President Goodluck Jonathan played a significant part in the resignation this week of the former national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Codewit can exclusively reveal.
President Goodluck Jonathan (L), with the former Pdp National
Chairman,Vincent Ogbulafor: The president said Mr Ogbulafor must go. Photo: NAN
A Wednesday meeting between the increasingly influential Governor’s Forum and the President was arranged in order to strike a deal that would eventually see the back of Vincent Ogbulafor. Mr. Ogbulafor is facing charges of misappropriating over N100 million during his time as a minister.
During the meeting, Mr. Jonathan, who has been besieged by nominations for his vice-president, assured the governors that they would get their choice if they threw their weight behind efforts to force out the beleaguered Ogbulafor as PDP national chairman. Ostensibly, the move was to protect the reputation of the ruling party but beyond that, Ogbulafor’s removal was to pave the way for Jonathan’s presidential ambitions next year.
A governor who attended the Abuja meeting informed CODEWIT that, even at that stage, the forum did not have a unanimous nomination for vice president.
“[Ahmed] Makarfi was still the name that people were talking about at the time,” the governor said. “The Northern senators were quite clear on their own nominee. Although we were certain that we preferred a sitting governor, it was still between three people for us. Sambo’s name, I can tell you, was agreed very late.” The governor added that, in exchange for the acceptance of their nominee, they were to strongly advise Ogbulafor, who they had hitherto supported, to step down as national chairman.
Twenty fours later, Ogbulafor had penned a resignation letter.
The nomination of Namadi Sambo, however, had to be delayed after the governors turned their attention to the national assembly to facilitate a smooth clearance for their candidate. On Thursday, several governors were seen visiting the houses of senate president, David Mark and House speaker, Dimeji Bankole in Abuja. They included: Gabriel Suswam of Benue, Sambo himself, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto and the de facto head of the Governor’s Forum, Bukola Saraki of Kwara state.
The animosity between Messrs. Ogbulafor and Jonathan stems from the former’s vigorous stance against the latter’s presidential hopes. In February, CODEWIR revealed that the former PDP chairman made several attempts to have private talks with Mr. Jonathan but was constantly rebuffed. Ogbulafor was seeking assurances that Jonathan, then acting president, would respect the PDP’s zoning agreement. No such assurances were forthcoming. Ogbulafor then responded by publicly informing the President that the PDP would only support a northern candidate.
“We felt that the zoning of the presidency of the party, as enshrined in the party’s constitution, should be maintained and therefore the zoning arrangement in the constitution should hold for the next four years,” Mr. Ogbulafor said at the time.
“The South has had it for eight years and therefore the North should also hold it for eight years so that we take care of the restiveness in the nation,” “Goodluck Jonathan is steering the ship of the nation very well. He is not an ambitious person,” he added.
The public statement deepened the rift between the two men and it became clear that Ogbulafor would oppose any designs Jonathan had on the presidency. The Governor’s Forum continued to publicly back Ogbulafor even with the impending corruption charges he faced. However at press time, no less than 25 governors had made public calls for him to step aside.
The events of the past week again highlight the growing power the governors hold in making key decisions in the country. A PDP official said that it was not a surprise that even the president seems to be deferring to them.
“Everyone is looking at protecting their own interests,” the source said.
“When you think about it, who makes the nominations for senators, representatives and even ministers? If you don’t have a state governor on your side, then your political currency is seriously devalued.
Jonathan initially did as though he does not need them but with time he is starting to realise their influence.”