The fence-mending efforts by the Peoples Democratic Party failed on Sunday when the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and some other dignitaries walked out of the party’s South-South zonal meeting.
The Port Harcourt meeting took place just as the factions of the PDP in the South-West disagreed on the outcome of a similar parley in the zone.
Our correspondent in Rivers reported that Akwa Ibom State Governor and Chairman of the PDP Forum, Chief Godswill Akpabio, had begun addressing the gathering when Amaechi and Uduaghan walked out.
But the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who was present at the meeting, defended the governors’ action.
He specifically referred to Uduaghan, whom he claimed rushed home to attend to an important family matter.
However, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari said that Amaechi left the venue of the meeting to see off the Delta State governor.
Amaechi did not return to the venue before the meeting ended. Semenitari said, “You noticed that the Governor of Delta State was leaving at the same time, Governor Amaechi had to be a proper host. So he had to see off his colleague, the governor of Delta state.
“I do not see any reason Governor Amaechi would feel insulted by the comments of Governor Akpabio because he (Akpabio) was responding to the comment of Governor Uduaghan.
“The people were obviously the ones who responded, the Governor of Rivers State had no interest in that. Governor Akpabio thought it necessary to dole out some charity to the various states visiting as chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. That might be one of the ways he felt like reaching out to the people.”
Akpabio had announced a donation of N1m to each state chairman of the party in the South-South based on Uduaghan’s call that members of the party should be well-fed by the PDP.
The announcement by Akpabio appeared to have angered Amaechi, Uduaghan and some members of the PDP in attendance.
Uduaghan had said earlier that even if all the roads were tarred, members of the PDP would appreciate the provision of food on their tables.
He said, “I join all my brothers in the South-South in welcoming you (Tukur). Even as an elected governor, I must tell you this. Even if you tar all the roads in the South-South without putting food on the table, our members will not appreciate the party.
“If you want to prevent our members from going to other parties, you must put food in the stomach of our supporters.”
But Akpabio, apparently responding to Uduaghan’s speech, added that the N1m should be used by the party chairmen for their launch in order not to defect to other political parties.
“My brother; Governor, Uduaghan said our members are hungry and that we must put food in their stomachs so that they don’t stray to other parties. I am giving all the state chairmen of the party N1m each for lunch. Our members must not be hungry,” he said.
In a veiled reference to the 2015 election, Akpabio urged party faithful to support President Goodluck Jonathan.
The PDP Governors’ Forum chairman appealed to members of the party to see the success of Jonathan as that of the South-South.
“There is a hand of God in every position of leadership. Bayelsa is, perhaps the smallest state in Nigeria, but God decided to choose Goodluck Jonathan from Bayelsa State to become the President. We must all support our brother to succeed. For us, we shall not fail and we will never fail,” Akpabio added.
He, however, urged Tukur to make sure that the reconciliation meeting of the party was held twice every year.
Akpabio assured that the PDP would win 30 states in the 2015 elections if such measure was taken by the national leadership of the party.
He said, “The party needs unity and cohesion to win. We must compensate the disciples in each state. If you are not a good follower, you cannot be a good leader.”
But Tukur, defended the action of the governors, who left the meeting, saying the Delta State Governor was rushing home to attend an important family matter.
He promised that the National Working Committee of the party would do everything within its power to strengthen the party.
Tukur said “You are the owners of PDP. We will ensure that the party is brought back to the owners of the party. Yes, there are disagreements, but we can end our differences and still deliver our party in 2015.”
Meanwhile, efforts by the PDP to reconcile its warring factions in the South-West has hit the brick wall.
Investigations on Sunday showed that the peace move failed because one of the factions in the dispute did not regard the committee led by Tukur, as an impartial arbiter.
The PDP National Working Committee had on March 15 held a truce meeting with its South-West chapter in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The battle for the soul of the party in the zone is between a group loyal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and another which is against the former president.
The PDP in the South-West has been enmeshed in crises since the sacking of a former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as the party’s national secretary.
Barely a month after Oyinlola was removed, the PDP National Auditor, Chief Bode Mustapha and the National Vice-Chairman, Mr. Segun Oni, were also sent packing from their offices.
Oyinlola, Mustapha and Oni are regarded as Obasanjo’s loyalists.
The PDP also sacked the Dipo Odunjirin-led executive in Ogun State which is said to be supported by Obasanjo.
The executive was replaced by the Bayo Dayo-led group believed to be loyal to a PDP chieftain, Chief Buruji Kashamu.
A chieftain of the party, who pleaded anonymity, said there was no way the Ibadan meeting could be regarded as reconciliatory.
He said, “If you look at the list of people at the Ibadan meeting, most of them are those who think they can further their political interest by trying to pull down Obasanjo. But they will fail.
“Besides, the national chairman had right from the outset shown that he is against Obasanjo’s men.”
When contacted, a former deputy governorship candidate in Ogun State, Mr. Tunde Oladunjoye, said the Obasanjo group was not invited to the meeting.
He said, “We were not invited. I am not sure if the former President was invited to the meeting or not; but I am aware that he was not in the country then.
“Even, if we were invited, we would not have gone because the so-called caretaker committee of the party in the South-West is illegal.”
Tukur had last month inaugurated a caretaker committee to replace the Oni-led executive of the party in the zone.
But describing the caretaker committee as illegal, Oladunjoye, said, “There is already an existing court process, which has been served on Alhaji Tukur. The process says that the committee should refrain from parading itself as the caretaker committee or the executive of the South-West PDP.
“Since this court process has been served, it is expected that nobody should do anything to worsen the existing case.
“Again, if the quality of the audience at the Ibadan meeting is to be used to assess the fortunes of the PDP in South-West today, that means it is a total failure.”
But the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, debunked the allegation that former governors of the party were not in attendance.
According to him, Agagu, Fayose and Isiaka Adeleke(Osun) were in attendance.
He said, “Former governors were in attendance, yet people are saying the tour was a failure. That is not correct.
On why Obasanjo was not in attendance, Metuh said the former President was not known to be attending zonal meetings.
“Chief Obasanjo has never attended zonal meetings of the PDP, except once in the 14 years history of the party,” he added.