2023: PDP crisis deepens as Benue, Rivers states dump Atiku
Wike, Okowa, Atiku

By Ori Martins

 The major opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, looks set for a comprehensive and complete abysmal performance in the 2023 general elections.  Ironically, the intra party mess rocking the foundation of the erstwhile ruling party, in spite of all the various peace negotiations by PDP leaders and elders, still festers. 

Since the party’s presidential primary election, peace has continued to elude the umbrella party that once paraded itself as the biggest and strongest in Africa.

A key figure in the PDP presidential primary election, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has been a thorn in the flesh of presidential candidate and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in particular and the PDP in general.

Wike argued that the stepping down of Sokoto State governor and one time speaker of the federal house of representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, to support Atiku, was not in conformity with the party’s guidelines for primary election.

The Rivers governor noted that Tambuwal ought to have taken the decision of stepping down while making his speech on why he was seeking PDP’s presidential nomination. He explained that the Sokoto governor’s second mounting of the rostrum to make declaration in support of Atiku, thereby withdrawing from the race, was not permitted by the law.

“If I had wanted to destroy PDP, I would have done so that night right inside the convention arena. But I decided to allow peace to reign.

“The fact remains that Governor Tambuwal ought not to have gone back to the podium to announce his withdrawal from the presidential primary election.

“He should have done so when he was presenting himself and his manifesto to the party. Going back to make public his withdrawal and support for Atiku was not recognized by the laws guiding our party’s primary elections. I had every opportunity to have destroyed PDP that night, but I allowed peace to reign”, Wike explained.

After Atiku emerged PDP presidential candidate, Wike neither congratulated him nor identified with the party again. He distanced himself from both Atiku and all PDP’s activities tailored towards the 2923 election.

Shockingly, Atiku and the PDP once more played into the hands of Wike and his band of five governors and supporters.

At that time, it had become clearer that governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Sam Ortom of Benue  and Seyi Makinde of Oyo were all in support of Wike’s campaign and struggle against the PDP.

While picking his running mate, Atiku, rather than announce his choice outright, mandated a 17 man committee to make recommendation for him. The committee allegedly shortlisted three governors and settled for Wike.

Those recommended were: Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Wike himself. The person  said to have been recommended was Wike.

However, in an interview with Arise Television, Atiku stated otherwise. “I can tell you that the committee I put together had the mandate to recommend three names and that was exactly what I expected of it.  It put forward three names and I settled for one and that was it”.

Responding to Atiku’s interview, Wike labeled the former president a lair. He said Ortom was the chairman of that committee. He noted that it was very clear that Atiku dumped the recommendation of the committee he put in place.

“If you ask me, Atiku caused that confusion by constituting a body to choose a running mate for him. He would have named his deputy presidential candidate without that committee. Again, look the people in that committee – those who are ruthlessly fighting him”, Chukwu Uka Chukwu said.

Following several peace meanings by members of Board of Trustees (BoT), National Executive Committee (NEC), National Working Committee (NWC) as well as other leaders and elders of the party, Wike recognized Atiku as presidential candidate of the party but insisted on the removal or resignation of national party chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu.

Besides the five governors who have stoutly been supportive of Wike’s wars against Atiku and PDP, there are other heavyweights who have equally thrown their weights behind Wike.

In the South West, Chief Bode George, a BoT member and former zonal vice chairman, has been calling on PDP to listen to Wike by advising Ayu to quit office. In the north, erstwhile minister of information, Prof. Jerry  Gana, is also in the league of those seeing through Wike’s lens and demanding for Ayu’s sack.

To realize his ambition of forcing Wike out of office, Wike and the other governors in his camp, have been on global tour. They were in London, France, Spain, Turkey, Dubai and few other countries and cities around the globe.

Despite the explanation proffered by the PDP BoT as well as  the vote of confidence passed on Ayu and Atiku respectively by the elders of the party, Wike and his group still insist on “Ayu Must Go”.

“The point is that the first time the PDP is experiencing this type of challenges. To us, it is a road well travelled. We have been talking to Governor Wike to see reasons with the party leaders and sheath his sword.

“In PDP, we have had a northern national chairman and a northern presidential candidate. We have also had a southern president and a southern president.

“Even now, the Labour Party presidential candidate is from south and the national chairman is also from the south.

“The president of Nigeria hails from the north just as the chairman of APC comes from the north as well. So, what we currently have in PDP consequent upon which the five governors are challenging the leadership of the party is not from the blues”, Okwesillieze Nwodo, enthused on Channels Television.

Yet, Wike still carries on with his push for Ayu to resign. “Any form of negotiation will be foreclosed if Atiku goes on another rally or campaign with Ayu as PDP national chairman”, Wike threatened.

Still there are many Nigerians of goodwill who are asking Wike and his group some poignant questions. “It was Wike that installed Secondus national chairman of PDP and he ultimately removed him. He then made Ayu and now he has vowed to also unmake him. So, all Wike wants is for him to make and unmake PDP national chairmen. Things do not go that way”, Eze Udo, a PDP supporter in Owerri, Imo State, contributed.

What of the other four governors in the same camp with Wike? For instance, Ikpeazu has a senatorial ambition. And he wants to produce his successor. As he identifies with Wike in the  latter’s unrepentant war against the PDP, will he now campaign against the party thereby shooting himself at the leg?

Ikpeazu provided insights. He said, “I am not fighting against PDP. I remain a strong stakeholder of the party. I am fighting for South East. We are fighting against injustice”.

As it is with Ikpeazu, so also it is with Ugwuanyi who is also a senatorial candidate of PDP as well being hell bent on installing a successor.

Again,  Makinde is seeking for a re- election. How does he go about his electioneering in Oyo State? Will he now ask the electorate not to vote for any other candidates of the PDP but himself alone?

And for Wike, he recently endorsed the APC governorship candidate in Lagos. Many PDP bigwigs did not see that as a mere caricature.  They indicated that Wike’s long expected movement to APC had been fully announced in details by the Rivers State governor himself.

On the other hand, the PDP has maintained that it would still be dialoguing and talking with Wike and his group.

“It is regrettable that the PDP is having this kind of crisis few months to the 2023 general elections. It is unfortunate.

“However, the party elders and leaders are still talking with Wike and and his group. We need them to come under the PDP umbrella. It is one family, one party. But you have to understand that none of them, including Wike has indicated he wants to leave the party.

” In their respective states in Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Benue and Oyo, PDP is on ground, to the grassroots. ThIs means, PDP will still win the elections in those areas.

“That does mean that the party is taking the Wike group for granted. The party still wants them to come back, let us work together for total victory in the 2023 general elections”, Dele Momodu, a member of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, stated.

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