The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party appears to have taken a different shape as disagreement between two camps continues to fester ahead of the general elections, write DIRISU YAKUBU and EL-AMEEN IBRAHIM
The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party is showing no sign of abating with less than four months to the 2023 general elections. With the crisis taking new turns every week, hope of possible resolution appears far in the horizon. Currently, neither the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu on the one hand nor the five aggrieved governors led by Nyesom Wike on the other, have demonstrated sufficient eagerness to let go of their egos in the interest of the party.
For a party that once flirted with the possibility of presiding over the nation’s affairs for 60 unbroken years, the seemingly inability to forge a common front with a handful of months away to the polls, might jeopardise its chances of returning to the centre, thereby, postponing its bid to “rescue and rebuild” Nigeria.
Ayu has always claimed that the party is not in a crisis but marred by disputes and differences of political interest among members where discussions, and reconciliation, are ongoing. This does not remove the fact that the former Senate President started it all when barely a few weeks to the presidential convention of the party, he promised to let go of his plum office should a northerner emerge as candidate of the party.
Aware of the fault lines that have kept the country perpetually on her knees for decades, framers of the PDP constitution came up with the notion of equitable distribution of party positions and elective offices between the North and South.
Thus, when the party failed to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South as widely expected, Ayu, a northerner was taken to task of what to expect of him in the event of a northerner’s emergence as the party’s standard bearer.
Here was his response, “I’m a very democratic person and I will do everything to promote the interest and image of my party. If the PDP says I should step down after a presidential candidate emerges and happens to be from the North, I will be very glad to do so because what we want is to take over the government and run the government in the interest of Nigerians. So, I will sacrifice anything to ensure that my party wins.”
The man has since shifted his position though, arguing recently that only God can determine his fate as chairman of Nigeria’s largest opposition party.
Disturbed by the unkept promise, Nyesom Wike, Seyi Makinde, Samuel Ortom, Okezie Ikpeazu and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Governors of Rivers, Oyo, Benue, Abia and Enugu states respectively have since formed a potent alliance against the Atiku Abubakar/Ifeanyi Okowa ticket, threatening to swing votes against the party unless Ayu honours his words.
The governor had in his recent chats with the media accused the national chairman of the party of pocketing N1bn donated to the party by a Lagos businessman, and N100m by a governor.
The national chairman, while breaking his silence on all the allegations raised by the governor in one of the party’s forums, explained that he had never collected any money from anybody, adding that the N100m that was donated to the party by a former member was used judiciously for the rehabilitation of the PDP institute which was almost ready for inauguration. Wike also accused the national chairman of manipulating processes during the convention to favour a certain aspirant, among other allegations.
Last week, Ayu at a public function in his Gboko country home, reminded Ortom, Ikpeazu, Makinde and Ugwuanyi of the enormous powers he wields, saying he could stop them from realising their political ambitions in 2023; a development that elicited sharp reaction from Wike who dared Ayu to stop anyone if truly he had what it would take to do so.
Reiterating his call on the National Chairman to quit, Wike last week said the PDP would sweep the polls at all levels in Rivers State, except the presidency, noting that the state chapter of the party had yet to decide who among the candidates to support.
For Governor Ortom, however, Ayu’s outburst was nothing but a lame threat, lacking in substance and with zero prospect of playing out. In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, Ortom insisted that his victory at parliamentary primaries was a people’s given mandate which neither Ayu nor his loyalists could overturn.
Speaking against the backdrop of the recent outbursts by Wike and his camp, the immediate past National Secretary of the PDP, Ibrahim Tsauri, advanced reasons the party was finding it difficult, if not impossible to sanction the “erring” governors.
Describing the PDP as a unique political organisation, Tsauri urged the aggrieved governors to take a trip down historical lane to understand the philosophy shared by the founders of the party. This is even as he added that the powers bestowed on the governors by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) are such that disciplinary measures are not what the party should be thinking about in the interim.
He said, “The PDP was formed as an honest political organisation. The founding members are people of wisdom, proven integrity who know what goes and what comes. Most of these people have gone but they left their footprints in the sands of political history.
“The party does not wield the stick on members unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Certainly, the party cannot be thinking of punitive measures against its governors now. If you remember, the aspirants who contested the ticket with Atiku recently said they were going to meet with Governor Wike to find a way to appeal to him to sheathe his sword and embrace the party to help us win the election. This is the path we shall continuously explore.
“These governors must realise that it is better for their stark enemies to win elections on the platform of their parties than for their best friends to win in other parties. What Wike and his group are doing is because of the powers they have. The Constitution of Nigeria has given sitting governors a lot of powers.
“In fact, they are dangerously powerful. So, whatever they say, we can’t sanction them unless we get to the point where nothing else can be done. We are barely four months away from the elections but we shall continue to talk with them. They are very powerful but we cannot allow them to use that power against the PDP.”
That said, Tsauri told Wike and his loyalists not to forget that the PDP thrusted them into national reckoning at a time millions of Nigerians had no idea who they were.
“They should be looking at the morality of what they are doing. They should not bite the finger that fed them. We are not asking them to sheathe their sword by force. We are asking them to do so in the interest of the party. If they feel that they want to break the PDP to pieces, they will be breaking themselves to pieces.
“We don’t need to tell them that what they are doing is wrong; they know. Anyone who has promised to work with a candidate who is not of the PDP is doing anti-party activities,” he warned.
Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, noted that a lot must have changed in the mind of the governor given the series of interventions key stakeholders of the party are doing to bring the crisis to an end.
“Twenty-four hours is a long time in politics and I can tell you that if you ask Governor Ortom and others today, they may likely not hold the views you are talking about now. Ours is a democratic party and a critical component of democracy is the freedom to hold dissenting views. That is what has happened and because we are practising democracy, we are in order.
“We are doing everything to make sure the crisis is over but we won’t go to the pages of newspapers to discuss these issues. We assure Nigerians that our governors are with us and will be part of the process to rescue our nation from the hands of the incompetent All Progressives Congress,” he said.
Atiku’s camp reacts
Spokesman for the Atiku-Okowa Presidential Campaign Council, Daniel Bwala, in a chat with Sunday APROKOVIBE, stated, “My answer will be very simple; Wike is desperately seeking attention and that attention he is seeking we don’t have time for.
“Every day of inaugurating projects, he will be dishing out diatribes, nobody bordered, nobody cared. He finished inaugurating both completed and uncompleted projects, then jumped from there to travel to London, France and nobody bordered and cared.
“After he got tired of travelling, he has now embarked on a frenzied journey of going to endorse where APC is pushing. The question to ask is whether he is more relevant to the Lagos people and the candidate, Jandor.
“He is not relevant, he just needs attention. He is not a candidate in our campaign, he is not the DG, and he is not a chairman. So, there are no activities. Ordinarily, he will be busy in his state. But he is an elder statesman. We will continue to engage with him but we don’t want you people to be worried. Have we said we will do something and we are unable to do it because Wike stopped us? Buhari won elections twice without winning Rivers.”
Wike’s camp reacts
Speaking on the development, Rivers State PDP Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, said, “If we say Ayu should resign, there is something wrong and nobody is forcing Ayu (to resign). He said himself that he would resign if somebody from the North emerged and then the Rivers State Governor said now that it had happened, Ayu should resign. It has become an issue and then if the whole party wants to sacrifice five governors because of one chairman, fine, it is ok.
“I believe our presidential candidate has the yam and the knife. There cannot be an end to reconciliation, but you know there are basic issues to be handled. The basic thing is that Ayu should resign, that is all that we’ve said.
A chieftain of the Kano State PDP, its chairman Alhaji Shehu Sagagi, in his comments on the ruckus in the party, faulted Ayu’s style of leadership, saying he (Ayu) had failed in all ramifications.
“Yes! For the first time, I have seen the national chairman breaching the constitution why? At the NEC meeting, it was resolved that all the state Houses of Assembly nomination forms are going to be sold at the state chapters, Ayu unilaterally changed that and made it compulsory for all Houses of Assembly contestants to come to the National Secretariat while it is an NEC decision.
“It took him six months to agree to meet with the state chairmen even though they are his wingers, they are his attackers, and they are his defenders. I don’t know whether he truly wants the PDP to win the election but his antecedents do not show that.”
Sagagi advised the party to reconcile because they wanted the PDP to win the 2023 general elections, even as he said everybody should feel part of an all-inclusive arrangement.
However, contrary to the arguments of some pundits that Atiku faces a gloomy prospect of an uncertain future without the support of the five governors, Timothy Osadolor, Deputy National Youth Leader of the PDP wants the Ayu-led National Working Committee to put its leg on the throttle, to enable the party’s vehicle to cruise on, rather than sparing precious time to dwell on what Wike and his camp are capable of doing.
According to him, Wike may realise belatedly that he is drilling a dry hole as the quartet of Makinde, Ortom, Ikpeazu and Ugwuanyi are all on the ballot in 2023 on the platform of the PDP.
“Apart from Wike, the other governors are on the ballot. Makinde wants a second term; others want to come to the Senate on the PDP platform. The party needs them just as they need the party. The best option is for them to join hands with the party to win the elections. Threats and intimidation tactics are old-fashioned. They don’t work anymore.
“The party has done its best. The BoT committee visited each of the governors to hear them out. In its wisdom, they submitted a report to the party but Wike rejected it on behalf of his camp. I think the right thing for the party to do now is to focus its energy on the campaigns. It is God that gives power.
“In this campaign council are other governors including Aminu Tambuwal, Udom Emmanuel and Bala Mohammed, who were in the race for the presidential ticket. Today, they are all working for the party. That is the spirit we should all imbibe,” he added.
As the party continues its peace moves, hopeful of an amicable resolution of the crisis; word on the street is that Wike and his group have resolved to work for the party across other elective offices while a decision will be made on which presidential candidate to support should Ayu remain in office till February next year. There is, however, no sign in sight that the crisis will be resolved going by the actions of the two camps. While the PDP and Atiku have continued with their campaigns not minding the absence of the five aggrieved governor, they (governors) appears unmoved by the development.