Barely 24 hours after President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed The PUNCH’s exclusive report on the resignation of Dr. Bamanga Tukur as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, the search for his successor has begun.
Among those who have shown interest in the post are the former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Rufai Alkali (Gombe); a former Acting National Secretary of the PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo (Bauchi), and an ex- Minister of Commerce, Amb. Idris Waziri (Taraba).
The PUNCH also gathered that a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Ibrahim Bunu (Borno) and the Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, who is believed to be the choice of Patience Jonathan, are also in the race.
Jonathan had at the 63rd National Executive Council meeting of the party in Abuja on Thursday announced Tukur’s resignation amid jubilation by the NEC members.
He added that the party would get a replacement for Tukur on Monday when the NEC reconvenes.
The President, who explained that a replacement was necessary so as not to leave a vacuum, assured that the next chairman would still come from the North-East.
Asked how the new chairman would emerge, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Wale Oladipo, said the party’s constitution would be used.
“We will follow the constitution in doing that,” he said.
Jonathan told the NEC members that Tukur agreed to leave the scene in order to restore normalcy to the PDP.
He said he would leave the meeting with the former chairman and allow the deputy national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, to continue with the proceedings.
The President said, “On some of the issues that we have internally, because I wouldn’t want to waste too much of your time, myself and the ex- chairman would leave you and the deputy chairman will coordinate and the meeting will progress to discuss other things.
“The ex-chairman and myself will go to the State House for some issues that we need to discuss.
“We have some internal problems that have been agitating the minds of people and let us really thank the NWC led by Alhaji Tukur.
“They have done very well. We all know that Dr. Tukur didn’t just wake up to be chairman of our party, he had paid his dues.
“He had held several positions in this country and he did very well. For us to make sure that we rest these issues, he agreed to step aside.”
As soon as he said this, there was a loud ovation inside the hall where the meeting held in the national secretariat of the PDP.
Before the President pulled Tukur’s resignation letter from his pocket, he made reference to those who had defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress, saying that defection was normal in democracy.
Five PDP governors – Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano); Murtala Nyako (Adamawa); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) – had defected to the APC, claiming that the leadership of the PDP was autocratic.
Few weeks ago, 37 members of the House of Representatives also left the PDP for the APC while 27 out of the 30 members of the Sokoto State House of Assembly also left the ruling party.
But the President said these should not worry the party and its leadership.
Jonathan said, “Defection is normal and it is nothing we should worry ourselves about too much because as long we continue to work together, the PDP will continue to be the number one political party in Nigeria.”
He pleaded with the members of the party to be steadfast and be committed, adding that those who had left the PDP would come back.
The President however advised that there must be regular meetings by the leadership of the PDP as well as the governors elected on its platform.
He said, “We must encourage more meetings. NWC meetings must be held regularly.
“Meetings of the Board of Trustees, national caucus and NEC should also be held regularly because election year is almost at hand.
“If we don’t hold meetings people will think they have overtaken us. The governors and I met yesterday (Wednesday) and we agreed to be meeting monthly.”
He then raised Tukur’s resignation letter and asked whether it should be read to the hearing of the journalists present, but there was no definite response.
He, thereafter, handed it over to the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Wale Oladipo.
The President went further to ask the Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, to move the motion for the acceptance of Tukur’s resignation.
He also called on Sen. Abdul Ningi to second the motion.
Imoke and Ningi, while doing so, praised Tukur who they described as fatherly and an astute politician.
When the motion was seconded, the President asked that those in support of Tukur’s resignation to say “ayes” and those against to say “nay.”
Every one in the hall shouted “ayes.”
The NEC members then rose in unison and sang, “for he is a jolly good fellow” for Tukur, who was beaming with smiles.
Jonathan also gave an inkling that Tukur might be appointed as ambassador when he said that with his experience, he would be given an assignment to market the country’s image “even outside the country.”
The PUNCH had also reported on Thursday that Tukur was being considered as Nigeria’s Ambassador to China.
Earlier, Tukur had said that there were challenges ahead of 2015, but added that such challenges were not insurmountable.
He appealed to the members of the party to be ready to make sacrifices and called on the elected officials to perform well in their respective offices.
When Oladipo was asked how the new chairman would emerge, he replied, “We will follow the constitution in doing that.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, also praised the members of the party for standing by it.
“With what happened today (Thursday), you can see that the party is well-organised and well-structured. We are the best organised party in the country,” he boasted.
The NEC meeting was also attended by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal, his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha; the governors of Benue, Akwa Ibom, Plateau, Niger, Delta, Ebonyi, Kogi, Katsina, Taraba, Kaduna, and Abia states, among others, were also in attendance.