President Goodluck Jonathan did everything and said anything to win the presidential ticket of the PDP, including empowering the governors whose influence he is now so desperate to curb. He double-crossed such figures as Ken Nnamani, a former Senate President and Aminu Bello Masari, a former House of Representatives Speaker, to appease the party’s governors in 2010, a new book has revealed.
Mr. Jonathan was also desperate to recruit credible northerners who were indifferent to zoning to help him counter the Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Political Leaders’ Forum. He sent Niger Delta Minister, Godsday Orubebe, to persuade Nasir El Rufai to “publicly support Jonathan’s presidential aspiration and join his campaign”.
The book by Nasir El Rufai, The Accidental Public Servant, chronicles how Mr. Jonathan encouraged and supported the activities of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Reform Group, led by Ken Nnamani, which was eager to free the party from the stranglehold of the governors. From May 2010, the reform group began agitating for a biometric register of party members nationwide “to remove the control of the PDP from the godfathers, the governors and the unelected apparatchiks and restore it back to the party membership”.
Mr. El Rufai said he told Mr. Orubebe that even though he had voiced his “opposition to zoning as a parameter in leadership selection, I also believed that merit must then supplant it. I was clear in my view that Jonathan had not shown enough leadership in political and economic matters to earn any public support.” The former Federal Capital Territory, FCT, minister said he further told Mr. Orubebe that he could not join Mr. Jonathan’s campaign as he had left the PDP and wanted nothing to do with the party.
Mr. Orubebe also came with a sweetener, asking Mr. El Rufai what the government could do about the charges the Yar’Adua government had filed against him.
According to the author, he told Mr. Orubebe that the government should let the courts decide, and that he would not accept a withdrawal of the charges. Mr. Orubebe assured that he would not relent in the efforts to bring Mr. El Rufai back to the PDP fold.
Mr. Jonathan’s envoy lived up to his pledge. Mr. Orubebe arranged a meeting between Messrs. El Rufai and Jonathan who sought the former FCT minister’s advise on how to escape the quagmire Mr. Jonathan created when he denied the existence of the zoning provisions that were so explicitly stated in the constitution of the PDP. The blunt memo Mr. El Rufai sent back marked the end of the recruitment effort.
Mr. Nnamani, with Mr. Masari and media mogul, Raymond Dokpesi, briefed Jonathan regularly on how to wrest control of the party from the governors who had steadfastly supported the ailing and absent Yar’Adua against calls for a formal transfer of power to the then vice-president.
Although the forum secured the support of the party’s National Working Committee and its Board of Trustees for the democratization plan, the PDP’s National Executive Committee, dominated by the governors, rejected it on June 18, 2010.
Mr. Jonathan had double-crossed his allies in the reform group by reaching an accord with the governors. He repudiated the reform group, and looked on as the governors took their revenge by suspending the leaders of the reform group from the party, the book stated.
Messrs. Nnamani and Masari both challenged their suspension in court.
Mr. El Rufai said that the politicians involved in that episode learnt that President Jonathan could not be expected to keep a promise.