For a politician who believes in the sanctity of the state and its machinery, perhaps many have come to confuse the role and personality of Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih. But to those in the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, he epitomises experience and loyalty. Since 1998 when the party was formed, Anenih remains perhaps one of the very few – very, very few – members who have never contemplated decampment as a directive policy of politicking.
Therefore, when last Monday night – indeed into the very early hours of Tuesday – it was time to vote for the new chairman of PDP’s Board of Trustees, BoT, the set criteria could only fit one bill: Tony Anenih. It wasn’t by design; it was just time for the qualities of hard work, loyalty to party discipline, experience and leadership, to yield dividends.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the Jerry Gana Committee that had been set up last month to harmonise the membership of the BoT as well as fashion out a selection/election process, came up with its report, presented and read it for all members present.
The meeting, which began at 8.45 pm and ended at 1.10 am, commenced with the adoption of the report.
Thereafter, aspirants who had been disqualified ab-initio by the guidelines for eligibility to be chairman, as contained in the report, began to step down, one after the other. But why did they step down?
The guidelines made it so.
Tagged CRITERIA AND GUIDELINES FOR SELECTING BoT CHAIRMAN, and divided into two parts, Criteria For Screening The Aspirants and The Selection Process, (see box), the Gana Committee enumerated a number of factors and conditions to be met (unlike the amendment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the PDP’s 2005 National Convention, an amendment which made him the only qualified person to become chairman of PDP’s BoT) which narrowed the number of qualified persons for the seat by half, from the earlier multitude of almost a score.
Thereafter, aspirants who had been disqualified ab-initio by the guidelines for eligibility began to step down, one after the other.
Sunday vanguard gathered that the first to step down was Chief Don Etiebet from the South-South zone, the same zone with Anenih. He was followed by Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun and Yekini Adeojo in that order, from the Southwest zone. Both were caught by the one of the criteria for selecting chairman of the Board which disqualifies any member of the Board who left the party for another party and returned thereafter to the Board.
Then a small drama ensued. Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, asked that President Jonathan should request that he should step down; that way, it would be easy for him to explain to his supporters outside that he stepped down at the instance of the President and Commander-in-Chief and leader of the party.
President Jonathan was said to have smiled and calmly replied: “Senator Nnamani, please step down.” And Nnamani did. It turned out to be one of the comical moments of the meeting, with the admixture of intrigues and cold calculations to push through the agenda of Jonathan’s presidency.
Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, publisher of Champion Newspapers, who claimed to be the endorsed candidate of the Southeast zone for the position, took his turn to explain how the Igbo had been marginalized and how he had spent time and resources on the process. In fact, Sunday Vanguard learnt, he was said to have wondered why the President did not let them know early that he was interested in one of the aspirants. He suggested that instead of prolonging the process, the National Chairman, President, Vice President, Senate President and Speaker should constitute themselves into a small committee which should meet separately to agree on a candidate who would be presented to the meeting for endorsement as consensus candidate. It was a good suggestion. The advice was taken.
In addition to the five persons, Chief Olabode George and Governor Ibrahim Shema were co-opted into the committee, which met for some time and its decision to present Anenih as consensus candidate to the meeting for endorsement was announced by Shema.
The meeting unanimously endorsed the consensus candidate.
And the Iyasele (prime Minister) of Esanland emerged as Chairman to begin his second missionary journey, having been suddenly shoved out in 2007 by Obasanjo in a coup-like manner.
Sunday Vanguard has exclusively gathered from sources very close to Anenih that in the build-up to last week’s meeting of the BoT, the man popularly referred to as Leader by his loyalists and Mr. Fix It by his adversaries, had made his plans and agenda for the party known in no uncertain terms.
Concerned about the widening chasm in the party, especially between the members and the leaders on the one hand, and the damaging consequences of the ceaseless bickering among members of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party, Anenih had set for himself, targets.
In private meetings at the very highest levels, Anenih, information available to Sunday Vanguard suggests, had made it clear that he would be focusing on the following:
1. Unity & Fairness
4. Rancour-free party
5. Assisting the NEC in bringing everybody together
6. Assisting the NEC in resolving the plethora of challenges and crises confronting the party in the state chapters
7. Working with members of the BoT to live and act the spirit of the conscience of the party
8. Re-positioning the party for the challenges of 2015
9. Ensuring adherence to strict party discipline
10. Keeping faith with the legacies of the founding fathers of the party
Sunday Vanguard gathered that whereas this has not been codified and formally presented to the President and the BoT, the source said “the list encapsulates the agenda of the new BoT Chairman.
“The reason is simply because when you look at the happenings within the party, a wise leader like Chief would be interested in ensuring what you have in the 10-point agenda.
“In fact, it even becomes more pressing now with the opposition forming a coalition with the sole purpose of dislodging the PDP from power.
“The BoT Chairman believes that if every member and leader of the party at the different levels key into these points and make them cardinal objectives to be achieved, the party would be better positioned to silence critics. “Even the President is also very worried especially against the backdrop of the bickering in the NWC, a situation which pitched the national chairman against his national secretary. Strict adherence to party discipline would be the watchword and the chief is eminently positioned to deliver on that”, the source concluded.
All attempts made by Sunday Vanguard last week to get Chief Anenih to talk ran into a stone wall.
But feelers from the camp loyal to Anenih, as of press time, indicated that the old and tested political warhorse is determined, in the face of burgeoning opposition against Jonathan by the other parties, to give the president’s 2015 re-election bid his all.
It is believed that primordial issues and ancient allegations of some perceived wrongdoings while in office as Minister of Work would be incrementally revisited and raked up, it was learnt that there is a resolve by him and members of his camp not to be unnecessarily distracted by such antics and political shenanigans.
Politics, thy name is Anenih
From his days in the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in the defunct Bendel State, Anenih’s politics has been variously described as one of pacification. However, beneath that pacifist paradigm of Anenih resides a very strong vice-grip mentality of loyalty to the general cause of party position.
An example can be drawn from the very turbulent days of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, when the party was forced to agree to go for another presidential election. The pillar of the then SDP, the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, had agreed to another election as a way out of the emerging crisis of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election. Indeed, the leadership of the party at that time had seen the hands of General Sani Abacha, eager to wrest power and, therefore, had hoped that an early resolution would checkmate Abacha’s adventure.
But the gale of antagonism to that decision, coupled with the short-sightedness of a section of the political class first gave way to an Interim National Government, ING, which was made to look all the more interim by Abacha’s dismissal of Ernest Shonekan, the then head of ING. But Yar’Adua and Anenih’s position for another early election which was pooh-poohed led to Abacha’s five-year disaster as head of state.
During February 1999 National Convention of PDP in Jos, from where Obasanjo emerged, the victory recorded by Obasanjo over Alex Ekwueme, his closest rival, was made possible by a combination of factors from which you cannot divorce Anenih.
In fact, as early as 6:45am on voting day, apart from Sunday Vanguard, the only person who sat in the VIP section of the Jos Township Stadium that Sunday morning was Anenih. Clad in his now familiar blue jeans jacket and trouser, he kept making sorties between the VIP section of the stadium and the delegates’ stands, each time to nip suspected emerging crisis in the bud when voting was about to commence.
In 2002, at the height of the attempt to impeach the rambunctious Obasanjo as President and Commander-in-Chief, it was to Anenih the latter turned.
Working tirelessly with a handful of other committed leaders of the PDP, Anenih became the arrow-head of that rescue mission, negotiating, conciliating and making compromises with a view to saving a situation which had pitched the North of Nigeria against the South. That Obasanjo could survive the onslaught and later serve out his first term and even secure a second term, was due, in part to Anenih’s role. Worse for Obasanjo, on the eve of the PDP National Convention in January 2003, when a majority of the state governors in the party almost threw Obasanjo to the dogs, preferring, instead, then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, it was the same Anenih who again threw himself into the battle to save Obasanjo.
However, between the selfsame Obasanjo and Anenih, the centre could not hold when the issue of Third Term began to gain fervency. The latter objected to the move and this angered Obasanjo. And whereas the former president recruited some political upstarts to drive his Third Term project, the effort ended as a fool’s errand. Had Obasanjo adhered to good sense and wisdom, he might have spared himself and his presidency the odium of the embarrassment that trailed his failure to secure the Third Term, which still haunts him till today.
Presidential watchers insist that when the issue of zoning became very contentious in the run up to the 2011 presidential contest, it was Anenih who brought out data, showing how zoning had almost always been breached since 1999 whenever the party wanted a presidential convention, citing the instances of the late Abubakar Rimi in 1999 and 2003 (when the slot was supposedly reserved for the south); and 2007 (when some southerners contested against Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a time when the slot was supposedly reserved for the North).
For the BoT Chairman, he accepts the praises where due and takes the bashings which are sometimes caustic with quintessential equanimity when they come – as they often do, especially in his home state of Edo, where another political party is in control. Some may never agree with his politics, but for a man steeped in his ways, some phrases commonly used by Anenih in the face of party indiscipline are, ‘things are not supposed to be done this way’, ‘You cannot behave like this’. Anenih has his multitude; and he still leads. It was in 1992 that the late Shehu Yar’Adua christened Anenih, “The Leader”. The title has since stuck.
That he has returned as BoT Chairman to lead is, therefore, not by accident, especially at a time when the PDP needs leadership with character to resolve its crisis. Anenih turns 80 in August.
THE SELECTION DOCUMENT
DEVELOPING CRITERIA AND GUIDELINES FOR SELECTING BoT CHAIRMAN
After concluding the verification exercise of BoT membership, the Committee examined some modalities and drew up criteria to serve as guidelines for selecting a suitable Chairman for the Board of Trustees. Our recommended process is in two parts:
PART A: CRITERIA FOR SCREENING ASPIRANTS
1. A candidate for the position of Chairman of BoT must be consistent in his loyalty to the Party, in terms of stability of sustained support and integrity of character, such that there is no record of having left the Party.
2. An aspirant must not be one of those who have brought the Party into public ridicule and disrepute.
3. An aspirant should be well grounded in politics both at the national and local levels, with a good reputation for excellent leadership.
4. An aspirant should possess the necessary charisma and instinctive leadership skills to move the Party forward.
5. Any aspirant who is keenly interested in contesting for elective office in the executive and legislative arms of Government, or Executive office in the Party, should stand disqualified.
6. Any aspirant with a case of criminal misconduct in Court, or with any of the anti-corruption agencies (EFCC, ICPC, etc), or facing Party disciplinary action, should stand disqualified.
7. Aspirants should have good relations with Party leaders, Party Elders, State Governors, etc, and should enjoy the goodwill of Party members.
8. It should be an added advantage if an aspirant is a founding member of the Party, with good experience in Party administration and management.
9. Any aspirant with a terminal date to his or her BoT membership may stand at a disadvantage for lack of continuity.
10. Regular attendance at BoT meetings should be a basic requirement for any aspiring candidate for BoT Chairmanship.
PART B: THE SELECTION PROCESS
1. Since the Board of Trustees is the moral guide and conscience of the Party, it would be ideal and preferable for the Board to produce its Chairman through a process of democratic dialogue and consensus. But if all efforts fail, the BoT elective process of casting votes may be adopted.
2. Since the BoT is basically the Upper Chambers in the Party hierarchy, comprising a remarkable body of people with profound experiences, good reputation and demonstrated knowledge, members are expected to relate among themselves with accustomed dignity. They must at all times be perceived in uniform voice and spirit as symbols of our unity. They must never be seen in the disruptive and inelegant role of electoral divisiveness.
3. It is suggested that a high powered Committee be established to dialogue with illustrious members of the BoT who are aspiring to serve as the Chairman of this august body, with a view to arriving at a consensus.
4. After the interactions with their colleagues, the Committee should recommend the most suitable candidate to the larger house for endorsement as the BoT Chairman. We consider this to be the most honourable and edifying process.
5. If achieved through proper consultations at all levels in the BoT, and especially with the aspirants, this process of building consensus will bind the entire BoT together as an undivided conscience of the Party. Reality confirms that a divided conscience is of no use to anybody.
Present at the meeting were President Goodluck Jonathan; Vice President Namadi Sambo; Secretary to Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; Senate President, David Mark; Speaker Aminu Tambuwal; Kano Governor, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso; Prof Jubril Aminu; Mrs Josephine Anenih; Dr. Bode Olajumoke; Don Etiebet; Prof Jerry Gana; Chief Banabas Gemade; the party women leader, Dr. Kema Chikwe; Dr. Hassan Adamu; Dr. Dalhatu Tafida; Prince Vincent Ogbulafor; Alabo Graham Douglas; Chief Alex Ekwueme; Chief Jim Nwobodo and Dr. Sam Sam Jaja. Others were former Senate President, Chief Adophols Wabara; Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State; Alhaji Bunu Sherif; Chief Olabode George; Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu; Dr. Mohammed Bello Haliru, Dr Ahmadu Ali; Maj Gen David Jemibewon; Shuaibu Oyedokun; Okwesiliese Nwodo; Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu; Ken Nnamani; Adamu Muazu and Danjuma Goje.