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Can PDP afford another leadership crisis?

By Mike Odiakose

Following the selection of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state as
running mate by the Peoples Democratic Party, presidential candidate,
Atiku Abubakar, fresh leadership crisis is again brewing in the party
over the choice of Okowa from list of three submitted to Atiku by a
committee to make his choice. The other two on the list are Governors
Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Udom
Emmanuel.

Wike and some governors in his support like Governor Samuel Ortom of
Benue State had taken for granted that Atiku will pick Governor Wike
who came second during the national convention. Governor Udom also
contested for the PDP presidential ticket and lost.

The choice of Governor Okowa has sent Governor Wike back to the
trenches again, few months after he engineered the removal of the
immediate past National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus.

For almost two years the opposition PDP was embroiled in leadership
crisis during the tenure of Prince Secondus as the party was inching
towards it national convention to pick it presidential candidate.

Governor Wike, who was also instrumental in the emergence of Prince
Secondus, was the one that led the battle to sack him. The reason is
simple, if not out rightly selfish. The Rivers Governor wants to
contest for PDP presidential ticket and PDP members will not support
the party’s National Chairman and presidential candidate coming from
same state. For this reason, Prince Secondus must go at all cost to
clear the way for the Rivers state governor. Now after losing the
opportunity to run with Atiku in 2023, Governor Wike is on the match
again to remove Dr Iyorcha Ayu.

However, political observers are the view that the PDP should thread
with caution over plot to sack Senator Ayu before 2023 election as
this runs contrary to consensus reached last year by the PDP Governors
and leaders when Ayu was announced as the new national chairman of the
party. The caucuses of the party in the three geopolitical zones in
the North had on Wednesday, October 13, last year produced three zonal
consensus candidates – Ayu (North Central), Ibrahim Shema (North West)
and Suleiman Nazif (North East).

But at an enlarged meeting of the Northern caucus held three days
later at the Bauchi Lodge in Abuja, Ayu was picked as the consensus
candidate of the region. Announcing the emergence of Ayu, Governor
Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State said the stakeholders were
united on the consensus candidate to win the 2023 general elections.

“There is no vanquished, there is no victor in this meeting. We all
came out united,” he said.

In his remarks, Ayu assured stakeholders that he would run a purposeful party.
He called on the party leaders to join him to reposition the PDP with
a view to ensuring that it bounces back stronger and takes over the
Presidential Villa in 2023.

He said that under his leadership, no one could use money to buy his
conscience and no single man would own PDP.

It is believed that Ayu would step aside in 2023 if a Northerner
emerges as PDP presidential candidate and wins the election.

However, indications that Wike will clash with Senator Ayu emerged
when the Rivers State governor paid a visit to members of the National
Working Committee, NWC, to formally inform them that he will be
participating in the race for PDP presidential ticket.

He reminded the party’s National Working Committee of his support for
some of its members during the last national convention.

It’s time for payback and one good turn deserves another, he told NWC
as he explained how he is the only one that can take back power from
the ruling party, APC.

Wike said: “So, it is important I take this opportunity and let you
know that I am prepared. Psychological, mentally and in all aspects am
very much prepared. So, let us not waste time. Go and tell our people
that you have seen the right person and the right person is Wike.

“So, it is important you do the campaign for me, that was how I did it
for you too. When I was fighting the former NWC, some of you were
supporting them. Now all of you are here.

“One good turn deserves another. So you people should also payback.
Because you didn’t go to campaign, but now am coming to campaign. So
payback.

“But please do us the favor to conduct a free and fair election, that
will be an advantage for us to win in 2023.”

The Rivers governor flaunted his credentials as a true party man who
lived through its trials and tribulations to save it why some people
abandoned the main opposition party.

He added: “I am a full committed member of this party. I entered this
party in 1998 when it was formed. This party has given me everything
in life and I have never abandoned this party because of one grievance
or the other.

“When it was looking like PDP would go down, I was one of those who
stood firm and made sure that PDP did not go down. In essence, whether
I get the ticket or not, I have no other place to run to other than
the PDP because it is not if I don’t get the ticket, then I will move
to another party. No! You fight in the house, you settle yourself.”

Wike stated that the PDP needs people like him who can withstand the
Federal Government and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC),
saying: “PDP requires people like us to face APC. Everybody in this
country knows me because of my views on national issues. Nobody can
say I don’t know whether Wike will do this or do that. When I see
issues, I say my view and I am not going to run away from it.

“Of all the aspirants, nobody should talk about sentiments, nobody
should say look at the way his face is. You don’t need my face. All we
need is to win the election. Can Wike win this election for PDP? The
answer is yes. You don’t need to listen to what the elites are saying.

Who are they talking about at the grassroots? It is Wike because, in
this country, everybody has seen what I have done in Rivers State.”

Continuing, the governor stated: “I have sat down, looked at myself
and checked the records: what does PDP want? You must be courageous if
you want to be a leader, you must be fearless and you must have the
capacity.

“I am courageous, fearless and I have capacity. If you allow me fly
the flag of the party which I know by the grace of God, I will be the
candidate, and I become President, one of the things I will do is to
address the disconnect between party and the government. I have tried
it in my state, and it has worked.

“And here’s what I think if I’m given the opportunity that I will
liaise with the party, find out the views of the party. And then with
that synergy, you will see how the government will perform.

“But again, Nigerians are waiting. Who are we going to present? What
is the track record of that person? What is your track record? Where
you were? What did you do, as at the time you were there, what
happened?

“Not those who you give tickets to, tomorrow they fail, you won’t see
them at the party again. And when you don’t give them the ticket, they
will also leave the party. No! That is not the way it should be.

“So, I believe am a thorough party person. And should be encouraged to
lead the party. It’s very, very important. And I want to too, I know
the modus operandi of APC, I can withstand the APC, I can withstand
the Federal Government. Just give me the ticket.”

He said he will not accept consensus arrangement unless it is based on
equity, justice and fairness, adding: “I don’t believe in these
people going around on consensus. I told them that their consensus
move is shine shine bobo, the more you look, the less you see. I say
am not going to buy it. It will not work and am not a party to it.

“I believe in consensus, but based on equity, justice and fairness.
But not consensus by those who have conspired, they think they can
bring me in, but nobody can bring me into it.

“I therefore appeal again that you must not make the mistake of
putting people who are obviously supporting me or any of the aspirants
in the convention. If you do that, then some of us will challenge you.
So, do something that all aspirants will be happy with.

“But if you do anything short of credible and transparent
conventional, it will be a shame. After what we have done 2018 after
we have done the convention that brought you in then you should do a
better convention as members of NWC.’

In his response, PDP National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, promised
that the party will conduct a transparent and credible primary.

He told Wike to choose what he wants between asking to be supported
for his ambition by the NWC and the conduct of a transparent primary.

Ayu stated: “On the hand you want a level play field from the NWC. On
the other hand you want the NWC to canvas vote for you and vote for
your ambition to becoming president. You have to choose one, you can’t
have the two.

“But let assure you, this NWC will try to uphold the tradition of the
PDP, that tradition since 1999 is running very credible, transparent
conventions starting from Jos to the last one that produced this
National Working Committee.

“I want to assure you, that there will be no foul play no
manipulation. We will certainly do better than what you did in October
last year. We will hold an absolutely transparent convention. At that
state, we will try to be the INEC of the Peoples Democratic Party, not
be partisan. We’ll try as much as possible to make sure that every
member of the National Working Committee works for the party.”

Ayu sent same message to Atiku Abubakar when the former Vice President
visited NWC member before the national convention where he asked to be
given right of first refusal for the PDP ticket.

Atiku said he has 11 million votes in his kitty to help the party
return to power in 2023.

He continued “Mr Chairman and members of the National Working
Committee, I’m really not here to lecture you, I’m just really here to
inform you of my decision, to run again, and also to urge you to
provide the right kind of leadership so that the best candidate can
emerge.

In his remarks, Senator Iyorchia Ayu said he will not only work for
Atiku, but for all the 17 aspirants.
The former President of the Senate said “Mr Vice President, I will not
work for you as an aspirant. I will work for all the 17 aspirants. It
is left to you to convince the delegates of our party that you are the
best. You have to market yourself, you have to work hard.

He assured that the NWC will neutral and remain before and during the
National Convention.

“Our internal processes will go ahead and we are going ahead with it.
At the end of the day, we’ll come up with a candidate chosen by the
members of the Peoples Democratic Party themselves. It is that
candidate that will present to the rest of Nigeria for the forthcoming
elections”.

As PDP leaders continue to seek for speedy resolution of the rift
between Governor Ayu and Governor Wike’s camp, some party leaders have
advised the governor to be more temperate and diplomatic in his
utterance and stop behaving as if the PDP is his private estate
despite his financial supports to the party since 2015 when the party
lost the general election. They made mention of his threat in 2019 to
“deal with PDP” if they dare move the location for that year’s
convention outside Rivers state. Mention was also made of how he
described the members of the former NWC as “Tax collectors” which APC
members now call PDP leaders. They also reminded that a lot party
leaders made huge sacrifices since 1998 to make PDP the biggest
political party in the black world.

In similar vein, political observers cautioned that Wike may be one of
the biggest losers in 2023 if the PDP loses the general election and
he would have lost him immunity after completing his second term. He
was reminded of some boisterous former governors.

A former governor of Jigawa State and chieftain of the Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP), Sule Lamido, who is one of the founding
fathers of PDP, asked Wike to be humble and learn lessons from Peter
Obi and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

“We did national convention. The highest gathering of decision making
of the PDP chose Atiku. Wike contested and lost. Wike is a responsible
and committed man but there is some youthful exuberance in him.”

“There are people that are inciting him but the deed has been done and
this did not start now. It happened with Peter Odili, it happened with
Osinbajo. He should learn a lesson from them,” he stated.

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