For the PDP, it’s a tradition of forced exits for its chairmen
Bamanga Tukur’s resignation Thursday as chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, merely conformed to a grim tradition that has haunted this ruling party from 1998: one that has seen all but one of its seven chairmen forced out of office in controversial circumstances.
From its pioneer chair, Solomon Lar, to Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh, Ahmadu Ali, Vincent Ogubulafor, Okwesilieze Nwodo to Mr. Tukur, only one PDP chairman, Mr. Ali, served out his tenure and stepped down without rancour. It was a far-reaching career attainment replicated by no other chairman in PDP’s 15-year old troubled existence as a party.
Mr. Lar was literally booted out of office by former President Olusegun Obasanjo few months after Mr. Obasanjo assumed office in 1999. After taking charge, Mr. Obasanjo sought to wrestle control of the party from its founding fathers, one of them Mr. Lar.
Having spent barely one year in office, Mr. Lar was replaced by Barnabas Gemade, a current senator and a man described in a leaked United States’ foreign cable as a partner-in-corruption with Tony Anenih, the current chairman, PDP Board of Trustees.
Mr. Gemade was an ample tool in the hands of Mr. Obasanjo as the former president hounded the National Assembly between 2000 and 2006 deciding on who emerged Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That partnership, with the influential assistance of Mr. Anenih, led to the emergence of Evans Enwerem as Senate president and Salisu Buhari as Speaker. When both men were eventually pulled down by their lawmaker colleagues, Mr. Gemade came handy working out the downfall of Chuba Okadigbo, the man chosen by co-Senators to replace Mr. Enwerem.
The plot to remove Mr. Okadigbo finally succeeded. But the party faced a wild storm as Mr. Gemade, doing Mr. Obasanjo’s bidding, set out this time to oust Ghali Na’abba, who replaced Mr. Buhari. That plot finally failed, leaving the party divided and devastated.
As Mr. Obasanjo and other PDP incumbents look to the 2002/2003 election cycle, the debilitated state of the party became apparent. Seeking to revitalize the party, the then president kicked out Mr. Gemade, replacing him with a more independent-minded politician, Audu Ogbeh.
Mr. Ogbeh’s tenure was even more dramatic but lacked the brazen connivance of the party with rogue elements within the fold, as under Mr. Gemade. In the end, that independence of mind was Mr. Ogbeh’s undoing.
He was forced to resign, reportedly at gun point, after he faced up to Mr. Obasanjo with a letter advising the president to act on the anarchy that had taken over in Anambra state, where party godfather, Chris Uba, a known supporter of the president then, had overrun the state and taken its governor, Chris Ngige, captive.
Mr. Ogbeh, now a leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was booted out in December 2004.
He was replaced by Ahmadu Ali, a long-time associate of Mr. Obasanjo. Mr. Ali, later appointed chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, made it through his term. He however left without a second term.
Vincent Ogbulafor, a former minister under the former president, was elected the new chairman at the party’s national convention of 2008. In time, he was enmeshed in a bitter feud with his state governor, Theodore Orji, as both men struggled for the soul of the party in the south east state.
As the crisis reverberated at the federal level, affecting other states under Mr. Ogbulafor, the former minister rebuffed calls to step down to save his party until he was charged with stealing more than N100 million state funds. Mr. Ogbulafor resigned in May 2010. The corruption case has barely advanced since then.
Mr. Ogbulafor was replaced by Okwesilieze Nwodo, who also left under controversial circumstances after dispute with his state governor, Sullivan Chime, which resulted in an Enugu High Court ruling sacking him on the grounds that he was not a card-carrying member of the party.. He had also at the time fallen out of favour with President Goodluck Jonathan
Mr. Tukur’s own troubles also began from home where his control of the party structure in Adamawa state was challenged by Governor Murtala Nyako.
Ahead of the 2015 election, several governors, including Mr. Nyako, asked for his removal, fearing that Mr. Tukur, a key ally of President Goodluck Jonathan, would lend his support and turn over the party’s machinery to Mr. Jonathan, should he seek re-election.