A major crisis on Saturday hit the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as seven governors and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar formed a faction of the party at the national level.
The governors, who are members of the new faction, include Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano); Muritala Nyako (Adamawa); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara); Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers)
Also in the faction are an acting National Chairman, Kawu Baraje; a suspended National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and a former National Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Jaja.
The press conference at the Sheu Yar’Adua Centre Abuja, where the faction announced its emergence, was attended by many members of the national and state houses assembly.
The National Chairman of the faction, Baraje, said the leaders of the party came together to rescue it from undemocratic tendencies of “the former national chairman,” Bamanga Tukur.
He said, “We address you today as leaders of the PDP, who are worried by the increasing repression, restrictions of freedom of association, arbitrary suspension of members and other such violations of democratic principles by a faction of our party led by Tukur.”
He said they had done everything humanly possible to bring to the attention of critical stakeholders within the party to the dangers inherent in the course being charted by that leadership (Tukur),
The factional chairman said, “It has become very clear that the desperate permutations towards 2015 general elections have blinded certain people from the consequences of their actions.
“Not only has the constitution of the party been serially violated by Alhaji Tukur and fellow travelers, all the organs of the party have been rendered virtually ineffectual by a few people who act as though above the law.”
Baraje noted that the Presidency had been encouraging the Tukur- led faction.
“Unfortunately, it is obvious that that they get encouragement from the presidency whose old calculations are geared towards shutting out any real or imagined opposition ahead of the party’s presidential primaries for the 2015 elections.”
He said as leaders of the party, they considered it a sacred responsibility to save the PDP from the antics of a few desperadoes who had no democratic temperament and were bent on hijacking the party for selfish ends.
Baraje listed the violations of the Tukur-led faction as the changing of the date of the party’s convention without the approval of the National Executive Committee.
He said the PDP NEC at its last meeting approved July20, 2013 for the conduct of a special national convention.
The factional chairman said that date was changed to August 31 without reverting to NEC (the only authority vested with such powers) by a few people, apparently acting on the authority of the presidency.
He added, “Notwithstanding the fact that INEC had noted that the PDP congresses in nine states were not presently conducted, the illegal delegates from such states are being paraded at the so-called convention being held today (Saturday) in a cynical attempt to circumvent the law an further bring the name of the party to disrepute.
“In gross violation of the PDP constitution, which stipulates that the NEC meeting must hold at least once in a quarter, Tukur and a few people have been running the party like a personal fiefdom without recourse to that important decision-making organ of the party.
“The NEC of the party accepted the resignation of the former members of the NWC whose offices were affected by INEC observations based principally on the agreement that the affected officers would be returned to their respective offices at the convention.”
He said in spite of the NEC decision, the positions of the former officers had been given to “some Yes-men within the party.”
Baraje said in spite of INEC’s insistence that Senator Any Uba was the duly elected candidate of the party in Anambra State; the Bamanga Tukur-led executives announced the suspension of Uba and some other members close to him in defiance of subsisting court orders.
He also faulted the dismissal of a former National Chairman, Mr. Sam Jaja, by the Rivers State chapter of the party with the alleged connivance of the Tukur leadership.
He also cited the suspension of Amaechi and Wamakko.
He said, “Even when the illegal suspension of Sokoto State governor has been lifted, the Rivers governor remains purportedly suspended for no just cause.”
Baraje also said the dissolution of the Adamawa State chapter of the party was a clear abuse of power by Tukur, thus causing confusion in his home state.
The factional chairman said, “Given the foregoing, it is very clear that the Tukur leadership cannot guarantee for our millions of party members democracy anchored on free choice and the rule of law.
“We have therefore taken it upon ourselves to rescue the party from their dictatorial leadership.”
“It is indeed noteworthy that from 1999 to date, Nigerians have constantly voted the presidential candidates presented by our great party but not only does such trust come with enormous responsibility, we recognise that we cannot continue to take the people for granted.
“From now, the new leadership of the party under us will strive to build a fairer as well as a more transparent and accountable PDP that will put the interest of members and indeed all the people of Nigeria above that of one single individual.
“For all the members of our great party who may have become disillusioned by the anti-democratic tendencies of the Tukur leadership, there is a new lease of life in the horizon.
“It s a new day for the Peoples Democratic Party. As we take over the leadership of the PDP, our immediate priority is to revive the culture of robust debate of all contending issues while providing a level-playing field for all our members.”
In a swift reaction, Tukur promised that the party would deal with the governors at the appropriate time.
Tukur told journalists at the Eagle Square, that the governors were planning to defect to another party.
He said, “The PDP does not recognise any parallel party. Those who staged the walkout are all self-seeking and treacherous individuals pursuing neither regional nor religious agenda except their own agenda, except their own personal interest.
“Their attempt to create parallel party is illegal, unlawful as there are no crises within the PDP whatsoever.
“They were all active participants in the setting up of this convention.
“And many of them were with the President and rode with him to the convention venue and joined them in the salutation of all the delegates including their state delegates.”
“The PDP is studying the situation as it unfolds and will deal decisively as the situation warrants.
“It is obvious that they are creating crisis where there is none to give the impression that the party is divided. This in their thinking will allow them persuade loyal members of the National Assembly to cross carpet with them. We will resist this.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Movement has saluted what it described as the bravery and statesmanship of the dissenting delegates of the PDP.
The National Chairman of PDM, Mr. Bashir Ibrahim, who spoke through his Media Advisor, Alaba Yusuf, said, “We appreciate their bold, brave and patriotic stand of these delegates for refusing to participate in an election which they knew gave no even playing ground to all stakeholders.’’