PDP rejects presidential tribunal verdict, says decision against facts


This year, 2023, makes it eight years since the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lost power, after 16 years at the helm, and with the result of the February 25 election not going its way, barring court intervention, the party would have to wait for much longer. Yet, with crisis deepening within its ranks, the immediate concern many share is whether the party will survive for much longer to be able to challenge for power going forward. 

“The party was badly managed,” said Chief Bode George, a chieftain of the party. “The best solution to save this sinking ship is to do a postmortem analysis and correct the mistakes made.”

George was part the Integrity Group, a faction that broke away from the party’s mainstream in the aftermath of its presidential primary that produced Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, as candidate.

Led by Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, and with his colleagues, who made up the G-5 governors, such as Seyi Makinde, of Oyo State; Okezie Ikpeazu, of Abia State; Samuel Ortom, of Benue State, and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, as the poster boys, the group rebelled against the party ahead of the presidential election, and became partly  instrumental to its defeat in the hands of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and its candidate, Bola Tinubu, who was declared winner of the continuous presidential poll.

But what may have proved to be the PDP’s ultimate albatross is Mr. Peter Obi, former Anambra State governor, who was crowded out ahead of the presidential primary, which prompted him to switch to the Labour Party, under which platform he ran for president, galvanising the youth population to eventually place third with 6,101,533 votes, representing 25.4 percent of total valid votes, according to results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Obi, like Atiku who came second with 6,984,520 votes, or 29 percent of total valid votes, is in court challenging the declaration of Tinubu, who had 8,794,726 votes, or 36.6 percent, as president-elect.

The failure of INEC to upload results of the presidential election from polling units as it repeatedly reassured in the lead up to the polls, proved to be a major sticking point. The results, when eventually uploaded, in some instances, were mutilated and differed with original results from polling units. This, combined with reported cases of voter suppression and violence constituted a dent on the integrity of the elections, which had held much promise, on account of anticipated deployment of technology.

But the outcome of the election was in many ways about the demystifying of the PDP, with Obi and his Labour Party, practically taking over its traditional base in the Southeast, South South and the North Central.

Labour Party is on the ascendancy, courtesy of Obi, its presidential, and while the PDP, managed to win nine states in the more recently held governorship elections, six less than APC’s 15, to maintain its status as the main opposition party,  the party continues to see its ranks deplete, and with seemingly intractable internal crisis, many assert that it is a party very much on the brink.

“I think the best for the PDP is to totally re-brand. It should change its name to start with, and more importantly, begin to market itself as reformed platform ready to do things differently,” said Chidi Anthony, an Abuja based political analyst and legal practitioner.

“Unfortunately, again, the party didn’t help itself with the manner in which its presidential primary was conducted. It was still the old money politics, which didn’t do its image any good.”

Wike and his G-5 colleagues opted to work against the party at the presidential election, and the rest is history. The Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC) on March 23, suspended the likes of Fayose and Anyim, as well as Dennis Ityavyar from Benue State and Aslam Aliyu from Zamfara State, while referring Ortom to its disciplinary committee, for alleged anti-party activities.

But more betrayals, it would appear, happened during the governorship election. Ayu, it is alleged, worked against the party’s governorship candidate in Benue in favour of the APC candidate and the eventual winner, Fr. Hycenth Alia, apparently to spite Ortom. Atiku, has also been accused of working against the party’s governorship candidate in Nasarawa in favour of the incumbent governor and candidate of the APC, Abdullahi Sule, his long time protegee, who won the reelection under controversial circumstances.

However, Ortom and his group fought back, and got Ayu suspended from the party at the ward level. On Sunday, the executive members of Igyorov ward, Gboko LGA of Benue state, passed a vote of no confidence on the national chairman over alleged anti-party activities.

The party executives claimed that Ayu worked against the success of the PDP in his ward and did not vote in the March 18 governorship and the house of assembly election.

On March 27, a high court in Benue state granted an interim order restraining Ayu from parading himself as the national chairman of the PDP. And on Tuesday, 24 hours after the court order, the party, now with the governors having the upper hand, forced Ayu to step down from his role as national chairman.

The former senate president has since been replaced with the Deputy National Chairman (North), Ambassador Illya Damagum, who will act as the party’s national chairman until the final determination of the suit. But what is almost certain is that Ayu is out, as the battle for the soul of the party continues.

Following Ayu’s ouster, the party reversed the suspension of Fayose, Anyim, among others, as it seeks to rebuild. But with the APC having won the presidential election, and positioning for roles taking centre stage, it could be an effort in futility.

Fayose, who openly backed Tinubu, and has since been defending his victory, on Friday, gave an indication that he wasn’t keen on returning to the party’s fold, having officially tendered his resignation.

In a letter on Friday, the former Ekiti governor demanded an apology from the party over his suspension, describing it as “libellous and defamatory” with the aim to soil his personality.
Fayose, through his lawyer, Akinwale Kol-Taiwo, addressed the letter dated March 31 to the party’s acting national chairman, Iliya Damagum, noting that he was suspended for no reason.

Part of the letter read, “We are further informed by our client that by the letter dated 24th March 2023, the reversal of our client’s suspension from Peoples Democratic Party, which was done without recourse to laid down procedure/due process of law as contained in the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (as amended in 2017) was requested.

The aftermath of the party’s presidential primary proved to be a turning point. The emergence of Atiku as candidate, was at the expense of Wike, the Rivers State governor, who practically funded and held the party together after it lost power in 2015, and abandoned by much of its members from the north, including the former vice president, all of whom, having insisted on power shift to the north, had defected to the APC and  eventually backed the President Muhammadu Buhari, who defeated then incumbent PDP president, Goodluck Jonathan.

Out of power, and with nearly all of its heavyweights in the north in APC, Wike stepped up to the plate and ensured that the party survived what was its most trying time, before the likes of Atiku; Bukola Saraki, former Kwara State governor and ex-senate president; Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State governor, among others, eventually returned to the party in preparation for the 2019 presidential election.

The primary of 2018, ahead of 2019, was an entirely northern affair, as southern members of the party stayed away from the contest in the understanding that it was the turn of the north to have power. Wike backed Tambuwal, but eventually Atiku emerged as candidate, but ultimately lost to Buhari, who was seeking his second term in office.
However, 2022 primary presented a different scenario.

With Buhari completing his eight years, power was naturally expected to shift back to the South, which is also in line with the PDP constitution, and Wike, who felt he had earned the flag on account of his contribution to the party, rejected the idea of zoning the ticket specifically to the Southeast, being from the South South; and Atiku also interested in running for president again, remained adamant that the only zoning he would accept was zoning to the Southeast.

In the end, the contest was thrown open, and both Wike and Atiku inevitably emerged as front runners. The Rivers governor, with financial war chest, built a support base that among many of his fellow governors in the party, mostly from the south, but also including Ortom of Benue in the North Central.

However, despite his best efforts, Atiku held sway during the primary on March 28, 2022, helped in no small measure by Tambuwal, who stood down for him at the 11th hour, to complete what turned out to be in some ways, a northern coup against Wike, backed allegedly by some Southernners like of Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta and eventual vice presidential candidate; Duoye Diri, governor of Bayelsa, among others. The former vice president got 371 votes to Wike’s 237 votes.

Battered and broken, Wike dusted himself up and waited to be nominated as Atiku’s running mate. But that was not to be as Atiku opted for Okowa, and Wike decided to bring the roof down.
Backed by his clique in the G-5, the Rivers State governor demanded the resignation of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu as the party’s chairman, as a condition for truce. Ayu had incurred Wike’s anger by openly celebrating Atiku’s victory at the primary. Ayu was captured hailing Tambuwal as “hero of the convention,” for stepping down to Atiku.

As chairman, Ayu was expected to be neutral, but in the event, betrayed his bias. The Wike group insisted on his resignation as the only condition for truce, and the likes of Chief George, Ayo Fayose, former Ekiti State governor, among others, who wanted the position to come to the Southwest geopolitical zone, joined forces with the anti Atiku camp. The PDP, thus became a divided house going into the election, and ultimately came up short.

“The aforesaid libellous press release was designed to smear and tarnish the good reputation of our client in the eyes of right-thinking members of the society, as well as to subject our client to odium, ridicule, and public opprobrium in presence of his political associates and the general public,” Kol-Taiwo added.

Wike on the other hand, who has been the party’s key financier for the past eight years, will be leaving office as governor in May, and with a possible role in the APC government in the offing. A lot will then depend on whether his anointed successor, Simi Fubara, would remain in the party and help to fund it.
With these uncertainties going into the next political dispensation, and the party’s traditional base depleted by the Labour Party, the PDP could be facing its toughest survival test yet.

“This is a journey that is going to lead into complete abyss,” said George, who appealed to all parties to give peace a chance. “The party is badly managed, but we’re still in court. Let’s take things easy. We might still win in court,” he said on Arise TV on Thursday.

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