Baring any last minute change in plans, the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will drop Second Republic Minister of Transport, Umaru Dikko, as Chairman of the party’s Disciplinary Committee, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The plan to drop Mr. Dikko is not unconnected with the controversies trailing his appointment in the last three month.
Apart from his illness for which he is currently receiving treatment, questions have been raised about his eligibility to occupy the position as he is not known to be a not a card-carrying member of the ruling party.
Mr. Dikko, arguably the most influential minister in the Second Republic administration of former President Shehu Shagari, was appointed the head of the seven-member committee in July, by the National Chairman of the PDP, Bamanga Tukur, via a statement by the party.
The statement signed by the then acting National Publicity Secretary, Tony Okeke, also named the other members of the committee as Amalete. J. Turner, who will serve as Deputy Chairman, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Shiaibu Oyedokun, Nana Kadiri, Hussaini Diraki and Senator Emmanuel Agboti, who was then the acting Deputy National Secretary of the party.
The setting up of the Committee, was in line with Section 57 (1) of the PDP Constitution, which states that “Subject to the provision of this Constitution, there shall be a Disciplinary Committee of the party at every level consisting of seven members with proven integrity, one of whom shall have a legal background.”
It was gathered that the former minister was abroad for treatment when his appointment was announced. His absence has since stalled the inauguration of the committee.
Members of his family were reportedly embarrassed when they heard that their patriarch had been named chairman of a strategic organ of the ruling party. We were however unable to confirm, as at the time of filing this report, whether the family protested formally to the ruling party.
Another controversy trailing Mr. Dikko’s appointment is his purported membership of the PDP.
Records at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, indicate that the former minister, who is over 70, is still the National Chairman of the United Democratic Party, UDP.
According to the INEC website, apart from Mr. Dikko, others listed as national officers of the UDP are Godson Okoye (National Secretary), Musa Zubairu (National Treasurer), and Tony Ogbulafor (National Legal Adviser).
At the UDP National Secretariat located at 9 Gnassingbe Eyadema Street, Asokoro, Abuja, one of its staff, who refused to be named because he was not competent to speak, told PREMIUM TIMES in confidence that Mr. Dikko was still the national chairman of the party.
Although, no official of the party was around to speak on the controversy, Mr. Okoye, the UDP national secretary, later told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview, that Mr. Dikko would address the issue on his return from abroad where he is currently receiving treatment.
“I cannot tell now whether or not he joined the PDP before now and so he will address the matter when he returns,” Mr. Okoye said.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Kayode Idowu, the media aide to INEC National Chairman, Attahiru Jega, he said he was not aware of the development.
When reminded that Mr. Dikko’s name was still on the Commission’s website as the national chairman of the UDP, Mr. Idowu, who described the appointment as a party issue, promised to check with the department of the Commission that monitors political parties.
It was, however, gathered that the appointment was made by Mr. Tukur “as a payback gesture” for the favour he got from his friend (Mr. Dikko) in the Second Republic.
The former minister reportedly played a significant role in the emergence of Mr. Tukur as the governorship candidate of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in the old Gongola State. Both of them belonged to the defunct ruling party.
Before Mr. Tiukur’s emergence as governor, Abubakar Barde of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party, GNPP, had ruled the north eastern state between October 1, 1979 and September 30, 1983.
Mr. Tukur won the election and was governor between October 1 and December 31, 1983, when the military coup, which brought Muhammadu Buhari to power, terminated that democratic dispensation.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, decline comment on the matter, saying he was not the party’s spokesman when the Second Republic Minister was appointment.
Mr. Metuh, returned to the office last August 31, following his re-election at the Special National Convention that held in Abuja.
He had resigned from the position, alongside 15 other members of the National Working Committee, NWC, whose elections were faulted by a report of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which monitored the March 12, 2012 National Convention of the PDP.
“I don’t want to speak on this because I was not here then,” Mr. Metuh said, even as he confirmed that Mr. Dikko was still ill.
Just as Mr. Dikko’s appointment remained controversial, that of his deputy, Amalete Turner, a traditional ruler, also raised some concerns when the appointments were made.
Mr. Turner, the Obaneme of Opume Kingdom, in Ogbia Local Government of Bayelsa State, is reportedly a personal friend of President Goodluck Jonathan. They were classmates at the University of Port Harcourt.
Mr. Turner, who was recently named the Chairman of the 10-member Board of the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, is one of those believed to have tremendous influence on the president.
According to reports, Mr. Turner was one of those the president consulted for advice when the former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, approached him (Jonathan) in 1999 to be his running mate.
Some of the party faithful are apprehensive that with the near incapacitation of Mr. Dikko, Mr. Turner would be in charge of the Disciplinary Committee and possibly made it available to the president, who might use it to hunt perceived enemies.