– By Chuks Okocha and Mohammed Bello —
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday held a fence-mending meeting with governors of five northern states of Adamawa, Niger, Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto at the presidential villa in Abuja. At the meeting, the governors, who are all members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, divulged their complaints against the ruling party.
The meeting followed Jonathan and the northern governors’ parley with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his Abeokuta hilltop residence penultimate Saturday, and the governors’ meeting with former military leaders, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, last Monday in Minna.
It started about 12.40pm and lasted over two hours.
Also at the weekend, PDP said the July 25 ruling of an Abuja High Court, which stopped the special national convention of the party scheduled for August 31, did not sack the party’s national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and the recently appointed acting members of its National Working Committee.
The meeting between Jonathan and the governors, THISDAY gathered, was part of efforts to resolve lingering disagreements among the political elite, particularly key members of the party, ahead of the 2015 general election.
The governors in attendance were Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, and Musa Kwankwanso of Kano State – all PDP governors.
But before meeting with the president, the five governors had met at the Sokoto State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, where they articulated their grievances and position.
One of the attendees, who spoke with THISDAY on condition of anonymity, said, “We itemised some of the issues bothering us to include the marginalisation of some of the governors in the PDP, like in the coming special national convention. The affairs of the party have been hijacked by the governors of Akwa Ibom, Benue, Bauchi, Katsina, Delta, and Abia states. They are the governors that dictate what is happening in the party.”
The source said the five northern governors were not happy with the recent happenings in Rivers State and the silence of the president over the matter. “It was as a result of this that we met former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, and former Head of State, General Abudulsami Abubakar, to consult with them and seek advice on what is happening in the country,” he said.
The governors also expressed dismay at the incident in Port Harcourt recently, when they were pelted with bricks by thugs hired by opponents of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi during a solidarity visit to the governor. They were, particularly, disappointed at the complicity of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, in the incident and in the political crisis in the state.
“Now PDP is planning a special national convention and the Presidency is hijacking the entire affairs without consulting all the governors,” the source stated, stressing that this is among the reasons some of the governors decided to stay away from the last PDP governors meeting.
THISDAY learnt that the meeting between Jonathan and the five governors ended about 3pm. No official statement was issued on the outcome of the closed-door meeting.
But according to the source that spoke with THISDAY, after the five governors had listed their grievances before the president, he promised to look into them.
“We had our position before the meeting and this was presented to the president. Don’t forget, he is the President and Commander-in-Chief, and one by one, we presented our complaints, as we did when we visited former President Obasanjo, General Babangida, and General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
“He listened and promised to look into our complaints. The meeting ended on a good note, but suffice to say that we have stated our complaints to the Commander-in-Chief.”
Reports, however, said that two All Nigeria Peoples Party governors, Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State and Kashim Shettima of Borno State, were also at the meeting with the president.
Meanwhile, PDP has said that the July 25 ruling of an Abuja High Court ordering the stoppage of its special national convention scheduled for August 31 pending the determination of a suit before the court, did not involve the sack of the national chairman and the interim national officers.
The ruling had also faulted the mode of election of some of the party’s national officers at its nation convention last year. It followed a suit brought by some members of the party after a report by the Independent National Electoral Commission which rejected the process of election of 12 of the 16 members of the NWC.
But the affected NWC members resigned their positions during the National Executive Committee meeting of PDP on June 20, apparently, in deference to the INEC report.
However, since the ruling by the Abuja court, there has been several interpretations regarding the implication for the NWC.
“For the avoidance of doubt,” PDP said in a release, “the ruling of the court is clear. The court pointedly ruled that the PDP refrain from proceeding with the conduct or convocation of the Special National Convention pending the determination of the suit filed by the aggrieved members.
“It is instructive to note that in its wisdom and in line with the principle of justice, the court turned down the prayer by the plaintiffs for an interlocutory injunction nullifying the appointment of acting members of the National Working Committee (NWC). The court also threw out the prayer requesting it to restrain the national chairman, Alhaji Dr. Bamanga Tukur CON, from performing his roles in the NWC until the determination of the suit.
“We assure our members that the leadership of the party and the functions of the NWC are in no way affected by the ruling. The ruling did not in any way affect the office of the national chairman or those of the acting national officers of our great party.
“Nevertheless, our lawyers are presently studying the court ruling and will advise the party leadership on the next course of action in that regard.
“We, therefore, urge our members to continue to remain calm as it is obvious that the party will come out of its challenges stronger than ever before and better prepared for victory in the 2015 general elections.
The plaintiffs, Abba Yale, Yahaya Sule, and Bashir Maigudu, had sued the party to challenge the process that brought the former NWC members into office last year.