2023: PDP’s division threatens Atiku’s victory

The last has not been heard of the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, alongside his allies have pulled out of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council. In this report, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU, x-rays how the division in the party may affect its victory in the 2023 general elections.

The emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections has led to some frontline party members who were not happy with the process and outcome the poll to stay off party affairs.

The situation may have been compounded by Atiku’s Delta state Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate and the insistence of Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike, and his allies, on the removal of the party’s National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, who is from the North, the same region as the presidential candidate.

Wike’s allies calling for Ayu’s removal include Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo state; Samuel Ortom of Benue state; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state; and Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state; among others.

The crisis has also divided all organs of the party from the National to State and Local Government levels with some party leaders in support of Atiku, while other are behind Wike.

Failed efforts, sacrifice

Observing that the cracks would affect the party’s victory, the party leadership made several reconciliatory moves that did not yield the desired result.

Former Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibril, had constituted a committee that failed to meet with Wike and Atiku’s camps.

In another move, the PDP presidential candidate and Wike jointly constituted a committee led by Adamawa state Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, and former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana. They met twice, but nothing came of it.

Consequently, some party faithful from both camps met in France in a bid to reconcile, surprisingly, days after the meetings both factions still engaged in bickering.

In a move to pacify Wike and other PDP bigwigs from the South, Atiku’s camp decided to sacrifice the BoT chairman.

Senator Jibrin is reported to have been asked to resign, so a Southerner, former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Nwabara, would become the BoT chairman.

The Wike’s camp, however, insisted Ayu must go, arguing that BoT was advisory; rather they wanted a Southern to be the party’s national chairman, since Atiku, who is from the North, was the party’s presidential candidate.

Uneasy calm as Tambuwal emerges campaign DG

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had announced September 28, 2022, as the date for the commencement of presidential campaigns.

In prepartaio for the campaign kick-off the PDP and its presidential candidate, not minding the agitations coming from the Wike’s camp, appointed the Sokoto state Governor and Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, as director general for the National Campaign Management Committee (NCMC) for the 2023 general elections.

PDP also appointed former Governor of Cross Rivers state, Liyel Imoke, as deputy director general operations; former PDP National Secretary, Professor Adewale Oladipo, as deputy director administration; Media Mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, as deputy director technical and systems; while Ekwesilieze Nwodo was appointed as deputy director research and strategy.

The party in a statement by its National Organising Secretary, Hon. Umaru Bature, Thursday, also appointed the Akwa Ibom state Governor, Udom Emmanuel as chairman, the Bauchi state Governor, Bala Mohammed, as vice chairman, North; and Oyo state Governor, Seyi Makinde, as vice chairman, South, of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC).

The Rivers state governor and other governors were also appointed as members of the PCC. However, barely 48 hours after the announcement Wike’s camp pulled out of the presidential campaign.

After a long meeting, which started Tuesday evening and ended Wednesday morning in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state, the group said it would not participate in Atiku’s campaign activities unless Ayu vacated his seat for a southerner.

Atiku moves on

Indications are PDP and Atiku have finalised plans to inaugurate its presidential campaign council on Wednesday, September 28, regardless of the agitations.

Reacting to the recent development, Atiku said they would forge ahead with the task and the mandate that they have been bestowed with, adding that: “It is time, therefore, to move on with the formidable tasks of nation building ahead of us.”

The presidential candidate in a press statement said, “On the calls for the resignation or removal from office of our national chairman, however, I must reiterate what I have said severally in public and in private; the decision for Dr. Iyorchia Ayu to resign from office is personal to Dr. Ayu and, neither I nor anyone else can make that decision for him.

“As to the calls for the removal of Dr. Ayu from office, however, I will state that, as a committed democrat and firm believer in the rule of law and democratic tenets, and our party being one set up, organised and regulated by law and our constitution, it is my absolute belief that everything that we do in our party must be done in accordance with, and conformity to, the law and our constitution.

“If Dr. Ayu is to be removed from office; it must be done in accordance with the laws that set out the basis for such removal. In any event, you will all recall that the very body that is empowered by law to initiate this removal from office has already passed a vote of confidence in him.

“Now, our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity and mutual mistrust and educational dislocations, to mention a few. I have a plan to address these issues and I have, graciously, been given the ticket to lead our great party in next year’s presidential elections, with the singular mandate to come and lead the efforts to cure these ills.

“It is in this light that I have reached out to every single member of our great party to join me in the massive undertaking required to reset the ship of state and help rebuild our country.

“Every single person who loves this country, as I do, is needed for the arduous tasks that face us ahead as a nation, and this includes every member of the PDP. And it is my fervent hope and prayer that every man and woman of goodwill will join hands with us to help rebuild and reposition our beloved country.

“In this light, therefore, I will urge those members of our party that have stated their resolve to withdraw from the PCC to have a rethink, retrace their steps, and join us in these efforts.

“The above, notwithstanding, and for the sake of our country, our children, and those yet unborn; we must not, for one minute, shirk in our responsibilities to rebuild this beloved country of ours.

“Accordingly, we must forge on with the task and the mandate that we have been bestowed with. It is time, therefore, to move on with the formidable tasks of nation building ahead of us.”

‘Wike de-marketing Atiku’

A political analyst Aminu Mohammed has said Wike continuous tantrums were de-marketing Atiku and the PDP.

Mohammed in a phone interview with Blueprint Weekend said the crisis has portrayed Atiku and PDP in a negative light.

He said, “The crisis has been allowed to linger for too long. Consequently, all organs of the party have been divided and they are gradually losing support.

“2023 election is a three-horse-race; that is between Atiku, All Progressives Congress (APC) Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and Labour Party Candidate and former Anambra state Governor, Peter Obi; so all support and votes from anywhere cannot be toyed with.

“For five governors, a few former governors and other stakeholders to pull out of Atiku’s campaign means some support, that will ordinarily translate to votes are out of it for PDP presidential candidate.

“These are people who can mobilise resources and votes, but they pulled out of Atiku’s campaign, so it’s a threat to the party and the candidate’s victory.”

Votes from South already lost – Onunuju

In another interview, political analyst Dr Katchy Onunuju also expressed the belief that the on-going rancour would cost Atiku and PDP millions of votes from the South.

Onunuju maintained that if the Wike’s group was not pacified, it may be difficult for Atiku’s PDP to get the constitional required 25% of votes from 24 states.

He said, “There’ll be no need for Wike’s camp to pretentiously deceive Atiku that they will be part and parcel of the campaign, they won’t. This is because they believe the Southerners are not included in the scheme of things.

“Some of these governors and aggrieved PDP leaders, especially from the South are no longer there to influence millions of votes for Atiku. And if the crisis is allowed to continue, with Obi and Tinubu factor, then it will be difficult for Atiku’s PDP to get the required 25% from 24 states.

“Atiku thinks only the votes from the North, he can get all the notes from the North, but he won’t win or be declared winner without the required votes from the 17 States in the South.”

Wike working for APC – Youth Vanguard

The leadership of the PDP National Youth Vanguard has accused Wike of working for the APC candidate, Tinubu.

It described the call for Ayu’s removal as a ploy to distract the PDP and its presidential candidate ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The group in a statement by its National Coordinator, Amb Ibrahim Bala Aboki, Friday, alleged that Wike has signed a pack with Tinubu as an agent of destabilisation in the PDP.

The statement read in part, “We have been made aware of an agreement entered into between the Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, and the APC Presidential Candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to destroy the PDP from within in exchange for his protection when he leaves office in 2023.

“Nigerians need to know that the concern of Governor Wike is not the interest of the South as been postulated by him and his friends, but a personal battle to cover up his misdemeanours.

“The governor has been shopping around and talking with presidential candidates of APC, Labour and PDP, but has signed a pact with Tinubu, who has asked him, Wike, to weaken the strength of the PDP from within in the Ayu-Must-Go campaign.

“In the first instance, why is Governor Wike always at the forefront of championing the removal of party chairmen at any given opportunity? Recall that in 2016 after the loss of the PDP in the 2015 general elections, it was Governor Wike who orchestrated the installation of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as chairman of the party who nearly destabilised the party, except for the Supreme Court ruling of July 12, 2017.

“In the 2017 national convention of the party, the same Governor Wike, denied Chief Bode George, Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and others from the South-west from producing the national chairmanship of the party when the PDP zoned the position to the South, and championed the installation of his brother, Prince Uche Secondus as Chairman of the party.

“Before Prince Secondus could complete his tenure Governor Wike again moved for his removal in order to pave way for his personal and selfish interest of campaigning for a southern president and later installed Senator Iyorchia Ayu as Chairman of the party. Today, the same Governor is calling for the removal of Senator Ayu. Is he the only person in the PDP?

“The PDP Youth Vanguard therefore calls on the leadership of the party and the Presidential Candidate to go ahead with its scheduled campaigns.  The group also advised party members and supporters nationwide not to be distracted by Governor Wike’s activities, saying that the governor is already carrying out the job assigned to him by Bola Tinubu.”

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