In a move aimed at consolidating his foothold in states controlled by the five aggrieved governors, chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party have started wooing loyalists of Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Seyi Makinde (Oyo State), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State) and Samuel Ortom (Benue State).
The move, The PUNCH gathered, was meant to reduce the influence of the governors in determining the course of balloting in the general elections.
This is against the backdrop of the decision by the party to carry on with its campaigns, having failed to pacify the indignant governors.
The party officially inaugurated its campaign in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Monday, led by the Director-General of the Presidential Campaign Organisation, Aminu Tambuwal, and Chairman, Presidential Campaign Council, Udom Emmanuel, regardless of the boycott of the ceremony by the governors.
The PUNCH reports that the inauguration of the council was attended by eight PDP governors but boycotted by five others led by Wike.
Wike and his allies withdrew from the PDP campaign council a fortnight ago on the premise that it is unfair to the South geo-political zone for both its party’s presidential candidate and national chairman to come from the northern part of the country.
They insisted that the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, must resign to pave the way for a Southerner to replace him.
Efforts to reconcile the Wike-led group have proved abortive as the five governors rebuffed all overtures, insisting that there would be no deal until Ayu leaves office.
Not wanting to take further chances, it was gathered that the party had begun to recruit Wike’s allies in Rivers State while also poaching others in Benue and other states of concern.
A credible party official at the PDP national secretariat who does not want his name in print said the recent appointment of ex-Wike’s allies- Uche Secondus and Austin Opara into the PCC was not unconnected with plans to whittle down the governor’s influence in the politics of Rivers State.
While Atiku recently appointed Secondus, the immediate past PDP national chairman as his technical adviser, Opara, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives was named Director of Training, National Campaign Management Committee of the Presidential Campaign Council.
Another prominent politician from Rivers State, Senator Lee Maeba is a member of the PCC and a loyalist of Atiku.
“Such elements would be identified and brought to the party’s fold for the serious job of getting our candidate to win next year’s election,’’ the source said.
In a separate interview with The PUNCH, the Deputy National Youth Leader of the party, Timothy Osadolor, said the PDP would stop at nothing to bring on board men and women who share the rescue message of Atiku and the PDP.
He said, “Working with allies is part of the game of politics. This is already going on and anyone pro our course of liberating Nigerians will be welcome on board our ship, which has since set sail on its mission to rescue and rebuild Nigeria.’’
Ayu not leaving
He also added that Ayu remains on course to deliver victory to the party, saying, “No person who means well for this party and the flag bearer will entertain the idea of removing the chairman or tinkering with the executive as currently constituted. The chairman cannot and will not be sacrificed to massage anyone’s ego, not to talk of a very competent and result-achieving one like Ayu.”
Commenting on the recalcitrance of the Wike-led group despite the moves to pacify them, Osadolor said as important as the governors are to the party, Nigeria remains a bigger constituency and would remain so till the end of time.
“The issues bothering Nigerians are bigger than five governors or 100 governors. The issues are about the security of lives, food on the table, and shelter over their heads. This is what Nigerians are bothered about and giving answers to these is what Atiku Abubakar’s aspiration and by the grace of God, his presidency will be about.’’
On the governors’ ability to sway votes one way or the other, the deputy youth leader noted that elections and their processes have changed.
He said, “The truth of the matter is that elections are evolving. The processes of elections are evolving too. The five governors, no doubt, are performing in their different states. They have not said that they are leaving the party or that they would work against the party. With them, the task would be much easier and without them, the job is doable but would be more difficult. At the end of the day, no person or group of persons is indispensable.
“The party is putting in a lot of effort to address this crisis. We must not forget that both the DG and the chairman of the PCC participated in the primaries but they have moved on. It is in the interest of the governors to return to the campaign council and work for the party. If they don’t, the presidential candidate will visit their states and talk directly with the electorate. No doubt, a good number of them will take the message and vote for our candidate.”
An aide to Ortom also confided in The PUNCH that a similar development is playing out in Benue State as the PCC ‘’is luring PDP members not very close to the governor. It is happening but not rapidly,” he stressed.
“Atiku’s camp is in deep talks with Shima Ayati, the Special Adviser to Governor Ortom on Inter-Governmental Affairs and Liaison Services who was a one-time Special Assistant to Atiku. Atiku is also talking with Terzunhwe Atser, the former boss of Benue Inland Revenue Service,” he added.
Meanwhile, former PDP governors, Senators and leaders across the states of the federation appeared to have pitched their tent with Atiku and the party ahead of the polls.
On Monday, erstwhile governors, including Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and a host of others gathered at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, in solidarity with the party and its presidential candidate.
Similarly, other bigwigs including Senator Ben Obi, Mohammed Makarfi, and Ibrahim Tsauri, among others, are all rooting for Atiku.
For Mustapha Shehu, a PDP chieftain, Borno State chapter, the feud between Wike and Atiku would be resolved amicably in no distant time.
While the crisis lingers, a member of the PDP’s National Executive Committee, Sule Lamido, has advised the five governors to remember that their tenure would be over at the appointed time.
“Once upon a time, we had governors who are former governors now and there are governors now after them. Life never stops. Some prophets passed on and life continued. Only God is permanent and continuous,” he stated.
Oyo chieftain confident
Meanwhile, a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Hazeem Gbolarumi, has advised the five aggrieved PDP governors to sheathe their swords and support the party’s presidential candidate to win the coming election.
Gbolarumi, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Ibadan, said Atiku would, however, win even if the five governors refused to support him.
The Oyo State-based PDP chieftain said the large majority of Nigerian voters and even those below the voting age were already clamouring for Atiku to take over the reins of the country after the 2023 elections.
Gbolarumi said, “Let me make it clear to you Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will win this election and my advice to Governor Nyesom Wike and his colleagues is to join Atiku so that they will be part of the success story.
“I know that they can’t leave the PDP because somebody like Wike has never defected from the party and he has laboured so much for the PDP. I will advise him to join Atiku. Even others cannot also leave the party. Those who are not contesting elections among these governors have candidates they are supporting on the platform of the PDP.
“The best thing for them to do is to join the PDP to win this election. However, God has destined Atiku to win the presidency this time. But if they refuse to join him, Atiku will win without them.
“Atiku will defeat all the candidates and he will win in at least 24 states and score the highest number of votes. He will win in Rivers, Oyo, Benue and others. This is a project backed by God and Nigerians.
“People are tired of APC misrule and they are working for Atiku and that is what will happen. Go and write it down.”
Chieftain backs Atiku
In Abia State, party stakeholders say the party has the right to map out strategies to win states where governors are unwilling to work for its victory in the presidential poll.
A former National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Raymond Nnaji, says he backs the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku to circumvent the five recalcitrant governors who are bent on destroying the party and work with other party stakeholders in those states.
Nnaji, an Enugu State-based chieftain of the party, spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone last night, maintained that it was the same Wike’s camp that frustrated Mr Peter Obi (LP presidential candidate) out of the party.
Meanwhile, a member of the National Working Committee who is also a Wike’s loyalist has accused former PDP governors of frustrating moves to broker peace in the party
The chieftain, who declined to be named, said the ex-governors included those Wike had referred to as ‘’hyenas” and rent seekers when he met with the PDP stakeholders from Cross River state on Wednesday.
“The people know themselves. I don’t need to be talking about those who are agents of destabilization. They are talking on television. Some of them are former governors; they are the lions, hyenas and tigers,” he said.
On his part, Special Assistant to Wike, Kelvin Ebiri said though the governor blamed ‘hyenas’ for the lingering crisis in the party, “he did not mention names.”
BoT panel report
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, has said the PDP Board of Trustees’ Reconciliation Panel has yet to submit its report, saying, “The committee will not submit its report in secret; there is no such report before the NWC.”
Another party source said the committee would likely continue the reconciliation process given that the aggrieved governors “are still part of the PDP larger family.”
Calls by this medium to Adolphus Wabara and Shaibu Oyedokun were not answered even as they did not respond to short message services sent to them.
Meanwhile, a member of the ad-hoc reconciliation committee said there would be need for more time to complete the process they started about three weeks ago.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he noted that the reconciliation could only be said to have been completed if the two parties agreed to work together.
“We have made some progress but we are not yet exactly where we want to be. We have made some progress but we are not yet exactly where we want to be. We’ll keep talking with both parties but we may need more time because time changes everything,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wike says his effort to achieve amicable resolution of the crisis rocking the party has been frustrated by “rent seeker” in the party.
He also said nobody could convince him to change his stance that the PDP national chairman should step down for candidate from the Southern part of the country.
Wike stated this when he hosted Cross River State PDP governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives, House of Assembly candidates and the party’s LG chairmen, at his private residence in Rumueprikom on Wednesday night.
This was contained in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media to the Governor, Kelvin Ebiri, and made available to journalists on Thursday.
The governor, during the meeting which was attended by the party’s South-South National Vice Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, linked the seeming intractable crisis in the party to the activities of some people he described as “hyenas and rent seekers.”
The statement read, “We have finished presidential primaries, we have a presidential candidate. Is Wike saying remove presidential candidate?
“Is Wike saying remove vice presidential candidate? So, what are you begging me for? All I am saying, and I will continue to say is that you have taken president, give us (national) chairman.
“Nobody wants to speak the truth. If I am saying remove the presidential candidate, if I am saying remove the vice presidential candidate, then you will say why is he doing this.”
According to him, the refusal to cede the national chairman position to the South will be a recipe for crisis.
“He (national chairman) said, if the presidential candidate comes from the north, he will resign, which means he has had this in mind. Now, the thing has come to reality, now resign, no. And people are
Wike stated “This is the period that the power game is being played. If you don’t have it now, forget it. If anybody tells you, to let (Iyorchia) Ayu resign after the election is conducted, then you are a foolish person.
“This is the time decision is being made. This is the time the presidential candidate, national chairman and the leader of the campaign will sit, when the election is won in February before the president is sworn in, decisions would have been made.”