The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may go into the 2023 elections as a divided house. That is if it fails to explore all avenues to bring disaffected members into its fold. Right now, the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar; Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, and chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu are not walking in tandem with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Ayodele Fayose, former Governor of Ekiti State and Governor Gabriel Ortom of Benue State. It is a war of one triumvirate against another.
The Wike story fits into what scientists would call a stimulus and response paradigm. The man felt cheated twice and the domino effect is on the party. He lost the presidential ticket at the dying minute due to Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s action of erecting his tent with Atiku at the presidential primary election. And when Wike thought his compensation would come by way of a vice-presidential candidacy, Okowa surfaced like a conjurer’s rabbit to fill the post. And the man that performed that abracadabra was Ayu.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State narrated on Arise TV on Wednesday that he was among the 17-member committee set up by Atiku “and 14 of us in the committee said the person should be Wike. Unfortunately, Atiku picked Okowa in his wisdom. You cannot ignore the decision of a committee you set up yourself and expect people to be happy.”
Notwithstanding that the olive branch is being waved at Wike by Atiku’s emissaries, Ortom said: “They should stop that. Atiku should go to him (Wike). Why won’t he ignore their calls? Is that not an insult? Wike is a pillar in the party. Currently, nobody in the party has contributed more for the party to move forward than Wike. If Atiku was not going to honor the decision of the committee, he should have called Wike earlier and informed him. He didn’t do that. You can’t do things anyhow and expect us to be happy. Why do you just send calls to Wike, you should have to go to him.”
Sule Lamido, one-time Governor of Jigawa State, in an interview with journalists in Abuja also attested to the huge importance of Wike in the party: “Governor Wike is very forceful, who has done so well as a governor of PDP in his state and who has been very supportive of the PDP. But again, he was made by the PDP. He is somebody we must make sure we preserve and we must rescue him from his anger.”
“Wike is a huge treasure for the PDP and one of the best materials. If we win (in 2023), he is the natural heir to the throne because he has the quality, aura, charm, charisma and age. I have been saying this: PDP is a family. There was a primary election and there were expectations but some of them were not met. So, it is natural for one to react. I can understand that.”
True. Wike is reacting! Since every stimulus must create a response, Wike has been expressing some body language. Last week, he held a meeting with Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party; Governor David Umahi of the APC; Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP) and the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed. After these, he travelled to Turkey on Tuesday, a development that strengthened the report that he held a meeting with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in France.
Now, some party leaders are baying for Ayu’s blood. Despite his explanation that Atiku asked the party leadership to recommend a suitable person as a running mate and he set up a committee, which submitted three names, but Atiku picked one, party big shots asked him to resign.
To exacerbate the crisis in the party, when the inauguration of the campaign council for the 16 July 2022 Osun election was held at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja this week 11 of the 12 governors appointed, stayed away, including Douoye Diri of Bayelsa was to head it.
The following Governors were also absent: Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto), Ikpeazu (Abia), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Ortom (Benue), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri (Adamawa) and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi). Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba was present, though.
Despite this, Okowa wanted the council to ensure victory for the PDP in the election. How far the party can go in Osun and 2023 will be a big study for researchers.
On another anti-Atiku flank is Fayose who, on Wednesday, vowed to support a southern candidate in the 2023 presidential election. In his words: “The current President of Nigeria is a 2-term Northern Presidency, thus implying that it must be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or nothing. Nigerians should await details soon.”
His position on this power shift has been consistent. “If we don’t begin to put things in perspective and rightfully, our children will ask questions. The unfortunate demise of former President Yar’Adua is not enough an excuse for anybody to take away the letters of our constitution,” Fayose said in an interview on Channels Television.
“Do we say if you contest an election and you lost, they (the north) must continue to produce you so that you win before zoning will count? No! The last election has allowed the north. If they had won that election, they would be there today. I don’t believe in not zoning this presidential ticket.”