Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Alhaji Walid Jubril and former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wagbara, have spoken out strongly, debunking the allegation of corruption levelled against members of the Committee set up by the PDP BoT to investigate the Minority leadership saga, which gripped the party in the process of constituting the overall leadership of the House of Representatives.
The corruption allegation had been levelled against members of the Committee by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, following widely publicised speculations that the report of the Committee, submitted on Sunday, to the BoT Chairman, Senator Jubril, by Committee chairman Dr. Ayu, who was reportedly accompanied by Chief Wagbara, may have exonerated Hon. Elumelu and the six other suspended members, from any wrong doing or complicity, in the House of Reps Minority leadership imbroglio.
Gov. Wike, who had from the onset, expressed his dissatisfaction with what he has consistently described as the illegal Emergence of the House of Reps Minority Leader, on Wednesday, Sept 11, lambasted the Committee, describing it as the most corrupt in the history of the party.
The governor, who spoke in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, had thanked Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Austin Opara, who was to act as Secretary of the Committee, for withdrawing from what he qualified as a tainted committee, by not allowing himself to be entangled in the illegal outcome of the committee’s activities.
Wike had, in a statement signed by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor, Electronic Media, said: “The Committee set up by the PDP on the illegal emergence of Ndudi Elumelu is the most corrupt committee ever set up by the party. We thank our worthy son, Rt Hon Austin Opara for withdrawing from that committee, so that he is not entangled in the illegal activities of the tainted committee”.
Governor Wike had then further warned the party not to toy with Rivers State as it would not be in the interest of the party to do so.
He had said: “We are warning PDP to be careful not to toy with Rivers State. Rivers State has all it takes to withstand the PDP and fight the party to a standstill.
“The Rivers State Governor is not one of those Governors that anyone can cajole. The Rivers State Governor is not one of those Governors that will kowtow to their illicit activities,” he had warned.
This reaction by Gov. Wike was a further reminder of his long held disenchantment with the entire politicking that eventually led to the emergence of the House of Reps Minority leader, which he had earlier voiced angrily during the visit of Oyo state Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde to Rivers state, on July 4.
The Rivers governor, while hosting his Oyo state counterpart, had loudly regretted the Minority Leadership development and hinted at the role allegedly played by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, saying that “trading” had been placed above party loyalty in the House of Reps.
“I am not surprised. When you have traders and merchants, what do you expect? It is unfortunate for those who do not understand what politics is all about. I am a core party man. I believe in the party,” Gov. Wike had said at that meeting, emphasizing also that he remained purely a party loyalist with a strong belief in the ideals of the PDP.
Reacting to Gov. Wike’s accusations this time however, the chairman of the PDP BoT, Senator Walid Jubril, was reported to have chided the Rivers governor, by drawing his attention to the fact that the mere submission of a report by the committee did not in any way translate into issuing a clean bill of health to Hon. Elumelu and other Rep members who were involved in the Minority leadership matter.
Senator Walid was also reported as throwing down the gauntlet of challenge to Governor Wike and any member of the party to come up with proof of allegations of corruption against any member of the committee, if they had any, rather than casting aspersions on the members.
Speaking on the matter, Senator Jubril said, “I will not condemn any member of the committee without any proof of evidence of corruption. I challenge anybody anywhere to provide proof of the allegations of corruption.
“He who alleges must show evidence of corruption. It is not enough to accuse anyone of any wrong doing. I call on anyone; both party members and non-party members to come forward with evidence of corruption and you will see what the BoT will do,” he urged.
The BoT Chairman, who confirmed that the Board will meet on Sept 19, which is Thursday next week, to deliberate on the committee’s report and take a decision, equally advised aggrieved party members to embrace the existing internal conflict resolution mechanism of the party to table their grievances, instead of spreading unsubstantiated allegations.
In his own reaction to Gov. Wike’s corruption allegations, former Senate President and member of the Dr. Ayu committee, Chief Adolphus Wabara, while stating clearly that he was not corrupt, equally pointed out that it would be premature to join issues with the Rivers State governor, as the BoT had neither discussed nor taken a decision on the report, which was only just submitted.
He said: “But permit me to make it abundantly clear to our performing Governor of Rivers State that Wabara is not corrupt and that I do not think that all the other distinguished members of this committee are.
“We are experienced and tested authorities on legislative matters and the unity of our great party without concealed interest in 2023, was paramount.
“I will not unwittingly discuss the content of the report on the pages of newspapers until the BoT takes a decision on the recommendations of the Ayu committee report,” he added conclusively.
PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, was repotted to have said in his own reaction, that the matter was the internal affairs of the party and that it was being resolved.
It could be recalled that the PDP National Working Committee, NWC, under the leadership of party Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, had reportedly transmitted a letter to the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, which contained a list of nominated members for the minority leadership offices of the House, with Hon. Kingsley Chinda, representing Obior/Akpor federal constituency in Rivers State, listed as the Minority Leader, as well as other members endorsed by the party.
But, contrary to the content of that letter, Speaker Gbajabiamila had announced Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency as the new Minority Leader of the House and even the nominated members for the other positions, were also replaced in the new composition of House Leaders, announced by the Speaker.
A high wire political endgame had then ensued and in the wake of threats and recriminations that followed, it was revealed that the Minority Caucus of the House, comprising members of all the opposition parties, were favourably disposed to the emergence of Hon. Elumelu and the other officers, who, according to them, offered a more balanced reflection and sense of belonging of the Minority composition and membership in the House, than the PDP list.
There was also a suggestion, particularly in the solidarity displayed by members of the minority caucus for Elumelu and the other six, that members were subtly yet tactically expressing a collective agenda, at that early stage in the life of the 9th session of the House, that they would resist any form of imposition or any attempt to undermine their legislative independence by external forces from outside the House.
Miffed by what was clearly an unexpected misdemeanor against party directive and authority, the PDP leadership summarily suspended Hon. Elumelu and six other members for one month, after they had failed to turn up in response to a summon by the party ostensibly for them to explain how they, instead of the party nominees, became the Minority Leader and officers of the House.
The party NWC had reportedly set up an alternate investigative panel, but may have subsequently deferred to the BoT, which had already constituted a high powered committee, on July 9, with a Third Republic Senate President, Dr Iyorchia Ayu as chairman.
The authority and credibility of the BoT committee was fully underscored with the pedigree of it’s other members; former Presidents of the Senate, Senator David Mark and Senator Adolphus Wabara, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu and a former House of Reps Deputy Speaker, Austin Opara, who was to serve as Committee secretary. All the committee members were also well respected members of the BoT.
A cursory investigation and sampled opinions from a number of discerning polity watchers and analyst, indicate however, that there have recently been very positive and heartwarming indications, to suggest that the PDP may have resolved the Minority leadership impasse, especially with the visit by the minority leadership of the House to the revered PDP leader and former President, General Ibrahim Babangida, IBB, where they were given a very warm and welcomed reception in the home of the exalted leader.
There is also the gradual realization, according to many House of Reps observers, that Hon. Ndudi Elumelu since his emergence, has not only settled into the role of Minority leader with effortless ease, he has also grown in the role since assuming office, forged a seamless synergy with the rest of the House leadership as revealed in the visit by the Speaker and a delegation of the House leaders, to the IDP camps in Borno and Zamfara states respectively, and of course exhibited his charming personality and pedigree, as a team player, which has not only repositioned the PDP strongly and visibly as a worthy and respected opposition in the House, but has also ensured that the Minority caucus as a whole, has taken its pride of place as a partner in the collective task of delivering quality legislation and ensuring pragmatic, responsible legislative oversight, which would deepen democracy and equally deliver expected democratic dividends to the teeming Nigerian masses and indeed the people who elected them as their representatives.
The unanimous consensus amongst these watchers is that these are positive gains in a very uncertain political climate, that the PDP can harness and nurture to further consolidate it’s rebuilding process, with its committed goal for 2023, especially since the ruling APC is not going to relinquish its majority in the National Assembly or its grip on power easily, if at all. The PDP, according to them, will have to ensure they maintain and sustain peace where there is already an existing harmony, in the overall interest of the party in order to concentrate on deploying their full strength and strategies to the forth coming up hill task of Bayelsa and Kogi elections, without any added, self induced distractions.