Jonathan holds crisis meetings in Aso Villa • Obasanjo, rebel govs, others attend

Jonathan-360x225President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday  held two separate  meetings  with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and 16 Peoples Democratic Party  in what is believed to be  his  bid  to resolve the crisis that led to the emergence of a splinter group in the  party.

He first met  behind closed doors with Obasanjo for about two hours  inside  his  official residence in the Presidential Villa, Abuja and then the governors, including four of the seven that are the arrowheads of the splinter group known as the new PDP.

The four  are Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Muritala Nyako (Adamawa) and  Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara).The other governors in the Group of Seven are Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).

The G-7 and  a founding member, Alhaji  Atiku Abubakar, had walked out of the PDP  special convention in Abuja on Saturday   and consequently, announced  the   formation of the new PDP.

Also in the faction are a former  Acting National   Chairman of the PDP,  Kawu Baraje; a suspended National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola;  and a former National Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Jaja.

They were said to have been miffed by the way Dr. Bamanga Tukur and the Presidency had been running the  party to the exclusion of other critical stakeholders.

Less than 24 hours after the splinter group emerged, Obasanjo,  who did not attend the  special national convention  at the Eagles Square, Abuja,  showed up at the Presidential Villa.

Decked in a white flowing dress (agbada) and a traditional cap, Obasanjo  first  joined Jonathan and his wife, Patience, for Sunday service at the Aso Villa Chapel .

The former President’s  visit coincided with that of the President of Benin Republic, Boni Yayi, who also worshipped with the first family inside the chapel.

After the service, Jonathan led his guests to the children church where they  took turns to pray for the children.

The President, former President, Yayi and the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, thereafter retired into the President’s residence “for lunch.”

It was however learnt that the President  discussed  issues bordering on the crisis in the PDP  with Obasanjo and bilateral relations with Yayi.

It will be recalled that  Wamakko, Aliyu, Kwankwaso, Nyako and Lamido  had met with Obasanjo in his Abeokuta, Ogun State  residence as part of their nationwide consultations over the state of the nation and the party.

They also met with former military dictators, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar  and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in Minna, Niger State.

As part of efforts to resolve the crisis, Obasanjo had in August met with  PDP governors inside the Presidential Villa for two days.The meeting did not however yield any positive result.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, confirmed to journalists that Jonathan met with Obasanjo and Yayi after worshipping together at the chapel.

In a brief  statement made available to journalists, Abati explained that Obasanjo did not participate in the bilateral  talks between the President and Yayi. He however did not say what his boss dscussed with the former President.

The   statement reads, “President Goodluck Jonathan met on Sunday at the Presidential Villa with President Boni Yayi of neighbouring Benin Republic.

“Both leaders attended Sunday service together at the Villa Chapel before proceeding to the presidential residence for lunch and bilateral talks.

“The talks between them focussed on issues related to the strengthening of developmental cooperation between Nigeria and Benin Republic, including trade and economic relations.

“Former President Olusegun Obasanjo worshipped with President Jonathan and President Yayi at the Presidential Villa but did not participate in the talks between them.”

* Jonathan’s meeting with 16 govs

Hours after meeting with the former President and Yayi, Jonathan also held a crucial meeting with Governors  Aliyu, Kwankwaso, Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Nyako (Adamawa), Idris Wada (Kogi), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), and Ahmed.

Others were Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Ramalan Yero (Kaduna), Garba Umar (Taraba Acting Governor), Seidu Dakingari (Kebbi), Theodore Orji (Abia), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe) and Jonah Jang (Plateau).

As at 9.25pm when Jonathan arrived the venue of the meeting, the 16  governors had taken their seats  inside the First Lady’s conference room in the Presidential Villa

The PDP lawyer, Mr. Joe Gadzama (SAN), also attended the meeting alongside the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim  Pius Anyim and the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).

The meeting was still ongoing as at 10am when this report was filed.

• Obasanjo  sues for peace

Obasanjo expressed concern over the development and called on both  sides to maintain the status quo. He  assured in a brief statement on Sunday evening  that a meeting of the elders of the PDP would be convened before the end of this week over the matter.

The statement reads, “The situation in our ruling PDP  after the convention on Saturday and the parallel convention same day has given great concern to all well-meaning members of the party and particularly to the elders of the party.

“While some select elders are making efforts to get the situation resolved as soon as possible, it is imperative to emphasise that the move will bring back peace and return  it to its vigorous and dynamic election-winning  ways.

“I want to passionately appeal to both sides for now to sheath their swords, maintain the status quo, with earliest conveyance of the elders’ meeting before the end of this week.  Members are equally enjoined to remain calm until the elders’ complete their peace-making meeting.”

• Amaechi, others shouldn’t  misbehave – Presidency

There were however discordant  tunes  by the Presidency, Obasanjo  and the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Chief  Godswill Akpabio, on the factionalisation of the PDP.

While the Presidency, through the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, blew  hot on Sunday  over the development,  Obasanjo and Akpabio  preached  reconciliation.

Gulak, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, said the formation of the new PDP was  the  “height of irresponsibility.”

He said if the intention of the seven governors was to cause crisis in the party  and then jump ship, they would not succeed.

The presidential aide said with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act and other extant laws, the  governors and the others in their group  had no  basis to misbehave or be irresponsible.

Gulak said although the PDP remained one united family, it  would not be moved if some of its  members opted to become “prodigal sons or daughters.”

He said  Jonathan was not disturbed about the development because of his belief that everybody had  the right to aspire to the highest office in the land.

Gulak said,  “That development is the height of irresponsibility. Nobody expected people in their positions as governors to do that. They should know what the law says. They should know what INEC regulatory Act says.

“They should know that there is only one PDP and if they want to precipitate crisis in the PDP, they will not succeed. If they want to leave PDP and join another group, they are at liberty to do so.

“As far as we are concerned, there is one PDP and the party had its national convention yesterday (Saturday) and we elected officers to fill the vacancies in the National Working Committee.

“As far as the PDP is concerned, we remain a united family but if your son or daughter decides to be a prodigal son or daughter, so be it. But we plead with them to be reasonable; to be law-abiding;  to know that nobody is above the law.

“The Electoral Act and the  constitution  and extant laws are very clear on this issue. They have no basis at all for misbehaving; they have no reasons at all to be irresponsible. They should come back to their senses and abide by the rules and regulations if they want to continue in PDP.

“But if they have decided to abandon PDP, jump ship and join another political party or form another political party, they are at liberty. We are not perturbed; we are not disturbed. Everybody has the right to aspire to the highest position in this country.”

•Akpabio vows to reunite aggrieved govs

Akwa Ibom State Governor and Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Chief Godswill Akpabio,  had told  journalists at  the Eagle  Square  venue of the convention that he would reconcile the aggrieved governors.

He  said,  “Let me tell you that some of my colleagues and I have resolved here and now to ensure a total reconciliation  with all those that have  grievances. I can tell you that there was a break in communication. I was with the former Vice- President and we even took pictures with the Deputy President  of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, at the convention venue.

“This is a family affair and I can assure you that in a few days’ time, this matter would be resolved.”

He added that  the PDP Governors’ Forum had commenced reaching out  to the governors, whom The PUNCH learnt,   continued their strategy meeting after their press conference  at the Jigawa State Governor’s Lodge  in Abuja on Saturday.

• Nyako predicts more  crises

But  Nyako predicted more crises for  the Bamanga Tukur-led  faction of the PDP. He  said the Tukur faction  would split in the next two or three months.

The Director of Press, Adamawa State,  Mr. Ahmad Sajo,   spoke on behalf of the governor in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.

Justifying their action, Nyako  advised  the Tukur leadership to carry out a thorough assessment of the party with a view to finding a lasting solution.

He said, “The step we took was the right step. Now, if they have eyes to see the reality, they would seek for a genuine understanding of the situation with a view to finding a lasting solution.

“If they continue to toe the same line even what they parade as the PDP (the Tukur faction) will split in the next two or three months.”

He said the Tukur leadership disallowed authentic delegates from Adamawa State  from participating in the convention.

“All the people in the Adamawa  list were not national delegates. Some of them were candidates of the Labour Party at the time the PDP held its congress to elect its national delegates,” Nyako  added.

The governor, who  said that the  PDP in the state  would take a legal action, claimed that Abubakar was disrespected at the convention.

“Turaki Abubakar was not given a seat at the state box as a former Vice-President and Board of  Trustees member.  He was told to go and sit with ordinary delegates  from Adamawa State. He was disrespected,” Nyako said.

•Clark blames Obasanjo

A former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, on Sunday  asked Nigerians to hold Obasanjo responsible for the action of the  seven PDP governors.

Clark, an ardent supporter of  Jonathan, insisted that Obasanjo was encouraging  Lamido and  Amaechi to run for Presidency on a joint ticket in 2015.

He told journalists in Abuja that the ambition of the two governors was the beginning of the crisis in the PDP.

He said, “Obasanjo is the one encouraging them; he is pushing governors Lamido and Amaechi to run in 2015, that’s where the trouble started.

“Amaechi thought because Senator Bukola Saraki used the Nigeria Governors’ Forum chair to contest to be President, he could also use it to become Vice-President and we have said in the South-South that we want President, not Vice-President. So, the  group of   governors which Amaechi has joined believes only a Northerner can  be President.”

On the involvement of the  former Vice-President,  Clark said, “Abubakar  said he is in PDP, not PDM but all his men are in PDM. Is that a loyal member of the party? All his followers have left. PDM was created   by Abubakar.

“Even Governor  Nyako had boasted that they would bury the PDP. Let them go, but I can tell you that PDP will remain stronger.  They will soon know that they are alone. Abubakar has always been a disloyal person; what he is doing now is what  he had done to Obasanjo.”

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