PDP crisis: More hurdles to cross for Atiku and Wike over reconciliation
*as Atiku’s men rally party organs for Chairman Ayu
By Omo Ighodalo, Abuja.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar is rallying critical organs of the party to support the retention of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu as national chairman until after the 2023 general election, it was learnt yesterday.
The camp of Atiku is insisting that Ayu should not vacate office despite the insistence of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, his allies, and serving PDP governors that the chairman should step down as a condition for supporting Atiku’s presidential bid.
A source said Atiku is seeking the support of the National Executive Committee (NEC), the Board of Trustees (BoT), the National Caucus, the National Assembly Caucus, the National Working Committee (NWC) and the 36 PDP state chairmen and that of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to ensure that Ayu is not shoved aside.
Besides the critical organs, it was also learnt that all the aspirants that contested the PDP presidential ticket with Atiku will also be co-opted into the all-inclusive rapprochement move.
Yesterday, Wike vowed to unmask presidential candidates dishing out fake promises to rescue the country.
The governor said these contenders with fake rescue campaigns are enemies of the country. Wike also said that something would soon happen in the PDP.
The governor said he was in a privileged position to reveal the identities of the impostors at the appropriate time to enable people to vote wisely in 2023.
A source close to the Atiku camp, who confirmed the proposed move, said stakeholders have canvassed the need to adopt persuasion instead of a confrontational approach in the proposed discussion with Wike and his loyalists.
The source, who did not want his name in print because of the sensitive nature of the matter, however, maintained that the demand by the Wike camp for the party leadership to address the present North/South power dichotomy was a legitimate one.
According to him: “Of course, we have all come to terms with the reality of the lopsided configuration in the PDP hierarchy where we have our presidential candidate, national chairman and BoT chairman from the North.
“We also appreciate the position being canvased by Governor Wike and his loyalists, who are mainly from the South, that it will appear awkward to voters in their respective states for PDP to parade only northerners as the party’s topmost leaders, in addition to a presidential candidate from the North during campaigns.
“But the reality on the ground calls for caution on the party of everyone because we believe that there is enough room for further consultation and negotiation that would assuage frayed nerves. It is a work in progress and we can make a success of it if we are really committed to the unity of our great party.”
Another source blamed what he described as the desperation for power by both the Atiku and Wike camps for the present state of affairs in the party.
According to the source, the two camps were responsible for the bungling of the party’s zoning arrangement while scheming for the PDP presidential ticket ahead of the October 2021 national convention that produced Ayu and other NWC members.
The source said: “The original arrangement was for the South to produce the National Chairman.
“But some people ensured that the plan changed along the line and many of us were surprised when they suddenly came up with the idea of picking the National Chairman from the North.
“We were later told that there was an unwritten agreement that Ayu would step down for a southerner if our presidential candidate eventually emerged from the North and this is what has brought us to where we are today.”
When asked if indeed there was such agreement, the source retorted: “Which agreement are you talking about when we all know the position of Section 45 of the PDP constitution on the matter?
“It is obvious that some people out-manoeuvred and schemed out their competitors. But that is also part of politics.”
Section 45(2) of the PDP constitution prescribes that in the event of the seat of a national chairman becoming vacant on account of resignation, or for any other reason, the deputy national chairman from his region shall take his seat and complete what is left of his/her tenure.
In the case of Ayu, the deputy national chairman is Amb. Umar Damagum, who is from Yobe state, in the Northeast zone where Atiku also comes from.
Against the expectations of the Wike camp that the PDP leadership would be zoned to the South, the PDP leadership under Ayu had instead, set up a Zoning Committee with Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom as chairman.
The next day, the party leadership announced the commencement of the sale of nomination forms for the 2023 election. Incidentally, Atiku was the first to purchase the N40 million presidential nomination form.
This was long before the Ortom-led zoning committee was officially inaugurated.
After weeks of doublespeak, the zoning committee recommended that the contest for the ticket be thrown open to all comers.
After Atiku emerged as flag bearer, the Wike camp had expected to get the vice presidential slot, which was given to the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, leaving Wike and his loyalists high and dry.
In order not to lose out completely, the Rivers governor’s camp is now demanding the replacement of Ayu with another person from the Southwest.
But the Atiku camp has countered that going by the PDP constitution, Ayu can only be replaced with a Southerner through a mini-convention.
The process involves the selection of a new national chairman from another region who will take charge in the interim on a caretaker basis.
A proper national convention will then be convened at a future date to ratify the tenure of the officer to be so appointed.
But barely a month to the September 28 date for the take-off of the 2023 electioneering campaign, a mini-convention appears a less viable alternative for the PDP.
This may weaken the resistance of the Wike camp and make it amenable to the wish of the Atiku camp, which by all indications, has resolved to retain Ayu as chairman.
Wike fires salvos
Wike, who spoke when he kicked off the construction of internal roads at Rumuesara, Eneka, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, also fired salvos at those itching to pull the rug off his feet in Rivers.
He said: “Some other people are busy, putting themselves together on how they will take over leadership in Nigeria to loot the remaining ones these other people have already kept.
“I’m privileged to know and at the appropriate time, I’ll tell you who these people are. You need to know what is happening in Nigeria. Forget about all these people running around saying they want to rescue or save you. Just watch to see what is going to happen next.
“All of us should be calm concerning what is happening in PDP. In fact, nothing has happened yet. But by the grace of God, something will happen.”
Wike said while his administration had continued to commission and inaugurate projects for Rivers people, detractors had remained relentless in sponsoring negative media campaigns against him.
He said despite such negative media comments, his administration had not relented in offering good governance to strengthen its relationship with the people.
He said: “Look at us concentrating on giving our people good governance. What is good governance? Good governance is making the people be happy. Good governance is providing infrastructure for the people.
“Good governance is not about party. Providing good governance is about leadership. We are here every day flagging off projects, commissioning projects even though our tenure is coming to an end.”
Wike said it would be difficult for seasonal politicians, who had never done anything to better the lot of Rivers electorate, to come to them and solicit their votes.
He said: “Now that I have come to Eneka to provide this basic infrastructure, I can come back to Eneka and ask you to follow me, let us go there or let us stay here. Do they have what it takes to come and talk to you? Can they come and talk to you?
“It is somebody that hears from you that you also hear from. This one you’ve not provided anything for my people, you’ve not asked them what they want, then you want to tell them where to vote.
“So, it is us that will come and meet you and say see where you’ll vote. And I know based on our relationship, since we have not deceived you, we have not told you lies, you will follow us at the appropriate time.”
The governor said Eneka filled a strategic place in his educational and political success stories, saying he would not abandon its people.
He recalled that he schooled at the Government Secondary School, Eneka and had his council chairmanship sponsored by Senator John Azuta-Mbata, who hails from the town.
Wike promised that his administration would soon commence reconstruction work at the secondary school in a bid to transform it into a modern standard learning facility.
He urged persons who had encroached and developed structures on the land to vacate them.
The governor renamed the Igwurata-Eneka Road as Sam Mbata Road and promised that the government would accord due recognition to the paramount ruler of Eneka before the end of his tenure in 2023.
Describing the project, Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Dr. Dakorinama George-Kelly, said the Eneka internal roads measured 5.3km long, 9km length of drains on both sides and would be completed in five months.
The Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, George Ariolu, thanked Wike for extending such infrastructure to Eneka, saying it would boost socio-economic activities in the area.