2023 PRESIDENCY: PDP battles discontent, rebellion

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Implications of APC governors’ visit to Wike

Uba Group

Our stock is shrinking fast – Party chieftains

Ayu returns as plot to unseat him gathers steam

BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, TIMOTHY AGBOR, MAYOWA SAMUEL AND BRIGHT JACOB

Last Friday’s sudden visit of three All Progressives Congress governors from the South West, accompanied by former Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose to Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in Port Harcourt, caught the opposition Peoples Democratic Party flat footed, The Point has learnt.

Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Chairman of South Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu and Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu with a retinue of other dignitaries had stormed Port Harcourt in what analysts say is a move to woo the former Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant to join the ruling APC.

A chieftain of the PDP confided in this paper while bemoaning the state of affairs within it that “nobody saw it coming. We were all caught off guard. And it has serious implications for the party. Let no man deceive himself, it is not a good omen. First, it means or shows that our governor, Wike, is not on good terms with the party and so here’s a situation to be exploited. Two, it sends very wrong signals in so many ways across the political terrain in the country and it is negative for our party. The stock of the party is shrinking fast.”

Trying to paint the picture of what things look like at the party just now, he said “Our party is in serious doldrums. If God is willing, we will come out of it. Our party is being buffeted by hydra-headed crises. Like I said, if God is willing, we will come out of it. I pray He grants us the wisdom to deal with the situation successfully,” the source dejectedly summed up what is going on in the party to The Point at the weekend.

The tenor of his submission paints a grim picture of resignation and tends to point towards a looming defeat. Amidst muffled anger and sympathy, the party chieftain said, “We missed the mark. We missed the opportunity. We didn’t play our game well. We need one another but treachery, insincerity and selfishness, people thinking more about themselves than the party and the failure to read the mood of the country correctly may combine to do us in. It would seem we took some of our strong pillars for granted and all I can see now is attention being taken away from PDP to other parties. We should have done the right thing. Even at the state level here, did we do the right thing? If we did, why would an aspirant who came a distant second in a gubernatorial primary take the party to Court in Abuja and win? Should the person who won have contested at all in the first place if we did the needful? The court said he should not have been allowed to contest. That is for our state ooo. Look at the national level, we missed it. In Ekiti, we missed it, and I am almost sure we have missed it too, in Osun State. Na God go fit help us,” he said.

The above represents, graphically, the goings-on in the PDP at present. The gulf created by sundry crises is widening by the day. The National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu is facing a survival battle akin to the whirlwind that blew his predecessor, Uche Secondus, out of office.

The Tiv-born politician may have courted the trouble he is facing in the party when he made some off-colour comments over the party’s presidential primary.

He had soon after leaving the venue of the primary, headed to the residence of Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, where he showered praises on him. He then described Tambuwal as “hero of the convention.”

The act of stepping down for the eventual winner, Atiku Abubakar, has been said to be a “turning point” in the contest as it helped in no small way in making Atiku emerge winner over Tambuwal’s friend and colleague, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

Ayu’s reference to Tambuwal’s action as the “hero of the convention” has been described by many analysts as a slap on Wike’s face. The party has since been embroiled in sundry crises, notably, Wike’s palpable disinterestedness in any other activities of the party.

“Our party is in serious doldrums. If God is willing, we will come out of it. Our party is being buffeted by hydra-headed crises. Like I said, if God is willing, we will come out of it. I pray He grants us the wisdom to deal with the situation successfully”

Though the PDP came out of the convention pretending to be a united body, unfolding events have shown that all has not been well with the party since the emergence of Atiku, another northerner who is positioning himself to take over from his kinsman, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress.

To worsen the matter, Atiku the party’s standard-bearer has since jetted out of Nigeria for a deserved holiday abroad.

The anger caused by Ayu’s comment was aggravated by the refusal of Atiku to choose Wike as his running mate after a majority of the committee set up by the party leadership to screen and recommend the most suitable candidate for the post of vice presidential candidate settled for him.

Atiku, however, had other things in mind and settled for his next-door neighbour and South-South colleague, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. These two missteps have since been fingered as tearing the party to shreds.

“CBN"

It would seem that Wike, the rejected stone by the PDP, has become a cornerstone as a beautiful bride while his Rivers State private residence has become a tourist attraction for politicians.

Taking a holistic look at the state of the party a few months before the general election, US-based politics and social commentator, Cecil Amaechi said, “The PDP no doubt is facing very big challenges ahead of 2023 general elections. Most of them are self-inflicted. It started when they jettisoned their zoning formula which was enshrined in their constitution that the ticket should go to the south. Even before the presidential primary, there were front-runners like Dino Melaye and Reno Omokri talking about Atiku being the best man for the job which means he (Atiku) had planned from the onset to shun the zoning formula of the party.

“Over here, we knew that with such utterance they were going to jettison their zoning arrangements and that was what happened. Ordinarily, Atiku shouldn’t have contested, in fact, nobody from the north should have. All they needed to do was to act like APC, zone it to the south, when it gets to the south they will decide whether it was South West or South East or South South.

“But that they didn’t do it was the beginning of their problem and with the election around the corner, they are in a quagmire. I think it’s going to have very big consequences and they are going to pay dearly for it during the election because a lot of people are very aggrieved right now. If you go to the South East, they’re very aggrieved. If you can remember, the South East had been the backbone of that party. From the formation till date as opposition, the South East had stood strongly with the party but with what happened they will not get winning votes in the zone. In the South West with the popularity of Tinubu, the PDP will also not get winning votes. Probably in the north, they are going to have some votes but because of this Peter Obi phenomenon, things are going to change. So it’s no longer a two-horse race, it’s a race between Obi, Atiku, and Tinubu. So it’s going to be very tough.”

He also noted that the party will have more problems with the series of defections coming, adding that governor Wike is aggrieved because of the way he was treated by the party he had done so much for.

“It is clear that the party will suffer more defections, particularly in the South. Wike is aggrieved because he thought he was the best man for the job but he was sidelined. He is aggrieved and that’s why he has turned to a beautiful bride, a lot of people are going to him to canvas for support, particularly the APC. Imagine three top-serving governors of APC and a former PDP governor from the South West going to meet Wike. What is it for if not to lobby him to support their candidate? But I don’t see Wike leaving the PDP. One clear thing is that he will remain in the party but work against them. There’s no way they are going to have his support.

“The Wike that we know will not forgive PDP. He might not work openly against them but behind the scenes, I am sure he will not support the party. If you look at the fact that he came second in the primary and after the 17-member committee set up by the party to screen and nominate the vice presidential candidate recommended him, Atiku went ahead to choose governor Ifeanyi Okowa. So, it’s like a double pain for him and I don’t see him giving PDP any chance in the zone. So as it is now, the PDP should forget the South East and the South-South.

Already the South West is gone. So how can they win the 2023 election?”

The US-based analyst further argued that the party will receive a huge shock at the turn of events and wondered how the flag bearer thinks he will be a visiting candidate, living in Dubai only to come to Nigeria to contest an election and then win.

He said Atiku could manipulate the delegates but will meet brick walls in the elections proper because Nigerians now have options with the Peter Obi movement.

“Their best chance is in the north but with this Peter Obi phenomenon, they are going to share the votes in the north because people are tired of the APC, and PDP. That’s why they are supporting Peter Obi not really because they love him but because they have lost hope in the two major parties. So where will Atiku garner votes that will give him and the party victory in 2023? I’m yet to figure it out,” he said.

For Goni Abdallah, a legal practitioner, the crisis in the PDP is a sign of an opposition wanting to remain as an opposition party. He said at a time that Nigerians are tired of recycling this kind of politics, the PDP failed to capitalize on the opportunity to woo back the support of the people, particularly the voting power of the youths.

“PDP winning the 2023 election? How? Let me tell you the truth people are avoiding. The kind of fire burning in Nigeria now, I mean politically, the PDP has no place in 2023. The youth who are suffering more are aware that Atiku is a visiting candidate who lives in Dubai. He does not care about the situation people are facing in Nigeria and then you think he will fly in from the Dubai campaign and then win the election. It’s a huge joke.

“The political space has been taken by the youth who truly are the voting majority. Believe it or not, the 2023 general election will be the best in recent times in that there will be shockers here and there. There will be nothing like it’s my turn because Nigerians are wiser now so, nobody will hoodwink them for whatever reason and with whatever. Vote-buying which most of these candidates are banking on will fail them because people will collect their money as repartition and yet vote their conscience.

“I see people voting for their future and not for their stomach. And if this happens, which I strongly believe will happen; the PDP with all these crises it is passing through is in big trouble because this is not a good time for a house to be divided against itself. For them to make an impact they need to tell themselves the truth but they have refused to do that. Governor Wike is a force, no matter what anybody can say or feel about him. He cannot be wished away.

“See how he has become a rallying point. Even the governors from other parties are now visiting him to have meetings. What do you think the meetings are for if not to convince him to join forces with them and pay back Atiku and the PDP in their own coin? I don’t want to bring the Peter Obi movement into this, but the way things are going, PDP seems not ready to wrestle power from the APC in 2023. I’m not saying the APC will win the election. No, that’s not what I am saying. What I mean is that PDP is losing the services of governor Wike, though it will not be in the open and who he will work for is not clear for now.”

Another chieftain of the PDP, Niyi Owolade, however, thinks differently, saying the crises rocking the party would not affect the chances of the party winning the presidential election in 2023.

He advised aggrieved Wike to allow common sense to prevail on his reported plan to defect to the ruling APC.

Owolade, a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Osun State, revealed that the presidential candidate of the PDP would arrive in the country from his Dubai holiday, adding that the major opposition party was already destined for victory at the polls.

Reacting to the agitations for the exit of Ayu, Owolade urged for calm and understanding from critics saying that the national chairman of PDP would resign next year if the party wins.

He expressed optimism that PDP would resolve its crisis and reconcile with aggrieved members before the general elections.

Owolade argued that the plan by the APC to float a Muslim-Muslim ticket ahead of the presidential election would be the undoing of the ruling party adding that Nigerians wouldn’t accept such an arrangement.

“You know they used to say that a week is a long time in politics. So, 2023 is still a long time. Yes, I believe we have issues here and there but I am confident that they will be resolved eventually. The candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, I heard from the grapevine that he will be arriving shortly this week from Dubai and the issue of Ayu which you mentioned, Ayu himself has said it before that if a presidential candidate emerges from the Northern part of Nigeria, that he will eventually hand over but the issue now is the time.

“People appear to be in so much of a hurry. Because we need to go to a convention, can you do a convention straight away now? So, I presume that Dr. Iyorcha Ayu will eventually leave the seat but that one can’t be now. It might be in March or April. It’s not going to be now, so that’s my own thinking on that.

“As regards the issue of Governor Wike, I hope that common sense will eventually prevail because I know that there are some issues there but I don’t know how Wike will now drop PDP and go and join APC. I don’t know how that is going to happen but time will tell. I believe there is time to resolve all these issues before the 25th of February, 2023.

“So, for now, no shaking for PDP. People just talked about the issues in PDP. They are not even saying anything about the issues in APC. Now, the APC presidential candidate has to decide by the 15th of July who will be his running mate. You recall what the former SGF of Nigeria, Babachir Lawal, the man from Adamawa State said that picking a Muslim/Muslim ticket is dead on arrival. I am quoting him and he said it on national television. For somebody who is up there to have said that, then it means a lot. He said the people in the North who are Christians will never vote for such a party that fields Muslim/Muslim. The security situation in Nigeria now does not support anybody who is head bent on picking Muslim/Muslim.

“This Muslim/Muslim ticket will rub off on APC. It’s a lose-lose chance for their candidate because it will rub off on the South. Some people in the South who would have voted for him (Tinubu) would rather not do that because of having two Muslims at the heart of the ticket. That’s why he has been taking the card down the roof all this while but he has to decide one or before July 15.

“So, the crisis in APC won’t stop PDP’s chances. Whatever it is, we are still going to resolve it,” he added.

“Their best chance is in the north but with this Peter Obi phenomenon, they are going to share the votes in the north because people are tired of the APC, and PDP. That’s why they are supporting Peter Obi not really because they love him but because they have lost hope in the two major parties”

Also speaking, a human rights lawyer, Lekan Alabi, said the crisis in PDP may not stop Nigerians from voting for Atiku Abubakar, adding that the nation’s citizens were already tired of the ruling party.

Alabi said the APC had already failed Nigerians and that voters at the general elections would not consider the crisis in the major opposition before voting out the ruling party.

He asked Wike to be careful and count his cost before dumping the PDP adding that the APC might still assume the opposition position at the national level.

However, the legal practitioner said the Rivers Governor might not be leaving the PDP but may be attempting to in order to draw the attention of the PDP for reconciliation.

“In politics, everybody is allowed to take interest but they say, the majority will have their way. The point is that it’s expected for any political party to experience a crisis. And normally, there is room for reconciliation. Wike that is reportedly romancing the APC might be doing that to call the attention of the PDP to see his importance. That’s what is called political gimmicks.

“In actual fact, he has been there for PDP both financially and morally, but politics is a game of interest. I will say Wike should be careful enough and count the cost before he decides to go to APC because currently in this country, people are looking for a way out. Wike, though an individual, he is powerful in his own capacity. So, they may not be able to stop him from going if he feels that’s the best decision for him and I think that will not affect the PDP as a political party and their chances in 2023.

“There is no doubt that Nigerians are tired of APC. Let’s start with insecurity. It has never been this bad. The last one which is the attack on Kuje Prison on Federal Capital Territory was a clear sign that this present government has totally lost control of the ship of this nation. Nigerians won’t be surprised if one day they hear that the Aso Rock was attacked.

“So, Nigerians are tired of APC because it has led Nigerians from worse to worse. Everything is expensive and people are tired. So, whatever crisis that is happening in PDP won’t affect the victory of PDP. Nigerians are better informed of the challenges confronting this country,” he added.

Meanwhile, the plot by some southern governors elected on the platform of the PDP to remove Ayu from office is gaining momentum.

Consequently, the embattled former President of the Senate has returned to the country to meet the governors and other stakeholders.

It was gathered that some of the governors are championing the removal of Ayu from office in line with the zoning principle, which ensures that the national chairman of the party and its presidential candidate should not come from one geographical zone.

It was revealed that with the return of Ayu from vacation, the party has activated a series of meetings to starve off the agitation for his removal from office.

Some chieftains of the party stated that he rushed back to Nigeria to meet the aggrieved stakeholders.

It was also gathered that some of the PDP governors who are sympathetic to Ayu, including his state governor, Samuel Ortom of Benue State have stepped in to avert his removal.

Also to address the grievances of some governors of the PDP over the choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the party’s vice-presidential candidate, the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Walid Jubrin is said to be championing a reconciliation meeting with the governors of the party to appease Wike.

A member of the National Working Committee stated that “it is not that the governors of the party are insisting that Atiku must change Okowa. No! We want all issues to be put on the table and let them be addressed as in the case of who gets what.

“The National Chairman is back and he has lined up a series of meetings to address this perceived crisis, including agitations for his removal.

“He is billed to meet the PDP governors, the BoT members and even former PDP governors and Atiku once he returns to the country. It is expected that Ayu will use the Sallah break to reach out to those aggrieved as well as those perceived as his friends.

“The meetings to follow must address the power-sharing when the PDP comes to power.

“It is not going to be blind followership. Every group must know what is in stock for it. We are sure that after the meetings, these agitations will reduce”, the NWC member said.