The Peoples Democratic Party is divided over whether or not former President Olusegun Obasanjo should be punished for anti-party activities.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered in Abuja on Friday that some leaders had been mooting the idea that Obasanjo should be punished for the letter he wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan.
They maintained that the letter was against the interest of the party.
It was learnt that while some argued that disciplinary action should be taken against the ex-president, others were against doing so, arguing that it was better to ignore him.
Obasanjo, had, in a letter to Jonathan dated December 2, 2013, taken a swipe at the President, accusing him of causing a division in the party and failing to fight corruption.
He also alleged that there were 1,000 Nigerians on Jonathan’s watch list, adding that the President was training snipers.
But Jonathan had, in his response, said Obasanjo’s letter was a security threat. He said that he had directed security agencies to investigate the former President’s allegations.
Also, the President had, during a Christmas service in Abuja, criticised Obasanjo and his loyalists in the PDP, accusing them of writing unnecessary letters.
A highly-placed member of the party’s National Working Committee, who spoke in confidence with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, said, “President Jonathan has instructed his aides and party leaders against making comments about the disagreement between him and Baba (Obasanjo).
“Whether we like it or not, Obasanjo has earned a position in our polity. He deserves some respect despite his shortcomings. There is no plan to punish him. Many of us believe that he should be allowed to remain in the party.”
But another member of the NWC, who also spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH in confidence, stated, “Left to me, no individual should be bigger than the party. It is either you have a disciplined party, or no party at all.
“Would Obasanjo have tolerated what he is doing to the President while he was there? Any serious party must have disciplined members, particularly now that we are approaching an election year.
“There should be no sentiments about this issue. No individual, I repeat, no individual, no matter how highly placed, should be above the party’s discipline.”
Efforts to reach the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh, for comments were unsuccessful as he neither picked his call nor responded to text messages sent to him.
When contacted, his deputy, Mr. Abdullaji Jalo, said “No comments” before referring our correspondent to his boss.
But in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, the Deputy Chairman of the PDP Disciplinary Committee, Ebenezer Babatope, said the party’s internal challenges were being blown out of proportion.
He said, “Parties do have conflicts; it is the ability of the party to get over those conflicts that makes the party a strong one.
“As far as we are concerned, as members of the PDP, we have challenges of people going away, but they are challenges to spur us into more action to get us more prepared for 2015.”
Commenting on the lull in the activities of the committee, he said the committee would be meeting at the end of January.
Babatope said, “Whether or not people are brought before us for trial, the party is going on with the belief that the conflict within us must be well managed and we are going to manage them well.”
The division in the party on Obasanjo’s fate came on the heels of the recommendation of the party’s Disciplinary Committee for the expulsion of embattled former National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
It also recommended the same treatment for the National Vice Chairman (North-West), Mr. Ibrahim Kazaure.
Others recommended for expulsion included National Chairman of the defunct splinter group of the party, Mr. Kawu Baraje, and his deputy, Dr. Sam Jaja over alleged anti-party activities.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Chidi Odinkalu, has said the commission will launch its investigation into the controversial letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan as soon as the governing council of the commission meets on the matter.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, had requested the NHRC to investigate allegations of human rights violations contained in the letter.
In an electronic conversation on Friday, our correspondent asked Odinkalu when the commission’s investigation would commence, if the investigation would be public and if it would invite the principal actors (Obasanjo and Jonathan) for interrogation.
The NHRC boss said, “With respect to your questions one to three, they’re premature. We’ll address all those in the fullness of time after our governing council has fully received and considered the transmission.
“As to your question four, that is not for me to answer. That is a question for Nigerians and the world.
“On the whole, ours is to seek to normalise the application of rules to facts & to make a contribution to realising the promise of equality before the law. It’s a rather anodyne.”
When he was asked to be categorical on when the council would meet, Odinkalu said, “I’m unable presently to tell you when the council will meet. That will be in the public domain, once we make the determination.”