EMEKA NZE in this piece examines the discordant voices within the Social Democratic Party (SDP), threatening to ruin the chances of the party not only at the presidential election but subsequent elections.
Is PDP laughing?
There is no doubting it that there is a last laugh within the fold of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), from where Prof Jerry Gana decamped to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) with a handful of former members of the umbrella party.
Due to the failure of his plot to use PDP to ride to the crest of power, Gana found in SDP an easy platform to develop and nurture in order to become its “Lord of the Manor” and cruise unchallenged as it’s presidential flag bearer but he was wrong.
In retrospect, after the PDP national convention in December 2017, Gana led some aggrieved supporters of Prof Tunde Adeniran, then a top contender for the number one PDP job, to the SDP, thus making the party a formidable platform.
Their immediate grouse, Blueprint gathered, was that the national convention was predetermined and manipulated in favour of Prince Uche Secondus, who now occupies the position.
But some of his colleagues at the board of trustees of the PDP had dictated his ambition to vie for president and his support for his fellow member and friend in the BoT, Adeniran, if he won, would facilitate this ambition ride the PDP platform.
Although other aggrieved contestants for the same position like Chief Bode George, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, and a host of others agreed to sheathe their sword, stayed put in the PDP, all entreaties by the party to persuade Gana and his cohorts to remain in the PDP were futile.
In the SDP, the new entrants were rewarded with major positions. The immediate major beneficiaries of the movement were Prof Adeniran himself who became the SDP Deputy National Chairman South, Alhaji Shehu Musa Gabam, the national secretary, Hon Emeka Atuma, the National Organising Secretary amongst others. The position of the chairman board of trustees was reserved for Prof Gana but without inkling that he nursed a presidential ambition.
The party indeed grew in leaps and bounds became an attractive platform for people who nursed fresh ambitions in various categories and those who had inkling or were sure the power equations in their constituencies and states would not favour their re-election. Then the cookies began to crumble and things began to fall apart.
Today, even if Gana retains the presidential ticket of the party, his hopes and aspirations for a united and formidable party (SDP) is fast receding into a mirage in the light of the crisis that has engulfed the party.
The statements and counter coming from the two sides of the divide, the national chairman, Chief Olu Falae, the National Secretary, Gabam, the National Deputy Chairman, Ishiaq Ahmed, even Prof Adeniran on one side, and then Gana, NPS and others on the other, is a testament that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
From the time some chieftains of the party, for whatever considerations, most likely pecuniary, as has been alleged by the Gana group, allowed the former Cross River state Governor, Mr Donald Duke, to join the fray for the presidential ticket, against the letters of party’s constitution which stipulates that if a Southerner is the party chairman, the Presidential Candidate must come from the north, marked the beginning of the self-inflicted gash which tend to ruin its presidential bid.
Duke as pushover?
Perhaps, the leadership regarded Duke as a pushover just to pocket his N11 million (the cost of party’s nomination forms for the presidential election and expression of interest), just as they did that of John Dara, Ambassador Felix Osakwe, Ambassador (Prof) Iyorwuese Hagher, or they overrated the popularity of the former Information Minister in the party.
Indeed, Duke was not a regular face in the SDP prior to the primaries having come into the party at the eleventh hour and then suddenly opted to go for the presidential primaries but he is not a neophyte in politics having served as the Governor of Cross River state for eight years.
However, prior to his entry into SDP, the expectation was that if Duke was going to run for office, he would do so in the African Democratic Congress (ADC) which then was touted as the third force (where he, Duke prominently featured as a member), espoused by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his controversial letter President Muhammadu Buhari.
Gana as an unknown quantity
Thus he was not given a chance at all by the SDP stalwarts. All fingers pointed to the man who had worked under virtually every government in the country, Prof Jerry Gana, who depended so much on his previous offices and his knowledge of the country which he parades to have earned him popularity among Nigerians.
But in the piece entitled: “The Phenomenon known as Jerry Gana”, Babayola Toungo said: “Prof Jerry Gana was a lecturer of unknown quantity in the Geography Department of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, before General Ibrahim Babangida unleashed him on the long-suffering Nigerians, like the many catastrophes IBB unleashed on us as a Director, Director Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI) and later MAMSER.”
Continuing Toungo wrote: “My beef with the man has to do with his lack of conscience. Jerry Gana goes everywhere with a Bible, but will find nothing ridiculous in looking you straight in the eye and lying with a straight face.
“When Abacha made him a Minister, he swore to heavens that Nigeria will disintegrate without Abacha and that there was no alternative to him. It was also at this time that Jerry Gana told Nigerians that Babangida was the worst thing to ever happen to this country.
Aligned with G34
When he realised he had lost out, he aligned himself to the group known as the G34 who wrote a letter to Abacha asking him not to transmute into a civilian president. At the formation of PDP most members of the G34 joined the party, or formed the PDP. Elections were held in 1999, Obasanjo won and the rest as they say is history.
Gana was made first a Minister of Co-operation and Integration in Africa and later Information. He ranted to no end on how bad and wicked Abacha was. As Information Minister, Gana surpassed Goebbles, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda.
Also the author accused Gana along with Kanu Agabi etal of surreptitiously introducing Draft Constitution at the 2005 National Political Reform Conference for Obasanjo’s third term agenda. He said: “After Kanu Agabi made a poor case of defending the introduction of what is derisively known as the “Obasanjo Constitution”, Gana jumped into the fray to do a yeoman’s job of “explaining” how the constitution came about.
Perhaps unknowingly, Gana had become oblivious of these hard facts which some Nigerians mostly his opponents will easily recall and use against him in any contest involving him. So Duke defeated him at the SDP primaries conducted on October 12 with 812 votes and he came a distant second with 611 votes.
The convention committee chairman Abdul Ishiaq also announced that Dara polled 104 votes while Prof Iyorwuese Hagher scored 72 votes and Amb Felix Osakwe had 10 votes.
Blueprint learnt that Duke, using his experience as a governor, was able to mobilize the SDP faithful, adopting both conventional and unconventional means to win. A party source disclosed that the former governor had promised party stalwarts (voters) the sum of N50, 000 after the primaries should he emerge the winner, a promise allegedly observed in breach.
Ambition or party interest?
Rather than unite the party, the primaries further depleted its fortunes as two of the aspirants have already left the party. Dara and his followers have left to Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD) where he holds forte as the presidential candidate.
Equally, Osakwe has already moved on as the presidential candidate of the Democratic People’s Party (PDP) while Prof Hagher also resigned his position in the party as Director, Duke Presidential Campaign Committee. At the time of writing, it is not clear to ascertain whether he is still a member of SDP.
Now, the party is actually not having it easy. Since the Federal High Court Maitama declared Gana as the authentic Presidential Candidate of the party, there has been sharp division even amongst its hierarchy.
The Prof Gana Campaign Organisation known as G19 has worked at cross purposes with the party leadership. This height of this drama was when Gana informed the national chairman, Chief Olu Falae, his intention to flag off his presidential campaign.
The response of the national chairman in the words of the G19 “shocking” as Falae issued a statement appealing to members and officials of the party to refrain from attending the event on the ground that the Federal High Court judgement had been appealed.
The letter read: “The national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chief Olu Falae, CFR, GCON has received a letter dated December 27,2018 from Professor Jerry Gana, seeking “leave of the National Chairman ” to ” unveil the vision and Programme ” of his Presidential Campaign and, inviting him as “Chief Host ” at both the “unveiling ” on Saturday December 29, 2018 and at the “Summit of Stakeholders ” which he is planning for Saturday January 5 , 2019.