The embattled Peoples Democratic Party National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, on Wednesday declared a forceful determination of his executive, backed by President Goodluck Jonathan, to crush a faction that broke free of the party on Saturday.
The splinter group, led by Abubakar Baraje and supported by seven governors, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and nearly hundred federal lawmakers, has laid claim to the party’s legitimate executive and has asked a court to sack the Tukur-led PDP.
Mr. Tukur described the leaders of the new PDP faction as ‘enemies of the oneness and greatness of our party’ and threatened to ensure the removal of “all persons elected on the platform of our great party at all levels who identify” with the new faction.
At a news conference on Wednesday, after days of intense consultations and meetings failed to reconcile both sides, Mr. Tukur drew the line for a clampdown on the members of the Baraje-led faction, and vowed to leave “no stone unturned to ensure that such persons and indeed any other individual who attempts to subvert the leadership of the PDP shall reap in full, the consequences of such actions.”
“There is only one lawfully recognized PDP and I am firmly in charge,” he affirmed.
“The PDP has only one duly elected National Executive Committee (NEC) under my Chairmanship. I wish therefore to state with all emphasis that any group of persons, parading themselves as leaders of NEC or any other organ of our party, are impostors and I urge all Nigerians, especially the security agencies and other institutions of democracy to regard them as such,” he added.
The remarks were the clearest indication that the Jonathan administration, pressured by an internal party rebellion it has never faced, has jettisoned peace efforts with the governors and other aggrieved party members, and was now spoiling for war.
Mr. Tukur’s declaration came after a meeting late Tuesday between the PDP Chairman, loyalist governors, and President Jonathan. The meeting was held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The meeting was summoned after the seven breakaway governors refused to attend an earlier reconciliation talk scheduled for Tuesday.
The governors reportedly asked for a new date-September 10- insisting they needed more consultations.
But with Mr. Tukur’s declaration on Wednesday- which appeared to be the decision reached with the president and the other governors on Tuesday- it was unclear whether the new date for a reconciliation talk with the Baraje faction will hold.
Some party members and officials, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES off the record on Wednesday, confirmed that the sudden change of posture by Mr. Tukur and the NWC towards the new PDP faction was a fall out of the meeting between the president and governors loyal to him.
At the briefing, Mr. Tukur sought to dispel any doubt that he remained in active control of the ruling party that has been terribly fractured and whose members had declared loyalty to the rival faction.
Lawmakers may lose seats
There were indications on Wednesday that more senators and members of the House of Representatives were rooting for the Baraje faction.
Ahmed Ali, the chairman, House Committee on Justice, who announced through a statement, the 57 members backing the Baraje faction, said on Wednesday that apart from the reported lawmakers, close to 50 others from states like Katsina, Imo, and Enugu had reached him on phone to pledge support.
“The figure of members of the House of representatives loyal to the Baraje led PDP is increasing every hour as I’m speaking to you now,” he was quoted as saying.
Mr. Tukur said such lawmakers will lose their seats.
“..All persons elected on the platform of our great party at all levels who identify with these enemies of the oneness and greatness of our party shall have their seats declared vacant as required by law,” he said.
Mr. Tukur’s statement indicates that his faction of the party intends to ask INEC to declare the seat of lawmakers, aligned to the other faction, vacant. This is in line with constitutional provision that states that lawmakers who change parties from that which they were elected lose their seat. However, the constitution also stipulates that such lawmakers would retain their seats if they can prove that their old party is factionalised implying chances of a successful removal by the PDP chairman are slim.
Attempt to remove any of the PDP governors in the other faction is even more difficult if not impossible for Mr. Tukur.
In his address, the PDP Chairman also said “the PDP as the sole custodian of the sacred mandate of over 160 million Nigerians and who in the last fourteen years has lifted high the banner of democracy will not fold its arms while some undemocratic and unpatriotic elements destroy our common destiny by causing divisions and confusion among the people.
“Consequently, we shall ensure that any person who is not duly elected into any leadership position in our great party and has not been duly assigned any role but goes ahead to arrogate such to himself will be made to face the full wrath of the law,” Mr. Tukur said.
There was apprehension Wednesday shortly before Mr. Tukur addressed the press conference, with some insinuating that the chairman may be announcing his resignation from office. This feeling arose from reports that the rebel governors had reportedly informed President Jonathan when they met with him that the first condition for reconciliation was for Mr. Tukur to resign.
Mr. Tukur refused to entertain questions from journalists after his press briefing.