The boycott of the first year anniversary lunch of the new national executive of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, by all but two of the party’s 23 governors, has been linked to persisting misgivings on the administrative style of the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
Yesterday, senior party officials from the national secretariat and the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Governor Godswill Akpabio were in an overdrive to fend off negative imputations on the boycott by the governors of the grand finale of the nationwide reconciliation tour and the first year anniversary of the Tukur executive.
Remarkably, Tukur and Akpabio in their bid to dismiss insinuations of a fresh crisis in the party contradicted one another yesterday.
While Tukur told correspondents in his residence that many of the governors informed him of their abstention from the anniversary lunch, Akpabio after a visit to the presidential villa alleged that the governors were not informed of the meeting.
Their contradictory claims nonetheless, many of the governors who also had issues with President Goodluck Jonathan, it was learnt, were also divorcing their grievances with Jonathan from their issues with Tukur.
The anniversary couched in the form of the grand finale of the national reconciliation tour of the National Working Committee took place in Abuja with only Akpabio and Governor Ibrahim Wada of Kogi State in attendance.
Five governors, Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Abdulafatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe) were represented at the meeting by their deputies.
The failure of the governors to attend was despite the fact that a number of them were in Abuja at the time or just before the Sunday stakeholders’ meeting.
Party apparatchik in their response blamed the low attendance of the governors on the disruption of the communication and failure to personally reach the governors on the meeting. That was before Tukur at an interaction with correspondents said the governors informed him of their absence.
Many of the governors contacted, however, gave varying reasons for their failure with almost all of them citing logistical reasons.
However, other sources disclosed deep seated grievances against the Tukur’s leadership of the party which the governors alleged had completely disrupted the normal organs of the party.
As one source said yesterday: “The official reason is that we couldn’t make it, but if I must be truthful with you many of the governors are seriously angry with Tukur.
“This is not about Jonathan, but about Tukur style of administration as he has completely rendered all other organs of the party useless in one year,” the source said yesterday, speaking strictly on the condition of anonymity.
Among the organs complained of is the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party which the governors alleged, had been rendered dormant since the advent of the Tukur leadership. The NEC is the second highest decision making organ of the party, second only to the national convention and is supposed to meet at least once quarterly.
The NEC has, however, met only once since the advent of the Tukur regime. Repeated efforts by the governors and other stakeholders to have a meeting have been unfruitful.
“How can governors be rejoicing or having a reconciliation meeting with Tukur when the organs of the party have been rendered useless and there is no opportunity to discuss issues of importance with the governors,” the source said as he pointed to the recurring crises in the Adamawa State chapter of the party.
Yesterday, a delegation of the party’s Board of Trustees led by Chief Tony Anenih was locked in a closed door meeting with Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State apparently over the rift between Tukur and the governors.
Kwankwanso was one of the 16 governors that neither came nor sent a representative to the Abuja meeting on Sunday.
Anenih was taciturn on his mission, simply saying, “we are here to discuss PDP, and the corporate existence of the Nigeria state”.
Speaking with journalists at his Wuse 2 residence, Tukur explained that some of the governors took permission from him to be absent from the programme having participated at the zonal meetings.
‘’Many of the governors were absent from the rally mainly because they were part of the reconciliation meetings in their respective zones, and had made useful contributions during the visit by the National Working Committee members, a reason it was never compelling for them to be in Abuja. They contacted the National Headquarters about their inability to be in Abuja for the rally with stated reasons.”
“We were in the South-east zone and the governors turned out. When we visited the South-south, the Governor Uduaghan, Akpabio and Amaechi came to welcome us and made useful suggestions.
“Indeed, the Rivers State governor spoke to us on behalf of all PDP governors. Bayelsa State governor, I reckoned was busy with a special task, while the same story of success trailed our visit to the north.”
Tukur as such boasted that the PDP would never succumb to blackmail coming from those he described as virulent opponents of the party, who, he said, were bent on painting a picture of a crisis in the party.
However, speaking also about the same time after a visit to the presidential villa, Akpabio, chairman of the PDP-GF said the absence of the governors had to do with poor communication as he said that the governors were not aware of the Abuja meeting.
“The PDP lunch was not well publicised. I had a meeting with the PDP publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh. Many governors were not aware of the ceremony. Metuh mentioned to me if I will be at the International Conference Centre and I said for what? And he said for the grand finale of the zonal meeting of the National Chairman and I told him I was not aware of it.”.
Akpabio also disclosed plans by the PDP to bring opposition governors into its fold: “We have set up a tactical committee to also reach out to the “opposition” because we want to be more than what we are,” he said.
Like Tukur, Akpabio also referred to what he described as a concerted attempt by the opposition to exaggerate issues in the ruling party citing the issue surrounding his recent donation of a million naira each to the six PDP chairmen in the South-South geopolitical zone.
However, several of the governors gave varied reasons for their absence at the Abuja reconciliation talks.
Governor Liyel Imoke speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Christian Ita noted failure to catch a flight back to Abuja after hosting last Saturday’s soccer world cup qualifier between Nigeria and Kenya in Calabar.
“It is not as if we weren’t meant to be there, we were going to be there but we had been in Abuja throughout last week, he said yesterday.
Governors Theodore Orji of Abia State, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara sates, Mukthar Yero of Kaduna State, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, Martin Elechi of Ebonyi and Sule Lamido in separate reactions through their media aides also cited pressing domestic and foreign engagements for not attending the meeting.