• First Lady joins the fray for his replacement •Aliyu: G5 govs will return to PDP
• Wali to head Jonathan’s campaign organisation
Uncertainty pervaded the air throughout Wednesday over the fate of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic (PDP) as there were conflicting reports over whether he had stepped down or not.
Whereas Tukur, according to PDP sources, was said to have tendered his letter of resignation to the leader of the party, President Goodluck Jonathan, at about 10 am Wednesday, Tukur who spoke to State House correspondents at the end of the reconvened National Caucus meeting of the party last night, maintained that he had not resigned.
Tukur’s media aide, Oliver Okpara, earlier in the day, also insisted that his boss was still the chairman of the PDP and was scheduled to attend the National Caucus and Board of Trustees (BoT) meetings.
Confirming his aide’s assertion, Tukur walked into the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa at 7.50 pm Wednesday and said he was not the sort of person who would resign in secret.
Tukur arrived the venue of the meeting in company of the former National Chairman of the PDP, Vincent Ogbulafor.
He said the rumours of his resignation were not true, stating, “I have not resigned. I am not somebody that would resign and you would not know. I have not resigned.”
Similarly, at the end of the BoT meeting, which ended at 11.30 pm, its Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, had informed reporters at the State House that Tukur had attended the meeting as the “chairman of the party and left as the chairman of the party”.
However, sources in the party had informed THISDAY that the resignation letter, which Tukur was said to have tendered to the president, was read out by Jonathan to the National Caucus of the party Wednesday.
His resignation, it was gathered, was to stave off his planned suspension by the National Working Committee (NWC), which alongside the governors of the party, the 36 PDP state chairmen and their counterpart in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), among other stakeholders, who had passed a vote of no confidence on him and insisted that he stepped down.
According to PDP sources, “The NWC members had concluded plans to suspend Tukur as the national chairman and wait for Thursday’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Thursday to approve his suspension and subsequent expulsion from the party.
“It was when he got wind of this plan that he hurriedly rushed to the State House to tender his letter of resignation.”
But as part of the deal he reached with the president, THISDAY was informed by a governor that word on his resignation would be kept under wraps until today, when he formally informs the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party that he is stepping down.
The president, the governor said, agreed to the arrangement in order to give the embattled chairman a soft landing.
Meanwhile, as part of measures to ensure that an acceptable replacement for Tukur is brought in to steer the ship of the party, the PDP governors met Wednesday at 4 pm and thereafter met with the president at 5 pm to inform him of the outcome of their meeting.
Speaking at the end of the meeting of the governors and the president, the Niger State Governor, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, said the five former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), would return to PDP.
He said the governors who defected to APC would surely come back to PDP with the reorganisation of the party.
Aliyu chipped in the comment when the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam was fielding questions from State House correspondents before the commencement of National Caucus and BoT meetings of the party.
On his part, Suswam said the governors' meeting with Jonathan last night addressed the issue of the dwindling fortunes of the party nationwide, adding that the fate of the PDP chairman, Bamanga Tukur was not discussed.
“We met with the president as PDP governors to discuss issues of the party and the way forward. And that meeting is continuing; we just touched base with the president to discuss issues that affect the party.
“The issues discussed with the president were basically on how to re-strategise and re-position our party and how to move forward as a party.
“The second meeting is the National Caucus and I am not in a position to comment on that. After the BoT meeting, the vice-president (Namadi Sambo) will brief you on the outcome,” Suswam said.
Asked if the issue of the chairman's resignation was discussed, the governor maintained that the vice-president was in the position to comment on that.
“I think it is the responsibility of the National Caucus and the BoT and the vice-president will adequately brief you on the outcome.
“The president is the PDP party leader and so from time to time all PDP governors meet with him. The concern is that the fortunes of our party are dwindling and so we need to address them.
“How do we re-position our party to win the forthcoming elections in Ekiti and Osun? How do we win back our colleagues that have stepped aside, as we don't believe that they have left the party, they only stepped aside. These are the issues that were raised,” he said.
But even as the governors and the various organs of the party met, THISDAY was informed that the lobby for Tukur’s replacement was already gathering steam with the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, joining the fray.
Mrs. Jonathan is said to be in favour of the emergence of the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar from Gombe State, as the new chairman of the party.
But the governor of the state, Ibrahim Dankwambo, it was gathered, is opposed to Umar becoming the national chairman.
Another possible contender for the post is former Bauchi State Governor, Adamu Mu’azu, who is said to be favoured by the president.
However, a party source said the governors of Bauchi and Gombe States are opposed to the chairman coming from their states because of the fear that he might clash with them as was often the case with previous chairmen of the PDP.
The source referred to the friction that ensued between Tukur and the Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, which was one of the factors that led to the push for his (Tukur's) removal.
It was also gathered that critical stakeholders of the party are also resistant to the attempt by the wife of the president to determine who the next chairman of the PDP should be.
Rather than settle for Umar, the stakeholders are insistent that the next chairman should come from Borno State, which is not controlled by the PDP.
They are of the view that if the next chairman comes from a non-PDP controlled state, it might put paid to the friction that usually arises between governors of the party and the chairman.
“We have penciled the name of a young and vibrant politician from Borno State as the next national chairman. We have submitted his name to the BoT and the National Caucus. He would be unmasked openly at the Thursday NEC meeting,” the source said.
In a related development, the question of whether Jonathan would contest the 2015 election or not was given more clarity with the appointment of Nigeria's Ambassador to China, Ambassador Aminu Wali as the head of his campaign team.
With Wali’s appointment, he would be expected to leave the position for Tukur who will serve in his stead as Ambassador to China.
A party source confirmed that this was one of the highlights of the National Caucus meeting Wednesday..