Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, is clearly under severe heat. His outlook may not depict that lucidly but those who follow his current spat with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) know that the man is not at ease.
The ACN leadership is at the jugular of the PDP boss over alleged involvement of his son, Ali, in the petroleum subsidy sleaze. The opposition party has insisted that Tukur must resign from his top office because his moral base has been tainted. ACN, in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said: “We call on the PDP Chairman to accept moral responsibility and step down from his high office because his party is right at the centre of the biggest corruption scandal in the history of our dear country and also because his son is among the suspects.
Our call has nothing to do with Alhaji Tukur being on trial or not.” It continued: “Because the PDP is the ruling party, in a country where unprecedented corruption has left the people badly impoverished, any linkage between a huge scandal like the fuel subsidy scam and the party immediately raises a flag over the commitment of its government at the centre to effectively tackle this cankerworm.
“It is ,therefore, imperative for Alhaji Bamanga Tukur , whom we agree has made a name for himself within and outside the country, to uphold that name and keep his integrity intact by vacating the leadership of the PDP today”. PDP did not waste time in dismissing ACN’s demand and firing a salvo to the party. The Ruling party declared Ali Tukur was old enough to face the law of the land if his fingers were burnt in the oil subsidy deal. PDP urgedACN to focus on challenges facing it.
ACN reacted sharply to the PDP’s submission. It said “the PDP would not have needed to struggle to make its case had its Chairman not been in charge of the ruling party in Africa’s most populous nation , a party that has presided over the unprecedented looting of our commonwealth since 1999…” The altercation between the party has continued. It is clear that it is not about to abate Albeit Ali and some other other people indicted in the subsidy scandal have been granted bail by the court.
The ongoing controversy adds to Tukur’s headache. He has, sincerely speaking, not had a rest of mind since ascending to the top office. Few weeks after taking over the mantle he began a battle with the party’s secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Agreed the disagreement between the two stalwarts was managed in a manner that none of the two men was hurt, it, however, left a crack in their relationship. Some aides of the PDP boss believe that there is nothing to fret over the current clamor for his resignation.
As far as they are concerned, he has overcome more precarious challenges in the past . They argue that his emergence, in the first place, as PDP candidate and later chairman was strewn with thorns and nails yet he glided safely on them. Really, even with his backing by the presidency for the position few gave him any chance of clinching the post .
There was eminent reason for that. Lined up against him were formidable forces. His biggest hurdle was from his home constituency, the North East zone. The former vice president Atiku Abubakar who , some believe is eyeing the presidency in 2015 was considered as not being comfortable with Tukur leading the party because of the effect that might have on his aspiration. Tukur and Atiku are both from Adamawa state. Both are traditional title holders.
The former is the Tafidan Adamawa while the latter is the Turakin Adamawa. Watchers of the politics of zoning enshrined in the PDP concluded that the emergence of Tukur as chairman has effectively put a hole into Atiku’s presidential dreams. Opponents of zoning however countered that zoning died with the election of President Jonathan last year in violation of the party’s constitution. The former vice president has proved a dogged fighter. In the later part of his reign as Vice to former President Obasanjo, he successfully challenged and reversed in court, his sack as Vice President by his boss.
It was not the only victory he has had in court. Even his critics credit him with an uncommon ability to turn political foes into allies. This quality makes him formidable as a political foe. It was therefore, understandable that Tukur would face a stiff opposition from an Atiku opposition. The PDP chairman came brandishing a 12 point agenda of transforming the PDP. He hinged his style on what he christened Triple-R, Triple-E and Triple-D. Triple-R agenda would start with a genuine RECONCILIATION process for members to embrace the party and its programmes while aggrieved members would be given a sense of belonging.
The REFORMATION of the party and a process of total REBUILDING based on equity and justice. The Triple-E agenda, centres on Energy, Environmental Sustainability/Food Security and Education. He unveiled the agenda with such pride and passion. Some expectedly sneered and dismissed it as mere rhetorics. They argue that the party’s biggest problem is the lack of internal democracy and the ‘do-or-die’ tendency espoused by the former president, chief Obasanjo.
Tukur believed his wide and extensive experience and network were enough to transform the ruling party. But few developments soon after he took over clearly pointed to him that he was not entirely correct. He had not settled down when his chief of staff Habu Fari clashed with Ogunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun state. Fari has proved to be a wily politician and a master of intrigues seen by many as an integral part of Tukur. He was seen therefore, as indispensable.
For the period the rift lasted, the National Working Committee of the party was polorised along two camps. What saved the day was that Tukur did not take side wholly with Fari. Rightly, he gave Fari the boot. And the move, arguably paved the way for him to initiate to rein in other staff and officials of the party. He sent a message that he would not brood indiscpline in the party.
The move also marked up expectations from him. Many expect that Tukur will bring to bear his wealth of experience in reforming the party. For example, unlike his predecessors, Tukur has the stature and clout to whip into line recalcitrant members of the party ranging from senators to governors. Similarly he has sufficient business exposure internationally to hold his turf against any usurpers of party functions. Even his critics acknowledge that he is like a mechanic on a mission not totally impossible. Tukur has been around in the political turf for quite a while.
He superintended over the old Gongola state in the second republic. During and after the stint in the Government house he built an image of a strong political character and a disciplinarian. Long before he became governor of Gongola state in the last quarter of 1983, Tukur had managed the nation’s ports. In the mid 70s, the nation’s ports were a mess. Under his guide, the government built more seaports and operations phenomenally grew. Expectedly it helped in easing the transaction cost associated with shipping and to ensure adequate facilities for Nigeria’s import and export needs.
It is instructive to note that since his departure from the Ports 30 years ago, none of his successors has come near his record. On exiting Government House Yola, Tukur went into full scale entrepreneurship becoming the President of Africa Business Roundtable, and was the founder and chairman of BHI holdings (DADDO group of companies). In 1992, he took a shot at the nation’s political plum-the presidency on the platform of the National Republican Convention, (NRC).
His entrepreneurial skills might have informed the late Abacha regime to appoint him minister of industries in 1994. A maze of intrigues has defined the PDP since it metamorphosed from G18 to G34 that cautioned late Gen Abacha from transmuting to a civilian leader. In both groups, Tukur was a visible member and therefore, a founding father of the PDP.
This and the previously listed factors, have placed him a notch higher than his predecessors in his mission of party reformation. Now, all eyes are on the PDP chairman , can he emerge out of the current controversy unscathed? Is it, in the first place, right for the opposition to call for his resignation over a deal allegedly committed by his son? This and other questions will continue to come up in days to come.