PDP Still Swimming in Murky Waters


People’s Democratic Party will this week begin campaign for its presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, ahead of 2023 polls with baggage of crises that have turned murky by internal rebellion, writes Emameh Gabriel.

With a day to the commencement of the 2023 elections campaigns, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is still consumed by chaos and the forces expected to bring order to the party have not only failed to do so but also seem overwhelmed by the magnitude of disenchantment among its aggrieved members.

While this remains an encumbrances for the party, ego and lack of patriotism to reinvent it back to its winning ways and return it to power next year has also taken the better part of some members of the opposition party, leaving it in shred and vulnerable to implosion, while it staggers into the campaigns this week with uncertainty over its future.

Love is lost and trust broken between the warring camps in the party, which signals a long walk to resolving its crisis. With limited time available before the elections, it seems almost impossible to heal the bruises suffered so far even if both sides are ready to sheath swords.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state wants a pound of flesh from  the PDP National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, the man who allegedly rigged the PDP presidential election against him. PDP’s presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, will not make Ayu, the man who manipulated the process that earned him the party’s presidential ticket a scrificial lamb for Wike’s presumed vendetta.

The bone of contention has not changed; Wike who contested the party presidential primary election and lost to Atiku in the most controversial manner, and some Southern PDP stakeholders have insisted on the resignation of the national chairman of the party as the only condition to bring them to the table for talks.

They have hinged their argument on two conditions; the constitution of the party on rotation must not only be respected but for the sake of equity and justice, the national chairman of the party should be zoned to the South. Ayu’s resignation was and is still the centre of discussion.

Last week, Wike, who is also a key actor in the centre of the crisis rocking the party, in a controversial media chat in Port Harcourt, opened up can of worms that highlighted the high level of grafts in the Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.

This came a day after prominent members of the party took the decision of pulling out of the party’s presidential campaign council at a meeting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, insisting that Ayu must quit because he allegedly compromised the party’s last presidential primary.

Wike has the backing of the party’s former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George; former Information and Culture Minister, Professor Jerry Gana; Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; his Benue state counterpart,  Samuel Ortom and former Gombe state governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo,  among others.

Ayu,  was also accused by Wike in the live broadcast of rigging the PDP presidential primary election that earned former Vice President Atiku Abubakar the party’s presidential ticket, after which he allegedly collected N1 billion from a particular presidential aspirant.

This came just two weeks after leadership of the PDP passed a vote of confidence on Ayu to steer the party’s affairs into the election. 

Wike who could not hide his emotions, had during the session with senior journalists said both Atiku and Ayu cannot be trusted, describing them as embodiments of deceit whose characters only portray the PDP in negative light.

He said Ayu who was supposed to be an umpire, turned out to be Atiku’s main canvasser who also intimidated other aspirants to step down for the former Vice President.

In other words, the convention that produced Atiku  was highly compromised and flawed by the actions of Ayu.

“It would have ended in crisis if not for the love I have for the PDP”, Wike said.

He had also claimed that the Ayu promised to resign if a Northern presidential candidate emerged, but had refused to fulfill his promise despite the emergence of Atiku.

His words: “He (Atiku) visited me after his emergence and promised that Ayu would resign, but he failed to actualise it. He also met us in London and promised that Ayu must go but we were surprised that he went to a gathering and cited constitutional issues.”

He said pride in those who claim to be leaders of the party is the major undoing of the PDP, which has become a major threat to the peace of the party and could lead to its doom when the Nigerians head back to the polls next year.

Wike, also alleged that while efforts were on to resolve the crisis in the party, Atiku and his team had already shared key positions to themselves even before victory at the polls.

In others words, Atiku never had him in his plans but wanted to use him and the votes in Rivers State as means to an end.

Wike said: “The problem with some of our leaders is that there are so many rent-seekers around them. They (rent-seekers) have not been in power for years. So they are all looking for how to bounce back. They are people who have no value to add.

“We have not won election we are too arrogant, we have not won election and we are telling Nigerians look you cannot trust us, we say one thing and we do a different thing.

“A party that is in the opposition and serious to win an election cannot be as arrogant as the PDP. If the PDP cannot restructure itself to correct the marginalisation in the PDP, Nigerians are now doubting the party’s capacity to unite the country.

“Those asking the party to sanction me especially Waziri from Yobe State lack electoral values. Since 1999, PDP has never won Yobe,” he stated.

The Rivers State Governor seemed not only to have drawn the battle line, he has resolved to fight till what he described as justice for the South is achieved. Wike boasted that the leadership of his party cannot sanction him. 

He said: “I dare the party to sanction me. They should do it. Who will sanction me? Those, who left the party cannot sanction me. If they do it, they know what I can do,” he warned.

“If at the end, the party refuses to meet our demand, we will meet again to take a decision on our next strategies for the election. Haven’t you seen where a senatorial candidate lost in an area while the governorship candidate from the same party won in that same place?”

He also called the bluff of those saying the party could do without him.

According to him:: “President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t win Rivers State in 2019. But he won Lagos and Kano. Does Atiku have Lagos now? Does he have Kano? The only state he has always had is Rivers. Yet those who do not have electoral value are saying they don’t want us and can do without us.

“So you have zero. Would a President of Nigeria who doesn’t have the governors of Rivers, Kano and Lagos be comfortable? That also tells you what they have in mind about the stability of Nigeria. I don’t think that Atiku will listen to those kinds of suggestions from politically irrelevant people. In 2015 and 2019, Buhari didn’t get up to 25 per cent in Rivers despite the fact that there was a serving governor and Minister from the State who was the Director General of his campaign”.

Neither Ayu nor Atiku has debunked Wike’s allegations. Ayu has not come out to deny the allegations of N1 billion he allegedly collected from a particular presidential aspirant.

The PDP National Chairman has also not said anything about claims of several meetings he reportedly hosted to canvass support for Atiku, either by intimidation or financial inducement.

Atiku on his part has also not denied the promise he was said to have made to Wike that he would resign at the instance of his emergence as the party’s presidential candidate for a Southerner to occupy the office of the national chairman. Rather, he has maintained that he cannot force Ayu to resign his position as PDP national chairman on the ground of principle.

“I must reiterate what I have said severally in public and in private; the decision for Dr. Iyorchia Ayu to resign from office is personal to Dr. Ayu and, neither I nor anyone else can make that decision for him,” Atiku had said in a statement hours after the camp of Wike pulled out of his presidential campaign council for the 2023 general elections, insisting that Ayu must go for a southerner to step in.

“As to the calls for the removal of Dr. Ayu from office, however, I will state that, as a committed democrat and firm believer in the rule of law and democratic tenets, and our party being one set up, organized and regulated by law and our constitution, it is my absolute belief that everything that we do in our party must be done in accordance with, and conformity to, the law and our constitution”, the PDP presidential candidate had further said.

Atiku’s rating has continued to nose dive especially in the South South, one of the PDP sting holds in the South. With Peter Obi’s Labour Party posing as threat to the PDP in the South East and part of South South, it is becoming hard to see how the PDP could win the next general election with Atiku as its presidential flag bearer.

Also last week, the Spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Ugochinyere, called on the National Executive Council of the PDP to reverse its recent position on Ayu so as to unite the party before the general elections early next year. 

CUPP had advised that keeping Ayu and Anyanwu in office may mar the chances of the party winning 2023 general election.

Ikenga noted: “I call on the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to press it on chieftains of the party and Ayu on the need to save the party from further polarisation and loss of our base in the South. This can be achieved by ensuring that PDP National Chairman,  Senator Ayu quits the party now alongside the National Secretary, Anyanwu”.

Some analysts, however, believe that even if the warring camps settle today, the main opposition PDP has been damaged almost beyond repair. They said Atiku’s inordinate ambition to become president at all cost has ruined a better part of PDP’s chance to win the presidential election.

They have also blamed Wike for his failure to carry out a thorough and holistic background check on the relationship between Ayu and Atiku before he (Wike) enthroned Ayu as head of PDP. It was a case of sacking a devil (Secondus) you already knew and empowering an ally of a would-be foe.

They said Wike played into the hands of a solid and iron-cast partnership of Ayu and Atiku right from the very beginning of the formation of PDP and with such relationship, nothing can ever make either of them betray each other.

Wike has gotten his fingers burnt and must accept the fact that it’s politics and even the smartest in the game can be outsmarted by anyone who could spot his weakness.

The PDP itself seems to have been consumed by a crisis bigger than its leadership from top to bottom and its chances at the polls have been dented by Wike’s recent outbursts. It will take a whole lot of effort for a party to go into an election with such damning allegations by one of its key members to win the trust of Nigerians to vote its presidential candidate.

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