MALACHY UZENDU, Deputy Editor, Abuja
HYGINUS Ekwuazi, one of the modern day acclaimed intellectually inclined poets in his collection of poems “Love Apart” painted a graphic picture of the obsession to power and negative the effects wild accumulation of power could have, especially on the separation of hitherto old friends or accomplices. Though published in 2007, it seemed Ekwuazi was clairvoyant, prying into the seeds of tomorrow and being able to succinctly capture tomorrow like the sage Nostradamus. Just recently, what the late Prof. Chinua Achebe predicted has begun to happen. It was akin to what the social psychologist; David Learner dubbed “Revolution of Rising Frustrations”. What began as an amalgam of G-34, the eminent statesmen, who claimed they were democrats to the core, and who met at the private residence of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former vice president, in Ikoyi, Lagos, began to seriously crumble. The greatest beneficiary of the series of meetings that gave birth to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, pinned the most lethal axe blow on the roots and essence of the PDP. Obasanjo, who was languishing in the Gashua prisons in Borno state, folowing his imprisonment by the government of the late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, on trumped up charges of coup plot, was dusted up, rehabilitated and handed over the presidential flag of the PDP even when he failed to satisfy any of the criteria for bearing the PDP flag, which was to secure victory at his ward. Obasanjo was not only beaten pants down in the ward elections in his home ward, he also lost in his family polling station, coming very distant to the Alliance for Democracy (AD). In spite of these abysmal incapacity to obtain what it takes to express interest to run in the PDP primary, some powerful forces, led by former minister of defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, incumbent chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, rallied around, sourced for millions of Naira and paid for Obasanjo’s PDP nomination forms as well as raised money for his subsequent presidential campaign. Their cardinal message, especially in view of the vehemence with which Obasanjo’s Yoruba kinsmen loathed him; rejected him; asked people to beware of Obasanjo, was that Obasanjo has repented of all the allegations leveled against him, having seen 99 in the Borno prison where he was confined. Obasanjo himself admited that “I am now a changed man”. But, fourteen years after he made the statements and gave the assurances, Nigerians are witnesses to the activities of a changed man. His activities in PDP, which rehabilitated him, offered him presidential ticket and once again elevated him to the straddle of global Eminent Persons Group. The face-off between Obasanjo and the PDP right from when some powerful democratic forces in the party thwarted his Third Term Agenda, up to reversing the illegal amendment of the PDP constitution to make him life chairman of the PDP-BoT, to lettisoning his do-or-die concept to elections, or the massive rigging at elections, to jettisoning inequitable distribution of national projects or award of non-existent projects, there have beeen no love lost between Obasanjo and the leadership of the PDP, especially President Goodluck Jonathan, whom Obasanjo considered to be too small to be his party leader. In conspiracy and autocratic theory which emphasises the notion of “the end justifies the means”, one is not surprised that Gen. Obasanjo not only resigned from PDP, but brazenly tore the party’s membership card. Prior to taking this inevitable decision, the public had expected that Obasanjo will eventually resign from the PDP. One needs not go far to find when he took that decision. Immediately he left office and PDP amended the toxic constitution he imposed on the party, he stayed away from all the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings.
He also stayed away from the party’s BoT meetings and Caucus meetings. Not only this, he stayed away from all Council of State meetings. The only time he participated in an important national event was when he was bestowed with a Centenary honour. Some say it is selfishness that brought him to the Villa others people say he broached no shame. Prior to these, he had open shameful accusation and legal confrontation by Gbenga, his first son; Senator Iyabo, his first daughter and Iyabo’s mother. There was even a deafening cover story questioning his paternity by The News magazine. These were long after his Odogbolu clan rejected his nominee for kingship of their community, whom he later imposed on them, using his power of incumbency as president. Obasanjo has since then openly engaged in anti-party activity. He supported candidates of opositng political parties; he castigated former governors of his party’s extraction in his Ogun state; he engaged in acts described as inimical to the well being of the PDP by not only endorsing Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but also openly castigating PDP flagbearer, Jonathan, calling him all forms of derogatory names and accusing him of sundry crimes. After several hide and seek periods, Obasanjo decided to take the bull by the horn. He came out of hiding and denounced his membership of the PDP in a most despicable manner, by tearing the party’s membership card. Why I resigned – OBJ: Aware that he has set an unenviable record, he explained why he did so: according to him, “they said they want to expel me from PDP, although I have not been told but I have my ears on ground. We’ve been trying to run away from a man but he pleads we wait for him at the other side of the river. I have told you before that I became president on the platform of PDP, once I leave PDP I will not join any party. I will only be a Nigerian, I am ready to work with anybody regardless of political affiliation. Why would some people say they want to send me away, they don’t need to bother themselves, here’s your membership card, take it,” Obasanjo said, before dumping his membership card which was later torn by a member of the party from his ward. “From today on, in the presence of all us and with your support, I am not going to be in any political party in Nigeria. I am no more a politician but a statesman both internally and externally. The issued that they want to expel me from the party for, once you people are with me what other people am I looking for,” he told the small gathering of villagers at his residence. PDP leaders however said they have also carefully examined the circumstances and the reasons adduced for this unfortunate decision but though conceding to the inalienable rights of every citizen to hold opinion and to decide who to associate with, “we are however deeply saddened that Chief Obasanjo, a revered leader of our party, our first presidential flagbearer whom the PDP offered the platform to rule our nation for eight years, could decide to abandon this party at this critical point in time. This is especially as Chief Obasanjo, who was also the Chairman of the highest advisory organ of the PDP, the Board of Trustees (BoT) discountenanced all pleas by elders and leaders of our great party with regard to his reservations on certain issues within our fold. Many Nigerians are still bewildered as to disregard what manner of provocation that could have led a former President to lose his composure and go to the extent of tearing the membership card of the party that he once led. “Indeed, the PDP is hugely at loss as to how the decision and action of the former President who had enjoyed the benefits of being elected to the highest position of leadership will assist in deepening our democracy and stabilizing the polity. It is our considered opinion that no matter the provocation, a statesmanly disposition from a person of Chief Obasanjo’s status could have encouraged our citizens and progress stability in the system. We believe however, that what this country needs now is patriotic actions that engender national unity, tolerance and peaceful coexistence of our people irrespective of political, ethnic and religious persuasions. The overall interest of our nation and well being of our citizens must remain paramount and above all personal and group interests.
We direct all our members across the country to remain focused on our campaigns and not to be distracted on this issue. With an array of credible candidates led by our Presidential flagbearer, President Goodluck Jonathan, we are sure that we will emerge victorious come March 28 and April 11, 2015 general elections”. Asked to react to the alleged public tearing of his (Obasabjo) PDP membership card, Chief Anenih, a former close ally of Obasanjo said the action of the former president was an indication that “he had left the party but he would not be missed”. Anenih said: “He (Obasanjo) has the right to leave any party, and he has the right to join any party, he is a Nigerian. PDP would not miss Obasanjo. Why should we miss him? To us leaders it is not a loss”. The PDP BoT chairman also dismissed insinuations that Obasanjo’s exit from the ruling party would deal a deadly blow, resulting in a huge loss to the party, especially coming on the heels of the general elections. The Secretary of the PDP Board of Trustees, Walid Jibrin, has accused Obasanjo, of “behaving irresponsibly” by tearing his membership card in public. Jibrin said Obasanjo should have followed due process as no one was stopping him leaving the party. Said he: “Should Obasanjo a former head of state behave that way? Even if you want to take a decision like that will you do it that way, as a responsible person will you do it that way? I am not saying he is not a responsible person. Responsible one should do it in a very neat way. There is a process of coming out of PDP; you go to your ward submit your card, give some explanations why you are doing so not just in the public”. He also said some utterances made by the former head of state were unbecoming of a leader. “There are some utterances that are not worthy of leaders. You have to make very responsible utterances. There are other past Presidents in Nigeria, have they behaved that way? Obasanjo had access to President Goodluck Jonathan if he felt things were not done right. He said the party was going ahead with its plan to win the elections, with or without him and by the grace of God we are going to win the election. The director of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, was clairvoyant last Sunday when said it was unfortunate that Obasanjo chose to denigrate President Jonathan simply because he (Jonathan) refuded to be teleguided by him (Obasanjo). He also accused Obasanjo of playing ‘god’ in PDP, adding that Jonathan was not the kind of person who would react rashly on issues and situations like Obasanjo would. Also, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and former strong ally of Obasanjo, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, described his resignation from the party as “good riddance to bad rubbish”. He insisted that the resignation was a welcome development, adding that it has lifted a heavy burden from the party. Obasanjo leaving PDP has come as a happy and welcome development. With Obasanjo’s exit, a huge yoke has been lifted off the necks of PDP. I congratulate the PDP for being patient in dealing with former President Obasanjo’s offensives against the party without embarking on wild and unproductive conclusions. Though Obasanjo is a hard fighter, his exit will have no negative effect of any kind on the PDP. The PDP will by God’s grace win the March and April general elections,” Chief Babatope stated.
MALACHY UZENDU, Deputy Editor, Abuja