Hon. Abraham Chila, the leader of Ward2Ward4Atiku, a North Central group mobilising voters for Atiku Abubakar’s presidency in 2023. In this interview with some journalists in Abuja, he speaks on how to resolve the lingering crisis in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and what his group is doing to ensure victory for the party in 2023 presidential election, among others.
How do you think the call by some party chieftains for Iyorchia Ayu’s resignation would affect the fortunes of PDP in 2023 elections?
Let me say that there is no crisis in our great party, the PDP. This talk of crisis where none exists is the handiwork of those who want to shore up their ego and attract relevance to their diminishing statuses. Dr Ayu was not selected or imposed on the party by any single individual that could just wake up and call for his resignation. The national chairman was a product of zoning of political offices before last year’s national convention during which the leaders of the party zoned the office of national chairman to North Central and finally to Benue state.
I understand that there are few people who see themselves as the owners of PDP. It was such arrogance that propelled the removal of Dr. Audu Ogbe as national chairman in the past. But, things have changed. Ayu is not Ogbe. If such dictatorial impunity succeeded in the past it can no longer happen to another Benue state man, not a Tiv man. May be those calling on Ayu to resign want to repeat the hot water treatment given to Audu Ogbe. They are stoking the wrath of the Tiv nation and we are watching them. Well, Benue state, and indeed, the entire North Central are ready to fight against the attempt to subject the state and zone into PDP’s weeping boy or burden bearers of overbearing potentates. We have taken this insult with calmness believing that PDP counts on Benue state to lead it into good things and a new era. But come to think of it, between Wike and Ayu, who should be asking the other to resign? Ayu and Wike have different badges as PDP stakeholders. While the national chairman is a promoter, the Rivers State governor is an investor. So, while Ayu has no fixed interest, Wike has a fixed interest, because the national chairman insists on the welfare of all members unlike Wike that stands for the welfare of his camp.
You know no one can intimidate a promoter in a venture he initiated, but an investor can easily be paid off or frustrated in someone else’s business. As a promoter, Ayu wants to ensure that the venture succeeds, just as Wike the investor doesn’t care whether the business succeeds or not as far as he gets his dividends. However, all in all, Ayu could be likened to a landlord in PDP, while Wike stands as a tenant in the party. And going by the foregoing analogy, who suppose to call for the resignation of the other?
Is your group, the ward2ward4Atiku, founded to support Ayu or engage voters during the campaigns?
Our group, Ward2Ward4Atiku (W2W4A) is a unique platform created out of the exigencies of our growing democratic experience. If you recall, after the 2019 general elections, the former Vice President and by God’s special grace, Nigeria’s incoming President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said there was need for some soul searching in our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
That soul-searching came by way of the Governor Mohammed Bala-led Presidential Election Review Committee (PERC). Although the work of the committee was not publicised, in the course of its assignment, many valuable suggestions and insights were received geared towards reforming the party for greater citizens’ involvement. Part of the recommendations of that committee was the proper democratisation of the party to reflect the people factor of PDP. To achieve that, the committee talked about decentralisation of ownership through funding. The committee frowned at the situation whereby individuals or candidates for an election take over funding of the party, while the people-the real owners-are left like mere passengers in a luxurious bus.
So, by and large, the need to deepen the institutional framework of the party became acute. And that was part of the extenuating circumstances that gave rise to Ward2Ward (W2W). I know you would be wondering why certain features of the group was left out.
That would show you the level of deep thinking that went into the silent reforms in PDP. It might interest you also to note that part of the reason Dr. Iyorchia Ayu was head-hunted for the position of national chairman was to ensure that PDP returned to its original ideals, the true vision of the founding fathers.
Dr. Ayu has not only been around in Nigeria’s political evolution, but was one of the founding members of the party. The former President of Senate was a member of the G34 that transmuted to PDP. So, you can see that what is currently happening within the party is not a happenstance, but a product of deep and honest conversation among genuine lovers of democracy and true patriots.
Then coming back to how W2W became W2W4A, immediately Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged as the presidential candidate of the party and in line with the original idea, the platform became subordinated to him as the leader. So, it could also have become W2W4W if (Governor Nyesom) Wike had won or W2W4S if Dr. Bukola Saraki had won.
To answer your question, in Benue state, the full facility of W2W4A would be deployed to ensure that Wazirin Adamawa become the President. After his swearing in on May 29, 2023, W2W4A would become a vehicle for public enlightenment on government policies and programmes.
W2W4A would be used to reticulate the tiny details of Atiku’s manifesto and governance strategies, especially, in the areas of budgeting and anti-corruption. I can make bold to tell you that we have been carrying out education and sensitization of Benue voters on the nature of leadership the Atiku presidency promises to deliver. There are a lot of misinformation and divisive propaganda out there by some of the greatest beneficiaries of Atiku’s benevolence, patriotism and inclusive leadership.
You boasted Atiku and PDP would poll 65 percent of total votes in Benue state, what gives you that confidence?
It was not a boast, but an evidence-based pronouncement. Through the social engineering process enunciated by our national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, the W2W4A has done a lot of underground work in the area of voter enlightenment and engagement. The feedback mechanism gave me the confidence to make that disclosure public. Atiku, we know has empowered a lot of Tiv people. The Wazirin Adamawa cannot be blamed for the lack of unity of purpose among the Tiv elites. But, thank God for Senator Ayu’s emergence as PDP national chairman, all things are working together for the good of state and nation.
Are you saying the crisis in the party between Atiku and Wike group will not affect the vote tally?
I have said this before and will keep saying it. There is no crisis in the PDP. It was a mere clash of ego. Governor Wike outplayed his cards. And when he discovered that the odds were stacked against him, he started brewing a cocktail of blackmail in a bid to be recognised and regain relevance. The party understands all these gimmicks and is prepared to smack down to inevitable victory.
But your governor is a strong ally of Wike and they have been talking to different presidential candidates…
I am Tiv by birth. We do not forsake our people in times of war. My Governor, Dr. Sam I. Ortom knows that no single individual can rise against the Tiv nation. Forget all the public grandstanding. The governor knows that the Tiv nation has resolved to give PDP the maximum support and solidarity the party requires at this crucial juncture.
The former Vice President, Atiku, is a traditional title holder in Tivland. So, at the end of the day, Dr. Ortom cannot afford to stand alone. That will amount to literally dancing naked in a market place if you know what I mean.
State governors have always been a formidable force within PDP and this is not the first time governors are fighting the national chairman, do you think this one will have a different outcome?
Definitely. A new vision and mindset reigns in the party. That era of garrison and commando style of politics is gone. We have gentlemen and civilised democrats calling the shots in PDP. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is a consummate democrat, a people builder, unifier and peace-maker. His personality, defined by mutual respect reflects on the modern day PDP. The people now decide what happens to and in PDP. Complemented by the sociology professor, Dr. Ayu, PDP has been re-engineered, not rebranded, to return Nigeria on the path of glory away from the gory days of all promises cancelled.
Is your support for Ayu merely because he is your kinsman?
In a word, no. What is good for the goose is sauce to the gander. Right is right and the law should rule as a common standard for all. But tangentially, since every politics is local, there is something in it for Benue people. If participation is the sole of democracy, we are happy to participate in nurturing Nigeria’s democracy from the position of chairmanship of PDP for the third time. It is indeed a second chance for us to undo the days of jackboot democracy that cut short a previous chairmanship.
Do you think Atiku is right to support the national chairman in this attempt to force the national chairman out?
Atiku is helpless. The process that threw up the national chairman preceded his emergence as presidential candidate. As a seasoned politician, Wazirin Adamawa knows a political ambush when he sees one. And because he decided to move ahead, those who laid the trap are aggrieved that the game went beyond them. Did anybody protest when the PDP presidential primary ended with a clear winner? The answer is no. Then why do some people with bloated ego want to get in through the back door what their craftiness could not secure for them? Atiku can not just be pushed to become a tyrant or despot. His politics do not align with that mentality. He is a genial leader that acknowledges the superiority of due process and legality.