At last, President Goodluck Jonathan has turned against the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, as the crisis rocking the ruling party worsens.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that for the first time, the President openly condemned the party chairman’s administrative style at a stormy meeting with Tukur and other members of the PDP National Working Committee at the presidential villa in Abuja on Thursday night.
At the meeting held under what could best be described as a tensed atmosphere, the President was said to have expressed his displeasure over the way the PDP chairman was running the party.
Specifically, the President was said to have pointedly accused Tukur of not working well with some organs of the party like the members of the National Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, governors and state party chairmen across the states.
The meeting, which was not allowed to be covered by State House correspondents, it was further learnt, was aimed at resolving the crisis in the party ahead of its National Executive Committee meeting, which holds in Abuja next Thursday.
It was gathered that the President summoned the meeting in order to know how to handle those calling for the sacking of Tukur ahead of the National Executive Committee meeting of the party.
A source at the meeting, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said the President also accused Tukur and his team of not holding NWC meetings regularly.
The President, it was gathered, asked the NWC members to speak one after the other and respond to his observations.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that three NWC members openly spoke against Tukur’s leadership style.
The NWC members were alleged to be acting the script of Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, one of Jonathan’s loyalists.
The three NWC members, Saturday PUNCH learnt, were the National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Chief Olisa Metuh; the National Woman Leader, Chief Kema Chikwe, and the National Financial Secretary, Elder Bolaji Akpan Anani.
Anani, a loyalist of Governor Akpabio, was alleged to be the arrowhead of those within the PDP NWC opposed to Tukur’s continued leadership of the party.
The PDP national financial secretary was also said to have co-opted others into the group of those opposed to Tukur in the NWC.
A member of the NWC, who was at the meeting said they (NWC members) told the President that they were not carried along and were not aware of the dissolution of the state executive committees of the party in both Kwara and Sokoto states.
The member said, “We told the President that we were not carried along in the dissolution of the executives of the party in the two states and that some of us agreed to be part of the inauguration of the caretaker committee in order not to give the public the impression that we are not working together.’’
Tukur was said to have fired back and accused some of the NWC members of being anti-Jonathan, alleging a gang up of some of the members of the NWC against him.
Tukur, it was also gathered, said he had wanted to work with a team but allegedly regretted that he was only able to have a group to work with among the NWC members.
This was said to have drawn the anger of the NWC members as they were said to have asked if only Tukur was capable of singlehandedly returning the President to office in 2015.
Some of the governors and stakeholders of the party are said to be insisting on the removal of Tukur so that peace to return could the troubled party, which has lost five governors and 37 members of the House of Representatives to the All Progressives Congress.
But a chieftain of the party, who was also at the meeting, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, accused Akpabio of working against Jonathan and destabilising the NWC.
He said, “Unknown to many, while Akpabio pretends to be working for the President, he has his eyes on the ticket either as the Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate in case the heat becomes too much for President Jonathan and he chooses not to run. So, the strategy is to first stoke the fire on the President’s key supporters and at the same time pretend to be fighting for him.
“Towards this end, he has mobilised these people to destabilise the NWC with a view to seeing to Tukur’s exit. Of late, he has been going round, especially to the North, with a view to mobilising support for his concealed agenda.”
But political analysts believe that Akpabio’s move against Tukur might have been informed by the perceived body language of the President against Tukur in his desperate bid to please party members in order to get the party ticket to run in 2015.
They argue that Akpabio, being one of Jonathan’s loyalists is not likely to do anything against him and that he might just be acting the script of the President by moving against the party chairman.
However, Saturday PUNCH learnt that some of the NWC members, who were shocked by their colleagues’ revulsion, and other stakeholders opposed to the plot to relieve the party chairman of his post, argued that removing Tukur would send a wrong signal in an election year.
According to the source, “We do not feel that we should sacrifice any officer of the party, particularly the National Chairman because of the selfish interest of some individuals. Or is it a crime for the chairman to be loyal to the President? Will it be in the best interest of the generality of members of the party to force out our chairman at this point in time? Shall we not be promoting the interest of the All Progressives Congress if we force our chairman to resign at this critical period, especially when there will be elections in Ekiti and Osun states?”
Tukur’s supporters were said to have reasoned that even if Tukur had to go, it would be better to relieve him of his duty in a constitutional manner and not to coerce him since he was validly elected at the National Convention of the party.
At this juncture, the President was said to have told his guests that they could leave and that he would get across to them.
But members of the PDP NWC have scheduled another meeting with President Jonathan at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa for today (Saturday). Today’s meeting, it was learnt, would continue the deliberations on Tukur’s continued leadership of the ruling party.
Meanwhile, Tukur has denied budgeting $20,000 to bribe some members of the party’s NEC as being alleged by the leader of the PDP Stakeholders Forum, Mr. Imo Ugochinyere.
Tukur, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Oliver Akpala, rather accused Ugochinyere of demanding N20m from him to mobilise for him against the five governors that defected from the party to the All Progressives Congress.
He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, there is no iota of truth in Ugochinyere’s malicious propaganda against the PDP and Tukur. The alleged issue of $20,000 bribe to NEC members only exists in the imagination of Ugochinyere and his anti-democratic elements.”
In his reaction, Ugochinyere denied asking for any money from Tukur. He said, “Tukur knows that he is peddling an unfounded allegation against me. He would soon know that his time is up.”