(Vanguard of Sunday, June 4, 2006)
Last week, we went as far back in time as possible to locate where to start our point of departure in establishing the status quo ante, the period from which as you were would start running into the time when reconciliation moves were ordered. Our pre-2003 period covered the elections of 1999, the appointment of Atiku Abubakar as running mate to Obasanjo instead of Abubakar Rimi who claimed that he had been promised that slot.
We also identified the replacement of Okadigbo with Evans Ewerem which was a dent in the political armour of the PDM in the PDP family. We saw the removal of Ewerem and the appearance of Okadigbo who himself disappeared when he felt he was going to be a working partner of the President.
The team tags at this stage of the wrestling were Chief Tony Anenih and the President on the one part and Atiku Abubakar and other members of the PDM family on the other. Let me say that the respect Anenih has in Edo North where I come from is more than what his Esan people can boast of for him.
I am therefore not trying to run him down in this column but what I have sworn to myself to do here as long as the column carries my name is to speak for posterity to read and draw conclusions. So, I am a watcher from the sidelines and I have no interest whatsoever.
And as I was saying, Chief Anenih, the one we call the Leader in my part of the country, is the main plank on which the reconciliations stand, and it is this plank that is most suspect because those being spoken to see the Oduma of Auchi Kingdom as the one who should step aside when discussions on coming together are seriously on the cards. Ogbe does not trust him. Nor does Rimi nor Na’Aba nor Atiku nor Lawal Kaita nor any other group of persons who see the re-registration of members of the party as the one keystroke and strike that threw them out of the party they had formed.
Anenih is associated with fixing out Rimi and pushing in Atiku after the Jos convention. Anenih is associated with bringing in Evans Ewerem as Senate President instead of Chuba Okadigbo that the PDM wanted. Anenih is linked with the sudden displacement of Okadigbo and the emergence of Anyim Pius Anyim.
Anenih is associated with the distancing from the PDP of those who were its founding fathers. When the likes of Audu Ogbeh were asking that Chief Alex Ekwueme should come back to head the Board of Trustees body, it was my townsman Anenih that people blamed for the project not taking off.
And the belief was sealed when he emerged as Chairman of the body, without due process. How can he be in charge of reconciliation moves the President is making? And because the President and Anenih wear the same thinking cap, the call for reconciliation is one other war game the President is playing.
In other words, no reconciliation is intended. All that is being done is to make people drop their guard, go to sleep and wake up to discover that what has been thrown out through the front door has emerged from behind the door, into the same room where decisions are manufactured.
Post-2003 elections threw up another case scenario. The power Atiku wielded before the elections was taken for granted after the elections. He ran a parallel government in the Presidency. He headed the powerful body that determined who bought what in our privatization programme.
And it was said that the wiz kids in government today – Okonjo-Iweala, Soludo, El Rufai, Ezekwesili and a host of others were all consultants under the Bureau of Public Enterprises, all of them imported into our system by Atiku. So powerful was Atiku during the first phase of their tenure that he could decide what happened in the polity.
A trusting Obasanjo was trying to get out of the illusion of still being in prison. For the first four years in office, he spent a whole year traveling, and abandoning the home front to Atiku who managed it to the credit of his PDM cell in the PDP.
The proof of the President’s weakness at home blew full in his face when the time for re-election came. He did not ever want to stay for another day longer than his first four-year tenure, but the lure of office and not easily wanting to get out of an air-conditioned room where everywhere else was the Sahara Desert, along with those telling him that God had sworn to abandon Nigeria if he refused to stay on made him rethink his determination to quit after four years.
The travails he went through to push through his return made him decide that in his next tenure, he would take personal charge of the home front. So when the people of the Turaki of Adamawa came calling asking the President, even before he was sworn in for his second term to start its run, to support Atiku’s bid to succeed him in 2007, the President must have smiled and told them loudly in his mind to wait and see.
From May, 2003 to December 2005, the Vice President and his PDM cell in the PDP have waited and, like the cricket, seen faeces (shit) emerging from their necks. The climax of the decision to tame the Vice President was the deregistration of the second in command in a bid to push him out of the party of which he was soul for at least five years.
The successful deregistration of Atiku and his PDM family from the PDP was put at the door of Chief Tony Anenih, the one they say can fix anything for the President. But whether Tony Anenih was fighting back at the PDM decision to ostracize him from the cell or he was seeing the body as having achieved its mission is not for here.
The truth is that most of the people who were in PDM are the ones now in the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) which seems to be so active now that it may well be the anchor for a rainbow coalition against the Presidential Wing of the PDP which Ahmadu Ali heads.
So when the call goes out that the parties should come together and let the past bury itself, where is the status quo ante going to take its run from – after the elections, at the time of the deregistration of members who were PDM members or as that time when the revolt took form because of the party’s endorsement of the Third Term project and the threat that any party member that did not support it would be brought under the party whip?
I think the journey into the past in search of where the status quo ante takes effect is when the PDP ordered the registration of members and decreed that all those who had been members of the party ceased to be so. In other words, the only members of the party would be those who had the new registration cards to show.
Many foundation members of the party did not scale the fence of registration. If the PDP wants peace, it should announce that everyone who had the party card before the updating of the register remains a member of the party. In other words, the registration exercise of late last year should be cancelled.
The PDP should therefore start its journey into this future from that pre-registration time. All elections to fill party posts therefore remain cancelled so that every member of the party will qualify for positions that had been taken up by those who scaled the registration hurdle.
That singular step will split ACD (another name for PDM) down the middle because it is the child that was born after the PDP technically knocked out its founders. If the PDP does not go far enough to show good faith in the reconciliation moves, the party is likely to experience more embarrassing losses when its members who revolted against the Third Term Project discover that, perhaps, they had not been forgiven their political trespasses.
The choice is therefore between those who want a PDP that would grow or a further fractured party whose problems were multiplied by those who were selected to make peace but who are seen to be part of the problem.
(Published in Vol. 2 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 146 -149; Lagos, 2008).