the Senate where he may have foes.

“Ahmed Muazu faces lesser challenges given that he is not in direct conflict with the leadership of the PDP. He is however a known antagonist of Governor Isa Yuguda who is being rumoured to be one of the preferred candidates being sponsored by the Yar’Adua camp to succeed the president.”

A party source said: “I think the governors opted to leave the race open so that the North will be able to pick a candidate out of the multitude.

“This strategy can only work if the governors are sincere and they are out for the best.

Are the governors working for one of their own?

The apprehensions in the PDP border on the fact that the governors, like their predecessors, might be working for one of them to succeed Yar’Adua as the nation’s President. The speculations are strongly in favour of Governors Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), and Bukola Saraki. Interestingly all the serving governors being tipped have been members of the kitchen cabinet of Yar’Adua.

But a source added: “Given the resentment against the cabal holding the nation hostage at present, it will be difficult for any member of Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet to emerge as the PDP presidential candidate.

“I hope the plot of the governors is not for a back-door self-succession in office which Nigerians will resist. The alternative is for the opposition to form the next government if the PDP is not tactical.”

The shape of the battle to come

From the tone of the governors, there are indications that the presidential candidate of the PDP might emerge in September. The battle is certain to be between the governors and other stakeholders in the party, especially the influential elders like ex-President Obasanjo, who are being sidelined at present. A ’joker’ being proposed by the elders is the idea of a consensus candidate which will involve privileged members of the PDP (including the governors) zeroing in on a candidate. Do the PDP governors hold the ace? The level of horse-trading in the coming months will determine that.