Seven months after the Kogi state governorship election, there is still rumble the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), over the propriety or otherwise of the incumbent, Idris Wada, elected on the party’s platform. In this piece, SAMUEL OGIDAN traces the genesis of the ‘war’ and the attendant criticism that greeted the governor’s recent call for party intervention.
Efforts to exorcise the ghost of January and September 2011 gubernatorial primaries elections conducted in Kogi state by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), appear not to be yielding the right result. The intrigues and the arm-twisting that characterised the process and build-up to the elections, would not allow the ghost still prowling the political landscape of the state to find a final resting place.
The ghost, it appears, is giving the sitting governor, Idris Wada, the major beneficiary of the political gimmick, a sleepless night. Last week, precisely Thursday, Wada met with the PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur and members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), and pleaded with them to intervene in the matter, so that the squabble could easily be resolved.
But Tukur would be non committal on the issue. Rather, he pointed out that the mandate of the party’s leadership majorly revolves around peace and progress, adding that all the PDP wanted was unity of purpose. According to him, a house divided against itself had already failed, stressing that, “We need reconciliation, reformation and rebuilding of the party under one umbrella. PDP means peace, development and progress.”
Shortly after the conduct of the January first primary in January, that produced Jibril Isah Echocho, the Court of Appeal ruled that the tenure of the then governor, Ibrahim Idris, had not expired. This verdict was however upturned by the Supreme Court. Rather than allowing the January primary which produced Echocho subsist, the PDP in its own wisdom , organised another round of primary in September which finally produced Wada as the party’s governorship candidate.
Miffed by the action of his party, the former banker proceeded to the court to challenge the intrigues surrounding the process and why his mandate as the initial winner of the party’s ticket was no longer tenable and valid. Blueprint however gathered that an Abuja Federal High Court, would be ruling on the case this week, during which the legitimate owner of the mandate would be determined.
The September primary
On Monday, the 26th of September 2011, members of the PDP from Odu Ward 1 and Ogbabede Ward of Dekina Local Government Area of the state, stormed the party’s national secretariat in Abuja to register their protest against the removal of the elected delegates sent to the state headquarters. The affected delegates were supposed to partake in the party’s primary.
They also protested the alleged fraudulent and improper inclusion of Wada on the membership register of Ward 1, claiming that he was never a registered member of the party in the ward.
The protesters, who stormed the party headquarters with a petition to the then Acting National Chairman of PDP, Abubakar Baraje, explained that when it was discovered that Wada’s name was fraudulently inserted into the party register, he(Wada) threatened to deal with them if they made any noise about it.
Leading the protest, Paul Sule who spoke with newsmen, said that the names of the elected delegates sent to the state headquarters of the party were thrown out and in their place a completely strange list of names were used for the gubernatorial primary, adding that over 90 percent of statutory delegates did not vote in the primary.
The aggrieved PDP members who further claimed to have been sidelined during the primary, urged Baraje to use his good office to invalidate the September gubernatorial primary held in Lokoja , but warned that if the party hierarchy refused to take action they would go to court
The petition signed by Utonu Nuhu Ijeje, Ward Chairman, Odu Ward 1, Yunusa Omagada, former Ward Secretary, Odu Ward 1 and Akeji Jacob Akeji, Ward Secretary, Odu Ward 1 respectively reads: “it is instructive to point out that Alh. Idris I. Wada who was alleged to have been nominated as the state’s PDP gubernatorial candidate is not known to us in the Ward even though we know his father is an indigene of Odu-Okpakili village in Odu 1 ward.
“We submit that the name of Idris I. Wada was fraudulently and improperly inserted in the register creating the impression that he is an old member of the party which is not true. His membership registration did not go through due process. It can be seen from the register that his membership number as written on the register does not tally with the other registration numbers in the ward. In fact his membership No.7455310 has seven digits and begins with 745 whereas the membership numbers in Odu 1 Ward all begin with 764 and have six digits on the whole.”
In a swift reaction to the protest and petition, the state chairman of the party, Hon. Hassan Salau and other executive members, in a letter to the PDP national secretariat, had appealed to aggrieved party loyalists to sheath their swords, even as he affirmed the sanctity of the primary(September) election.
The letter jointly signed by the state chairman, the zonal legal adviser, North-central, Barrister Mohammed Kabir Usman, state secretary of the party, Hon. Emmanuel Egwu and Dekina PDP local government chairman, Hon. Hassan Usman, stated that the gubernatorial primary election conducted on the 22nd of September, 2011, was free and fair.
They said: “We affirm the sanctity of the primary election of our party conducted on the 22nd of September, 2011 as free and fair and a true reflection of the wishes of the majority of our party members.
“We hereby appeal to all our members and supporters to remain steadfast, loyal and committed to our ideals. We assure you that we shall continue to work with all stakeholders and our national leaders to dialogue with all aggrieved party loyalists towards ensuring the success of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria during the December 3rd governorship election.”
The letter also said: “Captain Idris Ichalla Wada is a legally registered member of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and is duly registered at Odu Ward 1 of Dekina local government of Kogi state since 2005.”
The party executives warned that PDP would not tolerate indiscipline and insubordination and that those working with the opposition parties to bring down the party would be disciplined according to the party’s Constitution.
Despite the rumblings and grumblings, the party was able to partially resolve the issues, albeit unsatisfactorily, hence the emergence of Wada as the party’s flag bearer and later governor of the state.
Although, Wada succeeded in addressing the fallout of the September primary, nevertheless, the controversies surrounding the January primary , till date remains a hard nut to crack by the incumbent governor. And probably miffed by the trend of event, the governor last week Thursday, took the case to the national secretariat, where he literarily begged Tukur and the entire members of the National Working Committee(NWC), to use their offices to intervene in the case between him and Echocho for peace and unity to reign in the party.
Wada, who made this appeal when he led PDP stakeholders from the state to pay a courtesy call on the national leadership of the party in Abuja, said, “Despite my efforts at reconciliation, there are still some pockets of indiscipline and disunity within the party. So, I want to call on you Mr. Chairman to use your wisdom, your wide experience with that of members of National Working Committee to do whatever you can to unite our party.
“Our common challenge is the opposition, we should not as a party have members within our party toeing different lines from what the manifesto and the leadership at the national level have guided us to do. Despite all my efforts and reconciliation, Mr. Chairman, a member of our party still has four cases against me in our court system. I think that is wrong and I call on you to intervene as quickly as possible.
“Guidelines of our party with regards to going to court are very clear and I have read the guidelines of gubernatorial electoral elections in the party very carefully and it states very clearly that any issue must be resolved through the internal system of resolution in the party. Elections were held in December and we are now in June Mr. Chairman.”
Reacting to Wada’s appeal in a statement by his spokesman, Phrank Shaibu, Echocho stated that the action of the governor in visiting the party’s national chairman on the political imbroglio in the state came as a double shock.
He said, “Wada’s demand on national chairman for reconciliation between himself and Jibril Isah is to say the least, baffling. This is because; Wada’s new realisation that Jibril Isah (Echocho) is now vital to his continued stay in office is very difficult to explain at this time.
“The silence of those who should have been worried by virtue of their ties with the protection of democracy makes it more terrible. It is a shame that one of the democratic horrors by Wada created an echo in the polity before now. However, one must realise that there is a case in court between the two parties and as such, it will be subjudice to comment further on the issue. But it is expedient to state that any party leadership that keeps silence in the face of growing disaffection by a majority of its members in Kogi state in itself, is injustice.
“Finally, while Jibril Isah (Echocho) as a God fearing man welcomes genuine reconciliation, it definitely cannot be at the expense of justice, fairness and rule of law.”
Since his visit to Wadata plaza, there had been speculations in some quarters that the governor was only jittery on the possible outcome of the case. In other words, proponents of such view, believed that Wada wanted something like “an out of court settlement” with Echocho, a position vehemently denied by his Special Adviser (Media), Jacob Edi.
According to Edi, “The governor, Captain Idris Wada has enough respect for the rule of law to know that all he needs to win his cases as he has done since the beginning of litigation against him as governor of Kogi state, is simply to have a good case, and he has one.
“And for anybody to think the governor of a state with the paraphernalia of office, with all lawmakers from the state as well as all other stakeholders, will travel to Abuja just to beg for a certain case to be dropped by just a certain individual so that he wins a certain case, is simply over-ambitious.”
He further said that “If the governor was the winner-takes all type, he would not be remembering any issue of reconciliation having taken full charge of the office and position. Bottom line, he is the leader of the PDP in Kogi state and it behoves him to bring everybody under one umbrella. Any other interpretation apart from all this, is either mischievous , misleading or the import of the visit is from a very shallow point of view.”
With the judgment on the matter coming up this week, would the nation witness the Rotimi Ameachi option or see the incumbent’s victory affirmed? Nigerians are waiting to see if the judiciary, as the last hope of the common man, would toe the path of honour and give the right judgment, one devoid of sentiment and bias. Whichever way the pendulum swings, the party in the state will certainly not be one.