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Registration brouhaha: Vice president fights back

Posted by Emmanuel Aziken, Abuja on 2005/10/09 | Views: 403 |

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Registration brouhaha: Vice president fights back

National chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Col. (Dr.) Ahmadu Ali, had never really pretended to be sympathetic to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar or his aspirations, a fact he had put through by ignoring the vice-president since the beginning of his reign over the party that prides itself as Africaís largest political fellowship.

*The two-pronged gameplan

National chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Col. (Dr.) Ahmadu Ali, had never really pretended to be sympathetic to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar or his aspirations, a fact he had put through by ignoring the vice-president since the beginning of his reign over the party that prides itself as Africaís largest political fellowship.

Ali had, in keeping to the conventional wisdom needed for political survival in the PDP maelstrom, avoided Atiku, making it a point not to enter the vice-presidentís official quarters since he was appointed last February.

But all that changed last Tuesday when the party chairman made his first entry into the Atikuís official complex in Abuja. His mission was supposedly to register the vice-president who had failed to get a PDP membership card during his earlier attempt at registering in Yelli, his village in Adamawa State.

The fact that Atiku had last Sunday waited for one and a half hours to be registered in an exercise book had stirred controversy, if not public empathy for a man considered to be the target of a concerted attack from President Olusegun Obasanjo and a group of retired generals.

Sympathy for the vice-president was further stoked by his inability to secure a membership card of the party where he had until recently been the main driving force.

The event in Adamawa State was considered a major public relations setback for the anti-Atiku Turks now in control of the PDP.

So unsettling was the issue for the party hierarchy that the national secretariat made a fast retreat. Party scribe, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who once castigated Atiku in a media session and made the unpretentious affirmation that the new men in the PDP secretariat were Obasanjoís men, last Monday, apologized over the incidenct.

Following newspaper reports of the incident, Ojo had responded thus:

"Reports reaching the National Secretariat of PDP indicate that clear instructions that were given to the PDP Registration LINKMAN in Adamawa State, Senator Jubril Aminu, by the National Chairman, Senator (Dr.) Ahmadu Ali, that the office and person of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar be specially acknowledged by his being met in his ward for registration was either ignored or was not fully implemented." "PDP National Secretariat totally condemns this development which is very much regretted even as we direct the LINKMAN, Senator Jubril Aminu, to proceed without any further delay with the registration of His Excellency the Vice-President in his ward as earlier instructed by the National Chairman."

The apology and condemnation could on the surface be seen as a softening of position on the part of the president who Sunday Vanguard sources confirmed, was directly involved in the distribution of the cards. Though Ali was the issuer of the cards, it was learnt that Obasanjo was, in fact, the final approving authority for the issuance.

The distribution of the cards was another burden in the increasing stack of cards laid against Atikuís assumed 2007 presidential aspiration.

Of equal concern to the vice-president would be the constitution of the national convention and congresses planning committee of the party. At the head of the committee is Brig. Gen. Sam Ogbemudia, a close political ally of Chief Tony Anenih, the operational leader of the Obasanjo camp.

Among the 32-member committee are several identified acolytes of Anenih and the president who had in the recent past taken direct opposition against Atiku.

Foremost among the recognizable antagonists of the vice-president in the committee is Brig-Gen. Mohammed Marwa, himself a chief proponent of the attack against Atiku in Adamawa.

Marwa, who is generally seen in political circles as a spoiler against Atikuís presidential aspirations, recently upped his fight against the vice president when at the flag off of the PDP membership registration he vowed in Yola, two weeks ago, that he and his supporters would fight anyone that smears the image of Obasanjo.

Marwa, though himself a presidential aspirant for the 2007 elections, found himself in the committee organizing the convention that would set the way for the nomination exercise expected next year. The nearest of what could be said to be Atiku supporters are Senator Umaru Tsauri and Hon. John Halims Agooda of the House of Representatives.

Most other members of the committee are supporters of whatever political direction Obasanjo would set for himself in the years ahead and where not, supporters of the assumed presidential aspiration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. The constitution of the committee in effect underlines last Mondayís vow of the president to put a firmer grip on the PDP.

Speaking at the commencement of the PDP ward congresses in Abeokuta, Obasanjo denounced what he described as internal opposition to PDP governments from local councils to the federal level.

He pledged that he would work to ensure that such cases of PDP members constituting the primary opposition to PDP governments comes to an end.

"Members of the same PDP would choose to act as opposition against their local government chairman, from the same party; or some members would constitute themselves into opposition against a state governor in the same party. "It is unfortunate that the same thing would happen at the presidential level where people in the same party with me will constitute themselves into an opposition against a government formed by their own party."

But beneath the impression of a softening of position, according to information pierced by Sunday Vanguard, was actually a last ditch effort by the vice-president to play the media card to wrench himself out of the difficult political position the president was dragging him into.

The double track game of the loyalists of Atiku, according to sources, is for them to, on the one side, continue with the appeasement of Obasanjo and, on the other hand mobilize the public to counter the alleged aspirations of the president.

Penultimate week, as it became more evident that Obasanjo was actually in control of the cards, governors and political top shots in the PDP who had felt marginalized beat a retreat to the president in supplication. Among them was Governor Boni Haruna of Adamawa State who reportedly met Obasanjo just before the Wednesday Federal Executive Council meeting.

One source privy to the encounter disclosed that the president had informed Haruna that he was constrained for time and would give him fifteen minutes to make his case. Ten minutes into the meeting, Obasanjo was said to have cut short the encounter telling the governor that he would look into the issue. But that promise, till today, according to one source, has remained unfulfilled.

But some other pro-Atiku governors were, however, successful in claiming a stake from the president.

One of them was Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State. The governor, following a meeting with the president, was able to take custody of the cards leading to announcements in the news media that the cards earlier issued to the linkman in the state had been cancelled.

"All the announcements made by the PDP about the cancellation of the cards trying to give the impression that they were in wrong hands was simply because Nyame was able to build a rapprochement with the president," one source disclosed.

Notwithstanding the moderate gains of the appeasement policy, the Atiku camp is moving apace to win the support of the general public and notably the critical civil rights organizations. It could not be confirmed at press time whatever achievements may have been made in the alleged dialogue between the civil rights organizations and loyalists of the vice-president.

The decision of the national chairman to personally come and issue the card to Atiku was a result of the second strategy of working on the media to mobilize Nigerians against the attacks on the vice-president.

The decision of Atiku to go to his village to register, according to aides of Senator Aminu, was itself a deliberate effort at mischief.

Though the vice-president wanted to hide his seeming humiliation at the registration center from the public, some aides thought otherwise and made sure that the story got out.

Atiku, it was gathered, was indeed more particular on the repercussions of the matter on the office of the vice-president rather than seeing it as his humiliation.

"The Vice-President saw the denial as an attack on the office of the vice-president of Nigeria and not on him and so people were left to judge what some people could do to the office of the vice-president to score a political point," one aide told Sunday Vanguard on the condition of anonymity.

Dr. Aliyu Hong, Senator Aminuís media consultant, responding to the developments of last Sunday, told Sunday Vanguard that the decision of Atiku to go to his village to register was a deliberate effort to stir controversy as he claimed that Atiku had been told that there would be no cards there. "Two days before His Excellency came, Prof. Jubril Aminu made contact with him wanting to know where he was going to register since the Vice-President has different houses in Yola South, Yola North, Jada and Yelli, his village."

"We came with sample registers and left some of the original registers and membership cards in Abuja because of the threat of attack by some people in the state but after some consultations with some party elders in the state, it was decided that one register would be used in each local government area and in other places exercise books would be used to compile the names of those who register before being transferred to the authentic register."

"So, when they spoke, Prof. told him that there was no register in Yelli, that it was in Jada where Alhaji Bamanga Tukur registered. On the day, he, Atiku registered a team of registration officers from the national secretariat were on hand to receive him and his name as with every other person in Yelli was registered.

This morning, his registration card was prepared and taken to him at Abuja but he refused to take it." The rejection of the card was in continuation of the media game as the issue played prominently on the front pages of some few newspapers that learnt of it. The Vice-Presidentís camp justified the rejection of the card on the fact that they did not know the man that brought the card to the Atikuís official residence in Abuja.

One of the vice presidentís aides said: "The Vice-President did not see anybody that they sent. This morning, we were told that a personal employee of Senator Aminu,had brought the Vice-Presidentís card and the security at the gate could not determine his real identity and there was the thought that he could have been a tout. "They thought that if the VPís card was ready, somebody identifiable in the party should have brought it to him, somebody at least that has a responsible role, this is not a personal affair. I think it is in the personal interest of Aminu to ensure that things are done properly." "The failure to issue the card was done in public and it is logical that the card should equally be issued to him in public.

"We think there should be respect for the office of the Vice-President of this country, you donít have to like the man there." Perhaps acting on the whims of the Vice-President, the PDP national chairman, moved or some say was instructed to issue a card to Atiku in his official quarters last Tuesday.

Among the general public, Aliís action may well have mitigated the initial damage arising from the denial of a membership card to the Vice-President.

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