The presidency wants a heads up on the next game plan of the dissident PDP members.
President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered round-the-clock security surveillance on leaders of the breakaway faction of the Peoples Democratic Party led by Abubakar Baraje, in an extensive effort to foil the group’s activities and ensure its members do not launch a parallel office as planned.
Security officials told PREMIUM TIMES that the government, severely embarrassed by Saturday’s walkout by seven PDP governors from the party’s convention and the subsequent inauguration of a parallel leadership of the party, was poised to undermine the group’s plans and bring its leaders under check.
The central objective of the surveillance, our source said on Tuesday, would be to detect and disrupt the unveiling of a new headquarters for the party.
The new faction of the party is headed by Mr. Baraje, a former acting chairman of the PDP, and is backed by seven governors, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and several federal lawmakers.
“While the security agents are determined to stop Baraje and his people from opening any new office, the group on the other hand is determined to beat the security, and hoist their flags and possibly get a picture of the place widely circulated before the security people know what is going on,” a top security official said on Tuesday.
The splitting of the PDP, the latest in a series of the party’s troubles, deepened on Tuesday after efforts at reconciliation failed. A planned meeting on Tuesday to continue with talks was rescheduled, indicating the crisis would continue.
Mr. Baraje had told PREMIUM TIMES of the group’s plan to open a parallel secretariat on Tuesday. He said the secretariat was ready and that it was now been equipped with “the needed paraphernalia of office”.
He however declined to provide the exact address of the new secretariat, saying that would be contained in the invitation to be sent out to journalists later on Tuesday.
Other party officials said that was ostensibly to dodge any security interest, to allow the defiant party members launch the office, and in the least, hoist the party’s flag and take photographs.
Our sources say the government plans to disrupt any planned inauguration of the secretariat is a move reminiscent of the government’s response to a similar crisis in 2006.
Our source said currently some kind of “cat and mouse game” was ongoing between the officials and security agents.
Part of the president’s directive is for government operatives to monitor telephone calls, and meetings of the respective officials.
In 2006, as with the present split, the PDP broke into two formidable groups, each operating from separate secretariats.
On June 9, 2006, a group led by the party’s founding chairman, Solomon Lar, and a former Deputy National Chairman, Shuaib Oyedokun, had broken away to form a parallel faction after accusing the then Ahmadu Ali-led leadership of sidelining many leading founding members.
The group then proceeded to open a new secretariat: a one-storey building of four flats lavishly decorated with flags of the party located in the Jabi District of Abuja.
The development terribly rattled then President Olusegun Obasanjo who promptly deployed security agents to forcefully seal the parallel secretariat.
By the following day, the Nigerian Police had closed the new secretariat and stationed 20 of its men at the complex to prevent members of the Lar group from gaining entry.
The then Commissioner, Federal Capital Territory’s Police Command, Lawrence Alobi, explained at the time that his men were asked to seal the secretariat to forestall an outbreak of violence.
The development terribly irked the Lar group and sparked off a war of words between the two camps.
The Lar group asked the then Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, to withdraw his men from its secretariat, threatening that it would forcefully chase the Ali-led group away from the Wadata Plaza national secretariat of the party if the police failed to allow it to operate from the Mabushi secretariat.