Northern Politicians grudgingly allowed Jonathan in 2011
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- FORMER National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Ali said that he supported the presidential tenure elongation bid of ex- President Obasanjo because Nigeria as a country was in dire need of good leadership as it was suffering from what he termed, bad leadership.
(l-r) Former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris; Former Federal Commissioner for Education, Senator Ahmadu Ali; Chairman of the Event, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo; Wife of the Celebrant, Chief (Mrs.) Maryam Ali; Special Guest of Honour, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Former Plateau State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Pauline Tallen displaying copies of a book, “The Many Colours of A Rainbow: A biography of Senator Ahmadu Ali”, during the public presentation of the book to mark the 82nd Birthday of Senator Ahmadu Ali at the Yar’adua Centre, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida
Though, Ali who was chairman of the party at the time said that the issue of third term bid for the President was never debated in the party, even as he said that the issue never came up at any level of the party.
According to him, the third term bid for Obasanjo was not tabled at either the National Executive Committee or at the party’s convention, adding, ” there was no such phrase as ” third term ” in the documents of the party.”
Senator Ahmadu Ali, a retired Army Colonel, three-time Senator, medical doctor, former Federal Commissioner of Education and PDP National Chairman between 2005 and 2007, also made revelations on several issues on how he presented the name of his wife, Marian Ali four times for the position of Chairman, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA because her father had been a very senior officer of the NPA and he thought that it would be good for the family history, but the name was dropped.
He also spoke on how he rejected his ambassadorial postings to South Africa and Britain because he never wanted to be a stranger in foreign countries.
Ahmadu also said in the book that his worst fears was when the second term ambition of former President Goodluck Jonathan fragmented the PDP almost along the North / South divide, even as he stressed take northern politicians grudgingly allowed Jonathan to run in 2011.
He said that by 2015, the Northern politicians has made up their minds nit to support Jonathan.
According to Ali, in his authorised biography which was launched yesterday at Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja to mark his 82nd birthday, he gave his personal support to the bid and not as a party.
The 423, page and nine chapter book, entitled, “The many colours of a rainbow: A biography of Senator Amadu Adah Ali” was written by Gideon S. Tseja.
According to the book which was obtained yesterday by Vanguard, “A lot has been said and written about Obasanjo’s bid for a third term, and Senator Amadu Ali had often been accused of using his position as Chairman to support it. At worst, the party could only be accused of passivity. The idea of a third term for the President was never debated in the party. It was never discussed at any level in the party – either in the National Executive Committee or in the Convention. There was no such phrase as “third term” in the documents of the party.
“What happened was that in the previous PDP administration, 1999 to 2003, a number of constitutional amendments – 106 of them – was proposed. The new House took up this unfinished business which had been publicised and gazetted and began to debate it. One of the proposed amendments was on the extension of the term of the President. The press focused on this one proposal and spawned new emotive descriptions to characterize the proposal, such as president for life, sit-tight president, tenure elongation campaign, and so on. As could be expected, it was greeted with frenzied public outcry.
“Senator Amadu Ali had his personal views about it and, in fact, supported Obasanjo’s “tenure elongation” whole heartedly because he genuinely believed that Obasanjo was an extraordinarily good leader in spite of his perceived failings. He made statements to this effect:
“We were suffering from bad leadership, This man, we identified … for good leadership. He has come back and we have seen evidence of good leadership. Do you just change a gown when it is not dirty?
“But this was his personal views; he never used the party machine to manipulate the constitution nor was it tabled formally for discussion at any of the party’s meeting. The PDP never took an official position on the issue of tenure elongation.
“The chairman recognised that it was the constitutional right of any citizen, including members of his own party, to propose any constitutional amendment they wanted. But for the proposal to become law, it must be passed by two-thirds of the members of the State Houses of Assembly – i.e. by 24 out of 36 State Assemblies and must also be passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives in the same words before the President can sign it into law.
“If the proposal for the amendment to the term of the President had been allowed to run its course, Senator Amadu felt that it was unlikely that it would have passed, anyway. But as it turned out, not only was the bill scuttled prematurely, the other 105 useful proposals were thrown out along with it. It was a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. For example, the amendment which would have given the south-east zone an additional state never materialised.
“Senator Amadu Ali spent about three years as Chairman instead of the two years that was required to complete the term of Chief Audu Ogbeh. This was because the convention which would have formally brought his tenure to an end and ushered in a new one was continually being postponed against the wishes of the Chairman.
“Each time he wanted to call for the Convention to be held, some legal problems which needed resolution cropped up; or the Moslems would come out and say that it was inappropriate to hold a Convention during the time of Hajj; in December, the Christians would complain that it was Christmas season and the Convention should be postponed. Eventually the Chairman got fed up with the delays and was tired of the job. So he called the Convention in March 2008 and did not care whether some people attended or not. His term as the national Chairman of PDP, Nigeria’s biggest party, came to an end gracefully.”
On the Jonathan’s ambition dividing the party, the book said, ” That future came sooner than expected in the 2015 presidential elections. Amadu Ali’s worst fears were realised when the second-term ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan fragmented the party almost along the North/South divide. The North felt short-changed that it did not complete its tenure under the late President Musa Yar’Adua. The Northern politicians only grudgingly allowed Jonathan to run in 2011. But by 2015, they had made up their mind not to support him. The situation led to a major implosion within the PDP, with five of its elected governors decamping with their supporters to join the opposition.
“Meanwhile, the opposition had learnt their lesson and decided to merge to form one formidable party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). With the PDP in tatters, President Jonathan appointed Amadu Ali as the Director General of his presidential campaign team dubbed “Jonathan/Sambo 2015 Presidential Campaign Organisation” (PCO), about three months to the election. In spite of Ali’s best effort, the PDP lost the presidential election on 28 March 2015 to General Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the APC.
“But in a historic feat, President Jonathan turned the defeat of his party to global acclaim by conceding defeat even before the final results were tabulated. This was unprecedented in African political history. That was how the sixteen years reign of the PDP came to an end in 2015. Even in defeat, the PDP has looked back with pride in the role it played in nurturing and consolidating democracy in Africa’s most populous country.”
On the The Emergence of Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan as PDP Flag Bearers for the 2007 Presidential Election, the book read, “The formidable party machine set up under the chairmanship of Senator Amadu Ali threw up Mallam Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the PDP flag-bearer for the presidential election of 2007. The party leadership ensured that members of the party who had been alleged to be corrupt were not allowed to contest at the party primaries. It scrutinised reports by the EFCC, listened to comments from the public and weeded out those it thought had not met the stringent standard of transparency and accountability the party had set for itself. It issued a pamphlet, Desirable Qualities and Code of Conduct for PDP Candidates at All Levels.
“It was under this atmosphere of anti-corruption crusade that Yar’Adua emerged in the primaries. Amongst all the PDP governors who wanted to contest for the President, he was the only one on whom the EFCC could not find any evidence of corruption or misappropriation of public funds. He left over N6billion for his successor in the state coffers while other governors left virtually nothing. He was reluctant to contest for the President.
“Even before the final results of the primaries were tallied, it was clear to the party leaders that Yar’Adua was going to win hands down. He had won three-quarters of the votes counted so far. They-President Obasanjo, Chairman, BOT, Chief Anenih and the National Chairman, Dr. Amadu Ali decided to shift their attention to the nomination of a running mate on the PDP ticket, the man who would be vice president if Yar’Adua won the presidency. The choice of the VP for Yar’Adua was where the real drama of the occasion was to be played out.
“The primaries took place at the well-known Eagle Square in Abuja. What many people may not know is that it has an underground complex with air-conditioned rooms to which dignitaries can retire for a nap, refreshment or ease themselves during long ceremonies. It was to this underground complex that the president, Chief Obasanjo, the chairman of the party, Senator Amadu Ali and Chief Tony Anenih retired and summoned the victorious Yar’Adua.
“Musa, congratulations,” the chairman began unceremoniously.
“It is a well-deserved victory, and the party will give you all the support that you need to win the presidential election.” He paused for a moment as the president and the others also gave Yar’Adua their congratulations.
“Peter Odili will be your running mate, He came third in our search for a presidential candidate. Gov. Ahmed Makarfi came second in our score, For equity, the running mate had to come from the south.”
“There was silence as everybody waited for Yar’Adua to react. Finally, looking away and avoiding the eyes of the chairman, he mumbled with his characteristic shy demeanor, “Thank you, sir, but I would request … ”
“You request what? The party produced you and the party will also produce the vn” thundered the chairman. “Let us give him time,” Obasanjo tried to intervene.
“We don’t have time, sir. We need to move fast. You can never tell what mischief is being planned right now. Did you see any of the governors towards the end of the election at the square?” It was true that the governors had mysteriously disappeared when Yar’Adua’s victory became a certainty.
He turned to Yar’Adua and continued his instructions to him.
“Go and write your acceptance speech. Say something like this: ‘I would like to inform you that after due consideration and consultation with the party, I have selected Peter Odili, the executive governor of Rivers State, to run with me on the same ticket.’ I want a copy of the speech and make sure Peter Odili’; name is on it!” Yar’Adua went away and came back with the speech as directed indicating that Peter Odili would be his running mate, but it was clear he was not happy. Pressure was brought to bear on the president and the leader of the party, Chief Obasanjo, to intervene and allow Yar’Adua to choose a VP he felt he could work with.
“Ahmadu,” said Chief Ohasanjo, “don’t be too harsh on the young man. Let’s give him twenty-four hours … ”
“Twenty-four hours! But … .” the chairman was going to argue. I know what you mean,” Obasanjo cut him off, “but let us give him twenty-four hours.”
“It had been a long day. Tired and hungry, the chairman went home dreaming of eating something, taking a long drink and flopping into bed to catch some rest. This was about 1.00 p.m on the day after the convention.
“Meanwhile, unknown to the president and the chairman, PDP governors were holding a secret meeting of their own to influence the choice ofvp candidate. It was at home that Senator Amadu Ali’s wife told him that she was told that the governor were holding a secret meeting over who should be VP. Clearly, they were not in favour of the choice of Peter Odili which the party leadership was contemplating. Even before he could fully digest this information, he got a frantic call from Obasanjo. He too, had got some information about the governors’ plot.
“Amadu, come, quick!”
“But you know we have just … ”
“Come, please and don’t argue. Quick, quick!”
The dream about his taking some rest evaporated as Senator Amadu Ali doubled back to meet the president at the Aso Rock Villa.
“He told the senator about the governors’ meeting. “We must act quickly or the governors will hijack this thing. Anenih is on his way and I have already summoned Yar’Adua. If he hasn’t thought of a running mate, then we must impose one on him.” This had been the senator’s position exactly, all along.
As soon as Yar’Adua arrived, the president told him without any preamble, “Now, Shehu, name your running mate, now, now. We don’t have twenty-four hours.
“Goodluck Jonathan,” he said without hesitation. He had obviously thought about it or tutored to mention the name. Immediately, Goodluck Jonathan was sent for. When Jonathan arrived a little while later, the president said, “We have summoned you here to offer you the position of Vice President. What do you think?”
Goodluck Jonathan was stunned. He was obviously not expecting this and had not remotely considered the possibility. He opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out.
The president seeing his discomfiture added helpfully, “This decision was taken after a long process. We just want to know what your opinion is.”
Finally, Goodluck Jonathan found his voice, although he was till disconcerted by this development.
“Well,” he began tentatively, “if I had a choice, I would prefer to remain as governor. I know the job. I know where I stopped. But this, I don’t know what it entails.” After a look of disapproval from the chairman and the president, he added quickly, “but if you want me to serve in that position, I accept.”
“Good, Shehu, you must now ask him formally,” the president wanted this whole process completed with dispatch. Yar’Adua turned to Jonathan and asked him, “Would you like to be my running mate as Vice President?”
President Obasanjo turned to the Chairman, Senator Amadu Ali, and said, “Amadu take him to my parlour. The television crew are on their way for a press conference. You and Chief Anenih should stand on either side of him and let him announce the name of his running mate.”
The governors were still at their meeting scheming how to influence the choice of vice president when Umaru Musa Yar’Adua announced his running mate to the public in the foyer of the Presidential Villa in Asokoro. The announcement was carried Live on NT A and other networks. This put paid to the PDP Governors’ plot to nominate a vice presidential candidate A lot has been said and written about the choice of Yar’Adua as the PDP flag bearer for the 2007 presidential election and his subsequent election as president. Many people have accused Obasanjo and the party of deliberately imposing a terminally sick man on the nation because of a self-serving secret agenda.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The emergence of Yar’Adua was from the purest of motives – to find for Nigeria, a credible leader who had demonstrated a rare sense of accountability and transparency in a country which the UNDP corruption index rated as one of the two most corrupt countries in the world.
“As to Yar’Adua’s health which deteriorated and eventually led tragically to his demise, how was Obasanjo or Amadu Ali supposed to know? They were neither his personal physicians nor were they psychics. He was reported ill once in a while, but most people fall ill once in a while. They, themselves, were ill once in a while. How were they supposed to know that Yar’Adua was terminally ill?
“Once Yar’Adua and Jonathan emerged as flag bearers for the PDP, the party leadership including Obasanjo and Amadu Ali campaigned relentlessly for the success of the party. It was during one of those public campaigns that the now-famous phone call took place between Yar’Adua and Obasanjo when the former was rumoured to be dead. The episode took place in Abeokuta Stadium during the campaign rally.
“As Yar’Adua came on line from his sick-bed in Europe, Obasanjo asked with his characteristic humour, “Shehu, they say au are dead. Are you dead?” “No, sir. I am not dead,” Yar’Adua answered, joining in this bizarre humour.
Yar’Adua’s health problem which led to his eventual death, and the crisis for the nation which resulted from it, emanated from a lapse in the constitution. There was nowhere in the constitution where it was stated that those vying for high public office should undergo a comprehensive medical examination and incidentally, this monumental omission was also made by the political parties. Without this provision, it was impossible for anybody to determine the health status of the candidates. A doctor is bound by a confidentiality pact with his patient and cannot divulge anything about his patient’s health without his authorisation.
“This omission should never have been allowed to occur. It is imperative that those vying for the highest public office in the land should declare their health status. They should be screened by a team of the best doctors in the land. Their physical and mental health should be assessed and they must give written consent that their medical records can be made public. The president of the country is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. An unstable president could easily lead the country into a senseless war, putting lives, the economy and the security of the nation at great risk.
“But in spite of the serious constitutional crisis into which the country was plunged in the final months of Yar’Adua’s life as he lay comatose in another country, this lapse in the constitution has still not been fully appreciated and addressed. Today, several years after the passing ofYar’Adua, neither the president nor the National Assembly has even proposed an amendment to the constitution which would allow medical screening of those in for top public positions like that of the president or the governor of a state. None of the political parties has proposed this provision in their constitutions either. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
“The 2007 presidential election was greeted with wide-spread condemnation within the country and internationally. International observers talked of rigging on a massive scale while opposition parties like the ANPP cried foul.
But the chairman of PDP, Senator Amadu Ali, believes that the report of rigging was very much exaggerated. Every party accuses the other of irregular practices in every election. The PDP won, because it was genuinely the best organised and the most popular party. In Nigeria, no party could rig successfully in a place where it was not already popular. And if it was popular, it has no need to rig an election in order to win. When parties lose elections, they point accusing fingers at the winning party!
“As to the condemnation by the international observers, Senator Ali is not impressed. Let the international community remove the mote in their eyes before trying to remove the one in other people’s eyes. The United States which claims best practice in this kind of matters rigged, in the full glare of the entire world, the election which brought George Bush [nr. into office. The world was witness to how a large number of African Americans and Hispanics were disenfranchised in Florida to give Bush the edge. Although the U.S. would attribute their failings to the failure of electoral machines, there were those who believed these were contrived. And now again, another anomaly has taken place in the US elections. Mrs. Hilary Clinton scored more popular votes than Donald Trump by about two million votes.
“Yet by an archaic provision in the USA electoral law, Trump was declared winner. While rigging should not be condoned, and every effort must be made to eradicate or minimize it, there are very few elections in the world which are without one form of irregularity or the other. Nigeria was no different. But the need to improve on our democratic practices cannot be overemphasized. What is important to remember is, not that the pop was less gu ilrv in the irregularities than the other parties in the 2007 election, but that it had the best ideas and its Presidential Campaign Council, under the chairmanship of Senator Amadu Ali, ran a flawless campaign which virtually extirpated the rather parties, including the ANPP which was its greatest rival. By the time the election was held, the result was a foregone conclusion, rigging or no rigging, as many people in the other parties had decamped in droves to pop to share in its anticipated victory. Already, the other parties were in disarray and many people were decamping to PDP ahead of the elections of 2011.
“It seemed that for some time to come, the pop would continue to hold sway over national politics for a number of reasons. First, over fifty percent of the electorate were illiterate who cared more about personalities, religion, tribe or sectional interests than about issues. They did not see their condition-poverty, power outage, lack of pipe-borne water, etc.-as a failing of government.
With the formidable PDP machine on ground, there seemed to be no reason to suppose that they would vote differently from last time. Second, the educated elite were apathetic towards partisan politics regarding it as dirty, leaving rascals and corrupt people with ill-gotten wealth to dominate it. And finally, the PDP did not seem to have any credible Opposition because the opposition was fragmented into several unwieldy parties.
Instead of coming together to form an effective coalition against the ruling party, each party preferred to maintain its autonomy while some of its members decamped to the PDP like women of easy virtue. It seemed as the position of the PDP would be secure and unassailable for a long time to come.
But Senator Amadu Ali was not quite confident about this analysis and prognosis. Eventually he thought, the PDP would run out of steam as the practice of democracy became more firmly entrenched in the country. It could even happen sooner if the PDP made some catastrophic mistakes. The massive financial impropriety with which some of the governors and government functionaries were associated in the last two PDP governments, for example, could trigger off a reaction against the party and bring its dominance abruptly to an end. Of recent, two major developments are threatening the supremacy of the PDP. The coalition of major opposition parties and the implosion within the party were bound to have an impact on the PDP’s electoral fortunes in the future.”