On Wednesday, May 20, two significant events happened in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which suffered a crushing defeat in the hands of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, in the recently-held general elections, namely: the resignation, in quick succession, of the party’s National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu and Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, Chief Tony Anenih.
Whereas, Mu’azu’s resignation did not come as a surprise, given the lingering agitations and mounting pressure on him to do so on account of the party’s dismal electoral performance; it was the decision by Anenih to step down as BoT Chairman that caught a vast majority of PDP members unawares. In a one-page letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, dated May 20, 2015, Anenih cited the current state of affairs in the party as a reason.
Anenih said further that his decision to step down would enable President Jonathan to effectively assume the chairmanship of the BoT. According to him, “Your Excellency will recall that in a conversation I had with you a few weeks ago, I had offered to step down from the office of the Chairman of our party’s Board of Trustees and proposed to hand over to you as its new Chairman in a ceremony that would have taken place on the 23rd of May, 2015. I had also repeated this position in our subsequent meetings.”
He continued in the letter, “As a follow up to the above proposal and in view of the current state of affairs in our party, I have decided to formally put my offer in writing to enable you effectively assume the Chairmanship of Board of Trustees or approve a process that will enable any other member of the BoT, who is considered competent, to assume the position. Kindly accept, therefore, this letter of notice of my decision to step down from the position of Chairman of the BoT of our party with effect from today, the 20th of May, 2015. I am happy to inform you that, I remain a loyal foundation member of our great party and will continue to pray for the prosperity of Nigeria, our party, and for you and your family…”
It is not always that this kind of magnanimity manifests in the dark alleys of cloak and dagger politics in Nigeria. Besides Anenih’s magnanimous action is the strategic wisdom on his part to seize the initiative to step down as chair of the BoT, a position he once occupied between 2004 and 2007. He must have learnt one or two lessons from the 2007 incident when former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had then just completed his eight-year presidency, unceremoniously snatched the position of BoT chair from him. Obasanjo had deliberately caused the constitution of the party to be amended to make the BoT chair the exclusive preserve of former presidents.
Indeed, Obasanjo’s coup-like move against Anenih then was not unconnected with his (Anenih’s) subtle opposition to his (Obasanjo’s) third term agenda. To Obasanjo, it was pay-back time for Anenih. Obasanjo was not ready to follow due process in assuming the coveted position. He was not ready to be nice. However, Anenih had taken Obasanjo’s gangsteric act philosophically in his strides. His taciturn nature played out in much bolder reliefs. The man, popularly called Leader, who had functioned in Obasanjo’s cabinet as Minister of Works (1999-2002) and overseen his re-election in 2003 as Deputy National Coordinator of the Presidential Campaign Organisation was, after the rough treatment, appointed Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
He has, under the Jonathan administration, had the second chance of being chosen as BoT chair following Obasanjo’s resignation. The administration had also appointed him for the second time as Chairman of the Board of NPA. These appointments were in recognition of his leadership qualities and roles. He has always been a successful strategist in the plotting of election victory for the PDP since 1999, until the 2015 general elections when things went awry due to a combination of factors, including the great betrayal of Jonathan by his party men and women as well as the party’s National Working Committee, NWC.
Even in the current state of the party, worsened by the worst kind of defections (pre and post election), Anenih, as constant as the Northern star, has resolved to remain a loyal foundation member of the party.
Momodu, a public affairs analyst, contributed this piece from Benin City.