The crisis in the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, is morphing into a dimension that has the capacity to threaten its chances of victory in the 2023 presidential elections if not well managed.
Already, matters have come to a head with the pulling out of the Atiku campaign council by the Rivers state governor, Nyeson Wike group, following a series of political theatrics of the previous week in which the chairman of the party, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu survived no confidence vote , which is an apparent defeat of a key demand by Wike’s group for the chairman to step down for a southern candidate to balance the north/South equation in the party.
Last week, Wike’s camp, in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, officially announced its withdrawal from participating in the presidential campaign of the party for the 2023 elections. The group made its position known after a long meetings and consideration of recent development in the party.
The decision followed the parley by Wike’s loyalists at the private residence of the River State governor in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
According to their resolution, members of the group have vowed not to participate in whatever capacity in the campaign council unless the National Chairman of the party, Ayu, resigns for a southern candidate.
Some members of the group were named as leaders and members of the campaign council for the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Those, who were at the Port harcourt meeting include Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; former Governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, Donald Duke of Cross River, Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe and Jonah Jang of Plateau, former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.
include elders of the party -Olabode George, Jerry Gana; South-South vice Chairman of the PDP, Dan Orbih; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudom Nwuche; Senator Suleiman Nazif, Nnenna Ukeje, among several others.
After over seven hours of private meeting, Chief Bode George informed journalists of their resolution. This defining position of the Wike’s group comes some days to September 28, the official date for candidates to kick-off campaign as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Prior to this, there were heightened fears over the fragmentation of the opposition party along north/south divide following the grievances of Wike against the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar over the latter’s choice of Delta State governor, Okowa as his running mate in 2023 presidential election.
It was a decision that is not popular with many in the party who felt the position of vice president should have gone to Wike, considering the fact that he came second; and in view of his being the pillar of the party when it was going through difficult phases.
To make for peace following Atiku’s rapprochement move, Wike and his supporters listed series of demands, key of which is the resignation of the party chairman, Ayu and replacement with a southerner. None of the key demands of Wike has been met, this stonewalling on the part of Atiku aggravated the trouble of the party.
There are indications that the party has split into North and South caucuses, with Wike leading the South.
At the NEC meeting, the party chairman, Ayu, did not step down to allow the realignment of the national leadership of the party along its constitutionally prescribed zoning principle. Northern caucus with the exception of Benue governor, was against Ayu’s resignation.
However, Atiku and Wike about two months ago raised committees to harmonize their position and come out with a format for resolution to move the party forward. Sources within the party informed Business Hallmark that the issue has gone beyond Wike as the southerners suspect there is a northern agenda being implemented in the party.
The sources hinted that the appropriation of key leadership positions of the party, including the presidential candidate, the national chairman and the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) by the North and the reluctance to re-adjust the leadership structure are signs of a sinister agenda to exclude southern from leadership loop.
The replacement of former BOT chairman, Senator Walid Jubril, who resigned by Adolphus Wabara is not conciliatory enough to appease the Wike group who insists on the resignation of Ayu .
The party source said: “We have opened our eyes. What we didn’t know, we thought we were doing normal politics. Now, we’ve seen a sectional agenda. So, that agenda is not proper. A Fulani man, after another eight years of another Fulani man. How do we suddenly cut into this issue and have a sense of belonging?
“We’ve now seen the Islamic agenda which we didn’t think about, we’ve now seen it openly. We are simply being led to recognise the reality on ground. We were very innocent; we didn’t think about these things. We, suddenly now, have been made aware of them.
“So, in the light of them, we are now demanding certain guarantees going forward. As far as we are concerned, we’ve been trapped, we’ve been conned. We thought all these things Atiku was doing was the need to run. But no. There is an agenda to perpetuate a section of the country in power. Now that we have found out, all bets are off, we want to take time to recalibrate ourselves.
“There is nothing like party anymore. Our brothers are now playing North versus South. We understand them and we accept the reality.”
Last week, in a new report, The Economist Intelligence Unit said the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is likely to win 2023 presidential election, citing many factors including spat between Atiku and Wike as a major drawback for the later, who is viewed as coming closely behind Tinubu.
Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon a political scientist, blamed Atiku for the current crisis, saying the presidential candidate is digging his own failure as a result of his refusal to yield ground.
He also faulted the composition of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State last week said the party has failed to use its internal conflict resolution mechanism to address the grievances of members like Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, warning that the development portends danger for the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Moritiwon stated that: “The national campaign, as far as I am concerned, they are undermining the national chairman by appointing a governor to supervise the campaign. It is an aberration. When we get to any campaign venue, will the governor be the one to raise the hands of the candidate up?
“You set up a campaign council and you put the national chairman under the Director-General of the campaign council, who is like an administrative officer. Is that how they will behave when they get to the Villa?”
Governor Ortom, last week, at an expanded caucus/stakeholders meeting of the PDP in Makurdi, said he had offered suggestions on how the party would resolve the issues, warning that any move to ignore or relegate Governor Wike or anyone would not be in the interest of the party, particularly in an election year.
“Unfortunately the leadership of the party has failed to deploy its internal mechanism and conflict management skills in handling the crisis.
“There is injustice that has been meted to my friend Wike. This is a man who stood for the party and supported it and ensured that the party remained intact and united.
“The leadership of the party should do the needful to resolve the problem and not to shove people around as though they are not relevant. Everyone is relevant and one vote can make you fail election.
“So the leadership at the national level should do more. Politics is about interest, and we must always ask about the interest of our state and our people. If I don’t do that what do I tell my people in Benue?
“If you dismiss us and say that you do not need us, I believe that that will be dangerous. That is why I want the party to address the injustices so that as we move into the elections, we will work together devoid of crisis.”
As it is, the party is fishing in troubled waters even as campaign begins this week with a fragmented house.