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PDP confronts the ghost of 2023 elections

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PDP confronts the ghost of 2023 elections

– It could be an obituary for the once ruling party

Ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s, make or mar National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting scheduled for April 17 and 18, party stakeholders and power blocs have upped their game and plan for control of the party structure.

The contending power blocs are binary, the supporters of Nyesom Wike, former Rivers State governor, and now Minister of Federal Capital Territory, and that of former vice president Atiku Abubakar are reportedly strategising along with their principal to control the party by mobilizing for the coming National Executive Committee meeting.

The two power blocs are coming to the meeting with grudges – Wike for being denied the vice presidential slot and attempt to upstage him in the stage, while the Atiku camp would not easily forget the role of the four recalcitrant governors, who cost the party victory.

Imminent showdown

Wike’s camp may have won the first move as the camp has got a court injunction barring Prince Uche Secondus, a former national chairman of the party and an Atiku ally from attending the NEC or any other PDP meeting, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

Competent sources familiar with the matter told this medium that the Atiku camp as at the time of this report was making frantic counter move to vacate the order. Also not clear was whether the party, which was joined in the suit had been duly served .

Extensive investigations by Business Hallmark showed that many governors, especially, first time governors, are not happy with the way their predecessors attempted to either retain or wrestle control of the party structure from them in their various states.
A top member of the party’s NEC, who craved anonymity, told Business Hallmark that in order not to preempt the current governors under the party’s ticket, have planned to wrestle control from ex governors, adding that so many issues, which had been left to linger since the 2023 election would be thrashed out.

“I can tell you that at the NEC meeting we are going to look critically at a lot of issues, the latest of which is the issue of the recent constitution of caretaker committees by the National Working Committee.

“We have received a lot of complaints from quite many of our governors, who were not consulted before the names from their states were published.

“Rivers State governor, Siminalayi Fubura’s case is already in the public space. There are several others, who have listened to wise counsel and decided to wait for the NEC meeting to state their claim.

“You see, the challenge in some states is this, just like in Rivers, there are some states, where first term governors relied on the structures put in place by their predecessors to win. Now, they want structures of their own, ahead of 2027, this is a potential source of conflict.

“There are no such issues in Oyo, Bauchi and Zamfara, where the governors are comfortably in charge. Governors Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) are second term governors, while their Zamfara State counterpart, Dauda Lawal, although a first termer is in firm control.”
“We heard speculations that some persons from the South East are trying to challenge our retention of Sen. Sam Anyanwu as national secretary, we are considering all these.

“Although the influence of the Wike-led Group of Five (G-5) governors has waned considerably, following their electoral defeat in 2023, Wike still enjoys considerable influence among party loyalists beyond Rivers State.

Sources told Business Hallmark that the former Rivers State governor still remains powerful, it’s widely believed that he played an important role in the elections of some of the party’s governors and members of the National Assembly, especially, in the South South and South East and parts of the North.
The sources hinted that Wike still enjoys large following and the support of stakeholders, who feel the party must look beyond the presidential ambition of Atiku Abubakar, to rebuild and prepare for the future.

Those in this mode of thinking are already feverishly pushing for the retention of Amb. Illiya Umar Damagum as Acting National Chairman in order to avoid the legal land mines capable of throwing the party into greater turmoil, according to our sources.

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Yet, this medium gathered that those party stalwarts and stakeholders, who have a load of sympathy for Atiku’s cause are saying since Iyiorchia Ayu’s tenure was truncated, “It would serve the party’s greater interest to get a replacement from his zone or better still his state in line with the party’s established tradition.

Many in this category are saying a lot of harm will be done to party discipline if Wike is allowed to continue to have his way all the time, making him feel like an emperor.
A source, who shared sympathy for former vice president, believe Wike should be confronted and should not be allowed to have his way saying, “Wike’s role in our defeat in 2023 is well documented. Allowing Damagum continue as acting chairman will not be in the party’s interest.

“The reason is simple, there is no way Damagum can in good conscience make Wike and his colleagues pay for their disloyalty to this party.

“We need to revisit 2023, identify culprits, apportion blame and punish those found guilty because no group should be bigger than the party.

Several names are being mentioned as possible replacements for Ayu from the zone. They include former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam; Dr. Emmanuel Agbo also from Benue and a former minister, Humphrey Aba, from Kogi State.

A source said that ‘Wike is the greatest problem of the party, and a lot tension and unease we have now is as a result of the troubling realization that Wike will remain in the PDP and work for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2027 presidential election, while Atiku will contest for the PDP’s presidential ticket.

The North-central is expected to present its anointed candidate for the position of the party’s National Chairman to NEC on April 18.
The interesting development, however, is that the two contenders, who are also from Benue State, where Ayu hails from, have refused to publicly align with Atiku or Wike’s camp for strategic reasons as such move may backfire and cost any of them the position.

This newspaper was able to establish that concerned stakeholders are seriously worried that with Wike’s body language, which has moved in the direction of working for the APC in the 2027, if he is allowed to have his way he will weaken the party to pave the way for the victory of the APC.

Wike had said severally that he would not contest against President Bola Tinubu in 2027, which implied that he would work for the re-election of the president against his party’s presidential candidate as he did in the 2023 general election. The thinking in informed circles is that Wike’s strategy is to seize the PDP’s structure and further weaken the party to ensure an easy ride for the APC presidential candidate in 2027.

“Wike claims to be in PDP; he has refused to resign officially. But he is working for APC administration. If he is handed over the party’s structure, he will weaken it for the APC to retain power in 2027, the source declared.

“It is for this reason that there is palpable tension in the party over who will have the upper hand in the battle to control the soul of the party by both camps”.

It was reliably gathered that NWC led by the acting National Chairman of the party, Amb. Iliya Damagun, had been in dilemma earlier to summon the NEC meeting due to the continued game of intrigues between Atiku and Wike’s camps. The rivalry between Wike and Atiku has its genesis in the 2023 election, when Atiku refused to pick Wike as presidential running mate of the party.

Atiku’s refusal to pick Wike as the vice-presidential candidate after defeating him in the presidential primary drove a wedge into their relationship and created cracks in the PDP. Wike consequently worked against the election of the former vice president by throwing his support behind the then-candidate of the APC, Tinubu.

Wike’s presence in the party is intimidating as he still retains the loyalty of key members of the NEC and the NWC, who are likely to do his bidding.

The National Secretary of the party, Senator Sam Anyanwu; the party’s National Vice Chairman (South), Dan Orbih; the Deputy National Chairman, South, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, among others, are perceived as Wike loyalists. The governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who is also a member of the party’s NEC, is also a close ally of the FCT minister.

It was learnt that the presence of Wike’s supporters in the strategic decision-making organs of the PDP was one of the reasons the NWC has been unable to act on his alleged anti-party activities, which the NEC is likely going to consider.

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There were indications that pressure was mounting on the NWC not to call the NEC meeting earlier because of the fear that it could play into the hands of Wike. Atiku, who has been out of the country, has now returned ostensibly to prepare for the showdown ahead of the NEC meeting.

 

One of the issues being raised by Atiku’s camp against the FCT minister was his alleged anti-party activities.

Wike has severally claimed that he accepted the ministerial position in the APC government with the knowledge of the members of the NWC of the PDP. The Atiku’s camp, it was learnt, may call for the suspension of Wike and members of his G-5 governors for alleged anti-party activities.
But another group is opposed to the suspension of the FCT minister and his allies on the grounds that any disciplinary action will further polarise and weaken the PDP. However, it is not certain if Wike will be attending the NEC meeting.

The FCT minister’s loyalist, Tony Okocha is the acting Chairman of the Rivers State APC and the minister also wants to control the caretaker committee of the PDP in the state.
Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, told Business Hallmark that “Wike is a formidable politician but a lot of people underestimate his strength because of his cantankerous way, the truth is that he is an astute politician and it will be difficult to displace him. Look at how he was able to wrestle the party control from Atiku, a former vice president with tremendous political experience. You know he was the biggest financier of the party in the past five years so that gave him a tremendous mileage.”

This view is also shared by Dr. Ajobadele Oworu, a sociologist, who said “Currently, Wike and Tinubu are in bed, and I can tell you that the NEC meeting will be divided, and the strategy is to keep PDP divided for APC to return to power. As at today in spite of lackluster performance of the party there’s no credible opposition, that is the tragedy of our political system. The Senegalese model is still far off

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